Tough talk on immigration is no substitute for a proven record of effective leadership.
On May 7, 2003, I was the only Senator in the General Assembly to rise and speak against, then vote against, a law that gave a two-thirds tuition discount to illegal immigrants at Illinois public colleges and universities.
In that speech, I quoted John F. Kennedy who said, “Our nation is founded on the principle that observance of the law is the eternal safeguard of liberty and defiance of the law (in this case, immigration law) is the surest road to tyranny. Even among law-abiding men, few laws are universally loved, but they are uniformly respected and not resisted… Americans are free, in short, to disagree with the law, but not to disobey it… For no man, however prominent and powerful, and no mob, however unruly and boisterous, is entitled to defy a court of law.” What living human being can argue against this essential truth from John F. Kennedy? (Click here for full article “Illegal Immigration Tuition Bill” Voice from the Senate Floor 5/08/03.
Although I lost the battle that day over granting more financial benefits to those who intentionally break our laws, my effort to draw a preliminary line in the sand eventually helped to produce a victory of common sense on the measure that would have granted drivers’ licenses in the State of Illinois to illegal immigrants. On November 6, 2003 we defeated this legislation by one vote. If just one of us who voted “no” on legal licenses for illegal immigrants had wavered at that moment, people who are already breaking our immigration laws would have had free and unfettered legal access to highways and airliners, identification, and motor-voter potential fraud.
In February 2004, a full nine months after the Senate debate, candidate Jim Oberweis ran his first reckless TV commercials, angered workers at his own dairy operation, set off a backlash where the Chicago Tribune sub-headlines reported “T.V. Spots Called Racist, Misleading” (2/25/2004), and substantially set back the cause of those of us who merely insist that our laws be enforced. Eventually, Oberweis lost that primary election and Jack Ryan dropped out. The Aurora Beacon reported recently that, at that time, “… U.S. Representative Dennis Hastert called Oberweis unfit for the nomination, due to his hard-line stance on immigration.” (11/16/2007).
The issue of illegal immigration demonstrates another fundamental difference between Jim Oberweis and me, and that has to do with the way we approach volatile issues. My opponent spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to run television commercials depicting him hovering menacingly in a helicopter over Soldier Field that scared even opponents of illegal immigration, destructively alienated many more, dehumanized proponents in the debate, and drew criticisms of racism and inaccuracy. In short, Mr. Oberweis emboldened opponents of sensible reform. He is not – and never has been – the standard-bearer for sensible, even-handed reform of our federal immigration laws and policies.
In the State Senate, I have fought against providing financial incentives for illegal immigrants and have helped defeat the drivers’ license law. I have been the lead sponsor on legislation that would provide facts and data to show the substantial net cost and economic damage of illegal immigration (SB 59 in 95th G.A., SB 1356 in 94th G.A., SB 1450 in 93rd G.A.). Other legislation on which I have led the way would require proof of citizenship in order to register and vote, obtain state employment, be eligible for state subsidized health care and residential home mortgage guarantees through the Illinois Housing Development Authority. Many years ago, I confirmed that the official language in Illinois is English; however, the Executive Branch at state and local levels must enforce that law, which they do not.
The economic and societal costs of illegal immigration are simply staggering. Although impossible to calculate, studies show that between 12 and 18 million illegal immigrants currently reside in the United States. Each year, an additional 500,000 illegal immigrants seek sanctuary in our country. Taxpayers, including those who obtained citizenship legally, subsidize the cost of illegal immigration because we are paying ever-increasing bills for education, health care and other social services.
