Issue Position: Immigration Reform
We need to control illegal entry into the United States, both by better security at our borders and by internal enforcement directed at employers. I have voted to hire more Border Patrol agents and provide increased funding for the equipment to do their job. I've also voted to build a security fence along the 700 miles of our border that is most frequently crossed illegally.
Enforcement of laws against hiring workers here illegally is almost comically lax. The Census Bureau estimates that there are now eight million immigrants employed illegally in the United States. In 2003, the federal government prosecuted four employers for hiring illegal immigrants and issued fines to three. We must provide employers reliable tools to verify the immigration status of workers, and hold accountable the employers who knowingly violate the law.
We must recognize, however, that many industriesconstruction, farming and hospitality, among otherswould grind to a halt if the workers here illegally left the work force abruptly. It is unrealistic to think that law enforcement can identify the 12 million immigrants here illegally and deport them. In fact, state correctional systems have not had the resources even to identify approximately 600,000 illegal immigrants incarcerated for felonies and released at the end of their sentence instead of deported.
We certainly should not repeat the mistake of the Reagan Administration and simply shout "olly olly oxen free" and declare an unconditional amnesty. Some illegal immigrants should be deported, starting with those convicted of crimes. Others who have worked hard, paid taxes, are learning English, and otherwise obeyed our laws should have some way to earn a legal immigration status. It goes against the grain for anyone to benefit from violating the law. Illegal immigrants who are allowed a legal immigration status should be required to pay fines and fees, make good on any unpaid taxes, and suffer penalties if they do not comply with all legal requirements.
Immigrants of all ethnic backgrounds have contributed to our nation's economy, our civic life and our culture, and we should value their contribution. But I have long thought the immigration system was broken, not just since immigration became a hot political issue. We should act to address the problem, even if there is no perfect solution.