Respect the law in reforming immigration

We are a nation of immigrants and we are a nation of laws. These two pillars have helped to make America strong and prosperous during our short history on the global stage. When addressing the issue of immigration, I believe it is possible to have both without sacrificing one or the other.

It is no secret that for the past thirty plus years our immigration system has been a dismal failure – with roughly 11 million people living here illegally.  There are many factors that have brought America to this point.  Since the one-time amnesty of 1986, where 4 million illegal aliens were granted citizenship, the United States has not enforced the laws already on the books, has not secured our borders, and Congress has continually kicked the immigration can down the road.  

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When you add in the recent executive actions by the president – unilaterally going around Congress to essentially grant amnesty to millions of undocumented immigrants – you see a continuation of this recipe for disaster. 

Not only were these actions unconstitutional, they continue the President’s dangerous pattern of ignoring the rule of law. By waiving citizenship requirements for large categories of people, without the approval of Congress, the Obama administration has created a giant magnet for any and all that wish to break our laws and live here illegally. Not only does this reward someone for violating the law and not respecting this country, it unfairly disfavors American citizens and immigrants who came here through the proper legal channels.

Since coming to Congress, I have been frustrated – like many Americans – at the lack of foresight in developing a long-term solution for our broken immigration system. Whatever policy is developed, it should only be implemented if and when the border is secure and the laws are enforced. This must be our foundation, our starting point. Anything done without first securing the border is pointless. We could develop a flawless immigration plan, but it would be undermined when people continue to illegally cross the border instead of participating in that new plan. This will only exacerbate the resource issues facing DHS and DOJ, as well as the national security risk posed by a porous border.

In our constitutional system, Congress is granted the explicit authority to create law.  The president, in his executive authority, is bound by the Constitution to faithfully execute those laws. He is failing to live up to his obligations, simply because he is frustrated with our system of government. The potential abuse created by such a dangerous precedent will essentially reduce Congress’ role to a mere formality. Future presidents will now cite Obama’s executive actions when they come across a law or process they don’t agree with. A conservative president, for example, could choose not to enforce the employer mandate, of the ACA of choose not to invoke fines on those who fail to pay their taxes.

This is not a Republican or Democrat issue. We need to address the severity of this problem and put forward policies that put America and Americans first, while preserving our foundational principles. Policies that will create a sensible immigration system that benefits the country and follows the rule of law. 

Yoho has represented Florida’s 3rd Congressional District since 2013. He sits on the Agriculture and Foreign Affairs committees.