Principles Guide Fight for Stronger Border Security, Tougher Enforcement
Last week, House Republicans announced a set of five principles to help guide our efforts to enact legislation that secures our borders and puts a premium on strict enforcement of our immigration laws. Our goal is to send a bill to President Bush that reflects these principles and rejects calls for loose border security and special favors for lawbreakers.
Our principles are reflected in the House-passed bill, H.R. 4437, and stand in stark contrast to the Democrat bill supported by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA).
First of all, Republicans strongly support initiatives to secure our borders and provide additional resources to federal and state authorities to strengthen border patrol efforts.
News reports last week told of a group of twenty illegal immigrants who were in a van driving recklessly down the wrong side of I-470 in Belmont County. Local police stopped the van but, after contacting Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE), were instructed to let them go. Similar things have happened here in the 8th district, notably in Butler County, where illegal immigrants have been picked up and detained by local law enforcement, only to be set free.
While I believe border security is first and foremost a responsibility of the federal government, it is clear that any serious reform effort must empower local law enforcement to detain those who violate our illegal immigration laws.
The Reid-Kennedy bill, however, would only allow local law enforcement to arrest illegal immigrants for criminal violations of immigration law -- not civil violations. Remember, the September 11th hijackers had only committed civil immigration violations. Under the Reid-Kennedy bill, local police would have no power to arrest possible terrorists who commit similar offenses.
Second, Republicans strongly support strengthening enforcement and stiffening penalties for illegal immigrants who break our immigration laws.
The Reid-Kennedy bill actually rewards illegal immigrants by allowing them to enroll in college and receive in-state tuition. This means an illegal immigrant could end up paying in-state rates at Miami University or the University of Cincinnati, while an American citizen living nearby in Indiana, Kentucky, or Illinois would still have to pay full price.
Third, Republicans support enforcing the law on employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants and holding them accountable.
Rather than proposing a responsible employment verification system, the Reid-Kennedy bill actually rewards lawbreakers by making them eligible for higher wages than American citizens. It extends Davis-Bacon "prevailing wage" rates to all private work performed by guest workers, whether or not their work is covered by Davis-Bacon.
Fourth, Republicans oppose efforts to reward the behavior of illegal immigrants who have made the choice to break our laws.
What about the Reid-Kennedy bill? It guarantees illegal immigrants Social Security benefits for time they worked in the U.S. illegally.
And lastly, Republicans believe the success of our country depends on newcomers obeying the law, assimilating into American society by learning English, and embracing our common identity as Americans.
The Reid-Kennedy bill shuns these notions and affirms immigrants' right to demand the federal government not only communicate with them in any language they choose, but to translate government documents free of charge.
Congressional Committees will be holding a series of hearings in the coming months examining these and other troubling issues raised by the Reid-Kennedy bill. These hearings will look at everything from views on English as the official language, to border vulnerabilities, to the impact of current and potential changes to immigration laws on employers. The differences between Republican principles and the Reid-Kennedy bill are clear, and these hearings will help us as we get to work on crafting strong border security legislation.
The American people expect us to secure our borders and make sure we effectively enforce of our immigration laws, and that's exactly what Republicans are pushing for.