Weekly Columns

A framework for bipartisan immigration reform was recently unveiled in the Senate. 

While no specific bill was introduced as part of this announcement, the proposal as outlined—among other things—aims to increase border security, provide a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, create an effective employment verification system to prevent companies from hiring unauthorized workers.

I am pleased that members on both sides of the aisle are involved in serious reform discussions. Clearly, this is an issue that is in need of a well-thought out approach. It is an issue that is not going away until we resolve it.  I commend my colleagues for stepping up to the plate.

There are parts of this proposal that I wholeheartedly agree with, such as the need to require mandatory employment verification and the increased resources for border control. However, the way we deal with illegal immigrants and their economic impact is a big question that needs to be subjected to numerous in-depth conversations about the proper course of action before we see this, or any, framework turned into legislation.

In the meantime, some of these goals can be achieved immediately with current legislation that has already been introduced. Take employment verification for example. A federally approved system with a proven track record of combating the hiring of illegal immigrants already exists. Known as E-Verify, the system is currently used by nearly 270,000 employers nationwide. We just need to expand its use.

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) recently introduced the Accountability Through Electronic Verification Act of 2013 which permanently reauthorizes the E-Verify program and makes its use mandatory for all employers within one year of date of enactment. This bill would take care of the employment verification system aspect of the larger comprehensive proposal.

The bill—which I am cosponsoring—also requires federal contractors and agencies to use the program immediately, increases penalties for employers who illegally hire undocumented workers, requires employers to terminate the employment of those found unauthorized to work due to a check through E-Verify and helps cut down on identity theft by ensuring that the government catches multiple uses of Social Security numbers.

Since a comprehensive bill is not likely to pass without lengthy consideration, we need to start with areas of agreement, like mandating E-Verify, and by enforcing the rules already on the books.  

After years of extreme neglect by the federal government, our nation is facing an immigration crisis. Federal laws go unenforced, leaving cash-strapped local and state governments to fend for themselves and use resources they do not have to absorb millions of undocumented immigrants. Adding more rules to the books without enforcing the ones we have will do little good in the long run.

One thing is certain: if the President insists on amnesty we aren’t going to get very far. Amnesty is a non-starter. We must not reward people for breaking the law. I will continue to oppose amnesty proposals and I remain committed to working towards a real solution that addresses the crisis at our borders.