Former President Barack Obama clearly overstepped his authority with his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, executive order. While the constitutional and legal issues were resolved with President Trump’s announcement to end the program, what appears less clear is how we get out of the crisis irresponsibly manufactured by the former president.
Now, Democrats and a handful of Republicans are peddling the idea of offering amnesty to hundreds of thousands of people in the coming weeks in a last-minute deal as the "solution."
Instead of doubling down on Obama’s failed immigration policies, Republicans need to remember to keep our promises to voters. Many of us are committed to finding a resolution to the DACA problem, but unless Congress passes a real solution that keeps our promises, we will once again face a similar problem with another population of illegal immigrants in no time at all.
We cannot let shortsighted political posturing throw us off course. In accomplishing all this, there are five urgent fixes to our broken immigration system that take priority over others.
1. Build the wall
In 2006, Congress passed the Secure Fence Act authorizing the construction of a wall along our southern border. While Congress did make some progress, this job is not complete. We must not only focus on continuing to reinforce the southern border’s infrastructure, but we must also look at securing the border with other means. This includes measures such as increasing the number of Border Patrol agents and giving them the necessary tools to do their job in keeping America secure by preventing criminals from entering our country.
2. Address visa overstays
Although it does not get as much attention as illegal immigration at our border, a large percentage of illegal immigrants in our country are here because they came here legally and overstayed their visas. The Department of Homeland Security estimated that 629,000 people illegally overstayed their visas last year.
Visa overstays present a significant national security issue. Two of the 9/11 hijackers were in the United States because they overstayed visas. Despite terrorism concerns, America still does not have a system in place to track exits of those with visas.
In 1996, Congress passed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, which required the creation of a biometric exit visa system. Congress just needs to make implementation a priority with funding.
3. Defund sanctuary cities
While illegal border crossing and visa overstays represent a sincere problem, jurisdictions across the country exacerbate the problem by refusing to enforce federal immigration laws. Doing so creates sanctuary jurisdictions that serve as protective enclaves for illegal immigrants that break the law.
Unless Congress passes a law explicitly permitting the administration to do so, the federal government still must provide grant money to cities and states that refuse to comply with immigration law.
4. Require E-Verify for employment
Just like America’s sanctuary city problem, our employment infrastructure serves to attract illegal immigrants because they can easily gain employment. Unless we have mandatory E-Verify, America sends the message to illegal immigrants that they should plant roots in America and stay here.
5. Enact a rational immigration system
All of these problems highlight the fractures in American border security and interior enforcement. The problem is bigger than this, unfortunately. Our immigration system is broken at its core so long as it emphasizes chain migration and includes a diversity lottery.
Luck should not be the determining factor of admittance to the U.S. Instead, we should begin favoring those who seek to bring their skills and training because they believe in our principles and hard work.
This Congress’ greatest shortcoming is not thinking big enough. Republicans have the opportunity of a generation with our unified government. It is not something we can afford to waste. Instead of tweaking around the edges of our broken immigration system, it’s time we give voters what they asked for when they elected Republicans to lead our government.
Only once these five urgent fixes are completed, we can move forward in resolving a fair and just solution with the illegal immigrants that remain in America.
Rep. Mark Walker, R-N.C., is chairman of the Republican Study Committee, the largest conservative caucus in the House of Representatives.
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