If you were to take a drive along Interstate 8 in Arizona, many miles north of the border, you would very likely come upon signs, placed by the U.S. government, warning travelers of possible danger including drug and human smuggling, armed criminals, and other suspicious activities. The signs, which have been placed by the Federal Bureau of Land Management throughout parts of Arizona, are evidence of the very serious and growing problem of illegal immigration. Unfortunately, the federal government has done little more to combat this problem than place these warning signs.
As a result of this escalating problem, the Arizona legislature passed, and the Governor signed into law, legislation designed to identify, prosecute and deport illegal immigrants. This new law, which is scheduled to take effect in just a few days, will ensure that the immigration policies, which some in Washington are refusing to implement, are enforced. The state of Arizona has the right to protect their citizens when the federal government fails to enforce its own laws.
The problem of illegal immigration has reached crisis proportions, not just in Arizona, but throughout our entire country. Recent estimates indicate that there are over thirteen million illegal immigrants currently living in the United States. This population grows by as many as 500,000 a year. Illegal immigration costs our taxpayers billions of dollars every year and places a significant burden on our schools, health care facilities and law enforcement to name just a few.
If we cannot control who enters our country, then we cannot control what enters our country, whether it be narcotics, counterfeit good, or the tools and weapons of terrorists and organized criminals. Securing our borders is a national security issue and should be just one step in the effort to eliminate illegal immigration. We must look at many other solutions, both at the border and throughout the entire country.
For years, weak enforcement and confusing provisions in immigration law have allowed illegal immigrants to stay in the country. Deportation cases often last for years -- even decades in some instances. The Department of Homeland Security needs to be able to act in a rapid and firm manner to find and deport illegal immigrants.
In recent years studies have shown that between forty and fifty percent of the illegal aliens in the U.S. came on legal temporary visas but never returned home when they expired. Any immigration reform efforts must ensure that we fight against illegal immigration in all its forms, by including stiff and meaningful penalties against individuals who illegally overstay the terms of their temporary visas.
America is a land of great opportunity and promise. Our nation was founded by those who sought a better life and our strength and diversity comes from our immigrant heritage. However, our nation was also founded upon a set of principles, among them the rule of law and fairness. I support a system of legal immigration for those who choose to respect our laws before they even arrive to continue to come to our nation and help strengthen it. However, we must reform our immigration system to ensure that we can control our borders, know who is in our country, and not reward those who choose to break our laws before they ever arrive. As your Congressman I remain committed to the principles of fairness and the rule of law and will continue working for serious immigration reform.