America is and always has been a country of immigrants. Hard-working immigrants pursuing the American Dream have long found incredible opportunities here to enrich both themselves and our nation. It’s the reason we have almost 4 times as many immigrants than any other country according to UN data. My own grandparents are just one of these many success stories. Through perseverance and hard work assembling cars and cleaning houses after they came here from Slovakia in the 1920s, they were able to build a comfortable life for themselves and watch their children and grandchildren go to college and prosper.
But our immigration system is broken. A backlog of almost half a million candidates for legal immigration — who are checking all the boxes and following the law — watch people cut the line and stream across our southern border while they wait for their chance at the American dream.
The situation at our southern border is similarly unacceptable. In the last year, Border Patrol reported 1.66 million enforcement actions against illegal crossings in the southwest alone. Even worse is the human toll. From the substandard living conditions in the tent cities popping up along the border in Mexico to the epidemics of violence, sexual assault, and Covid-19 plaguing migrants, the pain and suffering near our southern border is unacceptable.
Things need to change.
Step one is stabilizing the situation. In the short term, we’ll need to get tougher. Since President Biden took office and all but announced we’d start turning a blind eye to illegal crossings, Border Patrol data shows that incident numbers have increased. This is a huge problem because an open border doesn’t just let in those seeking the opportunities America has to offer — it also lets in lethal drugs like fentanyl, enables human trafficking, and allows gang members and terrorists to come and go as they please. We need to thoughtfully and seriously allocate the resources necessary to get the situation under control. That means making tough decisions like immediately sending those apprehended at the border for illegal crossings back to their home countries and building sections of border wall in places where it is needed. Not only will these actions help stabilize the situation, they’ll also help deter more people from risking their lives to make the dangerous trip through Central America to our doorstep.
Once the situation is under control, we must take steps toward solving the problem. That’s why I support bipartisan efforts like the 2013 Gang of Eight discussions to draft common sense immigration policies that we can all get behind. By creating specially-designed programs and better matching visa offerings with our needs, we can build a healthy immigration system that increases immigration and emphasizes fairness, security, and economic prosperity for all Americans, new and old. Like many other areas of policy, our fragmented, squabbling approach to immigration isn’t working. And like all of our other problems, it will take a thoughtful team effort to solve it.