Senator Obama shares the growing public concern about illegal immigration in the United States. The challenge facing President Bush and Congress is how to effectively stop the flow of illegal immigrants across our borders, better manage immigration flows going forward, and deal with illegal aliens who are already living and working in this country.
The Department of Homeland Security recognizes that identifying and deporting the 11 million undocumented workers currently in this country would be both logistically impossible and highly disruptive to the American economy. Instead of mass deportations, Senator Obama believes that Congress must pass comprehensive, compassionate reform that reaffirms the rule of law and brings the undocumented population out of hiding.
The Senate Immigration Bill
Senator Obama played a key role in the crafting of the immigration reform bill that the Senate passed before the 109th Congress adjourned. The bill, which President Bush supports, would provide more funds and technology for border security and prevent employers from skirting our laws by hiring illegal immigrants. The bill also would provide immigrants who are now contributing, responsible members of society an opportunity to remain in the country and earn citizenship. But not all illegal immigrants would be guaranteed the right to remain in the U.S. under this proposal: they would first have to pay a substantial fine and back taxes, learn English, satisfy a work requirement, and pass a criminal background check.
Senator Obama offered three amendments that were included in the Senate bill. The first amendment would strengthen the requirement that a job be offered at a prevailing wage to American workers before it is offered to a guestworker. The second amendment would make it simple, but mandatory, for employers to verify that their employees are legally eligible to work in the United States. And the third amendment would authorize $3 million a year for the FBI to improve the speed and accuracy of the background checks required for immigrants seeking to become citizens.
The new Congress must turn its attention to achieving comprehensive immigration reform. Senator Obama appreciates the serious ramifications of this issue - for American workers, Illinois communities, and immigrant families. He will continue to work with President Bush, his colleagues in Congress, and the citizens of Illinois to improve the effectiveness of our immigration laws and strengthen border security.