The Compromise America Needs
We in New Mexico see the results of a broken system in the lives of our neighbors. Many immigrants, just looking to feed their families, have risked lives and limbs because we mismanage the immigration system and the border.
Since being elected to Congress, I’ve urged that immigration reform should be a top priority.
Right now, there seem to be two camps. One, organized around the Senate bill, says to give all undocumented immigrants amnesty or a pathway to citizenship. The other camp says that all undocumented immigrants should be deported or should self-deport. I do not see that we can or should do this as a nation. We have been stuck arguing between the two sides for decades, without any solutions for the people who desperately need them. We are on a dangerous treadmill, with no end in sight.
Most of the people who came here to work and feed a family are decent, hardworking people with strong family values. If my family was hungry, I don’t know that I would act any differently than they have.
I support a compromise plan that is between the two sides—a compromise that we could put in place tomorrow. The solution is to create a noncitizen guest worker program that gives people legal status immediately.
First, we completely secure the border, which has to be the first step for any reform to work. Then, create a guest worker program that can be utilized by both those already here and those waiting to come. Here is how it might look:
- Secure the border using technology and people. No other nation in the world allows uncontrolled access across its borders. I do not support the Senate plan of 20,000 new agents, and I have never supported a fence as the solution. It is too easily breached.
- Fix legal immigration
- The current system takes too long—sometimes decades—to come here legally. We must rethink, reform, and modernize immigration. The process must be more efficient, streamlined, and provide prompt answers to those asking to become citizens.
- Create a noncitizen guest worker program: The program should provide legal status that allows immigrants to live here, work, contribute, pay taxes and provide for their families. This provides immigrants with fully legal status, but it can never lead to citizenship or provide these workers with federal benefits.
- Let undocumented immigrants choose:
- If they want to stay here, they can register as a guest worker. This would give families stability and security to continue working here without fear of exploitation, substandard wages, or unsafe working conditions. Biometric identification would allow workers to easily travel back and forth as needed. This is an open, straightforward process—no fines, jail time, or fear of deportation. Just the chance to succeed.
- If an immigrant wants to become a citizen, they must follow current law and process. Reforms to our legal immigration system and the creation of the noncitizen guest worker program should aim to provide an answer within 18 months.
The Senate’s pathway to full citizenship is unfair to the people who follow the law, waiting in their country. A noncitizen guest worker program will provide legal status to millions ensuring stability and safety. Undocumented immigrants will be able to have a job, pay their taxes, and live the American dream. Employers, too, will benefit from a fresh, modernized guest worker program that makes it easier to find employees.
Together, we can make this dream a reality. We can build an immigration system that is the pride of the free world. The challenges we face are great, but there has never been a better time to meet them. For over two centuries, America has been the world’s hope for freedom. The doors into our country should not be built with darkness and broken promises, but with hope.
Let’s act today.
This column appeared in the Albuquerque Journal on Thursday, October 3, 2013, under the headline "Offer middle ground to fix immigration"