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Hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee on "Immigration Reform"

Location: Washington, DC

Hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee on "Immigration Reform"


Statement by Sen. Orrin G. Hatch before the Senate Judiciary Committee
"Immigration Reform"

Mr. Chairman, I commend you and Senator Leahy for tackling this enormous task. This legislation is vitally important. We all know how sensitive the issue of immigration is.

I know that many of my constituents in Utah are concerned about immigration policy and that they are especially concerned about enforcement of our immigration and border security laws - especially in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks which were perpetrated by group of individuals who so easily entered America.

Americans across our country hold very strong and sometimes diverse opinions about immigration.

I believe there are two fundamental currents that we must bear in mind as we approach this debate. First, we are a nation of immigrants. The Melting Pot culture is an essential part of our American heritage and has always been instrumental to our success as a society.

Second, we are also a nation built upon respect for the rule of law. The rule of law is a bedrock of our democracy, and unfortunately the overwhelming influx of illegal aliens conflicts with this important principle. We cannot promote full respect for our laws if there are million of individuals among us who are here illegally. We must go beyond empty threats of deportation and a policy of perpetual amnesty for those who simply break the law.

It may be the case that we need harsher penalties and stronger enforcement mechanisms—indeed, I have an amendment that reinforces that point -- but we must renew our efforts to enforce the laws that are on the books today and enforce any changes in the law we enact through this process.

We simply must control our borders although this is a complex problem. And the only way we can close the border is through broader reform measures.

I suspect that most Illegal immigrants come to this country for the same reasons our forefathers came to America. Opportunity. The fact is that our borders will be probed for weaknesses so long as we remain a land of opportunity. As problems go, this is a good type of problem. It is better to live in a country where we have to consider building a fence to keep illegal entrants out, rather than a country where you would have to build a wall to keep people in.

I commend my colleagues in the house for their commitment to an enforcement bill, but we all know it will end up costing a lot of money with incomplete results because we have to address the issue of what to do about the 11 million illegal immigrants that are here today and it is essential that we do so in a way that is fair not only to those who are here illegally but also to those individuals from around the world who are following the rules in trying to visit, study in, or live permanently in our country.

We have serious problems to address and I look forward to working with my colleagues in this Committee and on the floor and in the House to fashion a better set of immigration laws and enforcement practices.

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