SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R)
Senior senator from Arizona
Since our founding, America has been a magnet for people seeking freedom, opportunity and a better life for themselves and their children. But today our immigration system is badly broken.
Today 11 million people live in the shadows of our society — lacking basic legal protections, the victims of terrible exploitation. Right now, drug and human smugglers operate all along our Southwest border, depriving the people living there of the right to feel safe in their homes. And today, our dysfunctional immigration system denies our economy the labor and intellectual capital it badly needs for growth.
I’ve joined together with a group of Republicans and Democrats to address this issue head-on. Older Americans have a stake in immigration reform. For example, they suffer longer periods of unemployment; reform can grow the economy and create jobs. It can also significantly strengthen Social Security and Medicare.
We begin by securing the border. Before any immigrant can get a green card, the number of Border Patrol agents must be doubled to nearly 40,000, and some 700 miles of fencing must be completed. Our bill also deploys advanced surveillance technology — including advanced VADER radar and drones developed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The chief of the Border Patrol has stated that with these technologies, his agents will achieve effective control of the Southwest border.
We also provide a tough but fair path for millions of people living in the shadows to come forward, settle their debt to society and earn citizenship. It’s a long path — at least 13 years — with requirements for criminal background checks, paying fines and taxes owed, learning English and going to the back of the line.
For the first time in U.S. history, our bill aligns America’s immigration system with our national economic objectives. It shifts to a more merit-based approach to immigration, filling labor needs and making sure the best and brightest of our foreign students — particularly in the critical fields of science, engineering and math — start building businesses here in America rather than their home countries.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has projected that our legislation will grow the economy by an additional 3.3 percent and decrease federal budget deficits by $197 billion over the next 10 years.
An underappreciated impact of immigration reform is its role in strengthening entitlement programs. As former CBO Director Douglas Holtz-Eakin and more than 100 other conservative economists wrote earlier this year, “a reformed and efficient immigration system can promote economic growth and ease the challenge of reforming unsustainable federal health and retirement programs.”
According to the Social Security Administration, immigration reform will ensure the program’s full solvency through 2035 and reduce its unfunded liabilities by nearly $500 billion through 2087. In 10 years our bill would add almost 6.6 million more workers paying Social Security taxes — nearly 10 additional taxpayers for each new beneficiary.
While there are many strong opinions about the issue of immigration, there is one premise most of us agree on: The status quo is unacceptable. Our borders are unsecured, our laws are being violated and our current immigration laws do not meet the needs of a growing economy. Finding an effective, just and practical solution is difficult, but it is our work to do.