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Naples Daily News - Mack: People Want Borders Secured

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Location: Estero, FL

Naples Daily News - Mack: People Want Borders Secured

Written by: Elizabeth Wright

No amnesty. Secure the borders.

That's the message U.S. Rep. Connie Mack said he hears overwhelmingly from citizens in Southwest Florida when it comes to the immigration issue, particularly this year.

He has heard from emergency room doctors and teachers, he said. He has received letters from people who are concerned about plans that have surfaced in Congress this year that would allow some immigrants who already have moved to the United States, breaking laws to do so, to be able to stay.

"It's one of the top issues I hear about," said Mack, a Republican who represents Lee County and parts of Collier and Charlotte counties. "There's a feeling shared by many of the people in this country: you have to follow the rule of law."

Speaking to a gathering of Lee County Republicans in Estero today, Mack said he wouldn't compromise in his position opposing amnesty, even as members of Congress face pressure to pass some sort of immigration legislation soon.

"From day one we have said we will not support amnesty. Amnesty is not the way to go," he said.

The pressure to pass new immigration laws is strong right now, he said, because of the upcoming presidential election. He said it gives both parties an incentive to make compromises in order to make sure they don't look like they're doing nothing on the issue.

If that's the politics of it, the hardest part when it comes to agreeing on legislation, he said, is deciding what to do about people already in the United States unlawfully, a group that could number 12 million.

"That's where everything breaks down in Washington," Mack said.

Existing immigration laws aren't being enforced, he said, and it's not just at the country's borders, where he supports building a fence.

Within the country's borders, there is also a separate set of problems, Mack said, what he called an "interior enforcement issue."

What's hard, he said, is that while current laws prohibit employers from hiring anyone without permission to work here, the government hasn't made things easy on employers, as there's no good way to verify if the identification cards that a potential employee gives them means they are eligible to work.

"Right now we require them to ask, and they kind of have to take their word for it," he said.

Before trying to crack down on business owners for hiring people they aren't supposed to, he'd be in favor of issuing secure identification cards to people who truly are eligible to work.

Mack said he also would support a guest worker program, provided it wasn't offered to people who already have entered the country illegally.

When a man at the Republican gathering asked if it would be possible to force a vote that would put on the record what members of Congress think about deporting illegal immigrants, Mack said such a vote would be unlikely to happen.

He also said that would be a difficult way to enforce immigration laws, and later said only a few people ask him for that.

"If we passed legislation to tell everyone that you've got to go home, probably we wouldn't be able to do it. We wouldn't be able to find everyone," he said.

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