LIMA — A legislative package of immigration reform needs to have some very specific things, U.S. Rep. Bob Latta, R-Bowling Green, said Tuesday.
On his list: Securing borders, working harder to keep master’s and doctorate students staying in the United States after their schooling and making sure a path to citizenship for current illegal immigrants doesn’t include leapfrogging people who are trying to become citizens legally.
Latta, whose district includes Hancock, Hardin, Putnam and Van Wert counties and the northern half of Mercer County, visited The Lima News among other media stops in the region Tuesday.
Latta also visited with company officials at Ada Technologies and with the Ohio Northern University engineering department to discuss advanced energy and tour the ONU engineering building. Hardin County is newly in the 5th Congressional District after redistricting last year.
A group of bipartisan senators Monday unveiled their plan for immigration reform, and President Barack Obama presented a similar plan during an event Tuesday in Las Vegas, Nev.
“What you’re seeing in the Senate right now, they’re trying to do something different than they’ve done back in 1986, when Congress passed the amnesty bill,” Latta said. “What you don’t want to do is a situation where you do something right then, but you don’t fix the problem. This isn’t just a carte blanche deal. If the president’s plan doesn’t address the border, it will take a lot of work to get that legislation passed.”
With an estimated 11 million people in the United States illegally, 8 million of whom are working, Latta said the right thing to do is address it.
“So many people are here, the question becomes, ‘What happens now?’” Latta said. “We want to make sure the system is not broken, that the borders are secure. They should learn English. It’s a building block, a commonality in our country, and get on this path. At same time, you have all these folks who are already in the system and trying to get their citizenship legally; make sure that they don’t get hopscotched.”
Latta serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has wide jurisdiction on telecommunications, food and drug safety, public health research, energy policy and interstate and foreign commerce. Latta also serves as vice chair of the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology.
Latta also discussed the slew of financial issues facing Congress in the next four months. Latta recently voted to raise the debt ceiling because the legislation included a measure requiring the Democrat-controlled Senate to craft a federal budget, something the Republican-controlled House sought for some time.
“They’re going to have to put themselves on record, or they don’t get paid,” Latta said. “I think it was a good thing that we were forcing them to do something.”
Congress will deal with several separate but related issues soon, Latta said. Without a change, sequestration — across-the-board cuts — will hit March 1. The current continuing resolution for federal spending expires March 27. The budgets must be done by April 15. The debt-ceiling raising legislation just passed expires May 19.
“When sequestration hits, we go from $1.047 trillion down to $974 billion (a 10 percent cut in spending). If folks don’t think that’s a big hit, that’s a big hit,” Latta said. “And unfortunately, a lot of that is on the military side. The No. 1 issue in my mind is we have to get this budget issue taken care of.”