What's the big idea? 4 proposals to reform America's immigration system
We cannot let divisive rhetoric prevent us from working toward a compassionate immigration policy that lives up to the ideals of the American Dream.
What one reform if adopted by the federal government would move the nation forward in addressing the challenges and opportunities of immigration to the United States?
Focus on areas of agreement
Rep. Fred Upton: America has long been the land of opportunity for millions of immigrants who have enriched our communities and contributed to our economy. As a nation of immigrants, Democrats and Republicans must come together on bipartisan reforms to fix our broken immigration system.
One thing is certain — we cannot let divisive rhetoric prevent us from working toward a compassionate immigration policy that enforces our laws, supports our agricultural community and farm laborers, and lives up to the ideals of the American dream.
The president has said that Congress needs to “do our job” and get a bill to his desk. Congress has failed to do such. We’ve made some progress — like when the House passed the Farm Workforce Modernization Act last year — but more is needed. Partisan bickering only delays progress. Let’s focus on areas of agreement rather than letting politics get in the way.
Fred Upton, a Republican, represents Michigan's 6th Congressional District.
Enforce laws in good faith
Rep. Dean Phillips: We need a commitment to good old-fashioned respect, commitment to action and collaboration to solve the partisan deadlock on immigration.
Why do I seem so upbeat? Because we achieved a bipartisan compromise on immigration just last year. I was among a group of members from both parties who came together to pass a pathway to citizenship for Liberian families who sought refuge from civil war through the Deferred Enforced Departure program.
Greater Minneapolis has an extraordinary Liberian population, and after listening to leaders from that community, I worked with Republicans and Democrats to finally pass a pathway to citizenship, which was signed by the president. We’ve proved that bipartisan immigration reform can be done, but early reports suggest that the Trump administration has yet to approve a single green card application from that program nine months after its passage.
People take part in a protest near a U.S. Immigration building on May 13, 2020, in New York City. Protesters were demanding an end to the continued detention and deportation of non-U.S. Citizens. Conditions within detention centers guarantee exposure to COVID-19 and detainees who have tested positive for COVID-19 are still being deported.
So while collaboration is key, we cannot fix our country’s immigration problems until we have a president who is willing to enforce in good faith the laws set forth by Congress. Optimism is empty without action, after all.
Dean Phillips, a Democrat, represents Minnesota's 3rd Congressional District.
Provide path to citizenship
Peter Boogaard: Our immigration system has been broken for decades, leaving millions of people contributing to our families and economy, and helping our communities survive the ongoing pandemic, with no opportunity to earn legal status.
These nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants should be able to become citizens. Taking this vital step while reforming laws that trap people in undocumented status would immediately improve our immigration system.
We spend billions trying to deport hardworking immigrants, often separating parents from their U.S. citizen children and breaking apart families. We lose billions in economic growth and tax revenue by limiting their ability to fully contribute. And we sacrifice ingenuity, dynamism and cultural cohesion by systematically perpetuating an underclass who are essential to our society, but who are denied the most basic freedoms and dignity. This further fuels the demagoguery of immigrants we see far too often.
Legalization won’t fix every problem with our immigration system, but the overwhelming success of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allowed young undocumented immigrants to legally live and work in the United States, has proved that creating more opportunities for immigrants to fully contribute is good for the country. It’s long past time for Congress to act and unlock our nation’s true potential.
Peter Boogaard is the communications director for FWD.us. He previously was deputy assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security and worked on the National Security Council and in White House communications in the Obama administration.
End birthright citizenship for illegal families
Mike Howell: For conservatives, one unfulfilled promise really stands out — ending birthright citizenship for children of illegal immigrants. President Donald Trump promised this during the 2016 campaign and on multiple occasions since then.
Birthright citizenship automatically grants U.S. citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants. At least 5 million individuals in the USA have received birthright citizenship but should not have. This practice is due to a misapplication of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the interpretation of the language “subject to the jurisdiction.”
Legislative history makes no mention of illegal immigrants being subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. Proponents of birthright citizenship often point to the 1898 Supreme Court case U.S. v. Wong Kim Ark, but that case dealt with the children of lawful permanent residents, not illegal immigrants.
The president doesn’t need Congress to end this practice. He could issue an executive order instructing federal agencies to issue passports and other government documents and benefits only to those individuals whose status as U.S. citizens meets this requirement.
Trump’s 2016 campaign put out a policy paper saying that birthright citizenship “remains the biggest magnet for illegal immigration.” He was right then and would be right now to end it.
Mike Howell is senior adviser for Executive Branch Relations at The Heritage Foundation. He previously was the chief legal point of contact in the Department of Homeland Security's Office of the General Counsel.