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The State - Op-Ed - Amnesty Bill Unfair to Americans and Immigrants

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Amnesty bill unfair to Americans and immigrants

The State - Last week the Senate passed an amnesty bill that, if enacted, will make America's immigration problems worse.

With the security of the United States on the line, this issue has never been more urgent. In fact, estimates are that 40 percent of illegal immigrants in the United States today have entered the country since 9/11, and thousands more are crossing our border every day.

Ultimately, I was part of a majority of Republican senators that voted against a deeply flawed Senate bill. It creates numerous incentives for the very behavior it claims to discourage. And, most disappointing to me, it does not adequately secure our borders.

I believe we should prove to the American people that we can stop the flow of illegal immigrants before we rush headlong into legalizing the estimated 12 million already here. Sadly, the supporters of the Senate bill defeated an amendment that would have done just that: require the federal government to stop illegal immigration before it increased legal immigration.

The final result: amnesty, pure and simple. Just last week former Attorney General Ed Meese went so far as to say this bill and the amnesty law of 1986 are almost identical. The 1986 amnesty also promised border security... but never delivered.

In fact, this bill may actually be worse than the 1986 amnesty. The 2006 amnesty rewards those who have broken the law the longest! Those who have been in this country illegally for five or more years - an estimated 60 percent of the illegal population - would be granted amnesty immediately, placing them in line ahead of those who have waited patiently for anywhere from five to 12 years to be legally allowed to enter our country.

Proponents of this so-called compromise tout that illegal immigrants would have to pay a $2,000 fine and back taxes, but the truth of the matter is that they would not be made to pay the fine until eight years later, after being approved for their green card (permanent worker status). Fourteen percent - about 1.6 million people - would owe no fine at all because they are under 18. And after filing past-due tax returns, many will be eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit, meaning the U.S. government would possibly owe them money.

Some have argued that this bill will give justice to illegal immigrants. But what about justice for Americans? Is it justice to further bankrupt Social Security by rewarding illegal immigrants with Social Security benefits after they have engaged in identity theft? If this bill is enacted into law, an estimated 12 million illegal workers would be credited for contributions to Social Security during the time they worked illegally with a stolen Social Security number.

I voted for an amendment that would have closed this loophole. Sadly, this commonsense measure was not approved in the Senate. It failed by just one vote.

The list of absurdities in this bill goes on and on. Did you know the Senate bill mandates that children of illegal immigrants are entitled to in-state tuition at any state college or university in the country, a benefit that is not afforded to the children of American citizens?

Supporters of the Senate bill have repeatedly said we should find middle ground, yet they frame the debate by giving Americans two false choices. They claim that you must either grant illegal immigrants amnesty or break up families and send all illegal immigrants home. Either you support making illegal immigrants citizens, or you want them to be felons. These are not the right choices for Americans or immigrants, and they are not the only choices.

The first step of immigration reform must be to secure our borders. Second, we must end the incentives to break our laws. Finally, we can find ways to give legal worker status to deserving immigrants, but the sacred trust of citizenship and voting rights must be reserved for those who obey our laws and embrace our values.

This also means providing a workable, market-based system for businesses seeking legal temporary labor. We must not hesitate to hold businesses accountable with stiff fines and penalties for failing to verify the legal status of their employees, but we must provide them with the means to do so, such as a tamper-proof ID card.

The Senate amnesty bill would devalue American citizenship and create resentment toward immigrants, an outcome that is unfair to both Americans and immigrants.

I believe we can secure our borders and continue to welcome immigrants, but we must do so without rewarding illegal behavior with citizenship and voting rights.

http://demint.senate.gov/index.cfm?FuseAction=PressReleases.Detail&PressRelease_id=381&Month=6&Year=2006

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