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Reforming Our System of Immigration

My husband Paul was a first generation American who rose to become a candidate for the Presidency of the United States.  Embracing immigrants and their families is one of our country's great strengths, but our current immigration system is broken and only Congress can fix it. 

Approximately 11 million illegal immigrants live in the United States, up from 8.5 million in 2000, and 5 million in 1996.  States and local governments have grappled with Congress' failure in different ways, leading to a patchwork of laws, some with very serious consequences.  States find themselves facing these issues because the federal government has delayed action for too long.  Only Congress has the authority and the resources necessary to tackle the problem at its root. 

On June 27, 2013, the Senate passed S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 68-32.  I hope that the House of Representatives will follow their lead and take bipartisan action. To that end, I am a cosponsor of the House version of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, H.R. 15.

True immigration reform will require strong bipartisan cooperation, and I am committed to working with my colleagues from across the aisle to seize the moment and accomplish this critical task.  The American people want action, and they want law and order restored to the immigration system. I am confident that we can succeed in bringing true immigration reform to our country and I will continue to urge House leadership to make this issue a top priority.

Finally, individuals who need assistance with a passport, VISA, or immigration-related issue are encouraged to contact my Lowell office at 978-459-0101 to speak with my immigration specialist.


Immigration and the U.S. economy

Immigration laws passed in 1986 and 1996 failed to adequately address the primary driver of immigration: employment due to the unmet demands for workers.  By structuring our system so that there are limited legal avenues for employment-related immigration even as employers in certain sectors of the economy face significant labor shortages, we have created an environment in which law-breaking is assured. 

Economists across the ideological spectrum concur that the success of our economy is highly dependent on immigrants, both those who come here legally and illegally. Therefore, for reform to be successful over the long-term, it must create a system capable of adapting to the changing demands of our economy. 

For example, our current system of visa quotas is rigid, arbitrary, and not pegged to the true needs of our labor markets. Immigration reform should include a mechanism – such as a commission – to assess the immigration needs of our economy on a continuous basis and provide recommendations for the appropriate levels of immigration in various industries and circumstances. Expanding visas for high-skilled, STEM workers will help make our economy more globally competitive. The comprehensive immigration reform bill passed by the Senate expands STEM and other types of immigrant visas.


Protecting American workers

Most importantly, any reform should protect the American worker first and foremost, ensuring that immigrants do not displace Americans or depress wages.  Illegal immigration has created a permanent underclass that, lacking employment protections, effectively underbids American citizens.  We need to guarantee that no such illegal underclass is created during boom times and that migrant workers could leave during recessions knowing that they would be able to return legally when there was once again a need for their labor. 

While a necessary part of reform, linking our immigration system to the broader needs of the economy will not constitute reform on its own. Employers must also know that hiring illegal immigrants will no longer be treated as business as usual. Since there is a nearly limitless supply of undocumented workers ready to replace their deported peers, targeting workers while ignoring their employers does nothing to impact the root cause of illegal immigration. We must give employers the tools to verify the status of their employees, require all employers to do so, and hold accountable those who fail to comply or who persist in hiring outside the law.


Increasing border security

For the security of our nation, we must be able to account for every person who enters our country. My first trip as a member of Congress was to our southern border to get a first-hand look at border security measures. 

President Obama has, in fact, invested heavily in increasing security at the border. You can learn more about this by clicking here:

However, this is an important aspect of comprehensive immigration policy and more work remains to be done that canprovide additional resources to our current border protection efforts. Much of the technology we need to police our borders is being developed and manufactured here in the U.S. and in the Third Congressional District, creating well-paying jobs for American citizens. But additional border enforcement must be taken together with other reforms so that our efforts can focus on the true security threats that we face—terrorists, criminals, and traffickers of people, drugs, weapons, and money.

Only half of the current undocumented population came here illegally; the other half overstayed tourist, student, or temporary work visas.  Providing a legal, carefully regulated opportunity for work during times of economic growth will enable us to better target the truly dangerous population of border crossers intent on doing us harm. 

The House legislation I have cosponsored includes bipartisan language that mandates that the Department of Homeland Security create a detailed plan that would provide for the capture of most individuals who attempt to cross the border illegally. 


Path to citizenship

Finally, we need to address the issue of the millions of immigrants living in the United States illegally. Rounding up and deporting 11 million people is not feasible, but neither is simply allowing 11 million undocumented workers to remain in our country illegally.  Undocumented residents should be required to come forward and register for legal status, pay a fine, pay back taxes owed, learn English and pass criminal background checks in order to remain in the country and work toward citizenship. This option should not be available indefinitely, and those who do not come forward within a certain time frame should be removed. 

The Senate-passed legislation would allow for a shorter path to citizenship for some immigrants, like the DREAMERS who were brought to the United States as children through no fault of their own.

We are a society that respects the rule of law, but we have allowed millions of people, employers and individuals alike, to live outside the law for years.  We must restore order. We must be adamant that living in our country means obeying our rules. Many of the ideas described above are neither liberal nor conservative, Democratic or Republican. They were championed by the late Senator Edward Kennedy, Senator John McCain, and by former President George W. Bush.  They represent the proposals of serious people from around the country and across the political spectrum interested in getting the job done.

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