U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Rio Grande Valley Sector
In this June 17, 2018 file photo provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, people who've been taken into custody related to cases of illegal entry into the United States, rest in one of the cages at a facility in McAllen, Texas.

Last week, Congress passed a bipartisan spending bill that allocated $1.375 billion dollars for border security, far short of the amount that President Donald Trump wanted. The president signed the bill and then proceeded to declare a state of national emergency that would allow him to redirect $8 billion from other agency budgets for the construction of his border wall. This unilateral executive power grab raises serious concerns about the current administration’s lack of regard for our democratic institutions and the balance of powers enshrined in the Constitution.

While it is important that a congressional response not be so reactionary as to impose overly cumbersome requirements that would prevent a president from being able to quickly respond to true threats or emergencies in the future, we cannot ignore such a blatant affront to the constitutional rights and responsibilities of our legislative branch. As we wait for the courts to weigh in and watch to see whether Congress will pass a veto-proof joint resolution, there is something else Congress can do to protect our democratic institutions and principles: fulfill its duty to finally pass comprehensive immigration reform.

It is clear that many aspects of our immigration system are broken. Much has changed since Congress last addressed the issue, and subsequent attempts over the past two decades to improve upon our current laws and policies have failed for political reasons. It is this failure of Congress to work together to update our immigration laws that has allowed bad actors to exploit weaknesses in the current system for political gain. We deserve better.

There are genuine crises to be solved. We need laws and policies that address our current needs and risks. Many of these crises are primarily administrative ones that are largely out of the eye of the public but are no less damaging to our system and the individuals whose fates are determined by it. Others are humanitarian crises that have been growing for years and have recently been compounded by enforcement policies intended to incite fear and political outrage rather than resolve complex problems with compassion and compromise.

Meanwhile, in the background, countless individuals and families suffer as a result of the very real and harmful implications of a system that is becoming increasingly overburdened and nearly impossible to navigate. The American public suffers from enforcement policies that deny government agents the ability to use discretion in focusing their energies and resources in practical ways that truly make our communities safer. American businesses suffer when our immigration system unfairly and unpredictably denies access to a needed workforce that helps our economy grow. Hundreds of thousands of Dreamers and TPS recipients remain in legal limbo unable to put their skills to use for the benefit of everyone. All of these problems have needed congressional attention for a long time, and the lack thereof has practically forced executive and administrative action that continues to harm the proper functioning of our branches of government and to create unnecessary political division that is weakening our society and our faith in our own democratic institutions.

We cannot afford to continue on this path. It is time for ethical leaders from both chambers of Congress on both sides of the aisle to put aside partisanship and engage productively in sincere collaboration and good-faith compromise. There are so many issues upon which the majority of Americans voters agree. We have the opportunity right now to provide necessary support to overburdened government employees who work hard to keep our country safe and our system running smoothly, to finally put an end to policies and practices that unnecessarily harm children and families, to replace rhetoric that incites fear and hatred with a more rational and compassionate acknowledgement of human dignity and resiliency, to bolster the American economy and respect both the American workforce and the many hard-working immigrants whose contributions are essential to our success.

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We must tear down the walls that divide us and replace them with bridges of understanding, cooperation and goodwill. We offer our Citizens' Proposal for Fair and Ethical Immigration Reform, or the FAIR Proposal, as a starting point.

As a nation, we have overcome significant challenges in the past, and we can do it again. We owe it to those who have gone before us to learn from our past mistakes and continue working to preserve and perfect the lofty principles that our nation claims to embrace and needs in order to endure.