We can be tough, but fair, on the border


We are all exhausted by the failure of elected officials in both parties to fix the border and immigration system. Fixing the border is my number one priority.

We must bring “order to the border” while treating people like human beings in a way that is consistent with our American values.

I am working on bipartisan legislation in Congress to 1) secure the border, 2) reform the broken and abused asylum system, and 3) modernize the legal immigration system. In the meantime, I have pushed President Biden to take executive action. We are making progress, but we must pass bipartisan legislation if we are really going to fix immigration.

On May 9, I sent a bipartisan letter with a Republican colleague, Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick, of Pennsylvania, to the president. The letter asked Biden to issue “an executive order to help bring order to the border by 1) restricting the abuse of the asylum process by cartels guiding migrants between ports of entry, and 2) raising the credible fear standard to a higher threshold.” Pursuant to The Immigration and Nationality Act, the president may restrict the entry of any “aliens or any class of aliens” that would be “detrimental to the interests of the United States.”

A month later, I stood at the White House when Biden announced his executive actions to bar migrants who cross our southern border unlawfully from receiving asylum. This action will make it easier for immigration officers to remove those without a lawful basis to remain and reduce the burden on our Border Patrol agents. Earlier this week, the president took action on my letter’s second request to “expand our tax-paying labor force by extending legal work permits to the 1.1 million immigrant spouses married to U.S. citizens.” The letter estimated that such a move would “generate $16 billion in growth to the U.S. (gross domestic product).”

Everyone already believes that if you marry an American citizen, you become a citizen. For over a million people who have lived in the U.S. for the past 10 years, that has not been the case. This week’s action rights that wrong, and infuses our businesses with legal labor from neighbors who have lived here for over a decade. It keeps families together and strengthens our economy.

We must be tough on the border, but we can also be fair. I have been steadfast and consistent in my belief that we take both a tough and a humanitarian approach to our immigration crisis.

These executive orders will help secure the border while adding workers to the tax-paying labor force. Despite bipartisan efforts, Congress has failed to act.

The last immigration reform legislation was passed in 1996, almost 30 years ago. For too many years, too many politicians have spent their time weaponizing immigration policy, but haven’t done a thing to fix it. I have visited the southern border three times, meeting with border patrol agents, local law enforcement officials, mayors, businesses and nonprofits. I have seen the chaos there.

We need to close illegal immigration routes but open paths to citizenship for those who follow the rules. Those migrants who have credible asylum claims must be more effectively processed. And a clear protocol would be put in place to quickly deny entry to those who do not qualify. A workable plan to deport those applicants who are denied entry would be implemented.

Now, more than ever before, we need Democrats and Republicans to come together on comprehensive immigration reform that secures our border and establishes clear, legal paths to citizenship. Only bipartisan, common-sense solutions will fix what’s broken.

Tom Suozzi represents the 3rd Congressional District.