TX US Rep Bill Flores Discusses Immigration Reform
Republican Representative Bill Flores sat down with TexasGOPVote to discuss immigration policy and explained a five step process he and roughly 80% of his constituents support. It involves securing the border, reforming legal immigration and worker visas, mandatory e-verify, and creating a process for undocumented immigrants to obtain legal status.
It all starts with securing the border.
“The first thing is we’ve gotta secure the border because if we don’t secure the border, all the problems will continue to repeat themselves,” Flores said.
Next, we need to reform the legal immigration system to allow for the timely legal entry of workers our economy needs, Flores explained.
“The second thing is, the reason we have high illegal immigration is because our legal immigration system is broken. So we need to have a visa system that responds to the labor demands of our economy and allows us to produce green cards quickly for immigrants that come here for jobs that need to be filled. If we can get that done, the need for illegal immigration will be reduced substantially,” he said.
Flores continued to say that if Congress can secure the border and improve the legal immigration system, then it can begin cracking down on workers who hire illegal immigrants.
“The next element is, once you have created a legal immigration system that allows us to have more of the right kinds of immigrant laborers that we need, we need to have sanctions for employers that don’t follow the rules. So you’d have mandatory e-verify, and then you would increase sanctions on employers that hire illegally because we’ve already given them a system to be able to hire legal labor. So that would be the next step is sanctions on employers that don’t follow the law,” he said.
The fourth and fifth steps, which can be the most controversial he said, are to create a path for the undocumented who are here to earn their legal status.
“The way this works is that they would come out of the shadows, register with the government, go through a background check, pay a fine, if they owe any back taxes they’d pay those back taxes, and then they would get a temporary residency certificate which would allow them to have a job, own a home, own a car, all the same things we do except for vote. That would be temporary, and during this temporary period they’d be on probation. At the end of that probationary period or deferred adjudication period, if they did everything they were supposed to do, then they’d get a permanent residency green card,” he said.
As for the Dreamers, or undocumented immigrants who came to America as children, Flores said he and his constituents believe they should go through a similar process as their parents but be eligible for citizenship at the end of it.
“If you think about the dreamer situation, they didn’t really break the law, their parents broke the law,” he said. “It may be some sort of an earned path where they agree to serve in the military for a while or do some sort of public service, and then they’d get legal residency pretty quickly and then have a path to citizenship. It wouldn’t be a path where they’d jump the line to be in front of everybody else but they’d have the opportunity to become a citizen through the naturalization process,” he said.
“That’s where the folks of District 17 are, that’s where I am, and that’s been the position I’ve been advocating since August of 2013,” he said.
Flores went on to justify the immigration policies he is calling for by explaining how they would help American workers and benefit the economy by providing a source of legal labor that our economy needs at 3.7% unemployment.
“What happens under the programs I laid out is, number one you’d have a secure border so you’d know who is coming across. Number two is when you have a legal immigration system, they’re gonna be paying taxes just like everybody else and it provides transparency and predictability for employers so they can hire, and they’ll do it in such a way that doesn’t depress wages. Right now when some employers hire an illegal laborer, they’re paying wages that are below what others get, and which has a depressive effect on wages. By adding these folks into the legal workforce, they’re more likely to pay higher wages because employers can’t take advantage of the fact that they’re illegal. So I think everybody benefits, the folks that get this opportunity to work in the United States legally benefit, the federal treasury benefits because it gets the tax dollars, employers benefit because they get the certainty, predictability, and transparency that they need to hire, and so overall the economy winds up better off. We need that today because we have a shortage of labor and the only way we’re gonna fill it today is with legal immigrant laborers,” he said.
Although these immigration policies make a lot of sense and have the support of a majority of voters, Congress has failed to pass meaningful immigration reform for decades. According to Flores, this is because for many lawmakers, “political wins have become more important than policy wins for the American people.”
For example, Flores highlighted how most recently in 2018, President Trump suggested a deal to pair $25 billion for border security with a pathway to legal status for 1.9 million Dreamers, but Democrats rejected the proposal.
“It’s interesting. That’s what the Democrats always wanted, was some sort of path for the dreamers, and then when he offered it to them they were like ‘ope nope, that’s not good enough, we can’t do that’. What happens is you give the president a victory. And the Democrats don’t want the president to get a victory on anything,” he said.
Flores also cited two immigration bills that came up for a vote in the House in June of 2018 but failed to pass when all Democrats and some Republicans voted against them. He explained that he voted for the bills even though they weren’t perfect because a step forward is better than the broken status quo.
“There were two bills actually, I voted for both of them because what I have to look at is what’s the outcome. I can only vote yes or no, I can’t vote for perfect or woulda coulda shoulda, and so I have to say okay what’s the outcome of a yes vote, is Central Texas, or Texas or America better off, or what’s the outcome of a no vote. What was particularly interesting to me is, when it came to those two immigration bills, a no vote was a vote for status quo, well everybody thinks status quo is terrible, so I voted for both of them because they were both steps forward…. If a person is a dreamer, they ought to be really upset with the Democrats for voting against a solution to deal with their challenges. These bills that we had on the floor last summer not only secured the border but had a path for the dreamers, dealt with some TPS issues we had, dealt with family separations, and they provided more legal immigrant work visas so our farmers could have the labor they need. No democrat voted for those, and some Republicans voted no because they thought that doing something for the Dreamers was amnesty, which is crazy because the Dreamers didn’t do anything wrong to start with, it was their folks that did it. Everything’s become political so Nancy Pelosi and her team have put politics ahead of policies that would benefit the American people.,” he said.
“Republicans also take some of the blame. The perfect example is these two immigration bills we had last summer. Neither one of them were perfect but I haven’t had the opportunity to vote on a perfect bill yet. When people are waiting on perfect and vote to keep the status quo, that hurts the American people,” he continued.
Looking forward, Flores called on Republicans to work together in finding small steps forward on immigration that they can agree on and get through Congress. He also called on all lawmakers to put politics aside in order do the right thing for the American people.
“We’ve got to get Republicans to start thinking ‘Ok let’s take some small steps forward and then hopefully it becomes easier to get the bigger things done later on, and immigration is one of those areas were some small steps forward would be a good idea. So we as Republicans have to get unified to do the right thing for the American people when it comes to things like immigration. We did all the tax policy and regulatory policy, we need to do it on healthcare, we need to do it on immigration. When Republicans had the majority we had a few successes, and if the Democrats see how that benefitted hardworking American families, maybe they’d start working with us, but right now everything is based on cheap political fights because the Democrats aren’t the majority. Republicans were equally guilty as well when they weren’t the majority,” he said.
Flores also mentioned that he is currently working on an immigration bill with his team but he expects it to have trouble going anywhere in a judiciary committee led by a Democrat focused on investigations and impeachment.
“But anyway, i’d like to have a marker out there for whenever people regain their senses,” he said.