As we prepare to gather with family this holiday season, many traditions will be renewed for another year and in many cases, with new family members who will eventually carry them to the next generation. For my family, the feast of 7 fishes has been a Christmas Eve tradition since the Sisca family traveled to America from Naples, Italy in the late 1800’s. My grandfather settled in the Pittsburgh suburb of Sharpsburg, opening a small business, Sharpsburg Hardware, and devoted much of his spare time to the community through his work as a hospital foundation board member and county Rotarian. That immigrant-inspired tradition and community investment isn’t unique to my family.
Indeed, many of you listening have similar stories. Welcoming immigrants who are motivated to improve their lives and contribute to society enriches America as their ideas and talents drive progress and improve the lives of others. Ideally, America is open to everyone who is motivated to make the country better off-and nobody who will take advantage or do harm.
At Americans for Prosperity, we are prioritizing transformative immigration policy to focus on welcoming motivated immigrants, establishing clear and robust avenues for legal immigration and enhancing enforcement measures to protect against those aiming to do harm. With border crossings approaching their highest levels in over two decades and the unconstitutional Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program likely being struck down, Senators Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Krysten Sinema of Arizona are working toward a plan that restores control over our borders in exchange for a solution for Dreamers. This non-partisan leadership is the only way we can permanently restore accountability when enforcing our immigration laws.
The proposal calls for increasing U.S. Border Patrol staff. Tillis and Sinema are seeking input from security officials and other stakeholders at the border, which is why the framework includes record investments to ramp up staffing of agents. Research from the University of Michigan finds that every 10% increase in hours spent patrolling the border reduces unlawful crossing by as much as 8%. Second the Tillis/Sinema framework corrects misaligned incentives that encourage frivolous asylum claims by investing resources in the asylum system to ensure those with frivolous cases are swiftly rejected and removed so that our humanitarian systems can be utilized as they were intended.
As asylum claims pend for years, applicants can knowingly files unsuccessful claims while reaping the benefits of living in the U.S. The 2019 asylum crisis alone diverted as much as 60% of our Border Patrol agents from their routine surveillance duties in order to process applicants, leaving many parts of our border unmanned. Third, the framework provides Dreamers a 10-year pathway to lawful permanent residency, but only for applicants who have lived in the U.S. for years, pass a clean background check, and meet particular work and education requirements. Given that there are over 200,000 U.S. citizens who are married a Dreamer and over 750,000 citizen children with at least one Dreamer parent, failure to pass a lawful alternative to DACA would inflict hardship on thousands of U.S. households across the country as their ability to work and protections from deportation get revoked.
The framework offered by Senators Tillis and Sinema is an opportunity for lawmakers to reject the status quo political football that immigration reform has become in Washington. The politics that have been played have hurt America for too long. The status quo around uncertainty at our border and Dreamers is unnecessary.
A November poll found that voters across party lines (73% overall, including 70% of conservatives) support Republicans and Democrats working together now on immigration reforms that strengthen border security, allow immigrants brought to the United State as children to earn citizenship, and ensure a legal, reliable workforce for America’s farmers and ranchers.
Join us in encouraging your member of congress and Senator Casey to consider the Tillis/Sinema plan to solve the border crisis. To learn more, visit www.americansforprosperity.org. I’m Ashley Klingensmith, State Director with Americans for Prosperity-PA. You can find us on Facebook by searching @PAAFP and can follow us on Twitter by searching @AFPPennsylvania.