Sen. Rob Portman is not willing to support the Senate Gang or Eight immigration reform package because he says the current version of the bill doesn't have enough enforcement measures.
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax TV, Portman said despite his opposition to the current bill, he is committed to immigration reform and is focused on improving the current bipartisan proposals through additional amendments to ensure the U.S. is able to adequately monitor all immigrants under a new system.
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"The immigration system is broken, both the legal system and the illegal system, so I am for reform," Portman said.
"We're not effectively enforcing our laws that we have and, frankly, I don't think the laws are adequate to deal with illegal immigration.
"On the legal side, frankly, it's hurting us as a country because we're shooting ourselves in the foot by not allowing people to come and yet we don't know who's in our country so we're not administering it well," said Portman.
Nonetheless, he said the bipartisan immigration proposal facing a vote in the Senate in the coming weeks doesn't go far enough to guarantee that a system of enforcements is in place.
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"The law that is being proposed that came out of the Judiciary Committee takes some steps in the right direction but I'm not prepared to support it yet and the reason is, I'm still concerned on the enforcement side."
Portman said it's important to learn from the failures of previous immigration reforms.
"One of the things that happened the last time we reformed immigration laws is we moved to a legalization but did not enforce the law either at the border or internally," he said.
"We can't make that mistake again because, in essence, what happened is after the legalization effort then you had a flood of people coming in after that because they had seen if you get into the United States, you can make your way to citizenship."
He added, "So it's very important that the enforcement managers be in place as we deal with folks who are here and we do need to provide for folks who are here a way to get legal status if they go through certain hoops, including being sure that they pay their taxes, pay a fine, learn English."
Portman is also concerned that E-Verify, the system which employers use to determine whether potential employees are in the country legally, is not mandatory under the current version of the bill. He said it's particularly important because 40 percent of illegal immigrants are visa overstayers, not border crossers, so a robust systems needs to be in place to detect them.
"We need to be sure that we're not moving ahead with the legal status of some kind for people who are here without putting enforcement in place, and that's something I'll be working on on the floor of the Senate."
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