Jun 07 2013
Today I rise in favor of immigration reform.
The current immigration system is a travesty. It is inefficient, uncompassionate, and dangerous. It doesn’t serve America’s economic or social interests and it undermines respect for the rule of law and our democratic institutions.
Comprehensive reform is badly needed and long overdue.
The comprehensive immigration reform I envision includes: real border security, visa modernization, employment verification, robust programs for both high- and low-skilled workers, and a compassionate approach to addressing the needs of those currently in the country illegally.But I believe each of these vital components must be addressed incrementally and sequentially in order to ensure meaningful results.
I understand our reluctance to admit it, but Congress is simply very, very bad at overhauling and creating massive bureaucratic systems all at once.
Every new law – no matter how big - carries with it unintended consequences. And the bigger the law, the bigger the accidental problems we create.
History teaches us that trying to fix lots of problems all at once is the surest way to avoid fixing any of them well.
Obamacare is and will continue to make our health care system worse, not better. It promised to lower health insurance premiums, yet they are exploding across the country.
The Dodd-Frank financial reform was supposed to end “too-big-to-fail,” and prevent another financial meltdown. But Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are still on the taxpayers’ books.
And today, the biggest banks on Wall Street are bigger than ever.
Did the American people have any idea that the PATRIOT Act would empower the National Security Agency to spy on all Americans through their cell phones and computers?
What makes any of us – least of all any conservative – believe this immigration bill is going to work out any better?
The lesson we should be taking from our recent mistakes is not that we need to pass better huge, sweeping new laws – but that we should instead undertake major, necessary reforms incrementally, one step at a time.
We need to face the fact that thousand-page bureaucratic overhauls simply do not achieve their desired goals, and create far more problems than they solve.
We can achieve comprehensive immigration reform without having to pass another thousand-page bill full of loopholes, carve-outs, and unintended consequences.
Therefore from my perspective, there is no one amendment that can fix this bill. Indeed, there is no series of tinkering changes that will turn this mess of a bill into the reform the country needs and that Americans deserve.The only way to guarantee successful reform of the entire system is through a series of incremental reforms that ensure the foundational pieces – like border security and an effective entry/exit system – are done first and well.
Such a common sense process will allow Congress – and much more importantly, the American people – to monitor policy changes as they are implemented.
That way we can isolate and fix unintended consequences before they grow out of control, and before we move on to the next phase.
A step-by-step approach would also allow Congress to move quickly on measures on which Republicans and Democrats agree. We ought not hold commonsense and essential measures hostage to unavoidably contentious ones.
Both sides largely agree on many essential elements. 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.
That is why true immigration reform must be pursued step by step, with individual reform measures implemented and verified in the proper sequence.
Happily for immigration reformers like me, this appears to be the approach being pursued by the House of Representatives. It is the only one that makes sense.
First, let’s secure the border. Let’s set up a workable entry-exit system and create a reliable employment verification system that protects immigrants, citizens, and businesses from bureaucratic mistakes.
Then let’s fix our legal immigration system to make sure we’re letting in the immigrants our economy needs in numbers that make sense for our country.
There is no good reason why we must, or even should, try to do these things all at once.
Once these and other tasks – which are plenty big enough themselves – are completed to the American people’s satisfaction, then we can address the needs of current undocumented workers with justice, compassion, and sensitivity.
Since the beginning of this year, more than forty immigration-related bills have been introduced in the House and Senate.
By a rough count, I could support more than half of them. Eight of them have Republican and Democrat cosponsors.
We should not risk forward progress on these and other bipartisan reforms because we are unable to iron out each of the more contentious issues.
This is not the bill to fix our immigration system. I want to pass immigration reform. I want to debate immigration reform.
And that is exactly why we should not proceed to the Gang of Eight bill.
We are being presented with a choice between the Gang bill, or nothing.
Common sense, recent history, and the ongoing legislative process of the House of Representatives confirms that is a false choice.
There is another way, a more sensible and successful way.
We can do better than another thousand-page mistake. Haven’t we learned our lesson? Isn’t it time we tried?
Rather than fix our current immigration problems, the Gang of Eight bill will make many of them worse. It is not immigration reform. It is big government dysfunction.
All advocates of true immigration reform – on the left and the right – should oppose it.