The author, a Republican, is the senior U.S. senator from Nebraska.
For generations, America has been a beacon of opportunity for folks around the world in search of a better life.
Our nation has always been and still is a melting pot where different backgrounds, cultures and traditions join together to form the United States of America.
Just as we are a nation of immigrants, we are also a nation of laws. We must remember these two important realities as the Senate debates legislation to change America’s immigration policy.
Clearly, our current immigration system is flawed. Today, 11 million undocumented immigrants live in the United States, with more entering each day due to a porous border. About 40 percent of them came here legally but overstayed their temporary visas.
Simply ignoring the problems with our current system isn’t a wise approach. It’s unfair to American citizens who deserve a secure border, and it’s unfair to those wanting to legally enter America for a better life for their families — the same reason most of our ancestors came to this country.
The current reform proposal before the U.S. Senate is not one I can support, but I do support having an open and robust discussion about securing our borders, verifying employment eligibility and updating our immigration laws. That’s why I voted to bring the bill up for debate.
But for this legislation to earn my support in the end, it must undergo significant structural changes.
Except on very rare occasions, I vote to debate legislation only if I can support it. That was especially true during the health care debate because there were 60 Democrats in the Senate to guarantee that bill could be forced through without bipartisan support.
This bill, on the other hand, must garner bipartisan support to achieve final passage. There are several issues that I think must be addressed during the Senate’s amendment process.
For example, gaining control of our border is worthy of debate.
The administration should not have sole authority to determine when the border is secure, especially if it serves as a trigger for legal status. People who came here illegally shouldn’t benefit from income tax refunds in excess of the taxes they paid. And the true cost of the bill should be disclosed to taxpayers, not hidden by budget gimmicks.
Any real solution to the problems of illegal immigration should take significant strides toward improving border security and ensuring that illegal immigrants go to the back of the line, behind those who played by the rules when seeking American citizenship.
This solution should not be a fast track to citizenship for those who have chosen to break the law, and it should enforce eligibility requirements in the workplace.
These are the key ingredients to fair and effective immigration reform, and it’s going to be a tall order.
Improved immigration policy that continues our rich tradition of diversity and commitment to the rule of law is in the best interests of our nation. I cannot support a policy that fails to achieve both of these goals.
So, I welcome this debate and your comments as we continue to find the right policies for America.