Trump Can Fulfill His Immigration Promises by Using This 2013 Bipartisan Bill as a Framework

With US unemployment at 3.9% and 6.6 million open jobs, this is the first time there are more open jobs than Americans looking for jobs since the Department of Labor Statistics started tracking this data.  Reforming US immigration laws can help address the labor shortage with LEGAL workers, who are identified and taxed, while also securing the borders to eliminate ILLEGAL entry into the country.  In 2013, the US Senate had strong bi-partisan support for and voted to pass a bill that would have achieved these goals, including $46B for border security!  Unfortunately, the bill was not brought to a vote in the US House.  Now President Trump could propose the 2013 bill as a framework for a new immigration bill, especially since it fulfills every initiative of his own immigration platform.

Robert Kaplan, the president of the Dallas Federal Reserve, recently predicted decreasing unemployment, rising wages, and increased economic growth in 2018 and 2019, but warned that without immigration reform to address increasing labor shortages, the US’ future economic growth will be stunted.

Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Kevin Brady (R-TX) who led the way in passing the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act, also acknowledges that immigrant and migrant workers can play a valuable role in the American economy. "We are going to have to get immigration policy right so we have the workforce," he said recently.

President Donald Trump, who ran his successful campaign on promises of securing the border and fixing illegal immigration, also supports legal immigration and acknowledges its economic benefits. “We do need people coming into our country...At 3.9% unemployment, we need people coming in,” he said recently.

Frustrated with Congressional Democrats’ refusal to vote in favor of passing any of the recently considered immigration legislation authored by Republicans, Trump has advised Republicans in Congress to wait until after the midterm elections to address the topic in hopes that Republicans will gain more seats and be able to pass reform without any help from their colleagues across the aisle. He has also said he would not be opposed to shutting down the government in attempting to force Congress to pass immigration reform. 

While this strategy might work, it could fail because some Republican hardliners in Congress may be more interested in the politics of having a serious problem to campaign on rather than passing a real solution. There may be a better way to fix our nation’s broken immigration system and for Trump to follow through with his campaign promises, and it involves working with both Democratic and Republican lawmakers.  

For perspective, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 was a bipartisan immigration bill that passed in the Senate on a 68-32 margin with the vote of every Democrat but was never brought to the floor in the House. In addition to creating a conditional pathway for unauthorized immigrants who could pass background checks, learn English, and gradually pay a $2,000 fine to come out of the shadows and earn their legal status so they could be properly identified and taxed, this bill would have provided $46 billion for border security improvements—almost double the $25 billion President Trump has been asking for and that Democrats now, just five years later, consider too wasteful. It would have also moved some visas in the family reunification category to a new merit based system of immigration, and replaced the diversity visa lottery, fulfilling every initiative of now President Trump's immigration platform. This bill should be used as a framework to craft an immigration bill today. It would not only make America safer, but it would help it prosper as well.    

While rule of law says that all 11 million unauthorized immigrants should be deported, it is important to realize that in 2017, ICE was only able to deport 81,603 illegal immigrants from the interior of the US. That means at the rate the current immigration laws are being enforced, it would take about 135 years to deport all of the 11 million unauthorized immigrants who are in the United States today. That is no longer an effective or feasible option. By securing the border and allowing the unauthorized immigrants who can pass background checks to be properly identified and taxed, this bill would allow ICE to focus its resources on prosecuting the actual violent criminal aliens in the interior of the US looking to do us harm, which would make America safer.

By identifying and properly taxing undocumented immigrants, a bill like the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 would make sure they are no longer cheating American businesses, workers, and taxpayers, as they do in the current broken immigration system where they are often taken advantage of by corrupt businesses. For example, in the construction industry, some subcontractors misclassify undocumented workers as independent contractors and pay them cash below the going rate of labor to avoid taxes, both of which negatively impact wages for the American workers and undercuts ethical American businesses competing with them. Fixing this, and including improved worker visas would substantially help American businesses’ dynamic workforce needs and help America prosper.

Democrats and most Republicans say they want to protect Dreamers; Republicans and most Democrats say they want to secure the border. If the President comes out in support of a bill similar to the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 that would enact the policies mentioned above and meet the rest of his immigration initiatives, and asks Republican leadership to hold a vote on it before the midterms, Americans could call the bluffs of lawmakers who say they want an immigration solution but vote against it. If Democrat senators voted for the bill in 2013 and vote against it now, it would be clear they either want to prevent any productive legislation from passing under the Trump Administration just to make him look bad, or that the Democratic party platform has truly shifted so far left that it now would rather have open borders instead of protections for Dreamers, something it voted the opposite of just five years ago.

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