Fixing America's Immigration System
With more than 11 million undocumented immigrants already residing within the U.S. and more attempting to cross our borders each year, it's clear our current immigration system is badly broken and the status quo is unacceptable. America is a nation founded by immigrants, but it's also a nation founded upon the rule of law, and Claire believes it is imperative that we respect both of these traditions.
Claire supports legal immigration. She opposes granting unconditional amnesty to undocumented immigrants or allowing undocumented immigrants to receive federal assistance.
In 2013, Claire - a member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee - joined 67 of her colleagues in an overwhelming, bipartisan vote to approve legislation that would dramatically strengthen border security, hold employers who hire undocumented immigrants accountable, punish those who came to the country illegally while putting them on a path to earned citizenship, and reduce the national deficit by hundreds of billions of dollars. The legislation passed the Senate with the support of conservative Republican Senators including Marco Rubio of Florida, John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona, and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. The bill was strongly supported by groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Missouri Farm Bureau.
The bill's border security provisions would add 20,000 enforcement agents to the U.S.-Mexico border, while financing the construction of 700 miles of border fence and aerial drones to monitor the border. Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, who helped draft the border security provisions and who supported the overall bill, described the measures as "almost overkill."
According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the legislation would reduce the deficit by nearly $1 trillion over the next two decades.
Claire said of her vote: "Our immigration system is badly broken... I supported this solution because it dramatically strengthens border security, punishes employers who hire undocumented immigrants, and includes stiff consequences for those who came here illegally - while ensuring they start paying into the system."
To date, the U.S. House of Representatives has failed to act on the legislation.
Since her first candidacy for U.S. Senate, Claire has consistently fought to enforce penalties against employers who knowingly hire undocumented immigrants, which she has highlighted as critical to curbing the problem of illegal immigration. She believes the promise of employment and social services act as a magnet in attracting immigrants across our border. Claire believes that if U.S. employers were unwilling to hire undocumented immigrants for fear of serving jail time themselves, then immigrants would be less likely to illegally cross our border. She believes that any effort at immigration reform must include stronger punishments for employers who hire illegal immigrants.
Early in her first term, Claire repeatedly fought to persuade the Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement Program to intensify its efforts to crack down on those who entice and employ undocumented workers. Finally, in 2009, the new Administration agreed to Claire's requests and issued new guidelines and regulations that are increasing attention and resources on prosecuting employers who violate our nation's immigration laws.
In 2010, Claire teamed up with Republican Senators John McCain and Jon Kyl of Arizona to introduce and pass into law an investment of $600 million in border security without adding a dime to the country's deficit. The bill provided much-needed resources to capture, adjudicate and remove those seeking to illegally cross our southwest border including additional law enforcement personnel, communications equipment, unmanned aerial vehicle surveillance on the border, and additional judicial capabilities. To offset these costs, the bill raised fees on companies that choose to outsource high-paying American jobs.
Claire also led a bipartisan effort to crack down on border tunnels. In 2011, she joined a bipartisan group of her colleagues to introduce the Border Tunnel Prevention Act. This legislation was designed to prevent the use of underground tunnels along the U.S.-Mexico border. The bill increased penalties for building tunnels under the border and required the Department of Homeland Security to report all efforts to combat the problem. This legislation became law in 2012.
Legal Immigration Reform
The fraudulent issuance and use of student visas allowed some of the September 11th attackers to enter the country legally. In 2011, Claire led an effort in the Senate to crack down on "sham universities" that provide student visas to foreigners in order to gain entry into the U.S. After demanding a Government Accountability Office investigation into the issue, Claire joined Republican Senators Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Jeff Sessions of Alabama, to introduce legislation to increase the penalties for school officials who fraudulently seek federal accreditation for such "sham" institutions.
Claire recognizes the need to attract and retain top talent to fill highly-skilled labor gaps in our economy. However, she believes these programs must give American workers a fair shot. That's why Claire has consistently voted in favor of strengthening the H-1B visa, a program that allows U.S. employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in highly skilled, specialty occupations. She has supported efforts to strengthen this program by cutting down on fraud and increasing enforcement of laws already on the books. For example, in 2007 she voted in favor of an amendment to the Homeland Security Appropriations Bill that would have ordered employment eligibility verification improvements for the H-1B program. And in 2009, Claire voted for legislation to ensure that U.S. employers seeking to hire H-1B visa holders meet all necessary H-1B requirements.
Claire believes that local and state law enforcement also has a critical role to play in combating illegal immigration. In 2010, she questioned Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on incidents in Missouri in which local law enforcement were instructed to release illegal immigrants from their custody, back to the workplace, and urged the Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement to improve coordination with local officials. Claire's work helped to secure additional training for Missouri law enforcement on how to set guidelines on detaining illegal immigrants and investigate reports of undocumented workers.
The DREAM Act
As a Christian, Claire takes to heart the teaching that the sins of the father should not be visited upon their children. That is why she supports providing a path to earned citizenship for undocumented children of good moral standing who attend college or join the military. In December 2010, Claire voted in favor of the DREAM Act - legislation that would grant conditional permanent resident status to any undocumented young person who entered the United States before his or her 16th birthday and has been present in the United States for at least five years.