Most Americans agree that our immigration system is broken. Many agree that it desperately needs to be fixed. Many agree that past attempts to fix it have failed or even made our problems worse.
Each time we’ve tried to pass immigration reform, border security becomes a last priority, if it is even a priority at all. We always address how to handle undocumented workers already here without addressing how they arrived here in the first place.
We are not going to deport the estimated 11 million undocumented people already residing in the United States. In fact, we have de facto amnesty, in which those here neither have to return to their country of origin, nor are they fully or legally part of the American workforce.
But what do we do to prevent having to address this problem again?
The immigration bill before the U.S. Senate suffers from the major flaw of being yet another attempt at reform without addressing the crucial ingredient of border security.
Earlier this month, I introduced an amendment to the comprehensive immigration-reform bill. My amendment, known as the Trust but Verify Act of 2013, would make immigration reform conditional on Congress voting on whether the border is secure, requiring completion of a border fence in five years and a protection against the federal government establishing a national identification-card system for citizens.
This amendment was crucial to immigration reform for this important reason: Unlike the legislation before us, my amendment made reform contingent upon border security first.
On Wednesday, the motion was tabled with a vote of 37-61.
Seven Republicans joined with the Democrats in voting to table my bill. It was disappointing that the “Gang of Eight” explicitly said that legalization should not be dependent on first securing our border. Most conservatives believe just the opposite — that legalization absolutely must depend on securing the border first.
I am disappointed that the Senate rejected my amendment to fix one of the fundamental flaws of the current proposal. My amendment would have added real, verified border security and made the promises of the bill’s authors credible to the American people.
You can’t claim to be fixing the problems with our immigration system without addressing what allowed these problems to arise in the first place. You can’t address a broken immigration system without addressing our broken borders.
You can’t keep refilling a tire that has a hole in it.
I hope Congress eventually can produce immigration reform that actually solves the problems in our system. Unfortunately, the Senate bill does not.
I will continue to work to solve our immigration problems. America is a nation that always has been welcoming of immigrants, and we must have a system that encourages and embraces those who come here from all over the world to find a better life.
But it is important that they come here legally. It is important that we have a system that makes sense for both newcomers and the border security of the United States.
I hope I am eventually able to support a good bill that includes verifiable border security. With the defeat of my amendment, there is little chance of this happening in the Senate.
I have spoken with more than 100 House members, and they think that if we want successful reform, we must first secure our borders. It is now up to the House to lead the way, and I will continue to work with lawmakers there to make sure these principles are part of their bill.
Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Homeland Security committees.