Denham says H.R. 15 repairs what he calls a “broken” immigration system and builds a path to citizenship for the millions of people in this country illegally — something that became important for his family.
“My wife is first generation,” Denham said, “Her father, I helped to get him his citizenship. He moved here from Mexico. It’s something I’m very proud of and something I’m going to work hard to repair.”
Denham referred to data that 11.5 million people are in this country illegally, 40 percent of them on expired visas.
“We’ve got to have a solution to this 30-year problem that is multigenerational now,” the congressman said.
Denham called the path to citizenship he espouses long and difficult.
“You have to pass a background check,” he said, “You have to pay an application fee. You have to pay a fine. You have to pay all of your back taxes. The reward for doing this six-year provisional status is actually being able to stand in line and do it all over again.”
Denham said the measure creates a system that documents the people here before Dec. 31, 2011, and requires them to hold a job and pay taxes while they wait for citizenship.
“Ag workers would have a 10-year path to citizenship,” the representative said. “They have to ability to go back to their home country once the crops have been harvested if they’re not going to continue to work on the next crop.”
Denham says deporting everyone who is in the U.S. illegally is not a feasible solution.
“It would mean deporting the entire state of Ohio,” Denham said, “Even if there were a party or president who had the will to do that, would we even have the ability to do that as a nation? It’s just an unrealistic proposal.”
H.R. 15 includes provisions for enhanced border security, including the use of drones and other technology coming back from Afghanistan.
Denham himself authored an amendment to the bill providing a much faster path to citizenship for anyone who enters military service.
“With your four-year commitment to the military, you become a legal, permanent resident immediately,” Denham said. “Then you become a U.S. citizen as you are discharged.”
Denham claims bipartisan support, but House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has not yet committed to putting immigration reform to a vote.
“We need to push to make sure it comes up now. We need to get it done this year,” Denham said. “Our system is broken today, and those that would say doing anything is amnesty, I would disagree. Doing nothing is amnesty.”
• Contact Michael Ellis Langley at 830-4231 or firstname.lastname@example.org.