Illegal immigration is not a Republican or a Democratic issue; it is a national issue of vital importance for the next Congress and the next presidential administration. We know from the harrowing experience of 9/11 that those who reside in our country illegally can cause massive destruction. But beyond national security implications, illegal immigrants depress the wages of low-skilled workers due to unfair competition for jobs. This hampers our law-abiding citizens’ ability to seek higher pay that will cover health care, send a child to college, and pursue the American dream. I also believe that tolerating illegal immigration undermines the social fabric of our nation, punishes those who waited their turn to obtain legal citizenship, and builds resentment within communities (Click here for “A Strange Way to Show Gratitude” Voice from the Senate Floor 5/11/2007
). It is time once and for all that we address this increasing national problem.
Appropriate immigration law enforcement requires the next Congress to make difficult choices, but ones which are necessary for a secure America. I have demonstrated, over 15 years in the State Senate, that I am willing to cast tough votes and make those difficult choices which will protect our nation’s safety and social cohesion.
Others, who have no history of elected leadership, talk “big game” (Oberweis) or talk “no game” (Kevin Burns: pro-amnesty) when it comes to illegal immigration. If elected as your next Congressman, I will have the credibility and record to affect meaningful immigration enforcement and reform. I intend to remain a leader on this issue. My policy position on illegal immigration rests on the following:
(1) No Amnesty Policy. Federal legislation must not grant amnesty to illegal immigrants residing in this country. We cannot reward those who cheated the system and cut in front of law-abiding citizens. It is inappropriate for us to turn our backs on those who complied with the law, paid their dues and achieved the dream of becoming legal citizens of the United States. Congress should reject stealth amnesty laws, such as the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act (S. 774).
The costs and burdens on federal agencies of granting amnesty to millions of Americans are simply too great to predict with any degree of accuracy. Amnesty is an improper federal policy which creates incentives for more illegal immigrants to stream across our borders and which undermines the noble efforts made by those who complied with the law and are here legally. Also, we need to take a roto-rooter to the plugged system of legal immigration where people who follow the rules are frustrated and forced to wait for years to legally immigrate.
(2) No “Anchor Baby” Automatic Citizenship. It is also time for us to address the inherent problem of automatically conferring citizenship on children born in the United States to illegal immigrants. While I am sympathetic to humanitarian goals and to those children who were born within our borders, federal policy which grants automatic citizenship is not only misguided but also threatens the viability of meaningful immigration reform on a structural basis. The only initial connection that these innocent children have to America is their parents’ willingness to violate the law and seek sanctuary illegally within our country. This simply is not enough.
If other immigration reform measures are passed, and automatic birthright citizenship is not addressed, our federal government would miss a core component of comprehensive reform and allow families who are here illegally to receive taxpayer-funded benefits. Under the Constitution, Congress has the power to decide national immigration policy. We need to pass federal legislation, consistent with the original intent of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, to eliminate automatic birthright citizenship.
(3) Share No-Match Data. Our federal government has failed to enforce immigration laws currently on the books. Employers must be provided with accurate tools and proper guidance from the federal government in a timely way to confront workers whose social security numbers and names do not match up with Social Security Administration (SSA) records. The SSA must provide employers with guidance on their legal obligations if no-match data is received.
This is only part of the problem. Currently, it is simply incredible that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) lacks adequate access to SSA “no-match” data, hampering its ability to target employers who willfully violate the law and employ a shadow workforce of illegal immigrants. Congress must pass legislation which authorizes the Social Security Administration to share “no-match” data with the Department of Homeland Security.
(4) Border Security. Securing our border is one of the most critical functions of the federal government. (Click here for endorsement letter for Chris text from Peter Gadiel who lost his 27 year old son at the World Trade Center on 9/11
). Many left-leaning liberals suggest we do not have the money to effectuate meaningful border security. However, I believe amnesty programs and the social cost of tolerating illegal immigration are far greater than that which is necessary to ensure border safety and security. Simply put, I am in favor of an austere, fiscally prudent federal government. But when a matter of policy rests squarely within Congress’ purview – as immigration control unquestionably does – it is incumbent upon Congress to make the necessary investment to protect our country and its citizens.
