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Senate's "Grand Bargain" on Immigration a Bad Deal


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Senate's "Grand Bargain" on Immigration a Bad Deal

By Congressman Richard Baker

As the U.S. Senate takes up legislation on the issue of illegal immigration, news reports indicate that a handful of Senators claim to have reached a "grand bargain" designed to overcome legislative stalemate. From what I can discern from the reports, this bargain shows some deference to overwhelming public opinion in favor of increased border security and tougher enforcement of workplace rules, and stipulates that "only after" the administration has shown progress on these two problems would a "path to citizenship" process kick in.

If this deal sounds familiar, it should. The last time we had "comprehensive immigration reform" in 1986, the year before I entered Congress, the American people were likewise told that they would get tougher border and workplace controls in exchange for a "one-time amnesty" for the nation's illegal immigrants. Well, the illegal immigrants got their amnesty, but the tougher controls never materialized. The result of that deal is the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants currently residing within our borders. These Senate "bargain makers" must think the American people have a short memory to accept the same deal under the phrase "path to citizenship," which is just another way of saying "amnesty."

I'm not buying it. Nor will I support any "deal" that includes amnesty. If the Senators think border control and workplace enforcement are good ideas (and they are), then they should leave it at that. The continuing influx of illegal immigrants to this country is problem number one. Closing access and restricting incentive should be job number one, and only.

Last year I coauthored and supported passage of H.R. 4437, the toughest anti-terrorism and immigration control bill to date. As a founding member of the Immigration Reform Caucus, I also supported H.R. 6061, the "Secure Fence Act," a new law that will help fortify our border with Mexico and stem the tide of illegal immigration.

Sadly, the Senate and new House leadership are wedded to amnesty for illegal immigrants, the most unreasonable approach to immigration "reform." In fact, the new House leadership is trying to undo the Secure Fence Act by weakening the law and starving it of funds.

I have made a vow to my constituents that I will actively oppose any attempt to grant amnesty to illegal aliens and will support full funding of the fence along the US-Mexico border, as I have done in the past. Furthermore, I will continue to advocate for measures that will secure the border with Mexico, mandate stronger enforcement of laws that penalize employers that knowingly hire illegal aliens, and reduce incentives for illegal immigrants to enter the United States.

The point is often overlooked, but there is already a legal method for anyone to immigrate to America. It's time-consuming and requires effort, as it should, but it works. When others ignore or flout the law, they commit an unfair act against those who play by the rules and demean what it means to become an American. Their actions should be punished, not rewarded. This is not to say that I am opposed to immigration. Far from it. I am opposed to those who violate the law to come here.

I am very alarmed about the rising number of illegal immigrants in Louisiana and its effect on our state and local resources. Illegal immigrants have flocked to South Louisiana in search of construction jobs as the state rebuilds after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and this surge is weighing down our already-overburdened health care system and law enforcement agencies. It is imperative that action be taken to thwart the flow of illegal immigrants into our country, and I will continue to support measures that do so, and reject so-called "bargains" that will only make the problem worse.

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