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Washington Memo: Why I’m backing legislation to fix our broken immigration system

Everybody agrees that America’s immigration system is broken, threatening our security and holding back our economy. The combination of porous borders and lax enforcement has made us a magnet for illegal immigration.

With an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States, the status quo isn’t working – it’s de facto amnesty. We need immigration reform that serves the best interests of our country – a solution that finally secures our southern border, implements an employment verification system, stops future waves of illegal immigrants, deports undocumented criminals, creates a tough but fair means for those who are here illegally to earn citizenship, and allows high-skilled and other needed legal immigrants to work here and help grow our economy.

For too long, politicians on both sides of the aisle in Washington have failed to lead on this issue. And no doubt there will be naysayers in this debate who will continue to make excuses for inaction. But I ran for the Senate to make tough, independent decisions to strengthen our country, and that’s what it will take to solve our nation’s immigration problems.

This week, the Senate will take up immigration reform legislation that recently passed the Judiciary Committee on a bipartisan basis. After careful review of this bill, and after meeting with Granite Staters, I will support it and plan to vote for amendments offered to strengthen it.

We need to stop the flow of illegal immigrants, and we need to bring undocumented people out of the shadows to separate those seeking economic opportunity from those seeking to harm us (who must be deported). Here’s how this bill does that:

It starts by finally securing our southern border. Consistent with my priorities, the legislation includes more border agents, more fencing and better surveillance technology. And during the upcoming debate, I will support strengthening the legislation’s border security measures even further.

Also, under this bill all employers would be required to use an employment verification system – known as “E-Verify” – to check that job applicants are lawful for employment. To put teeth into the law, employers would face fines and possible criminal penalties for violations of E-Verify requirements.

Additionally, the legislation cracks down on those who abuse our visa system. Right now, 40 percent of illegal immigrants originally came legally but overstayed their visas. This bill creates an exit system feature that would enable the Department of Homeland Security to more vigorously track, pursue and remove those who overstay their visas.

The legislation also includes strict requirements for those illegal immigrants who are already here. Before any of these 11 million could earn a green card, they would go to the back of the line, not receive means-tested federal benefits and Obamacare subsidies, and they would be required to pay fines, pay taxes, pass background checks, learn English, and secure a job. The minimum most immigrants would have to wait to earn a green card would be 10 years – and 13 years for naturalization. And this timeline is dependent on first meeting border security and employment enforcement measures.

In addition to fixing our illegal immigration problem, the bill also takes steps to modernize our legal immigration system. To help ensure our hospitality and agricultural sectors are able to fill jobs that Americans won’t perform, the bill creates a new guest worker visa program. And the legislation addresses concerns that I’ve heard frequently from New Hampshire’s business community, especially the high-tech industry: the outdated cap on visas for highly-skilled workers is holding back our economy.

After companies make every effort to recruit Americans to perform particular jobs and can’t find any – especially those with expertise in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) – they are forced to look elsewhere. This legislation addresses that shortfall by raising the cap on H-1B visas. And to train the American innovators of tomorrow, it creates new STEM education programs – from K-12 to higher education – financed through a $1,000 fee for those applying for H-1B visas.

Moving to a more merit-based immigration system is good for our economy. By placing an emphasis on skills, we’re harnessing the expertise and ingenuity of the most talented immigrants – especially those who have been educated in our colleges. They will put their energy and their ideas to work in our country – starting businesses and creating jobs for Americans.

As a nation of immigrants, we must remember that we’re all descended from people who came here from somewhere else in search of a better life. In generations past, immigration has enriched our nation culturally and economically. We are all heirs to the dreams and hard work of the immigrants who helped build this country – neighborhood by neighborhood.

But the broken immigration system we have now is unworthy of a great nation. It’s time for Washington to tackle this problem head on. If we miss this opportunity, our illegal immigration problems will only get much worse, and we will not realize the full economic potential of America.

(Republican Kelly Ayotte is a U.S. senator from New Hampshire.)

