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Expand employment verification, secure borders, enforce current laws

    With nearly 12 million undocumented immigrants estimated to be living in this country illegally, there is no doubt our immigration system is broken and in need of repair.
p17 davisDavis    Unfortunately, we’ve been here before.
    In 1986, President Reagan signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act to address immigration reform. At the time, the estimated undocumented immigrant population was less than half of what it is today. Our challenge now is to pass lasting reforms that prevent us from being in this same position 30 years from now.
    Reforming our immigration system is an important issue that deserves careful consideration instead of being used as a political football. The solution to our nation’s immigration problem is not for the president to sidestep Congress and govern by executive order. Unfortunately, that is exactly what we have seen time and time again from this president. His latest executive order to defer the deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants has only exasperated the problem. The president’s decision to ignore the Constitution and the will of the American people has only muddied the water for lasting immigration reform.
    That being said, I believe it is in the best interest of all Americans to find a way to fix our broken immigration system because doing nothing is de facto amnesty. America has always prided itself on being a nation of immigrants and opportunity – a belief that can only be carried on by reforming our current immigration system.
    Last Congress, the House passed a bill to help the president increase security at our southern border and the House Judiciary Committee held several hearings on the issue. House committees continue to work on individual immigration bills that strengthen border security, increase interior enforcement, improve employment verification and reform our visa programs.
    Securing our borders and enforcing our current immigration laws is a matter of national security. In addition to allowing people to enter our country illegally, our porous border has made it easier for cartels to move illegal drugs and guns into our communities, endangering the safety of all Americans.
    Unfortunately, that is only part of the problem. Of the 12 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., an estimated 40 percent are people who entered our country legally but have overstayed their visa. We must secure our borders and enforce our current immigration laws to keep our country safe.
    In addition to increasing security, American businesses must do their part to hire only legal workers so there is less of an incentive for undocumented workers to come to the U.S. I support expanding and improving the employment verification system so employers can ensure they are hiring a legal workforce.
    At the same time, our outdated visa program is doing a disservice to our economy and hampering job growth. For the 2013-2014 school year, American colleges and universities educated more than 800,000 international students only to send the majority of them back to their home countries to compete against us. Businesses like Caterpillar and Boeing are eager to recruit many of these students who are receiving advanced degrees in STEM related fields, or fields involving science, technology, engineering and math, but can’t because of a shortage of high-skilled visas. This year the high-skilled visa cap was reached in just five days with a record number of applicants. Until we can graduate more Americans with STEM-related degrees, reforming this visa program is necessary for our companies to remain globally competitive. In turn, filling these positions will help companies increase production and create new jobs at all skill levels here in the U.S.
    Instead of passing a massive bill like the Senate, which is problematic in its own right, the House, by nature and in an effort to get this right, will need to take a step-by-step approach to immigration reform. The House has started a productive discussion on what is needed for a long-term solution to fixing our broken immigration system but there is still more work to be done. Any future progress on this issue hinges on the willingness of the president and both chambers of Congress to set politics aside and work together to pass lasting immigration reform.
    Rodney Davis, a Republican from Taylorville, represents the 13th Congressional District in Illinois.