I believe our immigration system is broken and in need of real and effective reform. I support providing an earned path to citizenship for those who want it. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has said that immigration reform could reduce deficits by $175 billion over the first 10 years and by at least $700 billion in the second decade. It also notes that a legal work force will produce greater tax revenue through new income and payroll taxes. Reform will ensure that all undocumented immigrants are added to the tax rolls, ensuring that everyone pays their fair share.
I am committed to working across the aisle to find a bipartisan American solution to solve this problem for the next generation.
Last Congress, I co-sponsored The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act (H.R. 15). The bill includes a 13-year path to earned citizenship and the ENLIST Act, a bill I introduced to allow otherwise qualified undocumented immigrants to earn citizenship through service in our armed forces. H.R. 15 also included the text of the House border security bill sponsored by Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), which passed the Committee on Homeland Security with bipartisan, unanimous support. The new border plan included in H.R. 15 made securing the border a requirement, not a goal. It tasked the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with creating a border security plan that must be at least 90 percent effective at apprehending those crossing the border illegally. Furthermore, it required that DHS’s plan be verified by outside experts including the Government Accountability Office (GAO) before one dollar is spent on new resources. It set distinct benchmarks and metrics to measure success and failure. I believe that if we fail to secure our border, any other reform will be rendered ineffective, so border security is my first priority in regards to immigration legislation. I also believe we must strengthen enforcement of our laws and that as we move forward with reform, we should institute a mandatory eVerify system.
Under H.R. 15, current undocumented immigrants would become eligible to follow a three-step process to earned citizenship. This is the kind of path that I can support.
- Current undocumented immigrants could apply for temporary legal status called Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) status. Individuals must meet certain requirements, including having entered the country prior to December 31, 2011, passing background checks and demonstrating that they have not been convicted of crimes. Additionally, to apply for RPI status, undocumented immigrants must pay all of their back taxes, a $500 penalty, a form filing fee and the application processing fee. After they become RPIs, they can reside legally for 6 years. After 6 years, they must apply for renewal of RPI status by proving that they are still employed in the United States, passing additional background checks and paying additional fees.
- After ten years, RPIs can apply for LPR (legal permanent resident) status. They must meet a new series of requirements, including paying a penalty, maintaining designated income levels, passing criminal and security background checks and demonstrating that they have been paying taxes while living with RPI status.
- After three years as LPRs, they could apply for citizenship by meeting the next set of requirement, matching the current set of citizenship requirements on the law books today: establishing continuous residence, being able to read, write and speak English and pass a civics course, and being physically present in the United States for 30 months out of the 5 years immediately preceding their application.
I believe a system which has led to over 11 million people currently living in the country as undocumented immigrants is undeniably broken. The 1986 laws failed to secure our border and to address all aspects of reform. Current laws are lacking today’s problems and we have an opportunity to find an American solution.