Rep Zoe Lofgren Statement on Comprehensive Immigration Reform

February 5, 2013
Press Release

Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), the top Democrat on the House Judiciary Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee, delivered the following statement during a House Judiciary Committee hearing entitled "America's Immigration System: Opportunities for Legal Immigration and Enforcement of Laws Against Illegla Immigration":


"I [also] congratulate Mr. Goodlatte for his new chairmanship, as well as Chairman Gowdy and the other subcommittee chairmen. I look forward to working with them this Congress as we tackle the nation's problems.

"I also congratulate the Chairman on focusing the Committee's first hearing on our broken immigration system. I appreciate that gesture, as I do his recent public statements that he is open to reform and that America does not need "a trail of tears" to the border. The same goes for Chairman Gowdy's recent statements on the need to find a balance between respect for the rule of law and our morality and humanity.

"I truly appreciate these statements, and they have my commitment to work with them in a bipartisan manner on reform efforts.

"But as we move forward, we must recognize that our broken system does immeasurable harm every day that it goes unreformed. A "trail of tears to the border" is not that far off from the system we currently have. Every day, our system tears families apart‹husbands from their wives, parents from their children. If we want a moral and humane system, we have a lot of work to do.

"America is ready for us to do that work.

"I have participated in the immigration debate during my 18 years in Congress and, long before that, as an immigration attorney and law professor teaching immigration law. Today the country is past the point of debating whether we need reform. They are simply counting on us to get it done.

"And the growing bipartisan consensus means we can get it done. Conservative leaders from Jeb Bush and Karl Rove to Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly have signaled support for comprehensive reform efforts, including a path for undocumented immigrants. Even Rush Limbaugh told Senator Marco Rubio that his efforts for immigration reform are "admirable and noteworthy" and "recognize reality."

"We have also seen Members in both parties in the House and Senate voice strong support for immigration reform. We know of the bipartisan blueprint for immigration reform released last week by 8 Senators, and there are similar bipartisan discussions in the House. It will take such bipartisanship to solve this problem, and I am hopeful that this is the year we finally enact top-to-bottom reform of our immigration laws.

"As we will hear today, our current system is dysfunctional in many ways, keeping families apart for decades and hindering economic growth and American global competitiveness. Designing a sensible legal immigration system is critical to preserving the rule of law. We need a legal immigration system that works so that workers and families who want to come here are able to go through that system, rather than around it.

"Yet despite the incredible need to reform the system, all we have done is enforce the heck out of it, especially over the last several years. We are now removing record numbers of undocumented immigrants each year, while attempted border crossings are at their lowest levels in more than 40 years. According to experts, net migration from Mexico is now zero and likely lower than that. Every year, we spend more money on immigration enforcement‹nearly $18 billion per year‹than on all other federal law enforcement combined.

"All of this enforcement has not solved the problem, and it should not be used to delay top-to-bottom reform of our laws.

"What needs to be done is not that complicated. We know a reform bill must include additional border enforcement, as well as an employment eligibility verification system to secure the workplace. We need to reform our employment visa system so that tech companies, farmers and other U.S. businesses have access to needed workers, while reforming the family system to help keep families together. And we need to provide a way for 11 million undocumented immigrants to come out of the shadows and get right with the law in a way that that is fair and practical.

"A few words of caution: First, partial legalization, as some are suggesting, is a dangerous path, and we need only look at France and Germany to see how unwise it is to create a permanent underclass. What makes America special is that people come here, assimilate, and become fully American‹with all of the rights and responsibilities that citizenship bestows. With the exception of slavery and the Chinese Exclusion Act, our laws have never barred persons from becoming citizens‹and we should not start now.

"Second, we must not fall into the trap of those calling for "piece meal" reform. As Governor Jeb Bush recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal: "Congress should avoid such quick fixes and commit itself instead to comprehensive immigration reform." Immigration, as he points out, is a system, and it needs systemic overhaul.

"Finally, we must make it easier to keep critical workers who can keep America competitive and grow our economy, but we should not do so by closing the door on family-based immigrants. Family unity has been the bedrock of our immigration system since the Immigration and Nationality Act was first enacted in 1952. In addition to strengthening American families, family-based immigration plays an important role in bolstering our economy.

"Research shows that immigrants, most of whom come here through the family system, are twice as likely to start businesses in the U.S. as the native-born. And immigrant businesses, including small non-tech businesses, have grown at 2.5 times the national average. I often say I am glad that Google is in Mountain View rather than Moscow.

"Like eBay, Intel and Yahoo!, Google was founded by an immigrant. But it's worth noting that none of the founders of these companies came to the U.S. because of their skills. Sergey Brin, Jerry Yang, Andy Grove, and Pierre Omidyar all came here through our family-based system or because they were refugees or the children of refugees.

"What made these founders special were the traits they share with immigrants of all kinds: entrepreneurism, risk taking, and a desire for a better life. These are among the most admired values in our country‹as it should be, because it is the secret sauce that makes America great.

"From Alexander Hamilton to Andrew Carnegie to Albert Einstein, we are a nation forged by immigrants. It's time we fully embrace that immigration is good for our country. It's time we do our part to devise a way for the people who have enough 'get up and go to get up and go' to come to our shores and bring their talents and contributions to our society and to our economy."

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