My office regularly works with constituents from the Second District who are struggling with the immigration process for themselves or a loved one. If you have any questions or need help navigating the process, please contact us at (401) 732-9400.
Despite delays in bringing meaningful legislation to the House floor, I remain committed to passing comprehensive immigration reform. I have long been a strong advocate for providing a legal path to citizenship. I supported the Comprehensive Immigration Reform ASAP Act of 2009, which would have strengthened border security while creating a straightforward program that requires undocumented immigrants to pass a background check, pay a $500 fine, pay taxes and learn English and U.S. civics in order to earn legal status that places them on the path to permanent residence and eventual citizenship. I have also supported legislation to address the immigration status of specific populations, such as the Reuniting Families Act.
Immigration reform is not amnesty. Rather, it simply provides a mechanism for bringing undocumented immigrants into our system so we know who is here and can ensure they are following the rules. Undocumented immigrants would still face significant hurdles before earning citizenship, and, just as importantly, they would not take the place of anyone who has followed the proper steps to enter our country.
Unfortunately, legislative progress on immigration reform has been stalled with no bills coming to the House floor for a vote. In the interim, President Obama initiated the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in 2012. DACA allows unauthorized immigrants brought here as children, often known as “dreamers,” to be given temporary work authorization. I strongly support executive actions to provide some certainty for immigrants, and I have filed briefs in support of an expansion of DACA that is currently the subject of litigation.
As I work to support a process for immigrants to follow legal channels toward citizenship, I am also committed to strengthening our borders, which saw 330,000 people apprehended trying to enter the country illegally in 2015. We need to improve border security and implement meaningful employment verification, while humanizing our immigration policies through visa reform and earned legalization and integration for new immigrants. Efforts on both counts are necessary to deal with the reality and enormous scope of our broken immigration policies.
As a result of the Syrian Civil War, over 10 million Syrians have been forced to leave their homes. While the majority have been internally displaced, over 4.8 million have fled the country due to violence and have registered with the UNHCR as refugees. Most of these refugees have been placed in camps in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, but a number have also reached EU member states. The humanitarian crisis is acute and is being exacerbated by the massive logistical effort required to house and support the migrants.
Because the United States is thousands of miles from Syria, almost all refugees in country have been referred here by the UNHCR. The US has an extensive vetting process for all refugees, and that process has been augmented for Syrians and Iraqis based on previous protocols in place during the mid-2000s. President Obama has committed to resettling 10,000 Syrian refugees this year, and I strongly support our doing our part to settle refugees once they have been security screened.
2014 saw an unprecedented number of unaccompanied minors arriving in the United States, as tens of thousands of children from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras flooded border crossings. Most were apprehended – they weren’t trying to sneak into the country, just to escape violence at home – which put a great deal of pressure on the detention system. Due to the unprecedented number of detainees, children and families with children were placed in appalling conditions. In July 2015, Federal Judge Dolly Gee ordered that detention of children and families waiting for immigration adjudication cease unless they can be shown to be a flight risk. The Administration appealed that decision to the Ninth Circuit, which in July 2016, ruled that detention of children was impermissible. Throughout this trial, I have sent letters to Homeland Security Secretary Johnson requesting that he phase out family detention as both unnecessary and harmful.
While the number of unaccompanied children dropped dramatically in 2015, it has since begun to climb again as conditions in the Northern Triangle continue to deteriorate. In July 2016, President Obama announced plans to make it easier for children and their families to gain refugee or asylum status before entering the country.