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The only thing Congress could do to make the problem worse is offer another incentive for people to leave their home countries and come to the United States

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What Part of ‘Illegal Immigration’ is Confusing?

The only thing Congress could do to make the problem worse is offer another incentive for people to leave their home countries and come to the United States

“Lawlessness is lawlessness. Anarchy is anarchy is anarchy. Neither race nor color nor frustration is an excuse for either lawlessness or anarchy.”

— Thurgood Marshall, Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court  

Around the world, an unacceptable number of families and children live in the most abject and hopeless poverty any of us could imagine.  No one can fault any of these people from trying to escape these gut-wrenching conditions and pursuing a better way of life.  Certainly we can all agree that more must be done to lift-up countries that are drowning in a sea of their own population unable to attain economic stability.  As Congress looks to adopt a new illegal immigration policy, we must not forget that the root of the problem lays within countries that lack the economic and political resources needed to support a fully developed nation.

Two days ago, hundreds of thousands of immigrant-rights supporters marched the streets of major cities throughout the country demanding rights such as citizenship for the more than 12 million illegal immigrants who are currently in our country.  The illegal immigration issue has always elicited strong emotions from many people but there is something fundamentally wrong with the idea of rewarding those who have broken our laws with something as precious as citizenship.  

The outrage and indignation displayed by yesterday’s marchers would be justified if it were directed at the right government.  The United States is not responsible for the conditions millions of would-be immigrants are fleeing from — yet many activist groups expect us to be held accountable for a third-world environment overrun with corruption and poverty we did not create.  We could grant a mass amnesty right now and it still would not change any of the social, political and economic conditions that are driving people away from their home countries.

When examining illegal immigration reform in America, I have said numerous times that the key to addressing illegal immigration is removing the economic incentive that attracts so many people to our country.  Fundamentally, the reason why the United States is such an attractive destination for immigrants is because of the jobs that we have to offer.  Combine that with an illegal immigration enforcement policy that has never been truly enforced and it is easy to see why we have more than 12 million illegal immigrants currently living in our country hoping to fill the jobs that supposedly Americans won’t do.  Or, is it that they won’t do these jobs for what employers are willing to pay illegal immigrants?

Candidly, the 12 million illegal immigrants and the millions more looking to come to America are not at fault for the issues we face with illegal immigration.  For far too long businesses in this country have been willing participants in an effort to import cheap labor to fill low-skill jobs.  The result has been a depressed market for American low-skill workers and a significant financial burden being placed on the backs of middle-class Americans who must now pay for the health care, education and social costs of this new class of illegal workers.  

The Federal Government can no longer be a willing accomplice to the circumvention of our federal immigration laws.  Ultimately, it is our responsibility to enforce the law and the only way we can address illegal immigration in America is to hold employers and big business accountable as well.  This requires the implementation of a employer verification program so we can distinguish between employers who hire illegal immigrants because they don’t know the difference and those who hire illegal immigrants because they want cheap labor.  Once an employer verification system is in place, we can crackdown on the employers who are knowingly hiring illegal immigrants.

Solving illegal immigration begins with giving employers the tools they need to verify employment eligibility.  This has become increasingly difficult for employers as document fraud has become a widespread problem as employers are ill-equipped to detect and authenticate workers’ identification documents.  A universal, non-discriminatory and tamper-resistant Social Security card would be a practical solution to this growing problem.  Currently, there are more than 30 types of identification employers can use to verify employment eligibility.  By limiting the burden of documentation to just one, uniform card, employers will finally have the tools they need to comply with the law.  We need to separate those who are egregiously violating the law and those who do not have the means to enforce and comply with the law.

Once the employment incentive is eliminated, immigrants worldwide will have to look elsewhere for job opportunities and the flood of illegal immigrants coming into our country will subside.  Now there is chorus of people in Washington D.C. who do not believe enforcement first will work, but considering that the federal government has never enforced our laws, it is impossible to know what effect real enforcement will have on stemming the illegal immigration tide.  

The only thing Congress could do to make the problem worse is offer another incentive for people to leave their home countries and come to the United States.  Call it a comprehensive plan, call it a temporary worker program or a pathway to citizenship, call it amnesty — the results will still be the same.  You cannot address our failures in illegal immigration policy by repeating the failed policies of the past.  Amnesty hasn’t worked.  Neither has ignoring the problem.  Why not try the one thing we haven’t done yet?  By enforcing our laws, securing our borders and holding employers accountable, we can avoid repeating our mistakes and live up to our country’s promise of being a nation governed by the rule of law.

Written By

Congressman Brian Bilbray (R-Carlsbad) is the Chairman of the Immigration Reform Caucus and represents the 50th District of California, a region that neighbors the busiest border in the world.

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