America Needs Comprehensive Immigration Reform
America deserves a commonsense immigration process, one that includes a roadmap for new Americans who aspire to be citizens. Everyone agrees that the current patchwork of policies and programs is badly broken, mismanaged, and tears families apart. Those who want to become citizens face a maze of regulations and bureaucratic hurdles that often offer no “line” in which they can wait to become fully participating Americans. For aspiring citizens, the essential rights of citizenship should be attainable by passing a test about our country’s history and system of government, paying an appropriate fee, and pledging allegiance to our country.
People move their families here to provide a better life for their children, and they want to be fully contributing members of their communities in this country. It is hard to move – to pack up everything and go to a new place takes courage – but people do it in order to provide for their families. Our grandparents and great-grandparents did it. They came here to pursue the American dream, and we should honor that proud heritage as we try to create an immigration process that works.
Despite years of obstruction, I have continued to fight to pass comprehensive immigration reform. I supported the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006, which the Senate passed with a strong bipartisan vote in the 109th Congress. Unfortunately, the Republican leadership of the House of Representatives refused to work with the Senate to reconcile the differences in our two bills, so we were unable to enact reform that year. In the 110th Congress, I supported the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007. After weeks of floor debate, I was very disappointed when opponents of this bill blocked it from coming up for a final vote.
I was very pleased to lead the Senate in passing commonsense reform legislation, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, on June 27, 2013, by a strong bipartisan vote of 68-32. This legislation was put forward by a bipartisan group of four Democrats and four Republicans who put aside partisanship to address a critical issue, reforming our broken immigration system and protecting and preserving families. Debated and improved under the deliberative and transparent oversight of the Senate Judiciary Committee, this bipartisan bill will continue our work to secure the borders, improve our dysfunctional legal immigration system, and require the estimated 11 million people who are here without authorization to register with the government, pay fines and taxes, learn English, and get in the back of the line to obtain legal status. This legislation builds on previous improvements made to strengthen border security, by making an unprecedented $46 billion investment that will have a profound impact on illegal entries and border security. I urge my colleagues in the House of Representatives to work with us to pass legislation as soon as possible. The status quo is unacceptable. Our nation desperately needs this commonsense reform, which will benefit American citizens, as well as those who aspire to one day become citizens.
The Dream Act
It is not fair to punish children, many of whom were brought to the United States as very young children and think of themselves as Americans, for their parents’ choices. It also does not make sense to prevent these children, many of whom have been highly successful students, from going to college so they can contribute to our society and our economy.
On October 24, 2007, I brought the DREAM Act up for a vote on the Senate floor. Unfortunately, opponents blocked the Senate from considering the measure by a vote of 52-44, short of the 60 votes necessary to proceed. On December 18, 2010, I brought the DREAM Act back to the Senate floor, but once again, my colleagues on the other side of the aisle blocked the Senate from considering the measure by a vote of 55-41. Only three Republicans stood up to the pressure from their leadership and voted in favor of the bill. Their courage is exemplary, and I wish more of their colleagues would have followed them.
On June 15, 2012, President Obama announced that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) would suspend the deportation of upstanding young people brought here illegally as children, provided they attend college or serve in the military and meet other key requirements. Thanks to President Obama, over a million DREAMers who have done well in school and stayed out of trouble could benefit from this policy, known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and be provided the opportunity to more fully contribute to their communities and work toward realizing their dreams without fear. Nationally, more than 455,400 DREAMers have already been approved under DACA, including almost 7,200 in Nevada. President Obama’s directive to suspend deportation of the DREAMers came after a year-long review, and is applied on a case-by-case basis. This policy frees up law enforcement resources to focus on individuals who threaten public safety and national security, while removing the specter of deportation for these young men and women who are assets to our country. I strongly supported President Obama’s courageous decision – a decision that benefits both the DREAMers and our nation as a whole.
Unfortunately, President Obama’s directive is not a permanent solution. The burden is now on Congress to protect the DREAMers and create a functional immigration process once and for all, which is why I am pleased that the provisions outlined in the DREAM Act were included in the Senate-passed Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act.
Please visit the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s web page for more information on the President’s Deferred Action initiative.
Relevant Links on Immigration Reform
Summary of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 (DPCC, 06/13)
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