700-page STRIVE Act reflects long, inclusive debate

Last month, Rep. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeTrump's GOP impeachment firewall holds strong How to survive an impeachment Are Senate Republicans certain that Trump can return to office? MORE (R-Ariz.) and I introduced the STRIVE Act, a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill that would help fix our badly broken system. Since its introduction, I have been attending community forums around the country to discuss the legislation and to begin a productive — and needed — dialogue about this important issue.

Far away from the Beltway, I have found the debate about this emotional and complicated issue to be thoughtful, informative and engaging. Instead of the daily battle of dueling press releases, I have heard stories of families battling to stay together. Instead of pundits fighting over who can craft the best sound bite or shout the loudest, I have heard stories from employers fighting to ensure that they have enough workers to stay afloat.

And the one resounding theme that I have heard over and over from people across the country is that the current system is simply not working — for anyone, except maybe the coyotes, gang leaders and drug smugglers — and that we, in Washington, need to fix it once and for all.

The STRIVE Act aims to do just that by ending illegal immigration and by fixing a system wrought with confusion and conflicting goals. It aims to create immigration laws that are not only tough and enforceable, but laws that also reflect and respect our nation’s proud history of welcoming those who embody the entrepreneurial spirit, the drive, the integrity and the work ethic that have allowed our nation to flourish.

In the weeks since its introduction, I have seen our bill attacked by extreme factions on both sides of the debate. After 15 years in Congress, I have learned that if both these groups are being critical, you are probably right where you need to be in terms of a realistic and pragmatic legislative solution.

And at nearly 700 pages, I am struck by how few of these critics have actually taken the time to read the bill before revving up their fax machine or shooting out their blast e-mails. Because if they did, I think they would quickly learn that the STRIVE Act was not conceived overnight. It is the result of months of meetings and negotiations and discussions with a wide range of organizations and experts. And, at the end of the day, the bill is all about security: homeland security, family security and economic security.

The United States has always been a nation of laws, but within our laws there is an inherent sense of justice, of fairness, of what is right for our country. The STRIVE Act ensures our immigration system upholds these same values.

It aims to stop the senseless and tragic deaths in the desert by creating a safe, orderly and legal path for people to come to this country to work in jobs that Americans are unwilling to do, but that need to be done to keep our economy growing. It aims to stop the punitive workplace raids, which rip families apart and stifle workplace productivity, by creating a system in which people can come out of the shadows and become full partners in our society. It also would implement the most robust employment verification system in our nation’s history.

According to a recent USA Today/Gallup Poll, 78 percent of people believe the undocumented should be given the opportunity to earn citizenship.

These numbers are being echoed in the conversations I am having in the heartland and in the heart of our major cities. So how do we get there? I believe we must start by dialing down the rhetoric on both sides of the aisle. We need to roll up our sleeves and we need to begin the hard work — the substantive work — of getting a bill passed.

The STRIVE Act kick-started this debate in the 110th Congress, but there is much that needs to be done. It will take courage. It will take the commitment of Congress. And it will even take a fair amount of compromise from both Democrats and Republicans.

But in the end, I am confident we will get there, because I am confident in the will and the determination of the men and women I am meeting across the country, and I am confident that we, in Washington, will do what is right and what is necessary for them.

The time to do this is now, and the time for excuses is over.

Gutierrez is a member of the Judiciary Committee.




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