While we nearly all agree that illegal immigration is unacceptable and must be stopped, the failure of our federal government to act in earnest has only perpetuated the problem.
The current rules are outdated and hopelessly complex, and political forces have been in play for decades. One country’s residents can immigrate to the U.S. in fairly short order, while another country’s residents might have to wait 10 to 20 years. When we also consider the economic issues facing Central and South America, the collapse of the Mexican peso in the 1980s, and the thousands of border miles to protect, we can see just how complicated the matter is.
To start, I believe that the federal government must take immediate action in two areas. First, we must secure our borders to ensure safety for American citizens. Second, we must correct our broken, ineffective legal immigration system.
I went to our Southern border to view and learn about the situation firsthand. And while progress is being made, there is still work to do. We can take several steps to increase the security of our country’s borders. Electronic surveillance should continue to be utilized to form a “technological wall” along both our southern and northern borders. Additionally, we should expand our border patrols by bringing U.S. military personnel currently stationed abroad back into the United States. In tandem, we in Congress can pass legislation to permit these service members to detain those who try to cross our border illegally. Finally, we must also enhance inspection of boats and shipping cargo entering our seaports and bolster aviation security.
I have worked with my colleagues in Congress to pass legislation that provides the necessary funding to our security agencies to ensure that we can meet these priorities and prevent illegal immigrants from crossing into our country. For the sake of our future, we cannot treat this as a partisan issue, and I will do all I can to discourage demagoguery among my colleagues on both sides of the aisle.
Fixing Our Legal Immigration System
It is relatively easy to obtain a visa to work or study in the United States if you have an advanced degree. This means that our current immigration policy puts American families who pay thousands of dollars to send their children to college at a great disadvantage, as our government simply allows foreign workers to take those high paying jobs under the guise of taking the best the world has to offer. This policy merits thorough reconsideration and reform. We must reevaluate all of our work visa programs to ensure that our high unemployment rate is not being exacerbated by our legal immigration policy. Jobs that Americans want and can perform must be going to Americans first.
How do we proceed? First and foremost, we cannot grant amnesty to illegal immigrants. I have never supported amnesty, and I never will. It didn't work in the Reagan years and it won't work now. However, we must better analyze the needs of our industries, including Wisconsin’s diverse agriculture sector that relies heavily on seasonal workers, and the supply of available, domestic workers and then craft an immigration policy that legally meets any remaining needs without harming American workers or job seekers.
Secondly, we need to streamline our immigration bureaucracy and reduce the amount of time it takes for someone to immigrate to the United States legally. The current guidelines are woefully inefficient and invite attempted illegal border crossings as a result. Instead, we need to know who is in our country and we need the tools to be able to deport them if necessary—we will never solve this problem as long as our immigration system remains in its broken state. We can only fix this by working in earnest to enact commonsense immigration reform that accounts for the needs of American businesses without disadvantaging our job seekers or putting our security at risk.