In summer 2005, Esmeralda Nava, was a 4-year-old whose parents were illegal immigrant day laborers who had been in the United States a short time. It is unclear what the status of Cornelio Rivera Zamites was in 2005. It is believed he was deported in 2003; however he was in the U.S. illegally in late spring 2005. Had our laws been enforced, neither Nava nor Zamites would have been in the U.S. and Nava would be alive today. The only good that came of this horrible rape and murder of a child was the immigrant community saw law enforcement pursue and apprehend the suspect with every resource they had. That year, of the 13 murders in our county –11 arrests were made and eight of those arrests were illegal immigrants.
“Comprehensive” — as it relates to immigration reform — is one of those words that creates an instant picture. It’s like affirmative action or liberal or conservative, the mere use of the phrase or word conjures up a complete image of the subject. “Comprehensive” has come to mean in the immigration debate a simultaneous change in policy including a guest-worker program and border security with many concessions being made with American taxpayer dollars to accommodate illegal immigrants in America. Any plan that has been put forward in Congress or discussed on the airwaves or in the diners and town halls of American cities dealing with rampant illegal immigration can be called comprehensive. But to define “comprehensive” — as the lefties and open border advocates do — that this term separates those who want only to close the border from those who want to deal with the other aspects of illegal immigration — misleads willfully. Nevetheless, it is true that it must be borders first.
The average American that is looking at this problem has no faith that the federal government can do anything simultaneously or comprehensively, There is no model either in previous attempts to control immigration or any other federal program that would give the American people confidence that the implementation will go smoothly.
Immigration positions have less to do with party and more to do with where you live and to what degree you are dealing with illegal immigration. In addition, it’s not just a border state problem anymore. I recently appeared on CSPAN with a U.S. Chamber of Commerce panel on immigration reform and have received calls from all over the country. It’s not just a border state problem.
The discussion should not be about limiting immigration but managing it. This should occur in the context that it means something to be an American. American culture is unique and worth preserving. “American Exceptionalism” is why people continue to come here. Today, we allow legal immigration to this country totaling more than all other countries in the world combined. In addition, if visas were granted to every person that is currently applying for them around the world, we would take in over 40 million additional people this year. With all the talk about whether people like America or not, they still want what we have which is the opportunity to rise above your station with hard work. We cannot, however, have unbridled immigration and the control of immigration is one of the few things that are actually enumerated in the Constitution of the United States.
So what is the solution? Talk to the people who are on the front lines of this problem, local law enforcement, and they will tell you what will work. First, make English the official language of the U.S. and require that all citizens are proficient in English. Then, secure the borders by whatever means necessary. It is not just a fence or border patrol, it is many solutions — it is comprehensive. We know just a presence on the border deters crossings. Even the Drug Enforcement Administration had to acknowledge that the presence of the Minutemen on the border deterred the transport of illegal drugs across the border in 2006. We are going to be in the deserts of the Middle East and Afghanistan for a long time, so let’s use our training wisely and train the military on the border and deter crossings except at legal ports of entry. A combination of methods could be used but the goal is to prevent crossings anywhere but at checkpoints.
Next, implement a guest-worker program that requires that illegal immigrants go back to their home country to get the proper paperwork. Streamline the process to 14 days or less. Drivers’ licenses must only be given to immigrants with verifiable, valid visas and those licenses must expire when the visa expires.
Serious penalties should be levied on employers who employ undocumented workers, including the construction and hospitality industry. Allow employers and state welfare workers to verify documentation through a database they can access with current immigrant and visa information. In the early part of the 1900s, one million immigrants were processed a year with hand written entries for each person. If we could do it by hand then, we can do it now.
Local law enforcement must be given more jurisdiction over illegal immigrants in their own communities. Illegal immigrants who commit crimes must be tried in American courts and, if convicted, serve their entire sentences in American prisons. This seems on the surface to be harsh, but there is know evidence that their home governments, particularly Mexico, will prosecute them, and deportation will result in an unstoppable revolving door of violent crime in America. This is especially true with gang activity. The growth of gangs, especially MS 13, cannot be allowed and must be crushed with the full force of American law enforcement. The gang mentality is the terrorist mentality and cannot be allowed to flourish.
Immigration policies should be enforced. We should support immigration, but it needs to be legal immigration. American taxpayers have been more than generous with their time talents and their hard earned dollars. There is no government without the taxpayers, and the taxpayers insist on a certain level of respect for America, for American culture, and for the laws that provide an unprecedented amount of freedom for American citizens. Citizenship matters and is a valuable asset. There is no culture in the world that will offer more opportunity to immigrants but they must enter and exit our country legally and respect our culture and laws while they are here.
Comprehensive immigration reform should not necessarily be a path to citizenship. If an immigrant wants to become a citizen, then they have to meet certain criteria. We have a rich tradition of opening our arms to the world but we must never forget or be sorry that it is a privilege to come and live and work in the U.S. It is worth having and it is worth defending and enforcement of laws is the basis of that and has to be.
If you care about this issue, join me and people all over the country at “Hold Their Feet To the Fire” in Washington, D.C. from April 22-25. Log onto www.fairus.org for complete details.