Almost everyone is in agreement that our current immigration system is broken and needs to be fixed. While I do not agree with everything that was in the Senate immigration reform bill that was recently passed, I was certainly encouraged to see such a large and complicated issue addressed in our nation’s capitol. Now that the Senate has acted, I urge Congressman Joe Barton and his colleagues to give it the attention it deserves in the House. Having represented the constituents of District 6 well for 28 years, I trust Congressman Barton will advocate for meaningful debate on this important and historic legislation. I also hope Congressman Barton will keep some fundamental perspectives in mind during this debate.

First and foremost, we are a nation of immigrants. We must always ensure we have a welcoming immigration system that can attract and retain foreign talent, whether it is agricultural workers or skilled workers graduating from American universities. Our economy depends on an influx of foreign workers, and we must never deter this important facet of our population.

Unfortunately, our current immigration system is far too slow to respond to requests, fails to follow visa holders through expiration and turns away high and low skilled workers far too often. A temporary worker visa program will encourage the flow of labor in and out of our country and can be expedited to respond to spikes in industry demand or with agricultural seasons.

Congressman Barton said in agreement, “I think it’s time to reform our immigration policies… It’s not just about people who came here illegally, but those who came here legally as well.”

As for the 11 million immigrants already living in this country, it is simply is not feasible – nor desirable — to deport each and every one. Offering the ability to achieve earned legal status will encourage undocumented workers to come forward, pass a background check, pay a fine, and learn our language and culture. We should not offer them amnesty; instead we can provide an accessible platform to earn legalization and become productive members of our society.

There is a realization among the American people that we have to fix the broken immigration system not because it’s a political issue, but for our economy and national security. In truth, immigration reform will come down to our ability to enforce the law, and to protect and secure our borders while still allowing for the free movement of trade. It goes without saying that we should be able to clearly identify who is in our country and for what purpose. Employers must also be able to verify that their workers are here legally.

The Senate has set a tone of progress, and the House must now follow suit, carefully deliberating the ins and outs of arguably one of the more complicated pieces of legislation ever to pass their desks. I urge Congressman Barton to take the time necessary to come up with a comprehensive, enforceable solution that will work for our country and the next generation of people who would like to live here.

 

Kathleen B. Cooper is an expert on the banking and energy industries and currently serves as Senior Fellow at the John G. Tower Center for Political Studies and President of CooperTrends, LLC. She is Chair of the National Bureau of Economic Research and a director of the Williams Companies and Deutsche Bank Trust Company of the Americas. Dr. Cooper served as Under Secretary for Economic Affairs at the U.S. Commerce Department from 2001 to 2005 (in which capacity she was the principal economic adviser to Secretaries Don Evans and Carlos Gutierrez) and as Chief Economist for the Exxon Mobil Corporation during the 1990s.