In The Grand Island Independent's "Question of the Day" on Tuesday, the paper asked readers, "What issue most concerns you right now?"
Despite gas prices closing in on $4 per gallon in Grand Island and the Iraq and Afghanistan war, which is now in its sixth year, readers responding to the question listed immigration by 51 percent as today's most pressing issue. (Results reprinted on page 2 today.)
In visiting with The Independent's editorial board on Wednesday, Republican Senate candidate Mike Johanns advocated what he calls a "tough but very fair approach to immigration."
On top of Johanns' five-point program to address illegal immigration in the United States is "no amnesty."
He said a policy that endorses amnesty for those illegally in the United States only "begets more and more immigration problems."
"It sends a signal that there will be another amnesty and another amnesty," Johanns said. "You are just inviting the problem to continue."
Johanns said his policy is very simple: "No amnesty."
The second element of his five-point immigration policy is to strengthen border security.
"I worry about border security, not just because of the immigration issue," Johanns said. "I don't believe that you can have a national security approach that protects your country without controlling your borders.
"If you don't have a way of managing your borders, then you're open to anybody who wants to come in here and do you harm, and I guarantee you that there are plenty of people out there in the world who want to do exactly that relative to the United States."
The third piece of Johanns' immigration platform is formulating an effective workplace policy that addresses those employers that hire illegal immigrants.
Johanns referred to the recent Postville, Iowa, immigration raid by the Department of Homeland Security, where 389 workers at the Agriprocessors meatpacking plant were arrested and hauled away to a makeshift detention camp.
The Homeland Security raid was similar to the one conducted in Grand Island in December 2006 when government agents raided the Swift meatpacking plant and arrested more than 260 people.
"That's just unbelievable," Johanns said about the Postville immigration raid.
Without strong workplace enforcement, he said, the government is just sending a signal to people in Mexico to cross the border illegally to find employment.
"You have to drop the hammer on employers who are winking at the law," Johanns said. "You have to have stronger enforcement."
The fourth plank on Johanns' immigration platform is addressed directly to those illegally in the United States: "You need to honor our laws," he said. "You need to return and re-enter in a legal fashion. And do it in a way that honors the laws of the United States."
The final part of Johanns' immigration platform is, if a person who is illegally here in the United States is arrested for violating U.S. laws, he or she forfeits any right to be in the United States.
"I believe this is the approach that honors the legal system of the United States and sends a very clear message to those who are here illegally," he said.
Johanns said the responsibility for this country's borders lies with the U.S. government.
"We can certainly reach out and do whatever we can to get participation from local government officials and law enforcement, but the federal government has to deal with this issue," he said.