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- 07-30-2012, 12:29 AM #1
FL - Immigration reform: Collier-Lee district's GOP congressional candidates weigh in
By AISLING SWIFT
Posted July 29, 2012 at 7 a.m.
NAPLES — The six GOP candidates vying for the District 19 congressional seat agree more security is needed to protect America's borders, but they maintain the government needs to strictly enforce its current laws to stanch the flow of illegal immigrants.
The candidates say the guest worker program benefits the economy, but maintain those who entered the country illegally shouldn't be rewarded with a path to citizenship — they should be deported and forced to follow a streamlined legal process to citizenship.
"Our borders need to be sealed," said Chauncey Goss, 46, of Sanibel, a former federal budget official who runs a fiscal policy analysis firm. "We do not need more laws. We need to enforce the ones we currently have, which include securing our borders."
Noting that this is a nation of immigrants, he said the legal immigration process needs to be simplified to encourage hard-working, entrepreneurial people to bring their capital and industrious spirit to this country to get to work and help create more jobs.
State Rep. Paige Kreegel, 53, a physician from Punta Gorda, contends the American Dream looks too attractive to some illegal immigrants, who don't want to work toward attaining it — instead taking advantage of benefits meant for citizens. He cited food stamps, school lunches, education, medical care and other benefits, in addition to the costs of incarcerating illegal immigrants who break laws.
"In our country, we are currently offering free housing, free rent, free meals, free medical care," Kreegel said, likening it to people leaving stores without paying for goods or services. "Really, we're offering the opportunity to be a freeloader. … If there are not freebies here, we might not be attracting the people we want to keep out."
The two head to the Aug. 14 primary against state Rep. Gary Aubuchon, 50, of Cape Coral, a real estate broker and home builder; Naples lawyer Joe Davidow, 28; financial services portfolio manager Byron Donalds, 33, of Naples, a tea party favorite; and Trey Radel, 36, of Fort Myers, a radio talk-show host and entrepreneur. They're vying for the seat now represented by Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fort Myers, who is running for Senate.
The Aug. 14 winner faces Democrat Jim Roach of Cape Coral, 60, a retired General Motors research engineer, and software consultant Brandon Smith, 25, of Naples, a no-party candidate, on Nov. 6. District 19 encompasses all of Lee County and coastal portions of Collier County.
The Republicans agree on one point: Illegal immigrants who commit crimes should be quickly deported. However, they vary on what must be done with their children or how to handle illegal immigrants who worked hard and followed laws.
"I was surprised to find that nearly one in four people incarcerated in the Collier County jail are in this country illegally," Goss said. "They first broke the law by coming to the country illegally, and then they broke the law again by being arrested for another crime — and many of these crimes are felonies."
Employers need help checking their workers, Goss said.
"I believe we need a national employment verification program to make it easier for employers to verify immigration status," he added. "If there are no employment opportunities, I believe most of the illegal immigration problem will take care of itself once we secure the border."
Davidow pointed out that many of our relatives were immigrants who came here to live the American Dream, but they followed the legal process.
"By granting amnesty to those who came here illegally we are, as a government, telling everyone the law doesn't matter," Davidow said. "Moreover, we would be telling all the other Americans who came here legally that the best way to get ahead is to do something illegal. Two wrongs don't make a right."
He maintains illegal immigrants must be deported and those who qualify to become citizens — those who haven't committed crimes — should be permitted to re-enter legally through a simplified process.
"The question that no other politician wants to answer, however, is: What do we do with the children who were brought here illegally?" he said, noting a child wouldn't be allowed to benefit from money a parent stole, so why allow a child to benefit from a parent illegally entering the country. "The illegal immigrant parent never had the right to bestow any form of citizenship on their children by coming to the United States illegally."
Children should be required to return to their countries of origin, but offered an expedited pathway to citizenship while spending time with family in their own country — or at the U.S. Embassy office in their country, Davidow said.
But Donalds contends birthright citizenship shouldn't be allowed. Instead, he contends one parent must be a United States citizen if a child wants to receive citizenship.
"Children who were brought here and their parents or guardians who have the ability to provide for them can stay, but welfare benefits should not be extended to these individuals," Donalds said. "... Furthermore, some are paid under the table, which leads to a larger undercutting of wages."
Aubuchon blames the Obama Administration for failing to do its job in protecting America's borders.
"When I get to Congress, I will work to secure our borders, give law enforcement the tools they need to enforce current immigration laws and reform the process for legal immigration to include an effective guest worker program so it's no longer easier for illegal immigrants to enter the country than legal immigrants who follow the law," Aubuchon said.
The candidates were divided over whether illegal immigrants who boost the economy should remain, but agreed the guest worker program should be improved.
"Every job that an illegal immigrant takes in this country is a job that could have gone to an American citizen," said Radel, who is fluent in Spanish and believes immigrants should learn English if they want to stay. "If someone wants to come here legally to work or better yet, to invest capital, start a business and create jobs, we welcome them."
Immigration reform: Collier-Lee district's GOP congressional candidates weigh in » Naples Daily NewsWe have immigration laws that just need to be enforced.