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“One of the most basic responsibilities of any country’s government is to manage immigration in ways that promote the nation’s interests and help keep it safe.”

America is a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws.  It is clear that our immigration system is broken and that reform is vital to our country’s national security and economic future.  But a rush to pass immigration reform just for the sake of doing so would be foolish. The House will not address this issue in one massive, comprehensive immigration bill. For any proposal to pass the House, it will have to make America stronger and safer.  And, by taking the time and care to review each issue on its own merits, Congress will be most likely to get each portion right.

There are some who argue that it is not our immigration laws that are broken but that we simply need to enforce the laws on the books.  This is certainly true, but it is through new laws that Congress can and will ensure that our immigration statues are enforced in spite of the President's efforts to circumvent them.  Our immigration laws have not been updated since the Secure Fence Act of 2006.  Certainly technology and capabilities have vastly improved since 2006, and the House will lead the way in ensuring that the latest technology is employed at and within our borders.  It will take a new law to accomplish this, but it is absolutely necessary.     

Congressman Thornberry discusses possibilities for immigration reform

The President’s Immigration Policy

In 2012, the President announced that his Administration will bypass Congress to make changes to the nation's immigration policy.  He did so again in 2013 and 2014.

No one can deny that deciding what to do with children who were brought to this country illegally is a difficult problem.  But it is wrong for the President to decide on his own which of our laws he will enforce and which laws he will not enforce.  The Administration has now announced that it will not enforce the law with respect to legal guardians or parents of the children they brought here illegally.

Even in an election year, our country is governed by the rule of law, not the arbitrary decisions of anyone -- including the President.  It is deeply disturbing that the President has circumvented Congress. This arrogant attitude has made it even more difficult to solve the problems that face us.  The Constitution grants the Congress the power to make laws, not the President.
New Immigration Reform Laws

On January 14, 2015, I voted in favor of legislation to rein in this President and his go-it-alone attitude in order to restore the proper constitutional balance.  H.R. 240, the “Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act,” passed the House by a vote of 236 to 191.   In addition to funding critical security and law enforcement efforts, such as the largest Customs and Border Protection (CBP) operational force in history, this bill prevents any funds from being used to carry out the presidential memos and executive actions announced in 2014 to grant deferred action to nearly five million illegal immigrants.  Further, one provision prevents funds from being used to consider new, renewal, or previously-denied Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) applications.  The Bill also ensures that sex offenders and domestic violence perpetrators are, in fact, priorities for removal by ICE. 

Any immigration reform must begin with border security.  Following that, our country must improve upon the interior enforcement of our laws, a reasonable guest worker program, and make reforms to the legal immigration system.  Other serious issues exist, but we do not have to solve everything at once.  Taking each of these issues and working to find a solution that is in the best, long-term interest of the nation is a better approach.

I object to blanket amnesty.  We do have to decide how to deal with the 10 to 12 million people who are already in the U.S. illegally in a way that makes sense.   Part of the serious criticism some of us have had of the Obama Administration’s handling of immigration over the last five years is its decision to selectively enforce the law, whether based on political calculations or just incompetence.  Reforming our immigration laws will make enforcement, regardless of the Administration’s attempts around it, possible.  

A Nation of Immigrants and Laws

America is a nation of immigrants, and we also are a nation of laws.  The safety of our nation is dependent upon us doing a better job of controlling who and what crosses our borders.  Unfortunately, the situation at our borders has deteriorated to a dangerous level with much violence. 

I believe that we should have a way for people to come to this country legally in order to work.  But I have real concerns if we reward those who have violated our laws at the expense of those who have waited patiently in their home country and tried to follow our laws.

Common Sense Solutions

Our challenge is to deal in a fair, common sense, and compassionate way with the many issues raised by our border security and immigration policies.  A comprehensive solution must address at least these four issues:

  1. Effective border security and interior enforcement;
  2. Fixing our legal immigration system to attract and keep highly skilled and highly trained immigrants in the U.S. workforce;
  3. The need for a guest worker program for those who want to come here for a limited time to work;
  4. Addressing what happens to the approximately 12 million people who are already here illegally in a way that is fair to everyone and does not encourage more illegal immigration.

None of this discussion on other issues is relevant, though, unless we can control the border.

Securing our borders

Taking control of our border is a crucial first step towards immigration reform. Since the terrorist attacks on September 11, knowing who and what is coming across our border is vital to our national security. I support measures to secure our expansive and porous border, such as improved fencing and surveillance technology to aid our border security agents.

Guest Worker Programs

Many immigrants, both legal and illegal, play a key role in our economy. Many businesses count on their participation in order to be successful. 

I believe that we need some kind of new guest worker program, but I do not think that it is right to reward those who violate our laws by entering illegally or staying here illegally.  The same goes for those employing people illegally and falsifying Social Security numbers.  Additionally, there are many people who have been trying to follow the law, waiting patiently in their home country to have their application considered, and we should be fair to them.

There has been some progress on guest worker programs in the last several months, but much more needs to be accomplished. In addition, the federal government must prove itself capable of handling the technological and process challenges which interior enforcement and a guest worker program would pose.

It is a complex debate, and all proposals should be considered. However, we must be cautious to not make any decisions that could put additional economic strain on our country in these uncertain economic times.  Any reform should help make our nation stronger and better able to face the challenges of the future.

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