U.S. Representative Jared Polis

Floor Speeches

H.R. 2775, No Subsidies without Verification Act

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Washington, September 11, 2013 | comments

Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to the rule and the underlying bill. This bill is redundant, and it's a waste of time. The Department of Health and Human Services already has a plan in place to review individual information submitted to health care exchanges and to ensure that no one is able to get health insurance tax credits that they aren't eligible for. So, instead of considering these redundant bills, let me talk about what we're not considering here today which would actually solve a problem the American people are demanding that this institution address.

The time to pass comprehensive immigration reform is now. We can do it now. Instead of debating something that's redundant here today, there is a bill that has received more than two-thirds support in the United States Senate. If this body can act on it and can send it to President Obama's desk, finally we will be able to do something to create jobs and increase our competitiveness in the global economy, lower our deficit, ensure our security, and reflect our values as Americans and prevent the undermining of the rule of law that occurs every day, for we have over 10 million people in this country who are undocumented and lack documentation. They're violating our laws. This institution can fix that now. The Senate has acted. Let the House act.

As economists across the political spectrum have found, the economic benefits of immigration reform are tremendous. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation, if we act now to pass the Senate comprehensive immigration reform bill, we would reduce the deficit by over $135 billion and, in the following decade, by over $600 billion. Why aren't we spending our time discussing that and passing that here on the floor of the House today? Further, the Senate bill is estimated to boost the output of the U.S. economy by 3.3 percent. It is a 3.3 percent increase to GDP and a reduction in the deficit. That's $700 billion in additional gross domestic product by 2023.

As a June Wall Street Journal article citing Stephen Goss, Social Security's chief actuary, pointed out:

The future fiscal immigration windfall is likely to exceed $4 trillion.

We can shore up Social Security and protect our seniors, and we can prevent any cuts to Social Security by passing immigration reform now. That's what the country wants us to do. Why does it shore up Social Security? Because immigration occurs at a young age. Immigration reform ensures that there are people paying into Social Security--young, healthy workers--particularly as baby boomers retire. As for immigrants, we're talking about people who are already here. Let's make sure they pay their taxes. By not taking this bill up, we are preventing people from paying into Social Security like they should and from paying their taxes like they should. They live in this country. They should pay taxes. According to The Wall Street Journal, immigration reform will result in an extra $600 billion into the Social Security trust fund and will result in over $4 trillion over 75 years.

Another urgent reason that this body should be taking up immigration reform instead of redundant measures around health care reform is our national security. We currently have a porous border; and while progress has been made--in fact, in 2011, the number of illegal border crossings was the lowest since 1972--it was still 327,000. There were 327,000 people who illegally crossed our border. What does that say about our security as a country and about our ability to enforce our immigration laws when over 300,000 people have illegally crossed the border?

There is a solution. It's ready to pass. Let's talk about it, not about redundant bills that don't do anything and aren't going anywhere. The Senate comprehensive immigration bill, while, of course, not perfect, includes unprecedented border and interior enforcement measures.

The bill includes increasing the number of full-time Border Patrol agents from 21,000 to 38,405; mandating an electronic exit system at all ports where Customs and Border Protection agents are deployed; constructing at least 350 additional miles of fencing, bringing the miles of high-tech border fencing to 700; constructing additional Border Control stations and operating bases; mandating 24-hour surveillance of the border region; using mobile, video, portable systems as well as unmanned aircraft; and deploying 1,000 distress beacon stations in areas where migrant deaths occur.  

Look, it takes getting serious to secure the border, and this costs money. We can do it in the context of reducing the deficit by over $100 billion, such as the windfall from immigration reform that we effectively get to secure our southern border for free and reduce the deficit by $100 billion and improve the Social Security trust fund to the tune of $4 trillion, giving American seniors the security that they need in their retirement. That's what we can do by bringing the Senate immigration reform bill to the floor of the House right now.

The Senate immigration reform bill also increases American competitiveness. Immigration is the economic engine that's grown our economy for generations. Unfortunately, under our current immigration system, it's not designed to foster job creation. All too often, it undermines American workers, takes jobs away from American workers, leads companies to offshore jobs, to outsource jobs overseas.

I represent a district that has two excellent universities: Colorado State University and the University of Colorado at Boulder. They have great graduate programs in math, engineering, and the sciences. We graduate students with advanced degrees from countries all over the world such as India, Mexico, and China that have the skills that we need to keep America competitive and create jobs. Yet, the day after they graduate, without any access to a green card, many of these talented young Ph.D.s and master's degree students have to return to their home country. Guess what? The jobs follow them back home in the information economy. The employers don't care whether they're here or there, as long as they contribute to bits and bytes. We want those jobs here in America. We want that income here in America. The bipartisan Senate bill addresses that, as well.

