America is a land of opportunity and a country that has always been comprised of immigrants searching for the promise of the American Dream. But just as we are a nation of immigrants, America is also a nation of laws and those laws must be obeyed and enforced in order to maintain our social compact with one another as citizens of these United States. Therefore it must be a top priority for our nation to secure our borders and stop the flood of illegal immigration.
Like many of you, I believe that maintaining secure borders is a critical part of having a secure nation. During my tenure in Congress, I have consistently supported common sense immigration policies that strengthen border security and strictly enforce the laws of our country. For example, I supported H.R. 4437, one of the toughest immigration bills ever passed by the House. I intend to add my voice to strong immigration bills that guarantee strict, enforced immigration policy reform. But, those measures must not reward those who broke our nation's laws by proving them with amnesty.
On September 21, 2006, I voted for three bills that secured our borders and strengthened our homeland security. These bills were the Community Protection Act of 2006 (H.R. 6094), the Immigration Law Enforcement Act of 2006 (H.R. 6095), and the Border Tunnel Prevention Act of 2006 (H.R. 4830). The intent of these bills was to end the policy of "catch and release," which has resulted in tens of thousands of illegal immigrants being released back into our communities rather than be deported. Additionally, the bills were designed to strengthen the laws against tunneling underneath the border and to close loopholes that hindered the Homeland Security Department's ability to enforce existing immigration laws.
Support for Border Agents
Our nation has many brave men and women who are working tirelessly to protect our borders. Their fight against illegal immigration is complex and ever-changing. To provide better enforcement, our border agents need access to innovative equipment and technology. They also need special instruction and training to do the important job of keeping our borders secure. For these reasons, I have supported legislation to that better equips, trains, and funds our border agent programs.
I also support the efforts of the hardworking individuals who put their lives on the line to protect our nation's borders. For this reason, I am an original cosponsor of H.R. 563, the Congressional Pardon for Border Patrol Agents Ramos and Compean Act. As you may know, two border patrol agents, Jose Alonso Compean and Ignacio Ramos were convicted of shooting an illegal immigrant who they believed was brandishing a weapon and who had refused to obey their orders to halt. These agents were subsequently sentenced to prison. Agent Compean received 12 years while agent Ramos received 11.
The illegal immigrant later admitted that he was transporting large quantities of marijuana and had entered the United States illegally from Mexico. While certain police procedural rules may have been violated in this incident, I believe the sentence that was handed down is excessive and unwarranted. H.R. 563 is a bill that would free Agents Compean and Ramos from prison. Representative Duncan Hunter of California introduced the bill, and it awaits consideration in the Judiciary and Homeland Security Committees.
Protecting American Jobs for Legal Employees
I have also supported legislation that protects businesses and American workers by calling for verification systems that instantly check the legality of a worker's status. I believe that employers need to be given the best tools to check eligibility for their employees quickly, accurately, and efficiently. Verification programs are an important tool that works preventing illegal immigrants from entering jobs and taking them from those who have the legal right to work in the U.S. I also believe that tough penalties need to be enforced on employers who knowingly hire illegal workers.