Weekly Columns

Immigration Issues Must Be Addressed

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Washington, December 21, 2011 | comments

According to the National Conference of State Legislators’ most recent immigration report, all fifty state legislatures introduced some sort of legislation in 2011 to address the growing problem of illegal immigration. At a time of economic uncertainty, we cannot continue to ignore the growing problems with illegal immigration because it is expensive and it’s straining our nation’s financial resources. The federal government must take steps toward enacting comprehensive immigration reform. These reforms must include: securing our borders, addressing illegal immigrants already living in America, and reforming the process of becoming a legal immigrant.

Illegal immigration is a big problem for taxpayers and our national security. In 2010, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deported more than 392,000 illegal aliens, a record for overall deportation. According to the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), illegal immigration costs the United States over $113 billion. FAIR estimates that there are roughly 82,000 illegal immigrants in the state of Tennessee, costing the state $283 million dollars. This is unacceptable.

I strongly support completing a border fence and employing more agents to secure our nation. As a member of the Immigration Reform Caucus, I have cosponsored a number of immigration reform bills, including H.R. 2000, the Secure America through Verification and Enforcement (SAVE) Act. The SAVE Act offers a 3-part plan to drastically reduce illegal immigration which includes a strict emphasis on border security, the verification of an employee’s legal status, and increased enforcement of existing laws. H.R. 2000 would hire 6,000 additional new Border Patrol Agents and 1,150 new ICE agents. In addition, it provides the tools necessary to ensure the INS agents can successfully protect our borders, including additional vehicles, better infrastructure, new facilities, lighting units, weapons, and armor.. The SAVE Act also expands the E-Verify and makes it available for use by every employer over a four year period. This will benefit employers because they will be able to efficiently check whether or not their employees are legally authorized to work in the United States.

In order to strengthen the E-Verify system, I have also cosponsored H.R. 2885, the Legal Workforce Act. This legislation aims to improve the E-Verify system and makes it mandatory for all U.S. employers. Over 250,000 American employers currently use E-Verify. A Rasmussen poll earlier this year stated 82 percent of voters think businesses should be required to use E-Verify. With national unemployment rates remaining well over eight percent, we must ensure jobs that are created are going to Americans.

Last August, I joined 74 of my colleagues in the Immigration Reform Caucus in writing President Obama opposing his decision to no longer actively seek to deport illegal immigrants who don’t have a criminal record. While I support legal immigration, I do not think we should reward those who illegally reside in America, and I reject efforts to provide amnesty to these individuals.

We must also reform the process of becoming a legal American citizen. I believe an important part of becoming a legal citizen in America should require that applicants who are seeking naturalization be required to read and understand the English language. I am a cosponsor of the English Language Unity Act, which would declare English as the official language of the United States.

I am adamantly opposed to providing federal benefits to illegal aliens. During these tough economic times, it is imperative we cut spending and address illegal immigration to help address our deficit. Cutting benefits for illegal aliens is a strong step in the right direction. I look forward to working with my colleagues in Congress to address the important issue of immigration reform.


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