Supporters of the Reid-Kennedy immigration bill call its reforms a path to citizenship for the estimated 12 million illegal aliens now in the country. I call it amnesty.
Illegal immigration is not only a serious violation of our laws and sovereignty; it is a huge sign of disrespect to individuals and families patiently waiting in line, for years in some cases, to enter our country legally. Granting amnesty to illegal aliens does nothing to stop the tide of illegal immigration. Instead, history has shown that it encourages it.
Unfortunately, the Senate bill fails to grasp this. While the bill legalizes 12 million illegal aliens, its enforcement provisions are severely lacking. I also oppose the Senate bill because of its cost. No supporter of smaller, leaner government can support a proposal whose total cost could exceed $2.6 trillion dollars.
Twenty one years ago, Congress passed legislation designed to fix our immigration problems once and for all. Among that law’s numerous reforms was a provision to legalize the then 4 million illegal aliens residing in the United States. Unfortunately, like most comprehensive reform bills designed to serve as a silver bullet to a complex problem, the 1986 law failed to reach its goals and gave rise to the immigration problem we face today. Now we have a choice. Do we repeat history or do tackle this challenge with new ideas and firm determination?
America is a nation of immigrants. Our nation was built on the hard work and innovation of people who sought a better life outside of their home countries. But we are also a nation of laws. Those who enter our country illegally disrespect those laws and take advantage of our good will. Worse, their presence in the shadows places the costs of their health and welfare on the shoulders of the taxpayer, burdening our economy and increasing the cost of living for hard working American citizens.
Border security must be paramount. I strongly support tougher laws against smugglers and drug traffickers. I also support the deployment of National Guard troops to our borders and believe a physical fence is necessary to truly secure our border. Last Congress I voted to fund the construction of 700 miles of physical fencing along our borders, and I am an ardent supporter of a virtual fence to supplement our physical border made up of sensors, UAVs and other technology.
We cannot truly address illegal immigration until we know exactly who is in our country and why. That is why we must have a biometric identification card to identify all non-citizen immigrants and migrant workers. Our visa system should be modernized to reduce fraud. While businesses cannot be asked to play the role of law enforcement, Congress can encourage worker verification through a serious program of penalties and incentives that makes it in the businesses’ best interest to employ only legal workers.
As your Representative in Congress, I will continue to fight for enforcement first. Amnesty is not the answer to our immigration problems. We can and must do better. If the Senate bill comes before the House with the glaring loopholes it has now, I will send it packing with a strong no vote.
Rep. Bill Shuster, a Republican, represents the 9th District.