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Public Statements

Illegal Immigration

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. STEARNS. Madam Speaker, I am here to discuss why past efforts to stop illegal immigration into our country have failed.

Over the past several decades, immigration policy in our country has been somewhat confused and unfocused to the point that there is widespread and deepening concern that our current policies regarding immigration are not working. Poorly designed policies and weak enforcement of immigration laws have led to disturbing vulnerabilities in this country to our security, and the millions of illegal immigrants currently in our country continue to belittle the naturalization process.

From a national security perspective, preventing illegal entry and reducing those individuals illegally present in the United States is an imperative. An uncontrolled immigration system encourages the circumvention of immigration laws and is a clear invitation to those who wish to take advantage of our openness to cause this Nation harm.

Congress and the President must take credible steps to reduce illegal immigration. Federal, State and local law enforcement must be allowed to enforce existing immigration law. But because of the current lack of enforcement, the illegal population in the United States will continue to grow, the burden on local communities will increase, the stresses on civil society will become greater, and border security will become more expensive while remaining just as ineffective. Furthermore, this failure to enforce our immigration laws is tremendously unfair to the millions who obeyed the law and went through the rewarding process of obtaining legal citizenship.

Most individuals and families that immigrate to the United States, whether legally or illegally, come seeking economic opportunity. We respect that. However, unlike previous generations, a generous welfare, education and health system with generous eligibility draws a disproportionate rate of poor and low-skilled illegal immigrants to the United States. These thousands of low-skilled immigrants that pour into our country illegally each year drain precious resources from Federal, State and local governments.

In my State as in other States, they need temporary workers. I understand that. A balanced and well-constructed temporary worker program should diminish the incentives for illegal immigration by providing an additional option for legal temporary labor and, in combination with other reforms, reduce over time the current population of illegal aliens. This would foster better national security and serve a growing economy. Such a temporary worker program would be a valuable component of a comprehensive immigration reform proposal. I recognize that.

Nevertheless, my colleagues, enthusiasm for such a program in theory must be moderated by serious concerns not only about the failures of such programs in our past attempts and in other countries, but also regarding how a new program would likely be implemented and operate in practice. An ill-defined and poorly constructed temporary worker program would make the current problems of immigration policy unfortunately even worse.

In the mid 1980s, Congress advocated amnesty for long-settled illegal immigrants and considered it reasonable to adjust the status of what was then a relatively small population of illegal aliens. In exchange for allowing aliens to stay, border security and enforcement of immigration laws would be greatly strengthened, in particular through sanctions against employers who hired these illegal immigrants.

However, the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, did not solve our illegal immigration problem. Indeed, the lessons of that policy experiment are clear. From the very start, there was widespread document fraud by applicants. Unsurprisingly, the number of people applying for amnesty far exceeded projections, and there proved to be a failure of political will in enforcing new laws against employers.

Two decades later, the Senate proposed another bill specifically designed to allow the overwhelming majority of illegal immigrants to legally live and work in the United States from day one and eventually to become permanent residents and then citizens. This was a form of amnesty and that is why it failed.

Securing a future where America's borders are no longer porous, its laws are respected, and illegal labor is replaced by legal workers and legal immigrants is an achievable objective that we can accomplish. More than any other nation in history, our country and its system of equal justice and economic freedom beckons not only the downtrodden and the persecuted but also those who seek opportunity and a better future for themselves and their families. But by allowing millions of illegal immigrants to remain in the United States without providing any new significant security guarantees at the border is unacceptable.

We must control our borders first, then enforce the rules and regulations at the border with more security border guards. Only after that is done should we look at a policy concerning the illegal immigrants in this country. That is what the American people want.

Secure our borders now, Madam Speaker.

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