America’s immigration system has never been so broken.
Today, more than 11 million illegal immigrants live in the United States. Our porous border allows illegal gangs and drugs to enter our country, and also creates a serious national security problem. America is a nation of laws, but our laws are too often ignored in the name of political correctness. Our outdated immigration system hurts American workers.
The United States is in desperate need of a full-scale immigration overhaul. We can’t afford to kick the can down the road. Unfortunately, it often seems Washington politicians would rather play the blame game than focus on fixing the problem.
Yet fixing our immigration system is fairly straightforward. President Trump and I see eye-to-eye on this matter. We are both guided by the belief that we must secure our borders, protect our communities, enforce the law, and ensure American citizens come first.
Immigration reform must not compromise on principle or security. Amnesty is not an option. Citizenship is a sacred privilege, one that must be respected.
The first and most important step is to secure the border. This includes building a physical barrier along our porous southern border. Any attempt to fix immigration will fail without first stopping the flow of illegal immigrants. That’s why earlier this year I helped pass more than $3 billion in funding for a border wall and other security measures.
We must also address the epidemic of lawlessness permeating our country.
Millions of U.S. jobs have gone to illegal immigrants. Although it is against the law to hire an illegal immigrant, many employers do so anyway because they can pay the immigrant less and law enforcement has no reliable mechanism for holding employers accountable.
This is totally unfair to hardworking American citizens. President Trump and I are committed to establishing a nationwide e-verify system which all businesses will be required to use to ensure the legal status of all new hires.
Disregard for the law isn’t limited to employers. Across America, there are over 300 “sanctuary cities” where local officials openly flaunt the rule of law in an effort to score cheap political points. These sanctuary city policies put American citizens at risk and give illegal immigrants incentive to continue breaking the law. In June, I urged my colleagues to support Kate’s Law (H.R. 3004), which enhances penalties for deported felons who return to the United States without permission, and the No Sanctuary for Criminals Act (H.R. 3003), which cracks down on sanctuary cities. Both measures passed the U.S. House of Representatives with strong support.
To be clear, while I unapologetically stand with President Trump against illegal immigration, I fully support legal immigration. As often as possible, I speak at citizenship ceremonies at the Federal Courthouse in Charlotte, where on average 50 legal immigrants take the oath of citizenship. These dedicated men and women are to be commended for playing by the rules and undertaking the substantial effort to enter our country legally in pursuit of their dreams and the limitless opportunity of America.
After securing the border, immigration reform must prioritize the needs of our economy, our communities, and our national interest. Currently, the vast majority of legal immigrants are awarded status based solely on family ties. Instead, we should be selecting candidates on their capacity to assimilate to our vibrant culture and ability to contribute to our economy.
This is why I will be joining with President Trump and Sen. Tom Cotton to create a new merit-based legal immigration system that puts American workers first and prioritizes our economy.
America is the greatest country the world has ever known. We are a nation of immigrants, and we need a modern immigration system based on the rule of law to build upon the foundation of previous generations of legal immigrants who made America great.
Congressman Robert Pittenger (NC-09) is Chairman of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, Vice Chairman of the Subcommittee on Terrorism and Illicit Finance, and serves on the House Financial Services Committee, with a special focus on supporting small businesses, community banks, and credit unions.