Democrat — MO 2nd District

Immigration

Summary:

  • Nothing demands compromise more than immigration policy. We often fail here because we refuse to listen to the other side. Effective immigration policy must balance the need to protect our borders, our communities, and our economy with the understanding that a nation of immigrants cannot turn its back on those looking to achieve the American dream.
  • The U.S. Senate forged an excellent bi-partisan compromise in 2013. Unfortunately, the House refused to even consider it.
  • We need a comprehensive immigration law that – similar to the effort engineered by the “Gang of Eight” – finds a workable compromise between these two competing immigration philosophies.
  • Such immigration policy must compassionately recognize the children of those here illegally. The DREAM Act does just that and must be a part of any new immigration policy.
  • Nothing demonstrates the utter incompetence and dysfunction of the legislative branch than the U.S. House’s refusal to take up the Senate’s bill on immigration.

America is a nation of immigrants. It always has been, of course. But that hasn’t prevented immigration policy from becoming a volatile issue that consistently tests our emotions. As the son of German immigrants I have always been particularly sensitive to this issue. Though my experience growing up with foreign-born parents was overwhelmingly positive, I do recall times when my family faced bigotry and even hostility.

To narrow-minded people, my parents were less American. They were less deserving. They were second-class.

They came to this country voluntarily. They understood the sacrifice. But they took a chance because they believed in the American ideal. They worked hard and they succeeded. That is America’s story. And in my eyes that makes them as American as anyone. Without exception.

But we are a nation of laws, not of men. We are also a civilized society. Therefore, we must find a compromise between our openness to immigration and our need to protect our borders. Yes, illegal immigration is a problem. But we cannot solve that problem by callously denying that we are a nation built by immigration.

And it certainly doesn’t help matters when our President openly criticizes immigration from countries he considers less desirable.

A national immigration policy that understands this need for finding a compromise will not be easy. But Congress should never shy away from an issue just because it isn’t easy. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what has happened.

In 2013, a group of eight U.S. Senators forged an immigration compromise. Known as the “Gang of Eight” this bi-partisan group engineered a bill that recognized the need to balance these two worlds: respect for the fact that millions are looking for a better life in America, and the need to protect our borders.

What they created was an excellent example of what reasonable people can do when they listen to each other and respect opposing viewpoints. Though far from a perfect bill, it represented a significant improvement over the haphazard and ridiculously inconsistently enforced policy we currently had.

After much debate – and long hours of work – the Senate bill passed 68-32. It then when to John Boehner’s House of Representatives where it never saw the light of day.

House Republicans didn’t like portions of the bill. But instead of working on it in committee, hearing testimony on it, analyzing it in detail, and offering amendments or substitutions, they simply refused to act at all.  The bill then expired at the end of that Congressional session.

Cowardice.

As your representative, I will work diligently to address real immigration reform. Personally, I would start with the compromise agreed to by the Senate five years ago. Among it’s more significant features:

  • Improved work visa alternatives especially for those working in the agricultural sector;
  • Immigration system reforms to better handle the visa granting backlog that has become a growing frustration for American employers and immigrants alike;
  • Greatly expanded and improved employer-verification systems to enforce legal residency and immigration status; and, most importantly:
  • A path to citizenship that is genuinely possible for those here illegally – but far from easy. Such a program must recognize the legitimate need to control our borders but balance that against the thousands of productive and upstanding residents that are already integral parts of our communities.

A civilized society would also need to include legislation dealing with the children of illegal immigrants; children often caught in a legal tug-of-war.

I therefore fully support the DREAM Act (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act). This law would create a multi-tiered procedure for minors that meet very specific qualifications. This act would first grant conditional residency and then the potential for permanent residency and even citizenship.

Immigration is about as difficult and as emotionally draining as public policy gets. But there’s no excuse for Congress failing to meet its responsibilities. The good news is that the Senate understood this and was able to hammer out a very responsible bi-partisan compromise.

The House of Representatives refusal to even consider the bill is inexcusable. Nothing demonstrates Congress’ incompetence and dysfunction more clearly than its failure here.

End Corruption. Demand reform.
Paid for by John Messmer for Congress.