One way to reduce the tide of immigrants entering the United States illegally is to expand federal laws allowing newcomers to enter the country legally, Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul said Monday.
The Kentucky lawmaker touted two bills that he's sponsoring in an attempt to increase high-skill immigration and to widen participation in the H-2A agricultural labor visa program that has long been a source of temporary workers for many employers in agriculture.
"Most immigrants who have come to Kentucky, many in my community, are good, hard-working people," Paul said in response to reporters' questions about immigration after he toured a Louisville factory. "I'm not against immigrants. But I am against people breaking the law. The one way of getting less illegal immigration is to allow more lawful immigration."
Paul recently introduced legislation that would boost the allotment of employment-based visas to 270,000 from 140,000. His measure aims to reduce long waits for green cards faced by immigrants from large countries such as India and China, ensure that hospitals could continue to sponsor foreign-based nurses and provide work authorization for spouses and teenage children of immigrants here on certain types of visas, his staff said.
The goal is to correct problems faced by high-skill immigrants as they try to come to the U.S legally to work for businesses.
"These are people who can come, be part of America and actually get permanent status here," Paul said Monday.
The other immigration bill sponsored by Paul would expand the number of sectors that could draw workers from the H-2A worker visa program.
It would allow the equine and livestock industries, among others, to apply for temporary workers through the program, he said. Those sectors currently can seek temporary workers through another visa program that has strict caps on how many workers are allowed into the U.S.
The bill also would streamline the application process. The goal is to better ensure that farmers are able to hire and retain the workers they need, Paul said.
"It's a big deal," Paul said. "Farmers want the system to work better."
Meanwhile on Monday, Paul defended the Trump administration's intention to move forward with a nationwide immigration enforcement operation targeting migrant families. The operation would pursue people with final deportation orders.
"These are people who have already broken the law and there's been a court order to have them removed from the country," Paul said. "And we either have laws or don't have laws. So I think we do need to enforce our laws."
The operation has drawn opposition from Democrats amid questions over whether it's the best use of resources given the crisis at the border.
Paul also defended proposed state legislation that would ban local governments in Kentucky from adopting "sanctuary policies" for immigrants in the country illegally. Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin joined two Republican legislators last week to unveil the proposal that could come up in the state's 2020 legislative session.