The clock is ticking in Washington with only a few weeks remaining until the end of the congressional session. During these final days, Congress has an opportunity to take up the issues that reflect the priorities of the people. Mississippians and Americans across the country want Congress to act now on preventing the largest tax hike in history from going into effect on January 1, 2011.
In a recent Gallup poll, the majority of Americans said tax relief is the most important piece of legislation needed before the end of the year. However, the Democratic leadership has not indicated when the tax issue will be addressed. Instead, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced last week their intention to bring up a controversial immigration legislation known as the DREAM Act.
Another Amnesty Attempt
The DREAM Act would put an estimated 2.1 million illegal immigrants on a road to citizenship and provide them with access to federal student loans, work-study programs, and in-state tuition rates at public universities. Eligible immigrants for the DREAM Act must have entered the U.S. before the age of 16 and have lived in the country for at least five consecutive years to qualify. Supporters of the bill claim it is a way to incorporate the children of illegal immigrants into American society, but the details of the legislation have far-reaching implications that undermine our current immigration laws.
Those who obtain legal status through the DREAM Act would be granted the same rights that legal immigrants receive. As a result, DREAM Act aliens would be allowed to seek naturalization for their family members, including the parents who brought them to the U.S. illegally in the first place. This essentially rewards illegal aliens for violating federal immigration laws.
The bill also ties the hands of federal officials, prohibiting agencies like the Department of Homeland Security from receiving important information used in applications. Under the legislation, when an application for legal status is denied, the individual must return to their "previous immigration status." Although this previous status is likely illegal, the DREAM act would irresponsibly prohibit federal agencies from using this information to investigate fraud or deport illegal immigrants. In effect, this provision gives amnesty to individuals regardless of whether they qualify under the Act.
Amnesty Weakens Efforts to Secure Borders
There is no question that the U.S. immigration policy is in need of an overhaul, but providing amnesty to millions of illegal aliens is not the answer. Amnesty simply encourages more people to break our federal immigration laws. The first step toward stopping the illegal immigration problem is to secure our borders.
I have visited the border at the Rio Grande and witnessed firsthand the challenges facing our border patrol agents. We need to continue to strengthen border security by increasing the number of patrol agents and using unmanned aerial vehicles to prevent individuals from entering our country unlawfully. Legislation like the DREAM Act would weaken our efforts to secure the border and lead to higher costs for state and local governments already bearing the fiscal burden that comes with illegal immigration.
Where are Congress' Priorities?
The decision to take up the DREAM Act during these final weeks is another example of just how out of step this Democratic Congress is with the needs of the American people. Currently, 15 million Americans are looking for jobs. In Mississippi, the unemployment rate remains close to ten percent. Over the past two years, we have seen costly policies pushed through Congress that have done little to create jobs or spur economic growth. Preventing the looming tax hikes is the best thing we can do right now to help small businesses grow. Rather than use the lame-duck session to debate an amnesty bill, Congress should focus on extending tax cuts to all Americans.