Over the past few weeks, we’ve heard horrifying stories about the situation at the border. Hundreds of children are being held in disgusting, inhumane conditions. They’ve been separated from their parents. They don’t have access to basic necessities, such as toothbrushes or soap. They’re sleeping on concrete floors.
And we all know that the problems with our immigration system don’t end there. It’s just the beginning. Our border is overwhelmed with people and our border security is outdated and can’t keep up. We also have thousands of Dreamers, right here in the Central Valley, who are living in the shadows with uncertain futures.
You don’t have to be a policy expert to recognize our immigration system is broken. It’s been broken. And it’s Washington’s fault.
We’ve made some important progress by passing a bipartisan bill to get immediate emergency aid to the kids at the border – but it’s not nearly enough.
I’ve only been out in Washington for about six months, but even in that time, I can tell you that immigration reform has not received enough attention or the kind of serious bipartisan negotiations we need to fix our broken immigration system.
I’m not here to point fingers just at Republicans or Democrats – neither party has taken the proper initiative this dire situation needs. There are a lot of areas of common ground. Everyone I talk to in the Central Valley – on both sides of this issue – seems to agree that we need comprehensive immigration reform and a strong, smart border security strategy. We want a path to citizenship for undocumented people that allows them to come out of the shadows, get right with the law, and get the certainty they deserve.
So, if there’s such a consensus what’s the problem? Politics. Of course. I’ll be honest. I don’t see President Trump signing a massive immigration bill any time soon. But if we can’t get a home run, I still think it’s worth trying to hit singles and doubles.
Earlier this year, the House passed a bill I cosponsored and voted for – the Dream Act. The bill even passed with bipartisan support and would give over 10,000 young people in the Central Valley who came to America as children a pathway to citizenship. They deserve to stay in the only country they’ve ever known to be home.
But Mitch McConnell and the Senate have signaled they have no plans to take up the bill. I’d bet my bottom dollar that if they brought the bill up for a vote today it would pass with the support of both parties – just as it did in the House. The Senate needs to get this done and lay the foundation for other bipartisan cooperation.
I’m trying to take the lead on that cooperation.
That’s why I reintroduced a bill written by my predecessor – a Republican – which would give Dreamers a pathway to citizenship through military service. The ENLIST Act would guarantee that folks who are undocumented can serve our country in uniform and then go on to earn the benefits of citizenship through their service. It’s a no brainer – and my colleagues on the other side of the aisle agree.
Finally, I’ve been working with a bipartisan group of lawmakers on finding ways to improve our immigration system specifically for our farmers and the hardworking immigrants who work on their farms. Many of our farmers – especially folks who work our dairy farms – tell me their biggest obstacle is finding the labor they need to run their businesses. It’s no surprise that many of our laborers are also the working immigrants in our communities who fear for their lives each day they are denied the opportunity to become a legal citizen.
Together we can achieve a real solution to our nation’s immigration problems. But we need the political will – and more importantly a spirit of cooperation – to get it done. And I know we can do both; treating immigrants humanely and keeping our country safe.
Congressman Josh Harder represents Stanislaus and portions of San Joaquin County in the 10th Congressional District. The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of this paper or its corporate ownership.