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House GOP Immigration Principles prioritize border security

This week House Republicans released a one page outline of their highly anticipated principles for Immigration Reform.  The draft reflected what GOP leaders like Speaker John Boehner and Paul Ryan had been hinting at for weeks: securing the border and interior enforcement are of the utmost importance.  For House Republicans, there is no possibility of enacting legislation if these two conditions aren’t met. They therefore propose a piecemeal approach. Securing the border and meeting enforcement standards need to happen first, and then other aspects can take effect. Beyond security and enforcement measures, the GOP proposes a visa tracking system, an electronic employment verification system, an increase in the number of visas for highly skilled and agricultural workers,  a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the US by their parents (known as DREAMers), and legalization for the undocumented. None of which can happened unless the border is verified to be secure.

Considering that just two years ago the Republican presidential candidate was advocating a “self-deportation” policy, the fact that GOP leaders were able to come up with some common sense ideas is an achievement.  But it’s clear these principles still fall drastically short.

The GOP is insistent on securing the border and enforcing existing immigration laws before taking action on anything else, claiming that Obama has refused to do this. Yet, border enforcement has actually increased under Obama’s tenure, as have deportations.  While this stance might garner more support from their constituents and calm right wing fears, it’s simply untrue and overlooks the real issue at hand.

11 million people are living in this country—in the shadows, without documents and without rights. They are an integral part of our communities, contribute to our economy, and have started families here.  Their future and that of their families and communities shouldn’t be held hostage to political pandering and nativist fears.

If Republicans are so concerned with security and the economy, then a path to citizenship for the undocumented should be the first step. As many law enforcement experts have noted, undocumented immigrants are less likely to report crimes if they fear deportation thereby making communities less safe. And there are significant economic benefits to naturalization, to both immigrants and native born Americans. Citizens are more likely to earn and spend more, increasing overall economic activity.

Securing the future for those 11 million and their families should be the first priority.

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