The House Chairmen’s Plan for Immigration Reform
Chairman Michael McCaul, Chairman Bob Goodlatte, Rep. Martha McSally, and Rep. Raul Labrador
For far too long, America’s immigration system has been in shambles. The borders are not secure and laws are seldom enforced. This dysfunction allows drug smugglers to creep into the U.S. and exacerbate the opioid epidemic. It provides human traffickers the opportunity to exploit forced labor for profit, invites transnational gangs like MS-13 to inflict violence on American neighborhoods, and offers terrorists a way into the country.
In a time when America’s enemies are seeking new ways to strike the homeland, a failed immigration system is unacceptable. On Wednesday we will introduce legislation in the House to strengthen the border and enhance interior enforcements, making America more secure.
A priority of our legislation is to increase the security of the southern border. Our bill would provide $30 billion to build a wall, to invest in new technology, and to improve, modernize and expand ports of entry. It would add boots on the ground: an additional 5,000 Border Patrol agents and 5,000 Customs and Border Protection officers. It would provide for the construction of additional ports of entry and a full implementation of the biometric entry-exit system, while authorizing the National Guard to provide aviation and intelligence support.
“The American people have been waiting a long time for their leaders to step up, get the job done, and better protect America. It’s time to deliver.”
Even once the border is secure, immigration law requires significant changes to bring illegal immigration fully under control. Almost half of illegal aliens entered the U.S. legally on tourist and other short-term visas and simply never left. We must turn off the irresistible “jobs magnet” and ensure that immigration laws are effectively enforced within the U.S.
Our bill would achieve these goals by cracking down on people who overstay their visas, by requiring employers to use the accurate and hugely successful E-Verify system to ensure that they hire only legal workers, and by making it easier to deport aliens who are gang members, who are aggravated felons, who fail to register as sex offenders, or who have multiple DUIs.
Our bill would put an end to chain migration, the process by which citizens and green-card holders can sponsor extended family members for their own green cards (who in turn can eventually sponsor their own extended family members, ad infinitum). It also would stop the Diversity Visa program, which awards green cards by random lottery to people with no ties to the U.S. Neither of these programs prioritizes the skills of people entering the country.
The U.S. is the most generous and welcoming nation in the world, accepting on average more than a million new immigrants every year. But a steady influx of low-skilled labor has depressed wages for workers here at home. That is not putting America first.
These programs have opened our doors to terrorists. The attack in New York City last Halloween that left eight dead and 11 injured was carried out by Sayfullo Saipov, a man from Uzbekistan who entered the U.S. through the Diversity Visa program. One month later, Akayed Ullah, a man from Bangladesh who arrived through chain migration, carried out another attack in New York. These attacks prove that the current system is failing.
Our proposal allows the Justice Department to withhold grants from “sanctuary cities”—jurisdictions that refuse to allow their law-enforcement officers to cooperate with federal immigration authorities, even to the point of preventing Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers from entering local jails to take custody of criminal aliens. Sanctuary cities put innocent lives at risk.
In 2015, many people learned the story of Jose Ines Garcia Zarate, who had been deported on five previous occasions before he was released by San Francisco authorities. He went on to shoot and kill an innocent young woman. Any immigration system that fails to protect the American people has to change.
Finally, as requested by President Trump, our bill provides a legislative solution for the beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, who were brought to the U.S. illegally as minors. DACA was first imposed through an unconstitutional abuse of executive power by President Obama in 2012. The Constitution specifically delegates the power to make immigration law to Congress.
Our bill would allow DACA beneficiaries to receive a three-year renewable legal status, codifying the program the right way—by a duly enacted statute. But to be clear, there is no new or special path to citizenship for these individuals in our bill.
Importantly, our bill will help ensure that the distressing DACA dilemma does not recur after a few short years. The legislation would end “catch and release,” battle asylum fraud and require that unaccompanied minors caught at the border be treated equally regardless of their home country. Together this will ensure that the law no longer tempts minors and their parents to make the dangerous illegal journey to the U.S.—or to line the pockets of cartels that make a business of supporting these journeys.
Americans have been debating how to best fix the country’s immigration system for decades. Congress has a unique opportunity to act now, before the country ends up with another large population who crossed the border illegally as children. Let’s take this historic moment to come together and support vital legislation that provides common-sense, reasonable solutions.
The American people have been waiting a long time for their leaders to step up, get the job done, and better protect America. It’s time to deliver.
Mr. Goodlatte represents Virginia’s Sixth Congressional District and is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. Mr. McCaul represents Texas’ 10th District and is chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. Mr. Labrador represents Idaho’s First District and is chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security. Ms. McSally represents Arizona’s Second District and is chairwoman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security.
The op-ed originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal, here.