America: A Land of Opportunity and Laws
By: Congressman Tom Cole
America is a land of opportunity. And we are also a country that has always been comprised of immigrants searching for the promise of the American Dream. But just as we are a nation of immigrants, America is also a nation of laws, and those laws must be obeyed and enforced in order to maintain our social compact with one another as citizens of these United States. Therefore it must be a top priority for our nation to secure our borders and stop the flood of illegal immigration that is - in itself - de facto amnesty.
Last week the Senate debated legislation addressing the issue of illegal immigration. While the Senate appears to recognize that additional border security measures and more effective immigration law enforcement are necessary, I have grave concerns about the bill - particularly regarding the issue of potentially rewarding illegal immigrants who have consistently broken our laws. As the House begins to consider their own immigration bill, I think we must be guided by three basic principles. Is the legislation practical and enforceable? Will the legislation strengthen our borders and restore order to our immigration processes. And will the legislation reward those who follow our laws and punish those who violate them?
Securing our borders and shutting off the flood of illegal immigration must be the primary objective of any realistic immigration reform, but there are other components of this issue that must be addressed as well. For example, the issues of illegal immigration and border security are no longer just concerns for states along the borders, it is a problem shared by every state in the country. For this reason we must beef up enforcement of our immigration laws throughout the interior of our nation as well. We also need to implement tough penalties for employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants while also providing these employers with a quick and easy verification system that will allow them to guarantee that their employees are indeed legal. We should recognize that there are certain sectors of our economy that have genuine labor shortages and design a practical guest worker program that matches up legal workers with employers who are unable to secure domestic labor. And, finally, we absolutely cannot pass immigration reform legislation that rewards those who broke our laws by granting them blanket amnesty as we did in 1986.
There is no doubt that illegal immigration is a subject that Oklahomans are concerned about. I hope that the House will produce a sound bill that will secure our borders, strengthen enforcement of our laws, and deny amnesty to those who have entered our country illegally. As this topic advances in the House, I will keep you updated and informed on where I stand and what legislative steps are being taken to ensure that America's borders are safe and that those coming to our country are doing so legally.