One of the most challenging issues in our country today is immigration. Congressman Blumenauer's office has received hundreds of calls, letters and emails expressing a variety of opinions. Some people want to seal our borders completely with massive walls and fences and lock up anyone who is in this country illegally. Others say that Congress should implement an amnesty program for undocumented aliens and create a guest worker program that provides a way for illegal workers to move easily back and forth across the border. Very real problems and concerns have emerged from this heated debate and deserve a thoughtful response.
There are currently millions of immigrants who legally reside in the United States and play by the rules to become legal citizens. We do not want to put those people who abide by our laws at a disadvantage or send signals that people can disregard our immigration laws. However, many of the 11 to 12 million illegal immigrants currently in the US have been here for years. Some of these families have both legal and undocumented members, creating complex situations that defy simple solutions.
People who claim that illegal immigrants place a burden on government services and people who claim that illegal and legal immigrants pay more in taxes than benefits received are both correct. The real problem is that this burden is felt at the state and local level, in programs such as healthcare, social services, and education while illegal workers' contributions go to the federal level. One of the ways we can address the problems caused by illegal immigration is to correct this imbalance.
It is neither fair nor practical to grant amnesty or automatic citizenship to those who are here illegally. The opposition to amnesty, while emotional on many levels, is understandable and appropriate. Yet almost everyone involved in this debate acknowledges that it is also not practical to imprison or deport 11 to 12 million people. Congress is currently considering a path to citizenship for workers with a long established work history. Ultimately, legislation that offers some people the opportunity to earn citizenship ought to be part of the overall solution.
It is clear that Congress must strengthen security at our borders with Mexico and Canada. However, walling off our borders is extraordinarily expensive and past experience has indicated that it is not effective. The debate over how best to secure our borders also does nothing to solve our larger issues of national security; after all, the 9/11 hijackers didn't come across our borders; they all entered here legally. There is no evidence that the people who cross the border to be nannies, gardeners, maids, and construction laborers are here to bring down America; they are here to work for their families.
Yes, we need stronger enforcement and better ways to verify workers' legal status, but we need to balance these approaches with protecting Americans' civil liberties. One idea is mandating a national identification card that is tamper proof and issued to every American citizen and legal immigrant, but for many people, including myself, this approach raises a number of concerns. Before we turn to new and expensive policies that would have far-reaching and perhaps unintended consequences, we should be looking at common-sense approaches -- such as better enforcement of existing laws and better means of identifying and monitoring those who are here - that can provide us with the information needed to craft solutions that pinpoint and correct specific problems.
The current debate about immigration touches on the fundamentals of American traditions and history. We are a nation of immigrants but we want people to play by the rules; we want laws to mean something and don't want those haven't contributed to place a burden our state and local governments. Congress needs to address the many facets of the immigration debate directly and produce effective solutions
Deployment of the National Guard on our Borders
Everyone agrees that first, we must do a better job of stopping people from entering the country illegally and secure our borders. Congressman Blumenauer supports common sense and cost effective solutions for better border security. However, Blumenauer has strong objections to the use of our over-burdened National Guard for border duty. It is an unrealistic for the long term and unfair to members of the National Guard and their families. They are already carrying a terrible burden with their duties in Iraq and Afghanistan and with forest fire season approaching, we need them in Oregon.
Working with local officials and businesses on Immigration issues
The Portland metropolitan area is home to a growing number of legal immigrants who have come to the Pacific Northwest for business, to work and to achieve their dreams. Congressman Blumenauer works in cooperation with local INS officials to improve services and communication within the community, as well as halt the activities of fraudulent immigration practitioners in Oregon. The Congressman meets regularly with representatives of various immigrant communities and organizations, and his staff works with individuals and businesses every day that need help dealing with the INS or consulates abroad.