No one likes the idea of erecting a fence along the Mexican border. The sad reality is that a fence may be necessary to redress previous inaction. But, a better idea seems to be the use of a “virtual fence” which would complement stretches of border with high-tech monitoring. I would support enactment of other steps along with exploring the feasibility of building a comprehensive barrier along the Southern boundary. For instance, Congress must enact legislation that bars the controversial policy of “catch and release,” allowing immigrants to be released on their own recognizance pending a removal order. While the DHS has ended this policy, it cannot be revitalized by the next administration. Federal law must prohibit it. Current laws on the books permit border surveillance and obstacles to prohibit entry into the United States.
Congress must fund these programs adequately, and I would support increased funding for border patrol agents and development of enhanced border security technology. These security measures deserve budget priority. To this end, we must also build on the successes of Section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which enables the DHS and local governments to enter into assistance compacts and allow local officials to enforce federal immigration laws with appropriate immunity.
(5) No Identification for Illegal Immigrants. As a State Senator, I voted against providing drivers’ licenses to illegal immigrants. This issue has received attention nationally in recent weeks, and I have a record of leadership speaking out against it for years. We seem to have forgotten quickly that certain 9/11 hijackers had valid driver’s licenses, and that driver’s licenses are the primary means by which passengers are able to board commercial airliners. By providing illegal immigrants with means of government identification, we legitimize illegal immigration and undermine America’s efforts to be secure from foreign threats. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a measure that would have provided driver’s permits to over 2 million illegal aliens residing in California. Under public pressure, New York Governor Elliot Spitzer withdrew his proposal to provide driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants in New York.
(6) Appropriate Identification for Legal Immigrants. The biometric identification card – known as the Secure Authorized Foreign Entry (SAFE) card – has received widespread attention among presidential candidates, particularly Mayor Rudy Giuliani, speaking out on immigration reform. This proposal merits thorough debate as a sound measure to reward those workers here legally. However, if enacted, we must make sure that it does not deter safe tourism and fair trade, and that enforcement of SAFE card regulations are applied even-handedly and not in a discriminatory fashion. And, a national ID card should never be required of law-abiding American citizens.
(7) No Discretionary Grants to Sanctuary Cities. Cities and states that have a policy of providing sanctuary to illegal immigrants are themselves violating the law. I believe the power of the purse is a significant lever that Congress must pull to bring non-compliant state and local officials in check with the federal government’s sole responsibility to manage illegal immigration. To that end, I would support the elimination of discretionary federal funding to those states and cities that provide a safe-harbor and public university tuition discounts for illegal immigrants.
(8) Arrest and Deport Illegal Immigrants who are Felons. It is practically true that it is not possible to solve this problem that has grown so seriously over the past 20 years overnight. However, a place to at least start is to remove the threat to our safety from those illegal immigrants who are convicted felons. We need solid assurances from source countries that these criminals will be adequately incarcerated and will not bounce back to us.
I support “Attrition through Enforcement,” the concept that living illegally in the United States will become more difficult and less satisfying over time when the government - - at all levels - - enforces all of the laws already on the books. The “open borders” crowd constantly tells the American people that there are only two solutions to our nation’s illegal immigration crisis - - give illegal immigrants amnesty or round them up to deport them. Attrition through Enforcement is a possible “middle ground” based upon respect and enforcement of current laws.
(9) No Social Security Benefits to Illegal Immigrants. We should not reward people who break our immigration and employment laws.
(10) English as U.S. Official Language. I support English as the official language of our country. We need to emphasize integration/assimilation into our common culture.
