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We Need Big Solutions for Big Problems | Commentary

Recently, in the House Budget Committee, I introduced an amendment to create the economic infrastructure needed for comprehensive immigration reform. My amendment was based on HR 15, a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill introduced earlier this year.

HR 15 is an improved version of the comprehensive immigration reform bill that passed the Senate with more than two-thirds of senators voting “yes,” both Republicans and Democrats. In the bill, Congress mandates greater border security protection and saves the American people more than $900 billion, while creating more than 100,000 new American jobs a year.

House Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., who has expressed support for immigration reform in the past, led his Republican majority in killing my amendment — ending the first opportunity in the House to both debate and vote on comprehensive immigration reform.

Ryan admitted: “This is a broken system. The immigration system doesn’t work for anybody. The laws aren’t written well, so they’re not enforceable. … It’s helping nobody and it’s not helping this country.”

I completely agree with what Ryan said.

He continued, “There’s a growth dividend if you have the right policies in place. If we get our policies right, we can have more economic growth.”

I agree; $900 billion in deficit reduction and more than a million new American jobs will supercharge our economy.

However, Ryan voted “no.”


“We believe the better approach in the House is the step by step approach we’ve been talking about all along.”

That is where Ryan is wrong.

We all agree that when farmers don’t have the workforce to pick their crops, tech companies lack the workers to develop their products here in America, unemployment persists and families are divided on a daily basis we have a big problem.

Simply put, there are no small solutions for big problems.

Not all Republicans share Ryan’s apparent aversion to big solutions.

“We can, and need, to work together to craft a plan that fixes our broken code and strengthens the economy so there are more jobs and bigger paychecks for hardworking taxpayers,” said House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich. He was introducing a 900-page-plus piece of legislation to completely rewrite our tax code.

But, why was a step-by-step approach not an option?

“This is a comprehensive plan that reflects input and ideas championed by Congress, the administration and, most importantly, the American people,” Camp said.

We have a broken tax code.

We have a broken immigration system.

These are big problems. They demand big solutions.

When those demands have been made, Americans have always delivered.

When millions of seniors were dying poor and homeless after working most of their adult lives, Congress joined President Franklin D. Roosevelt to create the first strands of our social safety net with Social Security.

After World War II, Congress and President Dwight D. Eisenhower realized state-by-state road construction could not take advantage of the economic boom of the ’40s and ’50s. The Interstate Highway System was born. That big solution took more than three decades and trillions of dollars to finalize. Today, the idea that step-by-step would have been a preferable solution to our national transportation system is completely indefensible.

Our history is filled with examples of big problems requiring big solutions. It is who we are and why we have grown from a colony of 13 to the largest economy in the history of the world.

As recently as this year, Congress went “big” for the American farmer.

Congressional Republicans wrote a 610-page bill, completely changing our farm programs. The farm bill passed the House of Representatives. After a conference committee with the Senate produced more than 550 additional pages, the 1100-page-plus farm bill finally passed the House on a bipartisan basis.

Both included “yes” votes from Ryan.

There is nothing to fear from big solutions.

A huge majority of this nation is calling for comprehensive immigration reform.

It is time for Republican leadership to go to work for the American people.

The time for a step-by-step approach has passed. Our farmers can’t wait to pick their crops until Congress acts. Our businesses can’t wait for a step-by-step approach to allow them to compete in the global economy. We have invested in our children’s education and that investment demands they not be separated from their parents.

The time is now for a big solution to fix our broken immigration system.

Rep. Tony Cárdenas is a Democrat from California’s 29th District.

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