Finding a solution to the issue of immigration has eluded our existing elected officials for more than two decades.

While Congress could reform immigration, or at a minimum improve it, the unwillingness of both parties to sit down and hash out a solution has resulted in a current environment that is devastating to families, communities and economies across our nation. We need congressional leadership that is not grounded in fear, threats, and uncertainty. We need to elect leaders with the courage to find real solutions and make them work.

I support and would work toward the development and implementation of a path to citizenship. It makes economic and moral sense. The system would have strict guidelines for applying and depend on a strong e-verify program for employers. The current conversation is impractical and ignores a number of key facts:

  • Deporting 11 million people is expensive and not practical.
  • We need most of the undocumented workers now filling jobs Americans will not do. We depend on these workers, literally. Undocumented workers have not taken jobs from Americans. Employers have filled the jobs with undocumented workers to keep their businesses afloat.
  • Undocumented workers pay taxes. Employers deduct payroll taxes that benefit the system, but the worker never receives the benefit.
  • Undocumented workers are not eligible for government assistance or entitlement programs, such as welfare, food stamps, Social Security, or Medicaid.
  • The trickle-down effect from compensation paid to undocumented workers cascades billions of dollars into the economy. Workers spend their paychecks to rent housing, buy groceries, clothing, cars and trucks, and they pay the sales tax in local communities.
  • Undocumented workers are estimated to make up one-half of the agricultural work force in our region. Without them our economy would collapse.

We have the opportunity to create a system that makes sense and offers greater advantages to families, our communities, and our country. The bi-partisan Senate proposal of 2013 is a very good starting point. Individuals who want to apply for citizenship must pass background checks, be fingerprinted, pay $2,000 in fines, pay taxes, prove gainful employment, and prove they’ve been in the U.S. for a certain duration of time. And current restrictions denying non-immigrants from collecting federal public benefits for five years would apply to the lawful probationary immigrants. Criminals and individuals not meeting the criteria would be deported.

That 2013 proposal also describes a special category for Agricultural Workers because of their pivotal role in our food supply. Farm workers with a prior long-term commitment to agriculture would be able to get legal status through the Agriculture Card Program.

The 2013 outline also creates a stringent e-verify program. We know people come to the U.S. illegally to work. The only way to impact that is to eliminate their eligibility to get jobs. Employers would face stiff fines, and even criminal penalties, for hiring undocumented workers. In the current scenario, employers have no idea if a Social Security card presented by a potential worker is valid. Under e-verify employers would know for certain if an applicant had legal status to work in the U.S.

We are a country of immigrants. We can solve this current crisis by electing leaders who understand the human, economic, and cultural implications of the issue. We must elect leaders willing to study immigration reform, listen to the people affected, debate the merits publicly and finally, find a solution.

Our 4th Congressional District deserves to be represented by a voice that focuses on solving the problem, understands the economic implications for our region and is willing to fight to get real, workable immigration reform on the national agenda. Republicans have demonstrated they are not willing to tackle immigration. I am, and I will as your U.S Representative.

You can play a key role in deciding the direction we go on immigration reform by changing who represents you in Congress. Your vote can elect an independent-thinking leader who is committed to working for all of us. Vote to make a difference.