Weekly Column: Senate Border Security Caucus to Focus on Stopping Illegal Immigration
Realizing more must be done to secure our borders and address the illegal immigration problem, I have joined with eight other U.S. senators in forming a new caucus designed to increase the focus on regaining control of our borders and strengthening national security.
The mission of the Border Security and Enforcement First Caucus includes promoting the concept of "Attrition through Enforcement" and opposing legislation to provide amnesty for illegals already in the U.S. The caucus will also advance an ambitious package of initiatives designed to improve border security and interior enforcement.
REDUCING INCENTIVES FOR ILLEGALS
The principle behind the Attrition through Enforcement effort is that enforcing existing law at all levels of government will reduce incentives for illegals to cross the border and make it more difficult for those individuals to live here in violation of American law. It presents a clear and effective alternative to the more controversial and less workable options of amnesty or en masse deportation of millions of illegals. Our goal is to help turn off the magnet that draws people here illegally.
It is estimated that one in 25 residents in the U.S. today is here illegally. The cost associated with providing health care, welfare and related benefits obtained through fraudulent documentation, and other general services is more than $20 billion each year. The financial strain on local and state governments is especially troublesome.
TERRORIST THREAT REMAINS
An even more ominous concern is the terrorism threat presented by our current border situation. We have no way of knowing whether Al Qaeda operatives or other terrorist groups have exploited this easy path into the country. While border enforcement efforts have been increased, there is still a very real possibility a terrorist or group of terrorists could sneak across our border undetected. Our borders have been too porous for too long, and it is a matter of national sovereignty and national security that we find a way to solve this problem.
Among our caucus' legislative priorities:
* Full border fence completion by 2010;
* Denying Justice Department COPS grant money to cities offering sanctuary status to illegals and withholding 10 percent of federal highway funds to states issuing drivers licenses to illegal immigrants;
* Making English the official language of the United States;
* Ensuring that illegals with DUIs are deported, and checking the nationwide prison population to find illegals who can be deported after serving their sentences;
* Compensating state and local entities for immigration-related expenses and forging partnerships with state and local law authorities to strengthen enforcement activities
Congress came together to pass the Secure Fence Act in 2006 before a more sweeping immigration reform plan failed last year. The members of our caucus hope to restart the debate in 2008 and enact legislation that will help regain control of the borders and restore law and order to our immigration system.