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Public Statements

Immigration Reform

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. KINZINGER of Illinois. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

You know, in the midst of talking about immigration reform, which I think is something that we're going to be addressing very shortly and something we ought to address very shortly, I want to just come forward and share an experience I had over the last week.

I'm still a pilot in the Air National Guard. That's a job I've kept while I've been in the Congress and a job I hope to continue to keep. Part of what I did last week is I actually went and worked on the border with the Air National Guard. We do an ISR--intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance--looking for people that have crossed illegally into our country and, frankly, looking for drugs and things along that line. It was a unique trip for me, because most times when Congressmen go to the border, they actually probably would go in an official capacity as a U.S. Congressman. We've all experienced these trips. You see what the administration, frankly, wants you to see. So they take you somewhere like El Paso where there's a very effective fence in place.

But where they don't take you is a place called Mac Pump. Mac Pump is in McAllen, Texas, one of the areas that I worked in my capacity as an Air National Guard pilot, and it really was actually kind of disheartening what we would see. You'd see folks cross the Rio Grande, that would stand in the United States of America. As we would call Border Patrol to come and assess the situation, they would literally step back and put their ankles in the water and at that point they are unapprehendable. And they would stare, 5 feet away from U.S. Border Patrol, and maybe a hundred yards away then another group, knowing that our Border Patrol agent was tied up, would then cross the Rio Grande and make it free. Or they'd outlast the Border Patrol agent and then they'd step back onto U.S. territory and then the agent would come back. They'd play this cat and mouse game. It could easily be solved with a border fence. It could easily be solved with actually real border security.

This isn't border security that we're going to do because we're upset, because we're angry, but because I believe that we have to have real immigration reform in this country. Things like high-skill visas are very important, but allowing people who want an opportunity to come to the United States to do so through a legal process.

The problem that we have set up now, though, and really frankly the sad part about it is a lot of these immigrants believe that the second they set foot in the United States of America, everything's going to be good. Everything's going to be all right. And we agree. This is the greatest country in the world. The problem is once many of these immigrants step into the United States of America, their journey has just begun, because the other part of where I worked in this mission over the last week was about 50 to 100 miles inland in Texas, as we would find people hunkered down in moss, very thick brush, as they would try to wade and rely on their guides. In many cases their guides would vacate when they'd hear Border Patrol, and they'd run away from these groups of people hiding in the brush and would leave them stranded in the middle of the Texas plains without water, without food, without any knowledge of where they're going. In fact, in this sector I was working last year, there were 200 dead bodies found, and that's only a fraction of those that actually die on this journey.

So I believe that border security is important so that we can set up a situation in which those that want to come here legally can do so and can go through the legal process of living in the United States or eventually becoming a United States citizen, and we're not creating a situation in which many of these immigrants are coming and frankly losing their lives.

I've talked to Border Patrol, and the interesting thing is now I did it out of the capacity as a U.S. Congressman, although of course they knew what I did in my other job, and I said, if I could take one thing back to Washington, what would it be? And they said, if you take back one thing to Washington, tell them that even though the Secretary is saying that the border is secure, even though the administration is saying the border is secure, it is not secure. Take that back. We need more border patrol agents, we need the fence, we need the ability to do our job. They're prevented from doing legal things that are humane to apprehend in many cases folks running with dope and trying to escape, giving them the opportunity to do what they need to do.

So, Mr. Speaker, I agree with those that are saying we need immigration reform in this country, and I'm a believer in that. I believe it's time that we understand and talk about the fact that America is a nation built of immigrants. My third or fourth generation ahead of me came over from Germany. I respect that and I appreciate it, and I think it's a tradition we need to continue. But I believe the first step to real immigration reform is border security. And I will tell you, Mr. Speaker, my trip to the border for a week as a pilot in the Guard opened my eyes to the fact that we are continually exposing ourselves not just to dope and drugs being run into this country but into a potential of a terrorist attack on the United States and a weapon that was run through the border of Mexico, because it's done every day.

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