WHY VOTE MATTERS
Election winners to tackle immigration reform.
Twice in the last dozen years, the U.S. Senate voted in favor of comprehensive immigration system reform bills.
Twice, the House never voted on its own comprehensive bill or on the Senate bills.
A fix to the problem of illegal immigration remains elusive.
President Donald Trump favors building a wall on the Mexican border and has cracked down severely on illegal immigration, but has yet to propose his own comprehensive plan. A one- page memo his administration sent to congressional Repub
licans in January proposes a wall, a 10- to 12- year path to citizenship for about 1.8 million illegal immigrants, allowing immigrants to bring with them only spouses and minor children and replacing the visa lottery system with one that chooses immigrants whose arrival suits the national interest.
The Congress that takes office in January will inherit the quandary, and that includes whoever voters elect as Pennsylvania’ s next U.S. senator and 8th Congressional District representative in the Nov. 6 election.
In the 8th district, Republican John Chrin, Barrett Township, Monroe County, hopes to unseat U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, a Moosic Democrat. In the U.S. Senate race, incumbent Sen. Bob Casey, a Scranton Democrat, faces challenges from U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, a Hazleton Republican, Neal Taylor Gale, a Green party candidate from Abington Township, Montgomery County, and Dale R. Kerns Jr., a Libertarian from Ridley Township, Delaware County.
Most estimates of illegal immigrants in the U.S. have ranged between 11 million and 13 million, but a recent Yale University study found the number could be double and may be as high as 29 mil
The most recent serious effort to fix the immigration system happened in the Senate in 2013. The Senate bill, titled the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and
Immigration Modernization Act, would have set aside $ 46.3 billion. It would have doubled the number of border agents to more than 38,000; installed at least 700 miles of fencing along the Mexican border; increased mobile surveillance; hired more judges and staff to deal with border- crossers; boosted enforcement against people who overstay temporary visas; implemented an electronic immigration status verification system known as e- Verify for employers; and implemented an electronic visa exit system ( fingerprinting) at all ports and airports.
Existing illegal immigrants would remain in limbo until all the agents, fencing and the electronic verification and exit systems are in place, and the Department of Homeland Security certifies the border as secure.
Under the bill, “dreamers,” who arrived illegally as children with their parents, could apply for citizenship as soon as they earn green cards.
Illegal immigrants would have to register to become provisional immigrants to begin a path of at least 13 years to citizenship that includes generally uninterrupted employment, no felony convictions, paid up taxes and payment of a $ 1,000 penalty. They could not receive Medicaid, food stamps and other federal benefits.
The Congressional Budget Office estimated the bill would have saved $ 1 trillion over 20 years.
The Senate passed it June 27, 2013, by a vote of 68- 32 with Democrats, including Casey, and 14 Republicans supporting it. Like a 2006 Senate bill, the House never acted on it.
U. S. Senate
Casey called the 2013 Senate bill “the best set of border security proposals that anyone’s ever seen” and much better than Trump’s proposal.
“We should get back to something very close to what we did in 2013,” Casey said.
“Unfortunately, the prevailing point of view of the Republican Party is both simple, inhumane and insulting: deport 11 million people,” he said. “That’s all they talk about. They talk about deporting 11 million and building a wall. It’s not serious. It would not be effective.”
Barletta, who opposed the Senate bill mainly because of its pathway to citizenship, prefers securing the border first and talking citizenship later.
Barletta favors building a wall on the Mexican and Canadian borders where feasible with electronic and physical surveillance covering the rest; implementing mandatory e- Verify and the visa exit system; a new guestworker program for farm
laborers; limiting immigration to spouses and immediate family members; and offering visas to immigrants with skills to fill jobs that don’t have enough Americans to fill them. Dreamers could stay if they meet certain requirements, he said.
Mandatory e- Verify would require employers to check immigration status and discourage them from hiring illegal immigrants, who would return to their home countries, unable to find jobs here, Barletta said.
Kerns said the nation should ease immigration rules. He called building a border wall “just rhetoric” that illegal immigrants will defeat anyway. He favors welcoming existing, lawabiding illegal immigrants and thinks 13 years is too
long for someone to become a citizen.
“We need to allow good people to emigrate here and we need to allow people to contribute to our communities and to our societies, and not have such harsh barriers in place,” he said.
Gale said building a wall is “a bad idea” and “a political ploy” that will waste money because people who want to get into the country will find a way.
“I don’t think we want to be walling ourselves off from the rest of the world,” he said.
He favors immigration regulation, but wants a more welcoming immigration policy because the nation was built by immigrants.
He said he thinks the electronic verification systems sound reasonable, and existing ille gal immig rants should have a path to citizenship.
“They’re here; they’re part of us already,” he said. “They’re Americans and they should become American citizens.”
The annual salary for a senator is $ 174,000; the term is six years.
U. S. Sen. Bob Casey, left, and U. S. Rep. Lou Barletta, right, will face off in the Nov. 8 General Election, with the winner to quickly come face- to- face with the nation’s immigration dilemma.