Issue Position: Immigration
Our immigration system is broken. We have some 12 million immigrants in our country illegally, with more arriving each day. During the summer of 2007, the Senate once again focused its attention on comprehensive immigration reform. Unfortunately, at that time the Senate was not able to pass legislation to reform our immigration system. I supported the comprehensive immigration legislation that came before the Senate because I believed it was tough on our borders, fair to our taxpayers and practical to enforce.
Tough on Our Borders First, we must secure our borders. Border patrol personnel need to be better trained and provided the resources to succeed. We also need to improve our technological capabilities to better use unmanned aircraft as well as sophisticated land-based surveillance systems that are effective 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to deter and catch immigrants crossing into U.S. territory.
I support the construction of a combination of fences and walls along significant portions of the U.S.-Mexico border. In the past, I've supported legislation to authorize, fund and build hundreds of miles of fences or walls along our southern border where the Department of Homeland Security believes barriers of that nature would be cost-effective.
Fair to Legal Citizens Another major problem that we must address is the lack of enforcement of our nation's laws against employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants. We must make sure employers have the resources to determine whether they are hiring ineligible workers and ensure that those employers who knowingly hire ineligible immigrant workers are prosecuted. One of the best ways to deter illegal immigration is to make sure employers know that if they hire illegal workers, they will get caught and they will pay a severe price. Another excellent way to impede illegal border-crossings is to develop and distribute, as appropriate, tamper-proof IDs incorporating bio-metrics and other similar technologies.
Practical to Enforce We need a sensible, practical solution that allows these 12 million to come forward without granting them amnesty. Amnesty is not the answer. It wasn't the answer in 1986 when President Ronald Reagan and the Congress offered amnesty, and it is not the answer now. Amnesty sends the wrong message to those people who have waited patiently for years to come into the United States legally. It says to them "You are foolish for playing by the rules." Amnesty, I fear, would only encourage further illegal border-crossings.
Fair to Taxpayers In addition to significantly improving border security and work-site enforcement, we must also be realistic about addressing the 12 million illegal immigrants who are in the United States today. I can understand the views of many back in Delaware and across the country who suggest that we simply deport people who are here in an undocumented status. Scarce funds and space at many publicly-funded hospitals and schools in Delaware and other states are badly stretched to accommodate men, women and children in the country illegally. However, I don't know how realistic it would be to deport 12 million people to their native lands in a timely fashion. Such an effort may actually have the unintended consequence of driving them deeper into the shadows and make a workable solution even harder to eventually implement.
Although Congress was not able to pass legislation that would reform our immigration system, I firmly believe that we should continue to work to secure our borders and aggressively enforce our laws against employers who knowingly hire illegal workers. The faster we act, the sooner we will be able to deter future unlawful entry into our country, while ensuring that a bad situation does not grow any worse. For this reason, I have supported legislation that would reduce illegal immigration by increasing border and interior enforcement and providing employers with tools to verify work eligibility.
This legislation, the Securing America with Verification and Enforcement Act (SAVE Act), would increase border patrol agents by 8,000; employ satellite and aerial surveillance of our border; expand and mandate the use of a free and effective program (E-Verify) that allows employers to verify that the individuals they hire are legally allowed to work in the United States. Additionally, the SAVE Act expands detention capacity and increases the number of federal district court judges.
In my view, the worst thing we can do to address the immigration crisis in our country is to do nothing. I hope that in the near future, Congress and the President can take another look at comprehensive immigration reform that is tough on our borders, fair to our taxpayers, and practical to enforce. In the meantime, I will continue to work with my colleagues to secure our borders and aggressively enforce our laws against employers who knowingly hire illegal workers.