The great immigration debate resonating throughout the country will define the way we view ourselves as a people and our future as a nation. From conversations with constituents in the 9th district and in the phone calls and letters I continue to receive in my offices, there is a clear message of concern over the Reid-Kennedy immigration reform bill in the Senate. Let me be clear: I strongly oppose this bill in its current form.
Supporters of the Reid-Kennedy immigration bill call its reforms a path to citizenship for the estimated 12 million illegal aliens now in the country. I call it amnesty.
Illegal immigration is not only a serious violation of our laws and sovereignty; it is a huge sign of disrespect to individuals and families patiently waiting in line, for years in some cases, to enter our country legally. Granting amnesty to illegal aliens does nothing to stop the tide of illegal immigration. Instead, history has shown that it encourages it.
Unfortunately, the Senate bill fails to grasp this. While the bill legalizes 12 million illegal aliens, its enforcement provisions are severely lacking. I also oppose the Senate bill because of its cost. No supporter of smaller, leaner government can support a proposal whose total cost could exceed $2.6 trillion dollars.
Twenty one years ago, Congress passed legislation designed to fix our immigration problems once and for all. Among that law’s numerous reforms was a provision to legalize the then 4 million illegal aliens residing in the
Border security must be paramount. I strongly support tougher laws against smugglers and drug traffickers. I also support the deployment of National Guard troops to our borders and believe a physical fence is necessary to truly secure our border. Last Congress I voted to fund the construction of 700 miles of physical fencing along our borders, and I am an ardent supporter of a virtual fence to supplement our physical border made up of sensors, UAVs and other technology.
We cannot truly address illegal immigration until we know exactly who is in our country and why. That is why we must have a biometric identification card to identify all non-citizen immigrants and migrant workers. Our visa system should be modernized to reduce fraud. While businesses cannot be asked to play the role of law enforcement, Congress can encourage worker verification through a serious program of penalties and incentives that makes it in the businesses’ best interest to employ only legal workers.
As your Representative in Congress, I will continue to fight for enforcement first. Amnesty is not the answer to our immigration problems. We can and must do better. If the Senate bill comes before the House with the glaring loopholes it has now, I will send it packing with a strong no vote.
Rep. Bill Shuster is a Republican representing the 9th District.