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Bob Goodlatte: Senate immigration bill not the solution

bob-goodlatte-afp2Nearly everyone agrees that we need to fix our nation’s broken immigration system, but the House and Senate are taking two very different approaches to solving this complex issue.  The Senate recently passed a massive 1,000 page immigration bill; however, it largely fails to address the problems with our current immigration system.

As Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which is leading the debate on immigration reform in the House, I have many concerns about this bill.  First and foremost, the Senate bill is unconstitutional because it raises revenues, or taxes.  The U.S. Constitution requires that any bill raising revenues originate in the House of Representatives, not the Senate.

The Senate bill also doesn’t secure our borders nor does it guarantee our immigration laws will be enforced.  A robust border-security and interior-enforcement strategy is the first line of defense for any successful immigration system.  Strong border security not only reduces illegal immigration, it also helps prevent drug smugglers, human traffickers, and terrorists from entering the United States.  Interior enforcement helps detect two types of unlawful immigrants — those who make it past the border and those who violate the terms of their visas. In fact, it’s estimated that 30 to 40 percent of unlawful immigrants overstayed their visas.

However, the enforcement of our immigration laws is virtually non-existent in the Senate bill and it doesn’t take away the President’s “on/off switch” for enforcement.  While the bill throws billions of dollars at the border, there is no mechanism to ensure it actually secures our borders.  Despite all the money being spent in the bill that is supposed to secure our borders, the Congressional Budget Office has said that it will only reduce illegal immigration by one-third to one-half.

Furthermore, the Senate bill creates a special pathway to citizenship for those who knowingly broke our immigration laws.  It’s unfair to those who have waited in line and followed our immigration rules to create an entirely new, currently nonexistent, path to citizenship for those who have disregarded our laws. We should find a way to fairly deal with unlawful immigrants but enforcement and border security must be in place first. But this critical component is missing from the Senate bill.

These concerns are just the start. It’s clear that this legislation isn’t the solution the American people deserve. That’s why the House is taking a step-by-step approach, carefully examining each issue in detail so that we get immigration reform right. We don’t need another Obamacare-like bill that is jammed through Congress with little thought about how it will impact us in the future.  We need a long-term solution that will fix the problem.

Legislation that does not adequately address enforcement will not fix the immigration system and is a non-starter in the House. The House will not take up the Senate bill. In order to prevent the mistakes of past immigration reform efforts, the issue of enforcement is the starting point in the House.  By doing immigration reform right, we will create a workable immigration system for the years to come so that future generations won’t have to tackle this issue once again.

Bob Goodlatte represents the Sixth District in Congress.