Lame-Duck Session Offers an Opportunity for Congress to Fix Immigration
The following article was originally published in the Washington Examiner.
For years, Republicans and Democrats have been at each other's throats about immigration. Democrats have urged Republicans to legalize many in the undocumented community, while Republicans have called for increased border security.
Rather than wait for a new Congress and the start of a new year, Democrats should prioritize an immigration fix in the waning days of a lame-duck session.
For one, the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border is unsustainable.
As someone living in a border state, I have seen firsthand how local communities and charities are stretched to accommodate the influx of immigrants fleeing violence, persecution, sex abuse, and worse. They include children, teenagers, and single mothers desperately looking for a new life and a chance to live safely and provide for themselves and their loved ones.
Of course, we know that there is also a minority coming across the border who have no intention of working and are involved in criminal activity.
We should have a system in place to determine who wants to contribute positively and who wants to do us harm.
No one bill will fix everything wrong with our country’s immigration system, but that shouldn’t be an excuse for inaction.
One bill that begins to address some of our country’s most pressing immigration issues is the Bipartisan Border Solutions Act. Among its provisions includes establishing at least four new regional processing centers in high-traffic Border Patrol sectors while disincentivizing immigrants with unrealistic asylum claims from coming to the United States. And just as importantly, the bill would provide Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection additional resources to help them do their jobs more effectively.
But what about the undocumented community living here in the U.S.?
What about starting with those with broad bipartisan support to legalize — the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients?
Brought to this country at an early age, these immigrants have lived in our communities for most of their lives and are either enrolled in school, serving in the military, or gainfully employed. They have also been screened to ensure they have not broken any strict laws. Former President Barack Obama issued an executive order in 2012 providing these immigrants with a reprieve from deportation proceedings. But since then, these immigrants have been caught up in legal limbo with little certainty for their future.
The public overwhelmingly agrees that they should stay. A recent poll taken weeks before Election Day found that “73% of surveyed voters in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin said they backed giving immigrants living in the U.S. without legal permission an opportunity to 'earn' lawful status and ultimately citizenship if they meet certain requirements, including passing background checks.”
Lawmakers in Washington may be listening. Senate Democrats are restarting conversations with their Republican counterparts to see if there are areas of common ground on immigration. Rather than trying to do everything all at once, lawmakers should focus on a plan for DACA recipients and border security. Both sides could claim partial victory while promising to do more.
Compromise has been one of the hallmarks of our legislative process, and when it comes to immigration, it’s the only way lawmakers will be able to break this logjam. The time to deliver is now!