Why I oppose the 'Gang of 8' immigration bill

June 11, 2013

Our current immigration system doesn't serve America's economic or social interests and undermines respect for the rule of law. Fundamental reform is badly needed and long overdue. That is why I support immigration reform, and why I initially joined a bipartisan group of senators to try and find common ground on the issue.

But it's also why I left that group. And why today, I must oppose the so-called "Gang of Eight" immigration bill soon to be taken up by the Senate. Among the many problems with the bill, the proposal:

  • Provides immediate legalization without securing the border;
  • Rewards criminal aliens, absconders, and deportees and undermines law enforcement;
  • Contains national security loopholes and facilitates fraud in our immigration system;
  • Creates no real penalties for illegal immigrants and rewards them with entitlements;
  • Delays for years the implementation of E-Verify; and
  • Does not fix our legal immigration system.

I firmly believe that we can achieve real comprehensive reform without having to pass another thousand-page bill full of loopholes, carve-outs, and unintended consequences. In fact, the only way to guarantee successful reform of the entire system, and ensure we are not repeating the mistakes of the past, is through a series of incremental steps that ensure the foundational pieces — like border security and an effective entry-exit system — are done properly.

That's why I have sponsored, cosponsored, or supported several reforms, both as stand-alone legislation and amendments to the current Senate proposal, that would improve high-skilled immigration, address agricultural and seasonal workers, and create new incentives for tourism — many of which enjoy bipartisan support.

For example, The STEM Jobs Act (S. 303), I-Squared Act (S.169), DASH Act (S.292), and Fairness for High Skilled Immigrants (S.239) would bring our immigration system closer to meeting the needs of our economy. The Accountability Through Electronic Verification Act (S.202), as well as several amendments to the current Senate bill, would create a reliable employment verification system that protects immigrants, citizens, and businesses from bureaucratic mistakes. I have cosponsored legislation that would require full implementation of an integrated entry-exit system at every land, sea, and air port of entry.

Both Republicans and Democrats largely agree on essential elements like border security, employment verification, visa reform, and high-skilled immigration. These measures are relatively uncontroversial and could pass incrementally, with broad bipartisan support in Congress. Indeed, the only reason immigration reform is controversial is that Congress refuses to adopt this incremental approach.

As immigration reform moves forward in the coming weeks, I will continue to push for the addition of these provisions to the larger Senate bill. Though I remain skeptical that lengthy, complicated and sweeping immigration legislation is the right way to truly reform our system, it is critical that we take action on this issue which is so vital to our economy and security.