Another component that we have for job creation in America is a start-up visa. This is a way that entrepreneurs with ideas can come to America to start their companies here and employ Americans. For goodness' sake, do we want the great companies of tomorrow employing tens of thousands of people to be overseas just because we don't let the founders come here to start their companies? That's common sense. It creates jobs for Americans. Let's do it.

We also have improvements to the EB-5 program to facilitate in foreign investment and raising capital for American companies to grow jobs here in America.

This body should take up the comprehensive immigration reform bill now--not tomorrow and not in 5 minutes. Now. Let's do it so that we can finally move forward on creating jobs, improving border security, reducing our deficit, and shoring up Social Security.

Another reason that we urgently need to bring up immigration reform now is because the current system is simply out of sync with our values as Americans, our faith values as Jews, Christians, Muslims, every other faith in our country, as well as our American values, the values of our Founding Fathers.

Faith leaders from across the spectrum have been among the most vocal supporters of the Senate comprehensive immigration bill. Over the August recess, the Evangelical Immigration Table, a coalition of faith groups, continued the drumbeat for a vote on the Senate bill and called for an end to the ``cruelty'' perpetuated by the current immigration deportation system. It's completely arbitrary.

Young American children--American citizens, kids, 8, 10, 12 years old in my State and across the country--to our great shame, come home from school to find that their parents are in detention, their parents are not there, their parents are facing deportation proceedings. Why? Perhaps a taillight was out on their car. This is all at a cost to taxpayers of tens of thousands of dollars. They now wait in line for a costly deportation while their American child returns to a home with no parent. How does that reflect our values? As Americans, what is the solution? Pass the Senate comprehensive immigration reform bill now.

The Senate comprehensive immigration reform bill will halt more than 400,000 costly deportations, each one costing taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars, tearing families apart. The bill removes the limitations to the number of visas that legal permanent residents can request for their minor children, for their spouses, ensuring that families aren't separated for years, for generations, while awaiting legal status. It creates a process to clear the estimated 4.4 million person backlog in the family- and employment-based visa system within a decade. It replaces our broken immigration system with one that works, one that reflects our values, and one that respects the rule of law in this country.

The Senate-passed bill would help people like Gabriela, a 20-year-old woman in Colorado, undocumented, recently graduated from high school. Gabriela and her younger sister were brought to the U.S. as young children by their mother. They didn't have a say in the matter. They were brought here. Their mother was deported several years ago, leaving her two children behind. Gabriela is now homeless but has, nevertheless, taken on the responsibility for caring for her younger sister. The Senate bipartisan bill would ensure that families like Gabriela's won't be torn apart. That's not American. That doesn't reflect our values as a country, as a people.

The Senate bill would also assist the young, courageous DREAMers, individuals who were brought to this country as children, completed high school, some college, even military service, grew up in this country, know no other country, and have no pathway to legal status, young people like Javier in my district that I represent who graduated from high school in Summit County. He was the president of the student body. Javier grew up in this country, was brought here when he was young, doesn't have documentation. Javier is an Eagle Scout. Javier is the first in his family to get into a good college, a 4-year university, but his lack of status has made it difficult not only to pursue his dreams of a higher education, but to figure out how he can live his life in a way that contributes to his country, the United States of America.

If only we allow him to fully contribute, he will. Young DREAMers across this country will contribute great things to our Nation and make us proud if only we let them.

It's time to stop talking about these redundant, senseless bills and bring up comprehensive immigration reform now. It's a big part of the solution to our fiscal problems: reducing the deficit, shoring up Social Security, and finally getting serious about enforcing our border and enforcing employment verification to prevent companies from hiring people illegally. It improves American competitiveness, creates jobs, and ensures that the great companies of tomorrow will be here in this country instead of overseas; that the people we need to make our economy grow, create jobs for Americans, are here and doing it legally; and to respect the rule of law in this country, rather than undermine the rule of law every day as our current travesty and broken immigration system does.

Finally, we know, Mr. Speaker, that as a people we are better than this. We need an immigration system that reflects our values, our faith values, our American values, our founding principles as a Nation of immigrants and a Nation of laws.

Mr. Speaker, today's debate is really not about the Affordable Care Act or even health care in general. It's politics. It's redundant. I would ask my friends on the other side of the aisle: Why are we not focused on fixing our broken immigration system when we have a bipartisan bill that two-thirds of the Senate has supported, that 75 percent of the American people support, that the President has expressed a willingness to sign? Let's bring that bill up, debate that bill, pass that bill, and solve a problem that the American people are crying out for a solution.


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