In what has been a highly-anticipated decision, New Hampshire junior Senator Kelly Ayotte announced her support for immigration reform legislation backed by the bipartisan ‘Gang of Eight’ including Republicans Marco Rubio, John McCain, and Jeff Flake and Democrats Chuck Schumer and Dick Durbin.
Ayotte first announced her support for the legislation in an appearance on CBS’s ‘Face the Nation’ on Sunday:
She subsequently tweeted out an op-ed detailing her support for the bill, writing, “After careful review of this bill, and after meeting with Granite Staters, I will support it and plan to vote for amendments offered to strengthen it.”
Ayotte went on to stress the need to “separate those seeking economic opportunity from those seeking to harm us (who must be deported)” and pledged to support measures to further strengthen border security. In addition to her support for the bill’s focus on border security, Ayotte detailed other positives of the legislation:
“Also, under this bill all employers would be required to use an employment verification system – known as “E-Verify” – to check that job applicants are lawful for employment. To put teeth into the law, employers would face fines and possible criminal penalties for violations of E-Verify requirements.
“Additionally, the legislation cracks down on those who abuse our visa system. Right now, 40 percent of illegal immigrants originally came legally but overstayed their visas. This bill creates an exit system feature that would enable the Department of Homeland Security to more vigorously track, pursue and remove those who overstay their visas.
“The legislation also includes strict requirements for those illegal immigrants who are already here. Before any of these 11 million could earn a green card, they would go to the back of the line, not receive means-tested federal benefits and Obamacare subsidies, and they would be required to pay fines, pay taxes, and pass background checks, learn English, and secure a job. The minimum most immigrants would have to wait to earn a green card would be ten years – and 13 years for naturalization. And this timeline is dependent on first meeting border security and employment enforcement measures.
“In addition to fixing our illegal immigration problem, the bill also takes steps to modernize our legal immigration system. To help ensure our hospitality and agricultural sectors are able to fill jobs that Americans won’t perform, the bill creates a new guest worker visa program. And the legislation addresses concerns that I’ve heard frequently from New Hampshire’s business community, especially the high-tech industry: the outdated cap on visas for highly-skilled workers is holding back our economy.
“After companies make every effort to recruit Americans to perform particular jobs and can’t find any – especially those with expertise in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) – they are forced to look elsewhere. This legislation addresses that shortfall by raising the cap on H-1B visas. And to train the American innovators of tomorrow, it creates new STEM education programs – from K-12 to higher education – financed through a $1,000 fee for those applying for H-1B visas.”
Ayotte’s support will likely be viewed as a major victory for the bill’s proponents, and further establishes the Granite State Senator as willing to take bold positions and be unafraid of facing critics.