Congress is getting very close to debating comprehensive immigration reform. I am firmly committed to being part of reforming our nation’s immigration laws. Conservatives and liberals agree that our complex immigration system is broken and in need of repair. Although the two sides disagree on solutions, I have three important ideas that should be part of the debate and that should please most Americans.
My “Trust but Verify” plan has three elements: secure the border, secure the vote and secure the taxpayer’s dollar. If these three elements are met, I think, Congress can move forward on a comprehensive plan to reform immigration law.
Securing the border is my first priority. Under my plan, national and border security will move as the first element of any reform and would require annual votes of Congress to establish that the border is truly secure. No other reform can go forward until this happens. In addition to increased border security, our nation needs to modernize our visa system. We need to know who comes and goes on travel, student and other temporary visas. There must be a workable system to ensure that visitors don’t use travel visas as a way to enter the country, then disappear. This will address the problem of visa overstayers.
National security has to be a cornerstone to any border-security and visa-reform initiative. Our nation needs to look back at the 9/11 Commission report and study the recommendations with regard to terrorists’ use of visas to commit acts of violence against America. The Sept. 11 hijackers used visas to enter the country and to stay here while planning their attacks.
Strong border security includes using cutting-edge technology. Satellites, physical barriers, screening to bar criminals and terrorists from entry, increased patrols on the border and yes, surveillance drones all should be part of a comprehensive plan to physically protect the border. My idea is to take specific measures at the border and then have the office of inspector general for the Government Accountability Office produce a report to Congress on the progress of border security.
My idea takes border security a step further than the proposals of anybody else in Congress. Under my plan, Congress will vote every year on border security. If Congress votes that the border is not secure, elements of immigration reform will cease going forward and visa programs will be slowed. If Congress does not think the border is secure after five years, every element of immigration reform will be stopped.
Securing the vote is also important in this debate, and I think Congress should look at reforming our “motor voter” laws to prevent fraud as a large bloc of immigrants are legalized but are not eligible to vote. President Clinton signed the National Voter Registration Act in 1993 that allows state governments to register voters when people come in to get driver’s licenses. Still, some of these same states resist the idea that people need to produce a driver’s license to prove who they are when they vote. Preventing noncitizens from being included on the voter rolls is necessary for and consistent with fair immigration reform.
The third plank of my plan is to secure the taxpayers’ dollars through welfare reform. When reforming immigration laws, our nation needs to make sure we don’t explode our national debt with a pathway to the welfare state. In a perfect world, Congress would be debating welfare reform alongside immigration reform.
America is a nation of immigrants. Our Founding Fathers fled the tyranny of the British Empire and declared independence in 1776. Throughout history, our nation has been flooded with immigrants with a flavor for the home country, yet they have assimilated into what we know today as America. This idea, and the American dream, must be protected and preserved.
Immigrants are drawn to the magnet of free-market capitalism in the United States. Our nation should have open arms to immigrants who want to work hard to make a new life in a free nation. As a libertarian-minded senator, I am attracted to the idea of somebody coming to this country with a couple of dollars in his pocket and then, through hard work, making it big.
That American dream has been attacked by welfare dependency and crony capitalism. The poor get hooked on welfare money that saps the will to work. Welfare is supposed to be a last-line-of-defense safety net, yet today, it is a magnet that pulls people away from the American dream and toward an addiction to socialist government dependency.
I want federal and state agencies to coordinate with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement arm of the Department of Homeland Security to make sure immigrants don’t get on the welfare rolls. If you come here to work, we have a place for you.
There is no way America can keep borrowing billions of dollars from China to fund annual deficits of more than $1 trillion. Our national debt is a staggering $16.8 trillion. Our nation is driving off a cliff of debt. Two chief reasons for this are the massive welfare state and crony capitalism. The government bails out corporations with friendly lobbyists for Republicans while funding a massive welfare state for Democrats. This must end.
I am committed to immigration reform that will secure the border, secure the vote and secure the taxpayers’ money from the welfare state.
Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Homeland Security committees.