You have likely heard that the United States Senate recently passed legislation that would reform our country’s immigration system. America is a nation of immigrants, but we’re also a nation of laws, and the U.S. immigration system should respect both traditions. Our immigration system is badly broken and changes are needed. But this legislation undermines the rule of law without solving our immigration problem. What’s worse, it hurt’s American workers in the process.
The basic problem with the Senate approach is that it allows for full legalization with little to no enforcement. Supporters of the bill argue that border security measures are a trigger for opening a pathway to citizenship. But these supporters have confused citizenship and legalization. The Senate approach allows for legalization a mere six months after it becomes law with trivial preconditions like paying a fine of less that $7 a month.
This approach is unjust and counterproductive. We should welcome the many foreigners patiently obeying our laws and waiting overseas to immigrate legally. Instead, the Senate bill’s instant, easy legalization rewards lawbreakers and thus encourages more illegal immigration.
And this bill does almost nothing to stop illegal immigration because it lacks effective enforcement mechanisms like a border fence, a visa-tracking system to catch visa overstayers, and a workable employment-verification system. In 2006, Congress mandated 700 miles of fencing along the border. The Senate bill reiterates that mandate, but does little to make it actually happens. The truth of the matter is that fences work. When I was a solider in Iraq and Afghanistan my units relied on guards and technology to secure our bases, but the first line of defense was always a physical perimeter.
What little enforcement mechanisms the bill does have likely won’t happen. Any future Congress can defund these programs, as has happened too often. And what’s to stop President Obama from refusing to enforce this law? After all, he just announced he won’t enforce ObamaCare’s employer mandate because of complaints from big business. If that’s his attitude toward his biggest legislative accomplishment, imagine what he’ll do when big business complains about, say, an employment-verification system he never wanted to begin with.
Quite simply, the Senate bill is the wrong approach to fixing our broken immigration system. We must confront this issue with an enforcement-first approach that assures Arkansans and Americans that the border is secure and immigration laws are being enforced.