Dear Congress: An Action Plan For 2021

Dec 28, 2020

  Commentary: It occurred to me the other day that 2020 has gone by so fast and so slow at the same time. The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked pain and suffering at human, economic, and psyche levels. Millions of people across the globe have personally been affected by the virus, and businesses have closed that will not ever reopen. However, as we pass through the holiday season – a season of faith for many Americans – we are seeing much awaited signs of hope. COVID-19 vaccines are being distributed as we speak to healthcare and front-line workers, as well as the most vulnerable people in our society.  

I tell my staff that the pandemic is a marathon, of which we have run 80 percent of the distance with 20 percent to go. By the end of the first quarter of 2021, the vast majority of U.S. citizens will have the opportunity to get vaccinated. Between now and then, we must not let our guard down and let the virus have the upper hand. If we can protect ourselves and families for a few more months, we can put this pandemic in check.  

As is customary, I have developed a New Year’s wish list for global trade and international relations, much of which involves President-elect Joseph Biden and Congress. First, I hope that the new president works with Congress to quickly reestablish good relations with our trading partners. We are an inter-connected world in which trade is used to improve our lives – this is a reality. Because the U.S. has been the bastion of democracy and free trade since the end of WWII, we must demonstrate that we are a responsible part of the world community and will act and lead accordingly. 

Now that the elections are over, the Executive and Legislative branches must let Russia know in no uncertain terms that the U.S. will not stand for any foreign power meddling in our elections. An adversary such as Russia builds upon and fans the divisiveness we are experiencing in this country for its own benefit. A strong message to Russia could include economic sanctions and actions that will make that country hurt if it misbehaves in the future.  

I hope that President-elect Joe Biden and Congress keep the pressure on China to play fair in terms of international trade, while making sure that U.S. companies are not needlessly caught in the trade war crossfire and hurt. With China, it is not just a simple case of coming to an agreement, spiking the football, and declaring victory. Rather, it is a complicated process of ensuring that China is adhering to its commitments and not just waiting until sentiment or politics change in the U.S. that better align to its benefit. A combination of tariffs, negotiations, and verification are part of this process. 

The broken immigration and amnesty systems in the U.S. need fixing – it is time already. Congress and the president must not keep kicking the can down the road. The U.S. has the opportunity to attract the top talent in the world in areas such as science, electronics, mathematics, and space. Our antiquated visa system prevents us from retaining talent that obtained its education in the U.S., and attracting people who would bring their talent to U.S. companies that desperately need it to compete in the global market. 

Likewise, we cannot have an amnesty system that literally encourages thousands of migrants, some of which are escaping persecution and violence, while others are economic refugees, to flood our ports of entry and slow cross-border commerce. It should not be the case where an amnesty seeker simply has to set foot on U.S. soil to be able to apply for amnesty. Developing a system to have them do this via a U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country would prevent these surges at the border. The U.S. should remain a compassionate nation and consider amnesty for immigrants on a case-by-case basis. However, procedures must be thoroughly reviewed to prevent shutdowns at the border as federal officials deal with waves of immigrants desperately trying to enter the U.S. 

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) – it’s time for Congress and the president to show leadership in resolving this issue for the approximately 700,000 people with DACA status who were brought to the U.S. in an undocumented status. Many have never known their home countries and have fully assimilated as Americans. Yet, they continue to live in limbo for something that was not their fault. 

We must realize that while it is first and foremost a priority to get Americans vaccinated against COVID-19, we must also be a leader in assisting less fortunate countries with vaccinating their citizens. This is not only good from a humanitarian standpoint, but it also helps protect Americans from the virus if they come into contact with people from these countries. 

Finally, I wish that the U.S. government will use every method and technology possible to reunite undocumented children who were separated and incarcerated separately from their families with their parents, many of whom were deported. This will go down in history as one of the darkest actions our government has taken against families. By righting this wrong, we can resume the path as a righteous, just nation, that is a beacon of light in this confused world.