Indeed, the time for action has come. Today, there may be as many as 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States. For the most part, we have no real way to know with any certainty who they are, where they are, or what they are doing. What we do know is that the majority of these folks are in fact living in our communities, sending their kids to our schools and, yes, working in jobs that are absolutely essential to our local, state and national economies. But, since they entered the country illegally, they cannot let us know who they are, they cannot obtain reliable identification and they live in the shadows of our society. In our post 9-11 environment, it is simply not acceptable to have that many people living and working in those shadows.I have spoken with Chris, in length, on this issue. Yes, I'd like to see every single illegal immigrant rounded up and deported. I'd like to see our borders completely secured. Barring the first, I'll unhappily recognize that rounding them all up might not work. Although I'd sure like it to.
There are some who maintain that the solution to illegal immigration is simple: We should just round all these folks up and send them home, wherever that might be.
And in the context of an election year, that approach might have some appeal, however, [it] is not a real solution. Our immigration bureaucracy today cannot even efficiently manage the flow of legal immigrants and guests-- much less find and deport 12 million illegal immigrants. Perhaps more importantly, it is not entirely clear that our economy could withstand the loss of what has become an essential part of our national workforce. As the Deseret News and many others have said, we need plausible solutions to the challenge of illegal immigration not simplistic rhetoric.
As a member of the House Judiciary Committee, I have been deeply involved for several years in trying to achieve reasonable and practical solutions to this vexing issue. My efforts with regard to immigration policy have been, and continue to be, driven by a few very basic principles:
Secure Borders Protecting the Homeland: There is nothing more fundamental to national security than control of our borders -- knowing who is coming in and preventing entry by those who would do us harm. We can and must do a better, and smarter, job of meeting this most basic responsibility. Of course, a key requirement for secure borders is to have rational immigration laws and policies which allow us to focus our security expertise, state-of-the-art technology and resources on real threats.
Economic Security: The fact that we have millions of illegal aliens in the United States today is the result of some basic realities: Existing and past immigration policies that have not worked; a failure to adequately control our borders; and the law of supply and demand. America is still the Land of Opportunity, and it is opportunity that is driving the majority of illegal immigrants to go to extraordinary lengths to enter our country and fill jobs in vital sectors of our economy--including many right here in Utah. We need immigration policies that will allow those willing workers to meet the needs of willing employers and do so in such a way that does not endanger the jobs of American workers.
Fairness to Legal Immigrants: The term amnesty is tossed about in debates over immigration policy, and with good reason. Millions of hard working, tax-paying legal immigrants are today living in America and making tremendous contributions to society. In many instances, those immigrants endured years of patiently waiting and complying with the complicated process of legal entry. It is essential that any legislation or initiative to allow illegal immigrants who are already in the U.S. to gain some form of temporary status be equitable to those who are here legally. The key to that equity lies in placing strict work requirements, monetary penalties, or other reasonable burdens on those who wish to stay here and work here despite having entered illegally. I will only support legislation which encompasses such penalties and mandates a fair price of admission for all.
Reality-Based Immigration Laws: Americans, and particularly we Utahns, are fundamentally welcoming people. We understand that reasonable and robust levels of immigration are critical to the continued growth and well-being of our economy, our communities, and our entire nation. It is a simple fact that we would not today have millions of illegal immigrants if our immigration laws and policies were based upon reality. We must have a system which allows willing workers to come here legally if there are jobs to fill. Likewise, we cannot just ignore the fact that those millions of illegal immigrants are, in fact, here, using our health care facilities, sending their kids to our schools, and in most cases, paying taxes to our federal, state and local governments.
In short, our immigration laws and policies must reflect the realities we face today: Our economy demands a robust supply of willing workers; our security demands that we bring people who are here illegally out of the shadows and into the light of day; and common sense demands that we find realistic solutions to a system that is clearly not working. ~ Chris Cannon
My second desire is slowly being taken care of. Chris said he drove, he believes, 400 miles of border fence. Some of it he says is inadequate, some of it is good. He is working hard to get the fence up and secure.
On the first, Chris says there is no way to round up 12 to 15 million people and deport them. We don't have the budget or manpower for that. He stated that we have to come up with the alternative. He favors, as I said, the Worker ID program which will allow them to work here but not allow them to access our health care and welfare programs. Barring shipping them all out, which is still my favorite option, Chris' plan works for me.
Tomorrow I'll post David Leavitt's stance on immigration.