Enforcement First; Amnesty Never

If millions of healthy 30-year-olds were signing up for Medicare benefits, we’d put a stop to it. If millions of stock brokers were knowingly involved in insider trading schemes, we’d do something about it. And if millions of upper-class Americans were receiving welfare benefits each month, we’d end the practice immediately.

So why do we treat our immigration laws differently from our SEC, Medicare, and welfare laws? Why do we allow millions of illegal immigrants to cross our border and break our laws without penalty?

Proponents of liberal immigration policy are quick to point out that America has a long history as a nation of immigrants. But today’s immigration laws are a slap in the face to American tradition. We’ve created a culture that rewards unlawfulness, allowing illegal immigrants into our country where they cause undue burden on our welfare and healthcare systems, and threaten the very security of our nation. (Remember, the terrorists responsible for September 11 were able to enter and remain in our country because our immigration policies have no teeth).

In December, I was proud to support H.R. 4437, House-passed legislation to enforce our immigration laws. Now that the Senate is taking up immigration reform, it is crucial they pass legislation similar to the House bill — legislation that puts enforcement first and says "no" to blanket amnesty.

As a physician, I know you have to stop a patient’s bleeding before trying to heal his wounds. Likewise, we must stop the bleeding of our borders before we can address other issues of reform. Unfortunately, the legislation making its way to the Senate floor sounds a lot like amnesty for an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants, and it puts guest worker programs ahead of crucial border security reform.

When you consider the current state of our immigration system, it’s clear this isn’t the kind of reform we need. Our borders are hemorrhaging, with thousands of illegals crossing into America each month. We have an incomplete border fence that does little to stop this flow. The millions of illegals currently living in our country are taking a heavy toll on local schools, hospitals, and social services. Our border enforcement is woefully understaffed, and unable to uphold the laws currently in place. To make matters worse, our state and local law enforcement officials lack the jurisdiction to apprehend illegal immigrants within their own communities.

House Republicans recognized this crisis and voted to add 750 miles to the border fence and grant border authorities increased power to expedite the removal of illegal immigrants. The House also specifically avoided blanket amnesty for the 12 million illegals currently residing in the U.S.

Our Senators have witnessed this same crisis. Now, they risk having the crown jewel of their plan be a guest worker program, while giving short sight to the important border security measurers our nation needs. This kind of reform will not accomplish the security and enforcement achievements of the House-passed bill.

Instead, the Senate must ensure any guest worker provisions do not reward lawbreakers or encourage other illegal immigrants to cross the border in search of jobs, benefits, and the unearned reward of citizenship. The Senate must include House-passed provisions to construct the border fence, eliminate the catch-and-release policy, significantly increase border patrol agents and their technological tools, and allow state and local authorities to help in this crucial effort.

Without these provisions, any Senate-passed bill will be unacceptable to those of us who worked hard to ensure H.R. 4437 would effectively stop the onslaught of illegal immigrants entering our country. Border security must be our primary goal, and until we can effectively enforce our laws, it is difficult to have a meaningful debate over guest worker programs.

We should remember what the late Congressman Sonny Bono said when asked for his position on illegal immigration: "It’s illegal." Reforming our system requires a commitment to security and lawfulness, and our Senate colleagues must pledge their resolve to these core principles.