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Op-ed: Why I’m backing legislation to fix our broken immigration system

Kelly Ayotte
Kelly Ayotte
By Kelly Ayotte

Jun 9, 2013
Everybody agrees that America’s immigration system is broken, threatening our security and holding back our economy. The combination of porous borders and lax enforcement has made us a magnet for illegal immigration.

With an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States, the status quo isn’t working – it’s de facto amnesty. We need immigration reform that serves the best interests of our country – a solution that finally secures our southern border, implements an employment verification system, stops future waves of illegal immigrants, deports undocumented criminals, creates a tough but fair means for those who are here illegally to earn citizenship, and allows high-skilled and other needed legal immigrants to work here and help grow our economy.

For too long, politicians on both sides of the aisle in Washington have failed to lead on this issue. And no doubt there will be naysayers in this debate who will continue to make excuses for inaction. But I ran for the Senate to make tough, independent decisions to strengthen our country, and that’s what it will take to solve our nation’s immigration problems.

This week, the Senate will take up immigration reform legislation that recently passed the Judiciary Committee on a bipartisan basis. After careful review of this bill, and after meeting with Granite Staters, I will support it and plan to vote for amendments offered to strengthen it.

We need to stop the flow of illegal immigrants, and we need to bring undocumented people out of the shadows to separate those seeking economic opportunity from those seeking to harm us (who must be deported). Here’s how this bill does that:

It starts by finally securing our southern border. Consistent with my priorities, the legislation includes more border agents, more fencing, and better surveillance technology. And during the upcoming debate, I will support strengthening the legislation’s border security measures even further.

Also, under this bill all employers would be required to use an employment verification system – known as “E-Verify” – to check that job applicants are lawful for employment. To put teeth into the law, employers would face fines and possible criminal penalties for violations of E-Verify requirements.

Additionally, the legislation cracks down on those who abuse our visa system. Right now, 40 percent of illegal immigrants originally came legally but overstayed their visas. This bill creates an exit system feature that would enable the Department of Homeland Security to more vigorously track, pursue and remove those who overstay their visas.

The legislation also includes strict requirements for those illegal immigrants who are already here. Before any of these 11 million could earn a green card, they would go to the back of the line, not receive means-tested federal benefits and Obamacare subsidies, and they would be required to pay fines, pay taxes, and pass background checks, learn English, and secure a job. The minimum most immigrants would have to wait to earn a green card would be ten years – and 13 years for naturalization. And this timeline is dependent on first meeting border security and employment enforcement measures.

In addition to fixing our illegal immigration problem, the bill also takes steps to modernize our legal immigration system. To help ensure our hospitality and agricultural sectors are able to fill jobs that Americans won’t perform, the bill creates a new guest worker visa program. And the legislation addresses concerns that I’ve heard frequently from New Hampshire’s business community, especially the high-tech industry: the outdated cap on visas for highly-skilled workers is holding back our economy.

After companies make every effort to recruit Americans to perform particular jobs and can’t find any – especially those with expertise in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) – they are forced to look elsewhere. This legislation addresses that shortfall by raising the cap on H-1B visas. And to train the American innovators of tomorrow, it creates new STEM education programs – from K-12 to higher education – financed through a $1,000 fee for those applying for H-1B visas.

Moving to a more merit-based immigration system is good for our economy. By placing an emphasis on skills, we’re harnessing the expertise and ingenuity of the most talented immigrants – especially those who have been educated in our colleges. They will put their energy and their ideas to work in our country – starting businesses and creating jobs for Americans.

As a nation of immigrants, we must remember that we’re all descended from people who came here from somewhere else in search of a better life. In generations past, immigration has enriched our nation culturally and economically. We are all heirs to the dreams and hard work of the immigrants who helped build this country – neighborhood by neighborhood.

But the broken immigration system we have now is unworthy of a great nation. It’s time for Washington to tackle this problem head on. If we miss this opportunity, our illegal immigration problems will only get much worse and we will not realize the full economic potential of America.

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@Dave-WOW-I think I agree with you on most of your points. The only thing wrong with our current immigration laws is they don’t enforce them. I can remember back in the 80’s when the Border Patrol would set up barricades outside a manufacturing plant and would come inside and check everyone who worked there. They would catch all the illegals and send them back and the illegals would beat the Border Patrol back to town. Nothing has changed. The laws are still there and still being ignored.

I applaud Senator Ayotte’s enthusiatic support for immigration ‘reform’ and increased border security measures. However, it is so tiresome to read the same old tired buzz-phrases and under-informed statements about a ‘broken’ immigration system.

I have yet to hear anyone explain what is broken about the immigration laws – other than a lack of will to enforce them. Worse, the politicization of the application of immigration laws has lead us to this point wherein it is nearly impossible to tell what is true or not about what not only is happening, but what SHOULD be happening.

For example, there already is a visa that allows for tempporary guest workers. It’s the H2A visa (for agricultural workers) and the H2B (other than agriculture).

On a related note, consider what happend after that 1986 amnesty…the former illegals who were working for sub-standard wages in agriculture bussinesses fled the farms and hit the cities for better jobs, living conditions, and stae/local public assistance.

By the way, Senator Ayotte’s use of 11-million as the number of illegal aliens is diappointing… that number has been used for about 5 years now. Does she believe the flow of illegals dropped to a zero-sum gain since then? The number is much closer to 20-million (and most likely higher).

Also, how do we determine how much in back-taxes are to be pais, as the majority of illegal aliens either worked for direct cash or fraudulently used a social security number. On that note, how do we collect all the past FICA and medicare taxes owed by the employers, or should we believe that they made every payment as required?

I’m relatively sure that the overwhelming majority of illegal aliens do not have a criminal record for other than an immigration violation. But, how can we be certain in each case that the alien doesn’t have a serious criminal record back in their country? For example, Mexico does not have a national database that can be accessed to ensure that a citizen wasn’t convicted of a serious crime in their home city, adn how do we verify the actual identity of someone who has been ‘living in the shadows’ fr years? AS well, it would be in their (Mexico’s) best interest NOT to reveal any record that would hamper the ability of the illegal alien to attain legal status – particularly since cash remittances from the U.S. are the second largest source of income in Mexico.

I have yet to hear an explanation on how we will enforce the exit system. Will we hire 10,000 additional ICE agents to monitor and track down those who are identified in the computer database as not having left when they were supposed to?

Insofar as STEM goes, who will determine that a company has made ‘every effort’ to hire a US citizen before getting a foreign national for the job? Why not focus directly – and immediately – on training US citizens for these STEM jobs instead of ‘muddying the waters’ with ineffective requirements that are easily circumvented?

Lastly, to close with the Democratic mantra “we are a nation of immigrants’ as a supportive statement for reform is so backwards looking as to render the entire Op-Ed useless.

To get us on the right track, two things we should do initially is to complete the congressionally-mandated border fence and pass a law tying immigration numbers directly to the unemployment rates for US citizens.

All politicians need to stop ‘reading from the talking points’ and start thinking of the people’s
best interest. Providing a path to citizenship for an illegal alien is way down the priority list.

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