Congress faces an important task in the coming months, and the pressure is mounting. We must achieve comprehensive immigration reform that provides a reliable work force for the appropriate industries, addresses the millions without proper documents living and working in the United States, and protects our borders.
I find myself in a unique situation. I am a Republican, son of immigrants, representing an agricultural and resource-based congressional district with a 72% Hispanic population. Needless to say, my district will be directly and significantly affected by any forthcoming legislation.
I believe any immigration reform legislation passed through the House of Representatives should be comprehensive. A comprehensive solution can be achieved either through one large piece of legislation or through several smaller pieces of legislation that address every aspect of immigration reform. I have found that many of my Republican colleagues support passing a package of smaller bills and acknowledge the serious pitfalls of not providing a complete solution.
The Senate "Gang of Eight" had the foresight to develop serious reform in a comprehensive manner and avoid the bickering that results from piecemeal legislation. Responsible, long-term immigration reform requires a large fix, and will undoubtedly include significant compromise from everyone involved. It is time for the House to focus and dedicate itself toward passing substantive and comprehensive legislation.
As congressman, my top priority is ensuring a strong economy for those I represent in the central San Joaquin Valley. Thus, it is critical that an immigration proposal adequately account for our agriculture industry — the lifeblood of the Valley and our entire nation. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, in 2005, 57% of California's farmworkers lacked the authorization to legally work in the United States.
I understand how crucial it is to ensure that America's farmers have an appropriate and flexible work force. Finding an exact number is difficult; the nature of agriculture does not lend itself to certainty. I believe that the best solution is an adjustable cap on guest worker visas tied to the market and the labor demands of farmers.
Over the course of 30 years, Congress has continued to push for greater security on the southern border aimed at combating illegal crossing into the United States as well as to stop criminals from smuggling drugs and guns into our country.
Some of my colleagues have refused to address immigration reform until they have determined that the southern border is completely secure.
Comprehensive legislation should address the safety of our borders, however, we must make reforms that account for the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States. As a country, we must recognize this community's contribution to our economy, especially in the service and agriculture industry.
Finally, we must provide special consideration for those who were brought to this country, at no fault of their own, at a young age. The vast majority of these young people want nothing more than to be part of our American community and seek to better themselves by acquiring a quality education or joining the military.
From watching any major news outlet, one would assume every Democrat in the House is in favor of unbridled amnesty and that every Republican lacks complete empathy for our fellow man. I cannot begin to express how untrue these sentiments are.
I occasionally find time to sit down and share a meal with my colleagues, on both sides of the aisle. We discuss family, sports and, of course, current issues affecting our country. Lately, the topic of immigration reform has frequently dominated these lunchtime sessions. The consensus following these discussions would astound many. Democrats and Republicans are much closer to accord on immigration reform than the mainstream media and extremes from both political parties would lead you to believe.
The vast majority understand that our current system is broken and they are committed to working together towards a solution. I am cautiously optimistic that members of both parties can come together and deliver comprehensive immigration reform for the American people.
It is time to renew the promise of America — the notion that opportunity and hard work breed success — and reform our immigration system so that all may achieve the American Dream.
David G. Valadao, R-Hanford, represents California's 21st District in the U.S. House of Representatives.