REPORT FROM CONGRESS: 7/16/2007
By Congressman Roger F. Wicker
WICKER PROMOTES SECURITY FIRST' IMMIGRATION PLAN
While the U. S. Senate was correct to reject the flawed immigration reform bill in June, its defeat need not shut the door on efforts to address this critical national security issue. Congress should refocus its attention on border security and employer verification measures that could be enacted into law during this session.
The immigration debate has many complex components, but regaining control of our borders must be the top priority. It is a simple concept: security comes first. As House Minority Leader John Boehner put it, "Until we are able to demonstrate that we can secure the borders and enforce the laws, the American people aren't willing to take those next steps in this process."
Legislation recently introduced in the House takes a different approach than the failed Senate version. Its four core principles:
1. Secure the border first. It is a matter of national security and public safety.
2. No legalization for aliens residing illegally in the U.S.
3. Enforce existing U.S. immigration law.
4. Make English our nation's official language.
The bill would establish a timeline for the Department of Homeland Security to achieve operational control of the border by authorizing additional Border Patrol agents and beefing up training procedures to counter the increased violence they face each day. It would require mandatory detention of all illegal aliens apprehended, ensuring there would not be a return to the revolving door practice of "catch-and-release."
AID FOR STATE, LOCAL AUTHORITIES
Another enforcement tool would be funding for programs to assist state and local law enforcement officials. The legislation would also reaffirm the authority of these agencies to apprehend and detain illegals in their jurisdictions. Worksite enforcement would be enhanced by the use of an electronic employment eligibility system to verify the status of each worker hired. Creation of more fraud-resistant birth certificates and nixing acceptance of often-forged Mexican identification cards would also aid in identifying illegal workers.
This reform offers a fair and common-sense mechanism for the agricultural guest workers program. To ensure their stay is temporary, workers would not be allowed to bring family members with them. A portion of their wages would be held in escrow until workers return to their country of origin.
ENFORCE CURRENT LAW
For the past 20 years, Democrat and Republican Administrations have allowed our borders to be overrun and only sporadically sanctioned employers for hiring illegal workers. This legislation would encourage the Bush Administration to enforce existing immigration law in a systematic and comprehensive manner.
Congress could take another step to boost the "security first" concept by advancing plans to build 854 miles of border fencing, which was approved last year. Where these barriers have been erected along the border, they have worked. This plan to span the Mexican border along Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas was approved overwhelmingly in both Houses of Congress in October. To date, only 13 miles of fencing have been constructed.
Taking these actions on immigration reform would represent a significant advancement for the rule of law and for regaining the sovereignty of our borders.