Letter to the Editor
Currently, there are an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States. With that number continuing to increase day after day, it is imperative that Congress acts to create fundamental reforms to our current immigration policy.
Like most Kentuckians, I am opposed to granting amnesty to persons who have entered our nation illegally. Amnesty not only forces the costs of illegal immigration on the American people, but also punishes those who play by the rules and achieve U.S. residency legally. Furthermore, the threat of terrorists coming into our country has made it essential that we fully protect our borders. The 1986 immigration law that brought quick amnesty followed by broken promises about border enforcement is widely agreed to have failed as an effective immigration policy. It would be unwise to make that same mistake again.
In spite of this failed policy, the Senate is currently considering legislation that would provide immediate amnesty for illegal immigrants without guaranteeing any real border security. The bill's supporters unreasonably assume that the federal government could quickly conduct background checks, verify documents, and issue visas for millions of undocumented immigrants. I also question whether future Congresses and Administrations will commit to fund and implement the border security upgrades that are an essential part of any immigration reform.
As we look for a better solution, it is important to distinguish between illegal immigrants and those who obey the law in coming to our country. Legal immigrants provide valuable work across the nationincluding the 34 counties I representand contribute greatly to our society. Because immigrant labor is such a tremendous cog in our economic engine, Congress should reform our visa programs to allow businesses and farms to hire foreign workers for jobs that do not appeal to Americans. However, by rewarding those who have come here illegally, the Senate bill would undermine legal immigration and undercut the value of an effective guest worker program.
As the land of the free, America has a longstanding tradition of openness to immigrants who yearn to share our values and culture. Yet the American people have grown tired of a federal government that is unwilling to take seriously our commitment to enforcing the law and ensuring the integrity of our immigration system. Instead of repeating the mistakes of the past, Congress should strengthen our immigration policy by implementing real border security, providing legal avenues for employers to hire temporary foreign workers, and assimilating immigrants who have come to America legally to share in the American dream.
U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield