Weekly Columns

Destination America

Jun 27 2012

Our nation has a storied past of welcoming people from all over the world.  The Statue of Liberty served as a beacon of hope and freedom to European immigrants moving to the United States with the hope of a more promising future due to the vas opportunities our nation offers. We continue to open our arms to those seeking the promise of the American Dream.

In 2011, more than 694,000 people became naturalized citizens, according to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). These men, women and children followed the proper procedure and successfully completed the requirements to become U.S. citizens, often taking years of sacrifice and hardship to accomplish.

The recent decision by the Administration to stop enforcing immigration laws undermines the efforts of the millions of people who studied and worked to secure legal rights to call themselves American citizens.

On June 15, 2012, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano outlined this order, effective immediately, allowing illegal immigrants younger than 30 who were brought to the United States before turning 16 to remain in this country and receive work authorization if they meet the following  criteria: have been in the country for at least five continuous years, have no criminal history, graduated from a U.S. high school or earned a GED, or served in the military.

This is a massive overreach by the executive branch. The Administration skirted Congressional authority by making this major change to our immigration policy. Instead of rewarding breaking our laws we need to enforce them.

While I believe serious immigration reform is long overdue, this directive moves us a step backwards and fails to address the real reforms that are needed. Our immigration system is broken and needs to be fixed. That begins with securing our border and enforcing our existing laws and improving workplace verification to hold employers accountable for hiring illegal workers.

This White House directive also allows young illegal immigrants to apply for a work permit. This is unacceptable at a time when numbers of hardworking Americans are having a difficulty finding employment. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for young adults aged 16-24 has been nearly 17 percent for the last year. According to a Gallup poll conducted in April 32 percent of 18 to 29 year-olds in the U.S. workforce were underemployed. During this time of record unemployment American citizens who have not broken the law should have priority for securing employment. This bad policy creates more competition for those already struggling to find employment.

We are a nation of immigrants, but also a nation of laws. This decision ignores our laws and fails to follow the legislative process enshrined in our Constitution. I am committed to working with my colleagues on comprehensive immigration reform without rewarding lawbreakers the title of American citizen.