Border Security and Immigration Reform
Some of the most critical issues facing our country today are improving our homeland security, securing our borders, and reforming our broken immigration system. With an estimated 12-20 million illegal aliens currently residing within our borders, it is clear that the current system is not working.
Securing the Border
The first and most critical step in solving our border and immigration problems is securing the border. In 2006, the Secure Fence Act passed Congress with my support. This law's intent was to strengthen America's porous border with Mexico, and provide us with better control over who comes into our country. Our nation's safety is dependent upon knowing who is living in our country. Without that knowledge, we remain alarmingly open to the threat of terrorism.
The Secure Fence Act authorized 850 miles of a double-barrier fence along specific sections of the southern border, with deadlines set for priority areas. Other measures, including cameras and sensors, are also authorized, and the Secretary of Homeland Security is instructed to conduct a study on the feasibility of implementing a state-of-the-art "virtual fence" security system.
In fiscal year 2007, Congress appropriated a total of $1.5 billion for the fence. In fiscal year 2008, Congress provided an additional $1.2 billion for border fencing, infrastructure, and technology. The Department of Homeland Security has announced its goal of having roughly 670 miles of fencing along our southern border by the end of 2008.
Without question, this border fence needs to be completed as soon as possible. The fact is that people are crossing our border illegally. Unless we secure our borders, our country will remain open to terrorists who wish to do nothing more than ruin our cherished freedoms and way of life. As a member of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, you can be sure I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure that Congress provides the resources necessary to ensure the border is secured as quickly and effectively as possible.
While we must secure the border first, we must also fix our broken immigration system. We simply can't ignore the millions of illegal aliens who are here in the United States, as well as the millions of others who want to come to the United States to perform seasonal labor and return home, or those who wish to remain in the United States permanently. We need a system that addresses all of those issues.
I do not believe that those 12-20 million immigrants who have come here illegally should be given any special privileges. They should not be allowed to get on a path to citizenship ahead of the thousands of people who have been trying to come here legally through the proper channels and have been waiting in line for months, if not years.
We also need a reliable identification system so we can easily identify who is here legally, whether they are here on a permanent or temporary basis. I believe we must hold employers responsible when they hire people who come here illegally, but we need to ensure we have a reliable identification system first.
Congress will continue to grapple with this complicated problem, and you can be sure I will be studying all of the options very carefully.