Immigration Reform 2013: Drafting a Bill That Respects Immigrants and Taxpayers

The U.S. is a nation that has been dependent upon immigrants all throughout its history. With the U.S. Senate set to debate on immigration reform, activists from all sides have moved into full gear to either stop or advance it. U.S. senators such as Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) have influence on the legislation, and both have come out in favor for immigration reform. The American people want to see a change in policy as well, but it is important to understand what is in the bill and how it will affect everyone if it gets passed.

The United States is long due for immigration reform that is enforceable and respectful. The U.S. is continuing to see a rise in illegal immigration, mostly due to the economic opportunities that are offered here. This is an issue that we need to confront. It costs taxpayer money to support the millions of illegal immigrants already here, whether for hospital care or schooling. It is understandable that Americans want to protect the border, but we need to examine the proposal in the Senate and attempt to understand what exactly the bill does and does not address.

For immigrants, illegal or not, rules regarding the workforce and the workplace are some of the most vital to establish first. The bill being considered by the Senate would protect undocumented workers by setting an imprisonment time, up to 10 years and six months, for an employer who steals wages. Under current federal law, minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, and with the new protections in the bill, undocumented workers who receive less than the minimum wage are still protected. If a worker whistle-blows to the authorities, they are granted a U-Visa, which are normally reserved for crime victims.

Some politicians have already announced their stance on the proposed immigration bill. Former U.S. Senator Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), currently president of the Heritage Foundation, said that immigration reform would “cost Americans trillions of dollars.” He goes on to say, “There’s no reason we can’t begin to fix our immigration system so that we won’t make this problem worse. But the bill that’s being presented is unfair to those who came here legally. It will cost Americans trillions of dollars. It’ll make our unlawful immigration system worse.”

In a sense, DeMint is right — the goal of the immigration-reform bill should be to fix the problems that illegal immigrants face today, while at the same time respecting the money of the taxpayer. The country is $16 trillion in debt and representatives should be trying to cut spending in order to regain our financial stability. The United States needs to understand that our fiscal situation is a problem, and we should be working towards fixing those issues.

Senator Rubio says that we need immigration reform that respects the principles of our country. Modernizing the immigration process needs to be done in order to ensure that immigrants, illegal or not, are treated as the human beings they are. 

Senator Rand Paul, who also supports immigration reform, believes that we should first truly understand what is wrong with our immigration policy before changing anything. Immigration reform does not just affect those who are looking to come to the United States. It also will affect the American people on a national-security level. Senator Paul claims that we should take our time with the reform process and understand what needs to be changed or kept the same. Immigration reform could be a great thing by allowing those looking to come into the United States to do so properly and speedily, while at the same time protecting the lives of the American people.

Senator Rand Paul brings up another valid argument, one that's especially relevant in light of border-security operations like Fast and Furious, which resulted in the murder of a border-patrol agent, Brian Terry. He has noted that national security should be taken into consideration when crafting legislation. Our government should not be conducting or orchestrating operations that could potentially harm American citizens, especially those who are doing their job to keep the border safe.

There are many more issues that we need to face that relate to human rights and treatment of prisoners. The immigration-reform bill needs to address problems that illegal immigrants face when they are captured. Secure Communities, part of the Department of Homeland Security's ICE (Immigration and Custom Enforcement) department,has grown from 14 jurisdictions in 2008 to more than 3,000 today. There have been many problems with Secure Communities, as there have been reports of rape and an increase of abuse within the prison system. This division should, without a doubt, be a key target for immigration reform in the United States.

Abuse in the prison system with illegal immigrants is also a pressing issue. An abuse case in Texas lead to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, which addressed the conduct of a private prison that was sexually abusing inmates assigned there. The lawsuit's defendant, Donald Dunn, plead guilty to charges that he abused women he was driving to the airport and Greyhound stations, and the lawsuit also named the ICE and the Corrections Corporation of America, which is the the country’s largest private prison coordinator, as defendants. This tells us what really is going on in our prisons. Our representatives need to address these issues that are happening every day.

It is clear that the United States needs immigration reform from top to bottom, but Congress should not rush into a bill without first knowing what is at risk and what needs to be addressed. Senators such as Rand Paul have taken a clear stance that we should examine our problems first before we dive into reform. Senator Rubio has also shown that he is serious about the reform. Both Republicans and Democrats can come together over this issue and form responsible, rational, and healthy legislation, since most Americans agree that we should be welcoming immigration, not pushing it away. A successful reform bill could possibly be one of the greatest accomplishments to ever pass the House of Representatives.