2019 was the year the U.S. immigration system reached a breaking point. Last February more than 76,000 migrants crossed the border without authorization—an 11-year high—and arrests along the southern border increased 97 percent.
Even facing a clear crisis, Washington politicians continued to make immigration about politics instead of national security. As a result, the security crisis at our border also evolved into a humanitarian crisis with rampant human trafficking and drugs like fentanyl pouring into our communities and fueling the opioid crisis.
We can’t afford a February like our last. That’s why I’m calling on Congress to shift their focus away from impeachment and onto finally fixing our broken immigration system.
First and foremost, we must support increasing funding for border security. We can’t fix our immigration system without first securing the border. Congress has approved billions for President Trump’s border wall but Democrats haven’t made it easy. We need to make sure security at the southern border is funded and Immigration Custom Enforcement Officers have the resources they need to stop violent criminals and dangerous drugs from entering our country.
Last year ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations arrested and convicted more than 200,000 individuals for crimes such as homicide, kidnapping, sexual assault, drugs and Driving Under the Influence but too often our border agents are pulled away from their law enforcement duties to tend to the humanitarian needs of the mass illegal immigration, making our borders less secure. ICE officers should have bipartisan support.
While we must focus on stopping heinous crimes and ending illegal immigration, we should also support legal immigration.
Immigrants are a huge asset to our culture, our economy, and they’re our neighbors and friends. In Iowa, immigrants are a vital component of our state’s labor force. According to the American Immigration Council, there are 96,089 immigrant workers in Iowa in various industries like manufacturing, educational services and construction.
It is critical that we fix our legal immigration system so states like ours can have workforce needs met. This means streamlining America’s skilled-worker visa system to make it easier for businesses to hire and retain the workers they need.
The U.S. Senate should move quickly to pass Senator Joni Ernst’s bill, Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act. This bipartisan legislation would move the per-country cap for employment-based green card applications, making it easier for talent across the world to bring their skills here.
With an immigration system in desperate need of repair, it’s no secret that our representatives instead shamefully focused on destroying the President. Extreme politicians need to stop putting politics over public safety and sensationalism over solutions.
The way forward to fix our immigration system is simple, but it’s a tall order for today’s partisanship: Democrats and Republicans should work together to make our nation more secure, more safe and better equipped to hire the best and brightest for our workforce.