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This Week in Washington

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Illegal immigration is one of our nation's most pressing problems. It threatens both our nation's security and economy. In my travels to the U.S.-Mexico border, I was thoroughly impressed by the work being done by our nation's Border Patrol. These brave men and women are tasked with monitoring an increasingly dangerous and porous Southern border, day and night.

While these individuals constitute our first line of defense and do the best they can to enforce United States law, they are often hampered by a lack of proper equipment and manpower, as well as the political bickering from Washington. The hard work and vigilance that is displayed by these agents on the border inspires me to do all I can to assist them in their mission, and through that we can help secure our nation, save our jobs and help preserve and protect the long tradition of the American Dream.

This week, I was proud to join my colleague from North Carolina, Congressman Heath Shuler, in introducing H.R. 2000, the Secure America through Verification and Enforcement Act of 2011, or SAVE Act. I was proud to support this important legislation last Congress, and will do all I can to see that it comes to the House floor for a vote. This bill would establish a three point plan to combat illegal immigration by securing our border, ending unlawful employment, and supporting and enhancing the enforcement of our current anti-immigration laws.

I feel that we must secure our borders immediately. Until that time, any talk of national immigration policy reform cannot take place and would amount to nothing more than empty political rhetoric. While properly securing our border is the first and most important step in stemming the tide of illegal immigrants to America, much more must be done. If we are going to stop the flow of illegal immigrants into this country, we must remove the incentives that help lure them over the border. We must give those who protect our borders, as well as employers, the tools they need to deter and combat illegal immigration.

One of the biggest incentives to those who illegally enter our country is the promise of jobs. Many who cross our borders illegally also present fraudulent documentation to prospective employers, attempting to jump ahead in a line of folks legally seeking employment and livelihood. That being said, I do not expect our small business owners to be experts on immigration documentation, or become forgery experts. These businesses must be provided with an easy and efficient way to tell if a prospective employee is in this country legally, and if their documentation is authentic. We can deter our domestic employers from hiring cheap illegal labor by punishing those companies who knowingly do so.

The SAVE Act would help secure our borders by hiring 5,000 additional Border Patrol agents, adding support for our existing force and also working to recruit former members of the Armed Services to join the program. This legislation would also create pilot programs to increase aerial surveillance, satellite, and equipment sharing between the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense, helping to streamline our response while ultimately saving our taxpayers money in the long run.

In addition to securing the border through enhanced security measures and added manpower, the bill also helps respond to the employment problems that face our American workers and business owners. This will expand and make mandatory a program known as E-Verify for all employers. E-Verify alleviates the burden on small business owners to be well versed in illegal worker documentation and forgery, providing employers with an inexpensive, quick, and accurate way to verify employment authorization. The E-Verify system has been used with great success on a voluntary basis and utilizes the same information as a standard I-9 form.

Finally, the SAVE Act seeks to further combat illegal immigration by supporting and enhancing the enforcement of our current immigration laws. The investigative abilities of our Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents are crucial in this fight, and this legislation will add additional ICE agents to our response. We must also help local law enforcement agencies keep our communities safe by creating additional grant programs tailored to assist our efforts, and this bill will do just that.

I am confident that E-Verify is the right tool for our domestic businesses, helping to give our employers the system they need to do what is right and lawful. This bill presents a common sense, three part approach to ending one of the most serious problems facing our great nation. America was built on the idea of opportunity, and is home to the very freedom and liberty that continues to inspire and attract people throughout the entire world. We can preserve and protect that freedom by ensuring the security of our borders, the enforcement of our laws and giving the men and women tasked with protecting our nation, and providing opportunity, the tools they need to do so. There is a legal and lawful way to become a US citizen, and I will continue to fight to make sure that those who follow the rules to be US citizens don't have to suffer due to those who break our laws.


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