Legislation now being drafted by lawmakers — primarily Sens. Ted Kennedy and John McCain — would allow millions of illegal immigrants in the United States to apply for citizenship.
Adoption of this measure would be a terrible mistake.
The Senate plans to introduce its immigration bill early this year, with the House considering its version later. President Bush has said he hopes to sign an immigration bill in 2007.
In 2006 the Senate passed a bill that would have required illegal immigrants living in the United States for fewer than five years to return to their native countries for a period of time before applying for legal status.
House Republicans prevented debate of the bill, saying it was an amnesty bill, pure and simple, for lawbreakers. Today, the Kennedy-McCain legislation under consideration would go dramatically further. The new law would allow up to 11 million illegal immigrants now living in the United States to gain citizenship after applying, and without ever returning home first.
McCain's backing of the amnesty measure undercuts his claim of representing conservative voters as he seeks the GOP presidential primaries in 2008. But the worst part about the proposed Kennedy-McCain bill is the crystal-clear message it sends to wannabe illegals around the globe: Come here, America will cave, and eventually you will be granted citizenship.
Let's remember the amnesty concept was tried before. In 1986 President Reagan signed into law the Immigration Reform and Control Act, passed by a Democratic Congress, that granted legal residency to 2.7 million illegal aliens already in the United States and set penalties for employers who knowingly hire illegals. At the time, the view was, amnesty would be coupled with promises of future immigration controls. More than 20 years later, it clearly did not work.
For example, the federal government never followed through on its promise to crack down on employers. Illegal immigration actually accelerated after the legislation was passed.
The significant issue is not whether amnesty should be granted. The first and primary issue Americans want solved is a system of sane immigration and secure borders. Despite huge expenditures of money and manpower, our borders remain porous. Despite 9/11 and billions spent on homeland security, terrorists can still easily enter the country. The House took a step forward and approved a plan to build 700 miles of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border. But Congress has not appropriated funds for its construction.
It is also important to remember secure "borders" today means our airports too.
Amazingly, between one-quarter and nearly one-half of the illegal immigrants in the United States today didn't sneak across the border with Mexico. They simply arrived here with a legal visa and stayed on after it expired — as did several of the 9/11 terrorists.
Only after the United States gets a firm grip on border control should Congress even consider an amnesty program. And once the borders are secure, I believe we should increase legal immigration. America needs immigrants. We should open our doors to the best and brightest from every continent rather than primarily from just one region.
Grants of citizenship should also come with demands. Immigrants must have a grasp of basic English before being granted citizenship. Then, we should end the practice of automatically bestowing citizenship on anyone born in the United States. Finally, we should tell new citizens they can't arrive and simply collect welfare and social benefits.
Illegal immigration is a matter of utmost importance to Americans, affecting not only the economy, but the nation's sovereignty and security as well.
A university poll in 2006 found that 90 percent of Americans consider immigration a "serious problem," and 57 percent say it's "very serious."
Another poll found that Americans consider immigration the second most important issue facing the nation, after national security. Both issues are really intertwined.
There is no doubt America's political system is broken when it cannot fix a problem of pressing national urgency. One thing is for sure, the Kennedy-McCain bill won't fix it.
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