Shadegg Arizona Republic Op-Ed: Heated Emotions Won’t Solve Immigration Crisis
Washington, DC- Today, the following op-ed by Congressman John Shadegg (R-AZ) appeared in The Arizona Republic: Heated Emotions Won’t Solve Immigration Crisis
By Congressman John Shadegg
Immigration reform is a very divisive issue. Two years ago, as House Policy Chairman, I recognized that the same divide we see in the public existed among the Republican Members of Congress. To help bridge the divide, I held a series of Unity Dinners with members of the two most extreme camps and some in between.
Some argued that with America's declining birth rate, we need additional workers. Others asserted that trying to deport roughly 12 million illegals would be impractical, do significant damage to our economy and would be inhumane.
Critics made the valid point that we are a nation of laws and that rewarding illegal conduct would be unfair to those who have come legally and those still waiting in line. We had a heated debate on the significance of citizenship.
Opponents of the draft Senate bill at that time noted that it not only allowed people to become U.S. citizens without first demonstrating their loyalty to this country but involuntarily pushed them toward citizenship by compelling them to obtain a green card to keep their job. They pointed out that it would have forced illegals who had no desire to become Americans to nonetheless pursue citizenship. They saw such a policy as destroying the significance of being an American and changing our nation forever.
The recent personal attacks leveled at Senators John McCain and Jon Kyl are inappropriate and counterproductive. It is appropriate for any of us to express our views on the merits or flaws of any proposed legislation. However, personal attacks or challenges of individuals' honor or patriotism are unbecoming and out of place, especially on issues of such magnitude.
At the same time, the criticism by President Bush and Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez of those who disagree with them are equally inappropriate and counterproductive and only serve to further divide the nation on this issue.
President Bush's comment that those who disagree with the bill “don't want to do what's right for America” was intemperate and offensive. He presumptuously asserted that anyone who does not support the bill hasn't read it. For those who may not read all 347 pages, let me address just three of the provisions I believe raise legitimate concerns.
First, while it requires that illegal aliens who want a probationary “Z-visa” undergo a background check, stunningly, it provides that if this background check is not completed within 24 hours, the illegal alien is to receive the visa regardless.
Second, the bill prohibits employers from using the newly created system to check whether or not a job applicant is legally in the country before offering the prospective employee a job. Rather, the employer may verify the potential employee's status only after the employee has been hired. Even more bizarre, the bill prohibits an employer from firing or taking any other action detrimental to an employee when the employer receives notice that the employee is not lawfully in the country if the employee files an appeal. Such an appeal could take months or years. Employers trying to do the right thing are in a Catch-22.
Third, the bill treats illegals dramatically better than lawful guest workers. Illegal aliens who come forward may remain in the country forever, while guest workers who enter lawfully may only stay for a total of six years and must leave twice during this period for a year each time. Then they may never enter the country again in this status. Illegal aliens who obtain “Z-visas” may chain migrate numerous family members; lawful guest workers cannot.
The bill will encourage anyone considering illegally entering the country to do so immediately to obtain these enhanced benefits. While the bill requires illegal aliens to prove that they were in the country before January 1, securing fraudulent documents or statements to support such a claim will be simple and will be enticing given the favorable status afforded to illegals.
I cannot support legislation with such troubling provisions left intact. At a minimum, Z-visa applicants should go through a thorough background check before getting any visa regardless of how long it takes; employers should be allowed to determine the eligibility of job applicants before hiring or spending money to train them; Z-visa holders should not be offered a new path to citizenship or enhanced benefits not offered to guest workers.
As a native Arizonan, I strongly support legislation that would include border security, interior enforcement, employer enforcement, and a lawful mechanism for those seeking employment as guest workers. Regrettably, I do not believe this bill and the extreme rhetoric it is inciting are leading toward a solution.