While the United States is a nation of immigrants we must also remember that we are a nation of laws. Many immigrants come to America seeking a better way of life for themselves, their family, and their children but if they want to live here, they must respect our laws and that must start before they arrive.
It is estimated that there are over 10 million illegal immigrants living and working in the United States, with more arriving each day. Illegal immigration not only makes a mockery of our judicial system and laws, but it costs taxpayers billions of dollars each year, strains our healthcare and education systems, takes jobs away from law abiding citizens, and in some cases poses a threat to our national security.
We must strengthen the fight against illegal immigration at our borders. We must move quickly to secure our southern border by increasing border patrols, streamlining the process of deporting illegal immigrants, and imposing tougher penalties on those who smuggle people across our border. We must give border state Governors the tools they need to enforce our immigration laws and prevent illegal immigrants from crossing into our country.
While securing our borders will help reduce the flow of illegal immigration, this fight cannot end there. Nearly half of those who are currently in the United States entered through legal channels, but did not leave when their visas expired. If we are to seriously address this issue, we must demand that our immigration laws are enforced throughout the country. We must also work with our local law enforcement officers to ensure they have the tools necessary to address the illegal immigration problem at a local level. That is why I was proud to co-sponsor HR 4437, a strong immigration enforcement bill. This legislation would have created an employment verification system which would have required anyone seeking work to have their immigration status verified before they could be employed and would have imposed greater penalties on those who hire illegal aliens. It would also have cracked down on alien gang members, allowed us to deport violent criminals much more quickly, and allowed state and local law enforcement officials to help enforce our immigration laws.
We must also end the Visa Lottery. Each year approximately 50,000 foreign nationals get green cards to become permanent legal residents through a random selection process. In 2002, Egyptian national Hesham Mohamed Ali Hedayet killed two and wounded three people in a shooting spree at L.A. International Airport. Because Hedayet's wife was admitted as a visa lottery winner, he was allowed to apply for residency despite his own admission to the INS that the Egyptian government had accused him of being a member of a known terrorist organization. That is why I introduced HR 1430, the Security and Fairness Enhancement (SAFE) for America Act, which will end the Visa Lottery. We must have better control over who is entering our country if we are to safeguard against terrorist threats.