by Congressman Jeff Fortenberry
Last week the national debate on illegal immigration intensified as President Bush addressed Americans in a prime-time speech before traveling to Arizona to visit our Southern border there.
The President appropriately articulated the immediate need to secure our borders with additional border enforcement manpower and advanced technological resources. His idea of using National Guard troops to patrol the border may be a helpful temporary stopgap measure for better protecting our porous border with Mexico.
Immigration policy is multi-layered and complex. It appears, however, that the President may be linking all immigration concerns together in order to leverage support for a comprehensive "guest worker" program. This strategy will face strong resistance in the House of Representatives, which last year passed legislation that makes border security and stopping unscrupulous employers the top priorities of immigration reform.
I remain committed to the House legislation. Uncontrolled borders and illegal entry are serious threats to our national security and good immigration policy.
America has been a just and generous nation, opening her arms to persons particularly those needing asylum or facing persecutionwho wish to come here and contribute to community life. I believe this should remain the hallmark of our immigration policy.
However, it cannot continue in a chaotic and disorderly fashion.
Last month I was on the Mexican border at Laredo, Texas, to review the challenges our border patrol authorities face every day. What I saw there reaffirmed my commitment to securing America's borders.
Laredo is one of the border's toughest spots. Law enforcement there faces daily challenges of illegal entry, human smuggling, drug trafficking, and violence. Given the enormity of their responsibilities, I was impressed with our border patrol's professionalism and dedication. However, the job is simply bigger than they are. They need help, and it must come in the way of meaningful border security reform.
I believe we should proceed on the basis of four key principles. First, we need to secure the borders with increased manpower, barrier resources, and surveillance technology. Second, we need to decrease the demand for labor by enacting harsher penalties on employers who exploit the poor and vulnerable. Third, we must streamline legal immigration policies for those who are seeking our help honestly. Lastly, we should pursue foreign policy initiatives that help spur political and economic reforms to create hope and opportunity and combat poverty in other countries.