Immigration and Border Governance

 I believe that it is possible for us to have immigration laws and border policies that are both compassionate and effective. We don’t need to sacrifice our humanity in the name of security, and we don’t have to sacrifice responsible border security and governance in order to be compassionate. It is possible to do BOTH.

I am a first generation American. My parents came from the Netherlands, seeking to find a place of welcome, a place where they could begin their lives anew, a home. They found incredible welcome in West Michigan, which has a long and rich history of welcoming immigrants and refugees. 

Immigrants are foundational to our economy here in the 2nd Congressional District. According to the latest data, they make up 30% of the share of workers in our district’s agricultural industry, and 12% in manufacturing. They are tremendously entrepreneurial - more so than those of us who are U.S.-born—with over 770 immigrant businesses here in the district. And they pay $274 million in taxes each year! 

The fruits of their labor are enjoyed by all of us, and our communities flourish because of their being with us. Their labors in farm and field help feed the country. Replacing them would be a daunting task. 

Very few—less than a fraction of one percent—of people entering the country arrive without prior authorization and most of them seek protection in the form of asylum or other assistance. 

We have allowed fear-based rhetoric to cloud our judgment on this issue, leading to policies and actions that are not making our nation safer while also being dehumanizing to women, children and families who are seeking to find a new place to call home. Here in West Michigan, the people who we rely on to fuel our local economy live in fear. This is unconscionable. 

I believe that the way we treat the most vulnerable among is a reflection of who we are. The West Michigan I know and love has a deep history of accepting refugees and heeding the call of welcoming strangers in need. I strongly support policies to continue accepting refugees to this country. They are the most intensely screened group of individuals to enter the United States.

The greatest nation in the world should have nothing to fear from people and children fleeing violence. And those people and children should have nothing to fear from us. Let’s have the courage to be global leaders on human rights and in welcoming strangers to join our communities.

I respect the rule of law. This means that we also must fix our broken laws – right now they don’t work for employers, the economy, or immigrants themselves. 

We can have a system this is humane, compassionate, clear, and effective, one that truly reflects our American values.  

We must rethink how we govern our borders. We can do better, with the right leadership.

My priority is to work on bipartisan reforms that:

  1. Protect the unity of the immediate family and the best interests of children at all times. This means treating children as children first, keeping families together, and having child welfare specialists play a primary role with children, not border authorities. 

  2. Restore our global leadership in humanitarian relief for refugees. Anything less is a betrayal of our ideals, values, and history.

  3. Respect the God-given dignity of every person. This means we must have sufficient channels for people with prior authorization (visas, passports) to cross the border, and we must ensure clear processes and sufficient access for migrants without prior authorization to approach the ports of entry to seek asylum, protection, or other assistance. That means having sufficient staffing and facilities at those crossings. And ensuring that people waiting have adequate water, food, sanitation, and a comfortable temperature in a humane, cage-free environment.

  4. Place special attention to those who are at risk and vulnerable. This means urgency in taking care of the needs of asylum seekers, victims of trafficking or violence, and those with medical concerns.

  5. Establish a path toward legal status and/or citizenship for those who qualify and who wish to become permanent residents. This means that, for those who are already living, working, paying taxes, and contributing to our communities, let’s figure out a way to provide a more accessible pathway to citizenship.

  6. Take a whole-of-government approach. This means that we must focus on root cause issues before migrants arrive at the border and engage in meaningful cooperation and coordination of local, state, national and international governments and nongovernmental organizations on both sides of the border to respond to the human rights concerns and needs of migrants. 

  7. Restore our democracy.This means ensuring that decision-making and public discourse are informed by accurate and unbiased data that grounds us in reality, not rhetoric. And we work towards improved transparency and accountability in how our system works.