By Sen. Marco Rubio
America is a special country. It's so special that people want to come here from all over the world, and they are able to because we have always been a welcoming society. In fact, over one million people come legally every single year. No other country comes even close to us, and we are a stronger, more prosperous and more dynamic country because of it.
We also understand that America is so special and unique that some people are willing to risk their lives to come here illegally. And as compassionate people, we understand that reality and the desperation that usually drives it, and our heart breaks at the stories of what people have to go through to come here.
But we also understand that the United States of America is a sovereign country. Every single sovereign country on the planet tries to or does control its borders and who comes into the country and who leaves. Every country in the world does that, and the U.S. should not be any different. At the end of the day, we have a sovereign right to protect our border.
Unfortunately, decades of broken promises have led to a crisis on our southern border and an illegal immigrant population of 11 million people living in de facto amnesty. This situation hurts America, and it's why strong border security and enforcement measures must be an important part of the Senate immigration bill currently being debated.
When we introduced the bill in April, we welcomed ideas to make it better. The overwhelming concern we heard from people is that the border security measures need to give the American people full confidence that we will not have future waves of illegal immigration. We were also told that it should be specifically detailed, instead of delegating the development of the plan to a Department of Homeland Security that already believes the border is secure.
The Republican Border Surge Plan was developed with input from border patrol officials, border state officials, and security experts. It stipulates that no illegal immigrant can even apply to become a legal permanent resident of the U.S. until at least ten years have elapsed and until five security triggers are achieved.
These triggers include the completion of at least 700 miles of secure pedestrian fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border, doubling the number of border patrol agents with 20,000 new border patrol agents, and providing all nine sectors of the southern border with the state of the art technology and resources our border patrol agents need to secure the border, including unarmed drones, camera systems, ground sensors and radars, among other resources. To eliminate the job magnet that attracts most illegal immigrants to the U.S., E-Verify must be completely implemented and mandatory for all U.S. businesses. And to crack down on foreigners who overstay their visas -- which accounts for 40 percent of today's illegal immigrant population -- an entry-exit system must be completely implemented.
These ideas are based on what border patrol agents and others know to be effective. They're based on ideas that conservatives have been pursuing for many years. And they're ideas based on many state of the art technologies available to us today that weren't around in 1986, 1996 or even 2006. Together, these technologies will help us see who is coming across our border; the fence will make it harder for drugs and people to illegally cross; the increased manpower will make sure we apprehend those who cross; and the E-Verify system will make sure that there is no future for those who live in our country illegally. This is what's needed to prevent a repeat of the disaster we have today.
What this bill says is you must do all of those things, and it is linked to legal permanent residence. In essence, someone who violated our immigration laws cannot apply to become a legal permanent resident of the United States until all five of those things happen. That's the guarantee that this will happen.
In a perfect world, these measures would not even be necessary. In a perfect world, the federal government would have spent the previous decades enforcing our laws and keeping its promises of securing the border. But our immigration system as we know it is far from perfect. In fact, it's painfully and dangerously broken.
I understand the American people's frustration. I know that these promises have been made in the past. But here's the reality of it: the choice before us is to try to fix this, or leave it way it is and risk an even bigger problem due to Washington's inaction. What we have today is a disaster of epic proportions. Eleven million human beings living among us, and we don't know who they are. They are working but not paying taxes. There are criminals among them. That has to be solved. We need to fix this, and this is our chance to fix it.
Marco Rubio is a U.S. senator from Florida.