Defending America’s Borders and Advancing Our Workforce
We are a nation of immigrants and we are a nation of laws, which is why I believe Congress must address the current immigration crisis as both a security and a workforce issue. We must protect our borders, enhancing the security of our country, while allowing for the legal entry of immigrants who want to come to America and help address our workforce needs.
As it relates to Immigration and Border Security, I support:
- Building a border wall in targeted areas and empowering U.S. border agents to combat crime and illegal entries through increased investments in surveillance technology;
- Upholding the law and defunding sanctuary cities; and
- Developing a long-term workforce plan that considers the skills and experience our country needs now and in the future.
Border Security and Crime
The first step in ensuring the security of the United States is protecting our borders, yet the Biden Administration continues to roll back border control policies that were shown to limit illegal entries under the Trump Administration. According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, approximately 220,000 illegal immigrants1 evaded Border Patrol from October 2021 to February 2022 – and this is only the number of immigrants which the Border Patrol saw and got away. The actual number of evasions is unknown and higher. We must protect our southern border with a physical barrier in targeted areas, while also increasing investments in technology and surveillance that help federal agents along the border.
Currently, U.S Customs and Border Protection (CBP) uses a system of nearly 200 surveillance towers in high-traffic border areas2 to monitor activity, identify traffic of interest and alert Border Agents to potential threats. This type of border surveillance is effective when paired with the appropriate manpower to ensure agents are readily available to respond to identified threats. We must continue to incentivize the use of this innovative technology and ensure CBP is fully staffed to respond to the threats as they are identified.
According to former Border Patrol Chief, Rodney Scott, this new technology has given “agents in the field a significant leg up against criminal networks” including intercepting drugs and weapons from smugglers3.
However, these surveillance efforts alone are not enough to secure our border, as drugs and weapons continue to easily cross into America at commercial land points of entry. Currently, typically fewer than 5 percent of vehicles at the border are screened by CBP4. The screening process is slow and cumbersome, forcing drivers to leave their cab, slowing the supply chain.
Last year, Congress passed a law requiring the Department of Homeland Security to create a plan that will allow for 100% of scanning of commercial and passenger vehicles, freight and rail entering the United States at land ports of entry. I fully support this requirement but also insist the solution be efficient and not negatively impact U.S. trade.
This is critically important for KS-03 and the Kansas City area given I-35 runs straight through our community. We must deter smugglers from illicit activity at the border as trafficking organizations hide drugs and head straight up I-35 and then further into the country. Law enforcement in our district has told me repeatedly that crime, including property crime, usually has drugs as an underlying reason for nefarious activity.
Enforcing Current Law
In tandem with securing the border, we also need to enforce existing immigration laws. Unfortunately, today we have communities that choose not to enforce certain immigration laws. By choosing not to enforce immigration laws, these “sanctuary cities” undermine the safety and security of the United States. These cities, counties and in some cases, states, must not be incentivized to promote illegal activity and should be held accountable for their actions that ultimately protect criminals.
US leaders should be cooperating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), not blocking them from protecting America. Local law enforcement must share information and work directly with federal immigration authorities to protect American communities. I commend states who help law enforcement by removing criminals to keep their communities safe and protecting those who enter the country lawfully.
I support legislation that bars sanctuary cities from receiving certain federal funding. We must protect American citizens as well as the law enforcement agencies charged with keeping our communities safe. We must enforce the rule of law in our country and hold accountable those who choose not to comply.
Long-Term Workforce Plan and Economic Growth
The U.S. has not seen true immigration reform since the Reagan Administration. Our approach is outdated and needs to consider the potential for economic growth. We know that mass migration is caused by many conditions including political collapse and natural disasters, but it is also encouraged by the desire of many to pursue opportunity in America.
Legal immigrants play an important role in filling gaps in our workforce and the number of people allowed in the United States legally is the highest it has been in decades. According to the George W. Bush Presidential Center, from 2006 to 2016 immigrants were responsible for nearly half of U.S. labor force growth, a key component of economic growth5. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor & Statistics, in 2022 there are more than 11 million job openings6. Demand for workers has been “highest among employers in business and professional services, retail trade and hospitality – food service and accommodations – businesses.”7
As we consider who is allowed to lawfully enter the United States, we need to ask a few simple questions: What jobs are we trying to fill, and what skills are needed for immigrants to be successful in that work?
We need to complete an analysis of community level programs that:
- Assess current interests and skills immigrants bring with them, matching them to appropriate job opportunities early;
- Support development of basic skills to be successful including training, mentorship (by industry and community) and other needs such as learning English to ensure success; and
- Consider how and where we encourage new members of our workforce to go so that a community is prepared to meet their needs.
When elected, I will be committed to immigration policies that take into consideration the needs of immigrants, the requirements of industries with a growing workforce and/or unmet workforce needs, and the readiness of communities across the United States to support those immigrants. We also need to ensure that the agencies entrusted with enforcing the immigration laws and processing immigration benefits have a clear mission and the support necessary to do the job in a fair, timely and efficient way. I am committed to an improved, legal immigration process and will continue to support a strong immigration and security plan led through strong governance.
We are a nation of immigrants. We are also a nation of laws and one that values the safety, security and health of our people. When implemented properly, immigration can and should be used as a tool for economic growth. The prosperity of America depends on lawful, legal immigrants and the protection of our borders.