Op-Ed: Overdue Immigration Reform
The United States of America is a nation of immigrants. Legal immigration has blessed our nation with talent, diversity, and a commitment to freedom. However, we are also a nation of laws and illegal immigration mocks these laws and our entire system of justice.
Illegal immigration costs our taxpayers billions of dollars every year and penalizes those legal immigrants and citizens who play by the rules. Studies show that there are as many as twelve million illegal aliens currently living in the United States. Recent estimates indicate that several hundred thousand illegal immigrants have arrived in the United States each year since 2000. Clearly, this situation has reached crisis proportions and cannot be allowed to continue.
Recently, I was pleased to join 85 other Members of the House of Representatives in supporting bipartisan immigration reform legislation, known as the "Secure America with Verification and Enforcement Act", or SAVE Act. This important legislation, which was introduced by Congressman Heath Shuler, Democrat of North Carolina, cracks down on illegal immigration by focusing on employment enforcement, interior enforcement and increased border security.
The SAVE Act seeks to limit illegal immigration by requiring employers to verify their workers are in the U.S. legally. This important legislation ensures enhanced cooperation between the Department of Homeland Security, the Social Security Administration, and the Department of the Treasury to allow these agencies to identify individuals falsely using someone else's social security number.
The SAVE Act improves interior enforcement of our immigration laws by increasing the investigative abilities of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents and training additional state and local law enforcement personnel. Additionally, this legislation expedites the removal of illegal aliens by expanding detention capacity and increasing the number of immigration judges.
Finally, the SAVE Act increases border security by providing an 8,000-agent increase for the U.S. Border Patrol and creates a pilot program to increase aerial surveillance, satellite, and equipment sharing between the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Defense (DoD) to save taxpayer dollars.
The fight against illegal immigration starts at our nation's borders. But it should not end there, and unfortunately it often does. Nearly half of those who are illegally in the U.S. entered legally and then violated the terms of their visas by simply not leaving. Strengthening the Border Patrol alone is not enough to stop illegal immigration. Weak enforcement in the interior of our country and confusing provisions in immigration law have allowed illegal aliens to stay in the country for years without deportation. I am pleased that the SAVE Act addresses these important and necessary aspects of immigration reform and I call on the Democratic Leadership to bring this critical and bipartisan legislation to the floor for a vote.