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Ventura County Star - Blocked Immigration Bill Chance for Progress

Op-Ed

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Ventura County Star - Blocked Immigration Bill Chance for Progress

By Elton Gallegly

Pundits are declaring immigration reform dead in the wake of the failed Senate amnesty bill.

But it doesn't have to be that way. Reform is still possible, and it would start with enforcing the immigration laws we currently have on the books.

The Senate amnesty bill died because of the outrage expressed by the American people, who at one point overwhelmed the Senate switchboard with angry calls. They don't trust that this time amnesty will come with greater enforcement because it hasn't in the past. We now have a great opportunity for real reform. Because of the debate last year in the House and this year in the Senate, the American people are fired up about illegal immigration. It's a front-burner issue, as it should be. They want, first and foremost, for our laws to be enforced.

To the naysayers who claim that we can't deport 20 million illegal immigrants, I reply that we don't have to. If we take away the jobs and other incentives that bring illegal immigrants here and allow them to stay, many of them will leave of their own volition. And, more importantly, if jobs and other benefits are not available to illegal immigrants, it will dissuade others from rushing the border to come here.

Once the American people have verified that immigration laws will be enforced, they will be more trusting of a guest-worker program. But the trust must be earned.

That's why the House's enforcement-only bill passed last year and the Senate amnesty bill failed. Enforcement has the support of the American people. Amnesty does not.

So it is time for those who claim to be serious about immigration reform to step up and prove they are serious about real reform through enforcement first. Then, once the borders have been secured, a secure system for verifying employees have a legal right to work in the United States is in place, and employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants are routinely prosecuted, the American people may be ready to accept a guest-worker program.

A good vehicle to achieve that is a bill to be introduced this month by Reps. Peter King of New York and Lamar Smith of Texas. I am an original cosponsor of the bill and three of my stand-alone bills I introduced earlier this year have been incorporated into the Secure Borders FIRST Act.

The Secure Borders FIRST Act does provide for an agricultural guest-worker program—as agriculture is the one American industry where there is a proven need for foreign labor—by reforming the H-2A visa program. Under the program, workers would have to apply from their home countries and farmers would have to pay a prevailing wage. But Secure Borders FIRST is predominantly an enforcement bill.

It would mandate the use of an electronic employment eligibility program known as the Basic Pilot Program, which comes from a provision I authored in the 1996 comprehensive immigration bill. It also would eliminate a loophole in current law that allows illegal immigrants to receive Social Security benefits from their illegal work should they later be legalized.

It establishes a firm timeline for the Department of Homeland Security to achieve operational control of the border and enhances training for Border Patrol agents. In addition, it requires mandatory detention for all illegal immigrants caught along the border and requires the expedited removal of illegal immigrants caught within 100 miles of the border and within two weeks of entry.

The three bills I authored that are included in the bill would require workers to resolve the discrepancy when they submit invalid Social Security numbers or names and Social Security numbers that do not match; require IRS to notify Homeland Security when it receives a W-2 with an Individual Tax Identification Number rather than a Social Security number; and would prohibit federal agencies from accepting the matricula consular card as valid identification. Only illegal immigrants need an ITIN to work and only illegal immigrants need a matricula consular card for identification.

Once these enforcement mechanisms are in place and illegal immigration is under control, the American people will feel comfortable about guest-worker programs.

We are a nation of immigrants, but also a nation of laws. It's time to enforce the laws.


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