Comprehensive immigration reform has hit the Senate floor and will be debated in the weeks to come.
The key word here is comprehensive – this bill proposes a sweeping overhaul of our nation’s immigration laws. The existing legal immigration system will be modernized to better reflect the need for high-skilled and lower-skilled labor, our borders will be further tightened, and many of the nation’s estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants will be offered a pathway to citizenship.
This bill was carefully crafted over several months and was a true bipartisan effort, with four Democrat and four Republican Senators joining together, along with various labor and business groups, to draft a piece of legislation that will work.
Opponents of the bill are using border security measures as a way to derail the bill, proposing amendments that would make the legalization aspect available only after unattainable border security triggers are met.
The anti-immigration side has also turned to the Reagan Administration’s 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act and its ineffectiveness at solving the immigration issue as the reason why this comprehensive immigration reform bill won’t work.
That 1986 bill legalized some 3 million undocumented immigrants. The difference was that it failed to address future flow and that it put in place an inadequate employment verification system.
We’ve come a long way since 1986. Our borders right now are as secure as they’ve ever been. We’re spending $18 billion every year on border security – that’s more than what we spend on the FBI, ATF, U.S. Marshals, DEA and the Secret Service, combined.
On top of this, the bill on the table plans to make further enhancements to border security, allocating another $4.5 billion for fencing and patrolling.
The bill will dramatically overhaul the existing visa system to allow for more low- and high-skilled labor to enter the country as needed.
The federal E-Verify system will also become mandatory for all employers within five years of the bill’s enactment, addressing another key concern of anti-immigrant naysayers.
Lastly, the earned path to citizenship in this bill is tough, but fair. It imposes fines and strict requirements on those looking to apply. The road is also long, as applicants will need to wait 10 years just to apply for permanent residence.
Clearly this bill is the best effort that has been made to fix our broken immigration system in decades. This is a chance that we can’t let slip by.
Now is the time that we keep the pressure up on our elected officials to do what’s right for America and pass comprehensive immigration reform.