There is no debate in Washington about whether or not illegal immigration is a problem — everyone agrees that we must address the issue. The unanswered question is how to address it. To my mind, there is only one way to answer: We must secure the borders — with people, new technology, and whatever else is necessary — and enforce the laws that keep employers from enticing illegal immigrants with work opportunities in this country. Period.
It is simply premature to talk about an overhaul of our immigration policies until we have stopped the flow of illegal immigrants over our borders. And while we work to handle the rising tide of illegal immigrants, we do nothing to repair the dam — addressing the problem at its source.
Without a doubt, this nation is a land of immigrants. We welcome the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breath free. And we have melded into one people, all sharing one great thing called the American Dream.
The rule of law, the promise of fairness and equality under that law, and the primacy of due process are part of that dream that draws immigrants to our shores. To ignore our laws to accommodate political expediency is to reduce that dream to a pile of rubble. And the rule of law, rather than the shifting tide of a ruler’s opinion, serves as a pillar of our democracy.
The illegal immigration bill that I supported on the House floor in December recognizes this. It deals only with border and workplace enforcement matters and makes no provision — as the Senate bill does — for a guest-worker program, for a complicated system for dealing with the estimated 11 million to 12 million illegal immigrants now living in the U.S., and for amnesty.
The House bill dries up job opportunities that attract illegal immigrants by giving employers a reliable method for determining if an employee is legally eligible to work and making it mandatory. It ends the Border Patrol’s current practice of “catch and release” by requiring mandatory detention until removal from the country and secures the borders with physical barriers and state-of-the-art surveillance technology. It increases penalties for alien smuggling with mandatory minimum sentences and more, as recommended by a panel of border area U.S. Attorneys, and stiffens penalties for aliens who re-enter the U.S. after having been removed. And, it authorizes an additional 1,000 new, full-time point of entry inspectors over the next four years, as well as the training of 1,500 additional K-9 units over the next five years.
In addition to the commonsense proposals in the comprehensive House immigration bill, I have introduced additional legislation to prevent illegal immigrants from using matricula consular cards — from their embassies — as a form of identification within the United States. These cards give the impression of an official identification card and are used by illegal immigrants to obtain privileges that require legal residency in the U.S., such as drivers’ licenses, checking accounts, and more. These cards are little more than an end run around our laws.
The focus on the debate over how to address illegal immigration must be restored to the word “illegal.” It is not a debate about whether we welcome others into our nation. It is a debate about whether we should leave out the welcome mat for those who break in through a window instead of knocking at the door.