By Natasha Korecki
As House Republicans meet today to talk immigration reform, U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) made clear he and other Republicans aren't satisfied with a recent mantra that our nation's southern border is the most secure it's been in 40 years.
"There's a great deal of suspicion," on the strength of border security Roskam told the Sun-Times.
Roskam cited another congressman who recently flew over the Mexico-U.S. border. "He was looking at 100 people who were crossing the border illegally," Roskam said.
Yet, Roskam called the economic growth argument -- one advanced by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) -- "really compelling" and left the door open to ultimately finding room for compromise on the issue. Roskam said there's a genuine sense that the immigration system now needs an overhaul. The business community has rallied behind immigration reform, saying that immigrants who fill necessary jobs, ranging from field workers to engineers, need an easier path to staying in the United States legally.
Last month, the Senate passed historic immigration reform that bolsters border security and gives those who entered here illegally a way to become citizens.
U.S. House members, including Speaker John Boehner, have made clear that its chamber is an independent branch of Congress -- with its own ideas.
Roskam said the bill is too bulky and he's in favor of taking the massive bill apart and passing it in pieces, beginning with the border.
"My view is you break this down," Roskam told the Sun-Times on Tuesday. "I'm an advocate of taking it step by step."
"As a confidence-building measure, I think the first thing to do is to secure the border," Roskam said. "Then 80 percent of the oxygen comes out of all the anxiety in this discussion."
So it's in that backdrop that House Republicans are to attempt to hash out a way to advance an immigration reform issue that's been on the front-burner of this summer's legislative agenda.
On Monday, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) urged the House to reach across the aisle on the issue and not write a "Republican" version of the bill.
Roskam said he was confident that discussions would be "open and deliberate."