(11) Commute Sentences to Time Served for Border Patrol Agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Campean. I will join the scores of congressmen and women who are pressing the appropriate federal agency to review what they consider the unjust conviction of these border agents who shot an admitted illegal alien drug smuggler, interdicted while smuggling $1M worth of drugs into the United States.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher reports that the U.S. government sent investigators into Mexico to locate the drug smuggler, offer him immunity, free healthcare, and unconditional border-crossing cards, in exchange for his testimony against the Border Patrol officers. Inexplicably, U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton took the words of a drug smuggler while prosecutors seemed to mislead jurors by limiting essential information from jurors, and sentencing Ramos and Campean since January to 23 hours a day in solitary confinement, subject to conditions more restrictive than terrorist detainees at Guantanamo Bay. (Click here for Nov. 5, 2007 Human Events article by Rep. Rohrabacher
(12) Make It Easier for Seasonal Workers to Go Home. For over 100 years, seasonal workers have been critical to agriculture industries in Illinois and other parts of the United States. Individuals come to work during the crop season and then go home to their families. To accomplish this without an amnesty program, we need to simplify and expand H-2A Visa programs. This will help employers, and it has been endorsed by the Heritage Foundation as recently as October of this year. Critics of the current H-2A Visa program claim that it is bloated and complicated. The Secure Borders First Act of 2007 (HR 2954), sponsored by Rep. Peter King (R-NY), provides for sensible reform of the H-2A visa program to allow a market-based number of seasonal workers each year, and this is a legislative measure I would endorse.
(13) Support and Co-Sponsor the bipartisan Secure America Through Verification and Enforcement (SAVE) Act. I intend to join more than 112 congressmen and women who are sponsoring the SAVE Act (HR 4088). This bipartisan measure would address, through Title II, the lack of mandatory data sharing between the Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration. The legislation also implements a means of mandating employer verification without unfunded mandates through E-Verify. The SAVE Act smartly addresses the problem of enforcement. In other words, we have laws on the books, but we need to ensure that those laws are enforced through technology measures, building of detention centers and hiring of border agents. The first 85 members of Congress who cosponsored this legislation included 44 Democrats and 41 Republicans spanning membership in the Congressional Black Caucus, the Hispanic Caucus, the Immigration Caucus, the Republican Study Committee and the Blue Dog Coalition. Although this plan is not perfect and requires a significant expenditure of federal funds, it is a pragmatic, bipartisan solution that could lead to immediate reform and increased border security through enforcement of current law. We no doubt can expand and improve the SAVE Act in the future, but if we continue down the current path, the expense to America will be far greater.
It is a matter of human dignity to treat others as you would expect to be treated. I cannot go to a foreign country and beak their laws with impunity. In our country, if some are good enough and trusted enough follow the law, then all must be trusted to be good and morally strong enough to follow the law. Otherwise, we will create a caste system in the United States that has not existed since the evil of slavery, where the American value of “equality” before God and man’s law has no meaning. Not only will we have social discord, we will have the strong preying upon the weak.
All Americans who follow the law ought to be equal partners in the American Dream. However, if you follow the law and I break the law, we are not equal by our actions. If you immigrate legally and I immigrate illegally, we are not equal. Forty years ago, John F. Kennedy cautioned us that full confidence in the integrity of American law is essential… he did not fly a black helicopter over a football stadium when he spoke about other human beings.
An appropriate level of legal immigration is good and should be encouraged by a streamlined and expedited legal process. Those who have come to America legally should assimilate into our culture – learn the English language; pay taxes; and follow the laws and customs of our country. To protect our domestic security and ensure national sovereignty, we should discourage illegal immigration.
What is the benefit and value of citizenship, or even legal residence, if politicians give away these privileges to everyone so freely? In terms that my primary opponent understands, the expression goes, “Why buy the cow when you get the milk for free?” (Click here for “Equal is as Equal Does” Voice from the Senate Floor 10/07/2005)
Citizens and voters of the 14th Congressional District deserve more than campaign promises from a failed political candidate whose inflammatory rhetoric eliminates him as a reliable voice to effect broad-based reform. They deserve a Representative who has proven for many years that he knows how to debate effectively and prevail in legislation regarding the emotionally-charged issue of illegal immigration. I have clearly demonstrated that I will consistently uphold the Constitution and laws of our country.