On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee begins consideration of the Gang of 8’s comprehensive immigration proposal.  Though I believe the only way to achieve success in reforming our immigration system is through a step-by-step approach, I intend to use this opportunity to engage in constructive debate about how to make our border more secure, our immigration system more efficient and reliable, and our country more prosperous.

I have submitted 23 amendments to the bill that serve to highlight reforms I believe we must make to our immigration system.  

One of my top priorities is to increase congressional oversight of executive branch activities as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and others work to secure our border.  One of my amendments would require congressional approval of DHS plans to secure the border and a congressional vote to certify that all the metrics and “triggers” are met before allowing anyone to apply for Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) status.  This amendment is key to ensuring we have real protections in place to prevent further widespread illegal immigration before beginning any legalization process.

I have also circulated several amendments that would narrow the scope of those who are allowed to apply for RPI status, as well as amendments that strengthen certain enforcement provisions.  For example, one provision would make it a crime to attempt to use fraudulent documents to enter the United States. Under the proposed bill, only those who are successful in using fraudulent documents to enter the country could be punished.  One of my amendments strengthens the requirement that illegal immigrants pay back taxes, and another clarifies that certain penalties may not be waived by DHS.

Another priority for me is to make our legal immigration system more efficient and more responsive to the changing needs of our economy, while taking special care not to give an incremental benefit to anyone who broke the law.  I have several amendments that would reform the H1B visa system, which pertains to high-skilled labor, as well as a provision that would significantly widen the door for those who are outside the country and are seeking to use the proper channels to work here legally. Finally, I submitted an amendment that would make filing E-Verify documentation easier and less prone to errors.  

While I am skeptical that all our immigration challenges can be solved in a single, comprehensive bill, I want to use this opportunity to discuss how best to fix our system and offer constructive proposals that make needed reforms.  If this comprehensive bill proves unsuccessful, those challenges must still be addressed.  I look forward to beginning this process.