Immigration Step One: Enforce the Law
As a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws, I believe we must take a balanced approach to solving the problem of illegal immigration. While the emotion displayed by all sides of this issue is understandable, rhetoric does not bring us closer to securing the border and bringing millions of undocumented immigrants out of the shadows. I believe we need to work together Republicans, Democrats, and Independents to find a solution that benefits all Americans.
For too long our immigration laws have not been enforced. This lack of accountability has contributed to a dramatic rise in the number of immigrants entering the U.S. illegally. As a result, we are now facing a national security crisis with approximately 12 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.
In June, the Senate attempted to pass a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill. Unfortunately, President Bush failed to garner enough support from his own party to advance the legislation. In the end, partisan politics prevented that proposal or any other compromise from being enacted. If Congress continues to do nothing, our immigration problem will only get worse.
While there is no doubt that we must put an end to illegal immigration, any effort to meet this challenge must also acknowledge certain realities. It is impractical to round up and deport 12 million undocumented immigrants. Moreover, it is unrealistic to believe that a border fence alone will keep immigrants from coming here or that an enforcement-only solution sufficiently addresses the magnitude of this problem.
Stronger enforcement of our borders is essential, but it should not be the end of the debate on immigration reform. The scope of the problem calls for a comprehensive solution that toughens our approach at the border, penalizes employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants, implements a guest worker program that does not endanger American jobs, and creates a sensible path to citizenship for those who work hard and play by the rules.
If Congress is willing to adopt a comprehensive strategy, we have a good chance to gain control over illegal immigration and restore public confidence in the rule of law.
In order to achieve real reform, we must also take at hard look at the reason immigrants choose to cross the border illegally in the first place, risking their lives in the process.
I remain committed to enacting immigration reform that strengthens our national security while preserving the American values of diversity, compassion, and justice.