Op-Ed: Immigration Reform Must Be a Conservative Solution

Jul 11, 2013

Jonesboro SUN July 11, 2013

Around the country, reforming our nation’s broken immigration system is the hot political topic driving discussion around kitchen tables and on front porches. The Senate recently passed a comprehensive plan, one that aims to secure the border while dealing with the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living within our borders. Debate about whether that plan will truly achieve its objectives has been heated. Now, attention turns to the House as conservatives take our own approach to reforming our nation’s immigration system.

Conservatives in the House believe that immigration reform is too complex an issue and too important to our nation’s future not to examine each component piece by piece, rather than attempting a comprehensive approach as the Senate has. The last time Congress attempted comprehensive reform of this magnitude, we ended up with a health care law that wasn’t read, and even today is being found impossible to implement properly. House conservatives want to take a thoughtful approach and bring the sunlight of public scrutiny and debate into the process. We shouldn’t feel pressure to act before we fully understand what the current problems are, and make sure laws we already have on the books are being enforced. We realize that although the Senate may have acted first, addressing this issue is not a race; it is about getting it done right.

My first and foremost priority in addressing this issue is to secure the border. As any logical person would agree, it is imperative in addressing any problem to find the source and fix it there. Congress attempted to fix our broken immigration system nearly 30 years ago, with promises of border security that never fully materialized. Now, our country is in much worse shape, with over 11 million undocumented immigrants here utilizing public goods and services they do not pay for in taxes. The Senate version of the immigration package made good strides toward securing the border, but unfortunately there were not sufficient triggers put in place to ensure its implementation. I believe we have a shot to do something better on the House side.

Second, we must ensure that we do not grant blanket amnesty to those undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States. Amnesty is not a conservative approach to fixing this problem. It rewards those who have broken the law to get here with citizenship while representing a huge shock to our economy that could threaten jobs and wages for current American citizens. I have heard loud and clear from my constituents in Arkansas and they agree with me that any plan including amnesty must not be allowed to go through.
Finally, what Arkansas needs from any immigration reform bill is an improved guest worker program that will give Arkansas agriculture the source of reliable labor it requires. That’s why I introduced H.R. 707, the STRAW Act, which makes adjustments to the current guest worker program. Under the Obama Administration, this system has become bogged down in red tape, and the STRAW Act will streamline the program and make it more workable for farmers, giving them access to a steady stream of farm labor critical to production. The House Judiciary Committee has similar legislation, known as the AG Act, highlighting this program as a top priority of conservatives as we seek to address this issue in our approach to immigration reform. I look forward to working with the Committee to highlight the importance of this issue for rural America and Arkansas agriculture.

Being an American is something very special. Undertaking the issue of immigration reform and considering citizenship for millions of individuals is not something that should be taken lightly. Reaching for reform in the heat of the moment should not be done at the expense of good policy. Countless families through our nation’s history have come to America legally – you and I are their posterity. Forgetting this legacy by granting blanket amnesty to individuals who broke the law to come here would be a disservice. I want to make sure this approach is done right. It’s what Arkansas deserves and what rural America needs.

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