Thursday, June 25, 2009

Rep. Polis Offers Commentary on Immigration Reform

Just today, the Denver Post published a wonderful opinion piece by Colorado House Representative Jared Polis. Here it is in its entirety:

    Some Americans are perfectly happy with our health care system. And although there is a scientific consensus that global warming is a man-made threat, there are still those who would not change our current energy policy. However, I have yet to meet a single person who is happy with our current immigration system.

    Americans from across the ideological spectrum are outraged that we have over 12 million undocumented immigrants living in our country. Our country is supposed to be a nation of laws, and yet the status quo is to allow the law to be violated every day.

    From the left we hear urgent concerns about the human rights tragedies occurring in our own neighborhoods: the 8-year-old boy in Thornton returning home from school to find that his mother has been sent to a detention center hundreds of miles away; the straight-A middle school student in Lafayette who asked me if we would fix our broken immigration system in time for her to go to college; a Denver woman who is afraid to report her abusive husband, unsure whether the police would help her or deport her.

    From the right we hear concerns about the sanctity of our border, the rule of law, tax evasion, the growing costs of emergency health services for the undocumented, and the competitiveness of our farms and businesses: The owner of a family farm in Weld County who cannot find documented workers to harvest crops; the father struggling to support his family but whose boss replaced him with an undocumented worker; the men and women who live near our porous border and worry about the trafficking of drugs.

    We can all agree that the burden on state and local governments because of the failure of federal education policy is grossly unfair. We can all agree that for our own safety and security we should know who is in our country. Business and labor agree that having a large undocumented workforce in this country is bad.

    But finally people are wising up. Judging by the overwhelming turnout at my recent immigration town hall, people aren't falling for it anymore. The overwhelming need for immigration reform is bringing Americans of all stripes together.

    Our town hall's special guest was Congressman Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill, who formed the United Families movement, bringing together businesses, unions, faith-based organizations and civil rights groups. Thanks to his leadership, progressives and conservatives are already working together to demand comprehensive immigration reform and urge President Obama and Congress to take up this important issue before the end of the year.

    Without quick action, the number of undocumented immigrants will likely double within a decade.

    Amnesty alone is not the solution. We need real reform. The "enforcement only" policies of the last few years have only resulted in even more illegal immigration and the separation of American families.

    A common-sense solution would require undocumented immigrants to register within a year, pay a fine, and finally be able to lawfully work within our borders. Those with a criminal background would be kicked out and banned from re-entering. We would invest in state-of- the-art border security and stop the illicit flow of goods and people across our southern border once and for all.

    We are a nation of immigrants. Our diversity has always been our strength. The countries on the other end of this issue have a far more pressing problem: how to provide real opportunity at home and prevent their best and brightest from coming to America.

    Crafting a solution to this complex issue should begin without delay. Citizens and elected leaders must realize our common goal of putting an end to illegal immigration and demand reform now.

    U.S. Rep. Jared Polis represents Colorado's 2nd Congressional District.

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