• WisPolitics
8/16/2013

"No" is not a policy solution to fixing our immigration policy

By Jim Klauser

The column below reflects the views of the author, and these opinions are neither endorsed nor supported by WisOpinion.com.

Almost everyone is in agreement that our current immigration system is broken and needs to be fixed. While I might not agree with everything that was in the Senate immigration reform bill that was recently passed, I was encouraged to see such a large and complicated issue being addressed in our nation's capital. Now that the Senate has acted, it is time for the House of Representatives to keep the momentum going in fixing our current immigration problem.

First and foremost, we are a nation of immigrants. I am a first generation American; my parents and grandparents were immigrants. I am proud of my German-American ethnic background and what these immigrants accomplished. We must always ensure we have a welcoming immigration system that can attract and retain foreign talent, whether they are 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 here in Wisconsin.

As for the 11 million undocumented immigrants already living in this country, it is simply not feasible to deport each and every one, nor desirable. 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 these people amnesty; instead we can provide an accessible platform to earned legalization and become productive members of our society.

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.

I have been discouraged by those in the House of Representatives who have simply dismissed the bill without offering solutions. Saying no is not action; no is not a policy.

Abraham Lincoln signed the Homestead Act into law to facilitate the assimilation of immigrants into American society. Twenty seven years ago Ronald Reagan signed another immigration act into law. We've acted on immigration in the past; we need to act again today.

-- Klauser was the Secretary of Administration under former Gov. Tommy Thompson and was the Wisconsin chairman of the presidential campaigns of George W. Bush and Mitt Romney.
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