VIDEO: Polis again urges Congress to act on immigration reform

Colorado Second District Congressman Jared Polis on Wednesday tried again to spur his colleagues to work to fix the nation’s broken immigration system. A champion of comprehensive federal reform from the time he entered Congress in 2008, Polis said Americans everywhere and across the political spectrum are demanding change. He suggested that politics should no longer get in the way of action on what has become a divisive issue coast to coast.

“This nation has over 15 million people who are here illegally, and yet I don’t hear one word about comprehensive immigration reform.”

Polis said the piecemeal approach lawmakers have taken so far, where the student path-to-citizenship DREAM Act, for example, was broken off for consideration while other areas languished, is no longer good enough.

“Comprehensive immigration reform has strong majority support in polls from Republican voters, from Independent voters, and from Democratic voters. Comprehensive immigration reform would finally establish real border security, real employment verification, and require that people who are here illegally register, pay a fine and get right with the law. It’s common sense for America, and it’s time for Congress to take action on this critical issue.”

Polis also steered his colleagues away from easy solutions. He singled out for consideration the E-Verify citizen-identification checking system being proposed as a simple first step. Some analysts have argued E-Verify causes more problems than it solves, that it more often misidentifies legal residents as illegal than it does properly identify scoflaws, who know how to game the system.

“Lately I’ve heard that we might be discussing mandatory E-Verify. That would make the problem worse. E-Verify encourages a black market in Social Security numbers. We need real employment verification with fingerprints or retinal IDs so we can identify who’s here and don’t simply contribute to a black market in Social Security numbers which can be bought and sold, only increasing crime in this country. My constituents are calling on Congress to take action on comprehensive immigration reform. I urge my colleagues to bring this important issue forward.”

In May of last year, fresh off his appointment to the House Judiciary Committee, Polis told members of Congress that it would be a mistake to let the heated politics of health care reform scare them off of immigration reform. On the contrary, he said, state lawmakers feeling pressure to take up local legislative solutions, as they did in Arizona, make it clear that it’s past time for federal action.

“I rise today to encourage my colleagues to live up to a challenge that has been put before us by the people of our country, by the people of Arizona, by the people of my state, and that is the challenge to replace our broken immigration system with one that works,” he said then.

The Judiciary Committee will likely be the place where any immigration reform legislation begins its journey through the lawmaking system.

During his freshman year in Congress, Polis visited Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facilities in Colorado and decried their lack of transparency and cost ineffectiveness. He pointed out how people held in the facilities are often treated like criminals even though their only crime may be not having their working or residency papers in order or readily available. Often immigration applications are being reviewed when people are apprehended. Fathers and mothers, family breadwinners, are locked up without adequate representation, effectively disappearing and leaving dependents without resources.

It would be cheaper and maybe more fair and efficient to put these people up in hotels, Polis said on a visit to the state’s main detention center in Aurora.

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