America is a land of immigrants. My grandparents were immigrants from Finland who came to the United States to create a better life for themselves and their family. My family’s story is one that is shared by millions of Americans whose ancestors came to our shores searching for economic opportunity and a better life.
While we are a nation of immigrants, we are also a nation of laws that must be obeyed and enforced. For Congress to grant amnesty to the estimated 12 million to 15 million people who came here illegally would be a slap in the face to those who chose to play by the rules and comply with our laws.
As a member of the Immigration Reform Caucus, I am opposed to the immigration proposal being considered by the U.S. Senate. Instead of rewarding illegal behavior, our focus now should be to halt the influx of illegal immigration, secure the borders, enforce our laws and create a tamper-proof identity card for non-citizens.
With 850,000 immigrants crossing our borders illegally every year, it is difficult to know how many pose a threat to our country. We do know that many of them join dangerous gangs, such as the notorious MS-13 gang, which is responsible for violence across our country. And authorities tell us that some of these illegal pose an even greater threat.
According to U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela Charles Shapiro, almost every extremist terror group is now represented in Latin America. Pentagon officials have confirmed human smuggling rings in Latin America are attempting to sneak al-Qaida operatives into the U.S. FBI Director Robert Mueller told a congressional panel that illegal aliens from countries with ties to al-Qaida have crossed into the U.S. from Mexico using false identities.
Drug traffickers and other criminals are also a significant border threat. More than 42,000 illegal aliens caught at the border during a five month period in 2006 were convicted criminals or persons wanted for crimes.
Any immigration reform should begin with securing the border to keep terrorists, illegal gang members, and those who traffic in drugs and human beings out of the United States. This is a matter of national security, which must always be the top priority of the federal government.
Last fall, Congress passed and the president signed the Secure Our Fence Act to strengthen U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Congress should fully fund the bill to control our borders by constructing 700 miles of fencing along the Southwestern border with Mexico, building a “virtual fence” of cameras, sensors, unmanned aerial vehicles, and other surveillance technology elsewhere along the border, and hiring 18,000 new Border Patrol officers. We should also put an end to the “catch and release” policies that quickly turn detained illegal immigrants free.
We depend on the contributions of legal immigrants to help grow our economy and help our nation remain globally competitive. Florida’s unemployment rate is 3.4%. Some of the Florida’s largest industries — tourism, agriculture and construction — depend heavily on immigrant workers to perform jobs that many others take for granted or are not willing to do themselves. However, we must make sure that all of America’s workers are here legally.
There must be a clear and full-proof way of verifying the identity and status of our nation’s workers. Although businesses that intentionally violate our laws must be held accountable, many small employers do not have the resources to identify fake documentation. That’s why I support a tamper-proof Social Security card or employment verification card for those who are not citizens and instant verification system for employers to check the legal status of workers.
A study by the Heritage Foundation found that low-skill immigrants receive far more in government-financed benefits than they pay in taxes. According to their calculations, illegals who would get amnesty under the Senate bill would cost taxpayers $2.3 to $2.5 trillion over the next few decades.
The Immigration Reform Caucus has played an instrumental role in keeping the illegal immigration issue at the forefront of national attention and it will play an important role as Congress continues to debate this critical issue. I am pleased to work with my colleagues in the House to oppose the Senate bill and promote responsible solutions to the problem of illegal immigration.
Illegal immigration undermines the rule of law. It creates an underground economy, places financial burdens on our communities, and endangers our national security. Congress should reject amnesty and heed the American people’s call for securing our borders first.