Legacy Comments13

The Grassley amendment called for "demonstrable" proof that securing the border was underway and in full process. Democrats would not allow that and THAT is why we should not pass this bill. They have no intent on either securing or enforcing that part of the bill to secure the border. It is inane to legalize people while the border is spilling more and more over into the country. It is like fixing a sink drain with the water running. What are these people thinking???

She's just pandering to the NH Latino voting block. lol Doc

We really are not interested in more lies and double talk. The reasons a traitor to rationalize her treason are of little consequence in the final analysis. So there is really nothing you can say or do at this point that would make any difference to our opinion of you. The only interesting question is what you got out of the deal. I expect it must have been a pretty good considering the enormity of the damage you have done to our country. It mainly regret that we will have to wait till the next election to exact our revenge. And believe me it will be sweet even if the damage has been long done. Revenge is a dish best eaten cold, or so they say. I am starting to savor it even now, and I can hardly wait.

Impugning the patriotism and ethics of someone you disagree with is about the lowest form of name-calling, and a sorry substitute for using facts to argue your point.

Beyond the fact that there seems to be a consensus on this subject and agreement by many people posting here, I would think that you would not be accusing others of "name-calling". I seem to remember a post about 'angry white men' and the end to their influence coming to an end. As far as statistics and facts are concerned, they can be twisted to make any point. The reality on the ground is often in direct opposition to what statistics claim to reveal.

If one disagrees with a politicians vote on a particular issue, that's their right. But to impugn the integrity and patriotism of that person as a way to express that disagreement is reprehensible. Making wild claims that impugn the honesty and integrity of those with whom you disagree--absent even the flimsiest of evidence, should be beyond the pale. It's ironic as well, for only a few weeks ago Ayotte was lauded as a hero by the right for her "principled" vote against Manchin-Toomey. Now she's a traitor and a crook. Which is it? Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts. The best example of this practice is climate change, where the preponderance of evidence clearly shows the planet is warming, that fossil fuel use is the culprit, and that this warming is having harmful consequences. To make claims otherwise--to think that facts can be "twisted to make any point" in effect justifies lying and denial of reality--something the right seems especially good at financing and supporting these days. (Think 'fair and balanced' News Corp.) One can cherry-pick a fact or figure--taking it out of context--to try and prove a point. That's the preferred tactic of the climate change deniers, as 'sail' regularly demonstrates with his cut and paste quotes. Finally, what you call 'name-calling I call accurately descriptive: you may not like terms like "deniers",and "angry white men", but they are behaviorally and demographically accurate. Feel free to claim otherwise, but use fact-based arguments instead of 'name-calling' for name-calling. It should be easy, right? Since facts, after all, according to you, can be "twisted to make any point".

Reply to Bruce below...I believe Hacimo is a plant.

Reply to GWTW below: No, mineral.

Translation : If I keep dragging my feet and kowtowing to the extreme right-wing, my constituents are going to end my dreams of being President.

Actually Veritas, most of her constituents are not happy she is for this bill. But most realize that the immigration issue needs to be addressed. We just have different ideas about how to go about it. Not a lot of confidence in Govt these days fixing anything. We are more informed now, and as a result we realize how incompetent and corrupt govt is.

"Most of her constituents"? I suspect most of her constituents favor any immigration reform bill that Ayotte supports.

To the you TRUST your BIG Govt 1000 page legislation? This is a gem hidden in the fine print......."The immigration reform measure the Senate began debating yesterday would create a national biometric database of virtually every adult in the U.S."

In all my years of work the common phase was to find the “root cause” of the problem. It is widely stated illegals come here for the jobs. An "enforced" E-Verify program solves the problem, if they can’t get a job being here illegally then you fix the root cause of the problem……… Pay a $1K fee for a visa, as usual sounds like the rich even from other countries go to the front of the line. How about the hiring company pay a fee equal to one year’s salary. Everyone talks Jobs, Jobs, Jobs here but we continue to promote sending the work outside the US and then import workers from outside the US to take the remaining jobs here. Sounds like another one of those definitions for insanity.

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