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Untangling The Mess Of Immigration Reform

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Untangling The Mess Of Immigration Reform

How Congress can start to fix the problem

By Congresswoman Virginia Foxx

When the Senate introduced its illegal immigration bill last month my constituents responded. Hundreds of concerned citizens in the Fifth District contacted my office to voice their concerns about the route the Senate was pursuing on illegal immigration reform.

My office received a deluge of letters and phone calls voicing opposition to the legislation. Most voiced disappointment in efforts to give amnesty to illegal immigrants who broke the United States' laws when they slipped across our borders. I wholeheartedly agree.

Such feedback from my constituents is always welcome and the many comments my office received in the past month have helped me focus my thinking on this critical issue. As we contemplate fixing the illegal immigration problem there are two major areas where we should target our energy.

First, we must acknowledge that enforcement is the foundation of any successful policy. Once we have committed to a sound policy of enforcement, Congress needs to face up to a second reality: the current immigration system is a broken hodge-podge of programs and visas that does not work.

Does border enforcement work? The answer is an unqualified yes. Take for instance a 14-mile stretch of fence built along the border near San Diego in 1993. Since the fence's construction, Border Patrol agents in the area reported a 95 percent drop in illegal border crossings—from 100,000 each year before the fence to the current level of 5,000 a year.

Sustained border protection can stem the flow of illegal immigrants. But piecemeal projects will not work. Until we commit to guarding our borders against illegal entry, in both the north and the south, we will be dealing with massive illegal immigration and a tremendous ongoing security threat.

The tie between keeping our borders secure and fighting against terrorist threats is clear. In the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the 9/11 Commission found that our border system did not contribute to a defense against the 9/11 attacks due to "a lack of well-developed counterterrorism measures as a part of border security and an immigration system not able to deliver on its basic commitments, much less support counterterrorism."

Discussing border enforcement raises another important aspect of the enforcement picture. When we fail to enforce our nation's existing laws, whether they are immigration statutes or regulations to protect the environment, we endanger that which the laws are meant to protect.

In the case of immigration laws, the goal is to protect the American people. When we neglect or even ignore the law we breed contempt for the stabilizing role that laws play in our national life. A country of people who hold the law in contempt would be a dangerous land subject to the whims of capricious leaders or misguided masses. The specter of this sort of foundational failure is why efforts to grant amnesty to those who have broken the law smack of irresponsibility. By giving amnesty to illegal immigrants we are communicating a serious lack of respect for the rule of law and encouraging more people to flaunt America's laws.

As the 9/11 Commission found, our immigration system cannot "deliver on its basic commitments." It is broken. Fixing it would protect our nation from terrorist threats and ensure the orderly immigration of those who play by the rules and who are ready to make valuable contributions to our country.

I support reform efforts that respect our current laws while seeking to untangle the mess of complicated visas and temporary worker programs. But reckless promises of amnesty and "solutions" that ignore the need for better border security are not progress—they will only make our immigration problem worse.


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