Illegal immigration is a growing challenge for our nation, and securing our borders is essential in protecting our homeland and preserving our liberty. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that there are almost 11 million illegal aliens already living right here within our borders. They drain resources from communities all over the country and deny opportunities for American citizens who have made incredible sacrifices to earn their citizenship through legal means. The Federation for American Immigration Reform estimates that illegal immigrants cost North Carolina alone more than $2 billion each year!
Protecting our borders is not a partisan issue; it's an American issue. In fact, Congressman Robert Aderholt, Chairman of the U.S. House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, and I recently returned from a visit to our southern border with Mexico to see first-hand the U.S. Border Patrol at work. Illegal immigration plagues our nation, and in recent years there has been a troubling surge in cross-border violence and crime. Being at the Joint Field Command Headquarters and Border Patrol Stations enabled us to discuss the fight against illegal immigration and its challenges with our senior federal officials who are on the front lines every day protecting our borders. We were also able to see the federal resources that have been brought to bear through border checkpoints, fencing, operational tactics, and other enforcement technologies and tools.
Our current immigration system cannot handle the ever-increasing demands placed upon it, and we must do more to address the problems we now confront. I reject the notion of granting amnesty or any type of legal status which pardons people who are in violation of our laws. It simply defies common sense to reward those who are here illegally, and it particularly diminishes the hard-earned citizenship earned lawfully by legal immigrants. Instead, we should focus first on enhancing our border infrastructure and manpower to better secure and control our international borders. We should also take measures to reduce illegal immigration and make improvements to current law which strengthens accountability.
We have already established E-Verify, an Internet-based system under the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which allows employers to determine whether their employees are indeed eligible for work in the U.S. I have long supported E-Verify, but we must continue to improve it so that it works better and holds employers and employees alike more accountable. Other legislative initiatives, such as the Secure America with Verification and Enforcement Act (SAVE Act), help reduce illegal immigration by increasing the tools, technology, law enforcement, manpower and infrastructure needed to ensure border security.
Lastly, we should not provide incentives for illegal immigrants to violate our laws. Many people want to come to America to take advantage of the economic opportunity here, but we should not enable - much less accept - illegal immigration. We must do all we can to reduce it and work to eradicate it. For example, while current law forbids one from receiving Social Security payments if here illegally, it does allow one's entire work history -- even work history as an illegal alien -- to be counted toward Social Security benefits if the individual later becomes legal. That is patently unfair to those who respect and work within the law, and I support legislation to correct this injustice and forbid work done illegally from counting towards future benefits.
Our history is made richer by immigrants, and our forebears who came to this country in past generations built the very foundation of industry, arts and culture that make us such a vibrant and diverse society today. Our nation continues to honor that tradition today by providing lawful pathways to legal entry and citizenship. As John Adams said over two hundred years ago, America is a government of laws and not of men. Let's not diminish those laws by affording privilege and protection to those who break them.