The perennial debate over our U.S. immigration policy is underway once again in Washington. Everyone agrees that our current system is broken, and yet many refuse to say what they would do to fix the problem. This is one of the reasons I applaud the so-called Gang of Eight for embracing the challenge and doing the hard work necessary to craft bipartisan legislation.
Their bill does have some positives. For example, it would help America retain more immigrants with advanced STEM degrees; it also would help unify families. And on the enforcement side, it would establish mandatory E-Verify and increase penalties for hiring illegal immigrants. All of these reforms enjoy broad bipartisan support.
Unfortunately, the bill falls short of fixing our immigration system and protecting the interests of Texas. The biggest problem with the legislation is its failure to improve public safety and guarantee results on border security and national security.
For starters, its border-security triggers are talking points disguised as policy: Legalization of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States would be activated by meaningless promises rather than concrete results. Haven’t we heard enough of that from Washington?
Meanwhile, the bill would actually make it harder for us to prevent visa overstays, even though such overstays account for nearly half of all illegal immigrants living in the United States. It would also allow violent criminals to gain immediate legal status; it would prevent law enforcement from sharing information; and it would do absolutely nothing to bolster infrastructure and personnel at U.S. ports of entry along the southern border.
Unless these flaws are corrected, I will not be able to support this legislation. Therefore, I have introduced my RESULTS amendment that addresses the full range of concerns listed above. RESULTS stands for Requiring Enforcement Security (and safety while) Upgrading Lawful Trade (and travel) Simultaneously.
More specifically, the RESULTS amendment would require the Department of Homeland Security to achieve (1) full situational awareness of the entire U.S.-Mexico border and (2) complete operational control of every single border sector. It would define “operational control” as apprehension of at least 90 percent of all illegal border crossers.
It’s been nearly three years since the Obama administration last had a credible and objective way to measure border security. In 2011, the Government Accountability Office reported that DHS had achieved operational control of less than 45 percent of the southern border. More recently, radar surveillance of a border sector in Arizona showed that, between October 2012 and January 2013, DHS failed to apprehend more than half of all illegal border crossers.
To mitigate the problem of visa overstays, the RESULTS amendment would strengthen biometric requirements rather than weaken them. It would prevent violent criminals from acquiring legal status and give law enforcement access to critical national-security and public-safety information. To expand commerce with our third-largest trading partner, it would provide the resources necessary to significantly reduce wait times at U.S.-Mexico border crossings.
Strengthening border security, enhancing interior enforcement, speeding up legitimate trade and travel at our land ports of entry and preventing rape and other human-rights abuses along the southern border: These are not alternatives to fixing our broken immigration system; they are complements to the kinds of sensible reforms that members of both parties have endorsed. Even as we debate the most controversial issues, we should be doing everything possible to promote the type of legal immigration that benefits our economy and our broader society.
John Cornyn, a Republican, is the senior U.S. senator from Texas.