Protect America without giving amnesty to illegal aliens

Sunday, Jul 01, 2007 - 12:00 AM

As I travel throughout the 1st District on a weekly basis, the issue that stands out on peoples’ mind is illegal immigration. Here is where I stand.

Illegal means illegal. Amnesty should not be an option. We need to concentrate on building the fence on the Southern border and enforcing the laws already on the books.

The recently failed bill in the Senate was the wrong course for America. I joined my fellow members of the House Republican Conference in voting to publicly oppose this legislation. I am convinced that those in the Senate heard our vote in the House and more importantly the voice of America in voting down this abhorrent legislation.

I TRUST that the fervor that was shown by Americans against the Senate legislation will also be shown in support of those who made the proper choice in not allowing this legislation to pass.

Just because this measure did not pass in the Senate does not mean that the problem of illegal immigration is going away. Now is the time to deal with it in a fashion that is meaningful and beneficial to America.

Recently, two Border Patrol agents, Jose Compean and Ignacio Ramos, were imprisoned following events that took place involving an illegal immigrant attempting to smuggle a large amount of illegal drugs into our country. This is wrong. I have written a letter to President Bush asking for the pardon of these two individuals. I am also a co-sponsor of legislation that investigates the constitutionality of a congressional pardon. We must protect our border guards as they risk their lives to protect this great nation.

What about those individuals who are coming to this country to work in agriculture? We must be sensitive to the needs of farmers across this nation. This may be done in a lawful manner under a real "temporary guest worker" program. When we think of a guest, what comes to mind? Guests come, they visit and then they go home.

THE CURRENT immigration system should be examined and modified, where necessary, to allow a measured workforce that returns to its country of origin at the appropriate time. Amnesty or citizenship are not an option.

Not everyone entering our country illegally is here to work in our fields. As a member of the Homeland Security Committee, I hear numerous reports of terrorism threats, violent gang members, drug runners and even human traffickers using our porous borders to enter this country illegally. The primary role of government is to protect its citizens. We must protect our borders from all threats!

As we discuss illegal immigration, I have to stop for a moment and thank those who have come to this country legally. There is a process in place for those who want to become U.S. citizens, and there have been many who have worked hard to become part of this nation. I appreciate and welcome those who have the determination and integrity to go through this process legally.

Knowing that it is difficult to become a U.S. citizen is another reason for not allowing blind amnesty of illegal immigrants. We should not reward those who have broken at least one law – by entering this country illegally – with citizenship.

THERE IS a solution without amnesty. I have long been a proponent of enforcing the laws that are on the books and constructing a physical barrier along our Southern border, but what is to be done with those that are already here illegally?

Economic incentive for illegal immigrants to be in the United States must be removed. It is a very basic concept, but one that will work. If the risk is great for those who are willing to break our laws and enter this country illegally and there is no monetary gain, more people will decide to stay home, and, I am convinced more will leave this country. Imagine if illegal immigrants are stripped of free access to our health care, our education system, housing and our jobs. What would be their incentive to be here?

A starting point is enforcing the current penalty of up to $2,200 per employee for employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants. There is another side of the coin that must be addressed as well. The employer who is attempting to do the right thing and hire employees who are here legally, should be protected.

Right now, if you are an employer you have to prove that your employee is here in this country legally, so the employer asks for proper documentation. As that is provided, the employer cannot ask any more questions, or, they have the potential of violating privacy laws. So, the scenario could be: the employer has proper documentation and may still be found guilty of hiring illegal immigrants and thus, subject to a fine. This scenario should not happen. There has to be a balance of common sense and enforcement of our laws.

THIS ISSUE should not be about what political party will gain a foothold over the other by legalizing a new base. Politics need to be set aside and the best interest of America must come first.

The real question is whether we have the political will to approach illegal immigration with common sense and address the issue to protect the country.

David Davis, a Johnson City Republican, represents the 1st District in the U.S. House of Representatives. Readers may e-mail Davis by using the "write your representative" link on his Web site, ... -0001.html