Idaho Examiner - Sen. Larry Craig News Releases

Friday, May 19, 2006

The need to secure our borders

On Monday night, the President spoke to America about the need to secure our borders and reform immigration. He laid out an aggressive plan that I support.

For years now I have worked diligently on a comprehensive approach to immigration reform. We are a nation of immigrants - our economy and our culture are formed by immigrants. Our welcoming nature is something that is unique to America. After all, you can move to Germany, but you cannot become German. You can move to Japan, but you cannot become Japanese. However, anyone can become an American and realize the American dream. For this reason, America continues to be one of the most successful countries in the history of the world, being the very definition of a land of opportunity and freedom.

It is this "shining city on the hill" that attracts immigrants to our country. We need to recognize this and take steps to address our immigration problems. We need to secure our borders, deal with the workers who are already here, and improve programs to provide the workers we need.

First and foremost, border security is national security. If we don't know who is coming into our country, it weakens our ability to halt the next terrorist attack. The President mentioned that the Border Patrol has increased in numbers from 9,000 to 12,000 agents during his tenure and funding for border security has increased 66 percent - an increase partly due to the amendment adopted last year that I authored along with Senator Robert Byrd, D-W.V. to provide funding for 1,500 new border patrol agents. We also joined efforts to secure resources for 20,300 detention beds, 460 additional detention and removal personnel, and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles for patrolling our border. These were all mentioned by the President as vital tools to secure our border.

These efforts were a solid foundation. As the President outlined, continued resources are needed, including the use of our National Guard until we can put the additional agents in place. I support the President's proposal and will work hard in Congress to ensure it is enacted as soon as possible.

On May 17, 2006, the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee invited me to testify at a hearing on the President's plan. My full statement is available for you to read on my website.

Border security is vital, but the fact remains we have an estimated 12 million undocumented workers in our country. While the National Guard can assist the Border Patrol, I don't think any of us want our military going door-to-door to find these 12 million people. Still, we need to know who they are. That is why it is important for us to set up a system to bring these workers out of the shadows. I am talking about workers who have been working in our country for years, who have set up roots, and who have learned our language. I believe they should come forward, pay a substantial fine for their illegal act, submit to a background check, learn English, be involved in our community and our government, and continue to work, in order to be eligible for legal work authorization. In addition, they need to get in the back of the line for a green card.

Finally, we need to address the needs of our economy. Americans are fortunate to live in one of the most prosperous countries in the world. Consequently, there are simply jobs that Americans won't fill because they can work at a better job. We have always needed and will always need immigrants in our work force. Therefore, any system to fill that need must bring the workers in legally, keep track of them, and allow them to return home to their families in their home countries when the work is done.

Immigration is certainly the hot political topic of the day, and it is important. That is exactly why I have been working on border security and immigration reform for years. During that time I have had a lot of opportunities to reflect on where America came from, where it has been, and where it can go. If we can secure our borders while recognizing the value of immigrants, our growth will only be bound by the passion, tenacity, and innovation of those seeking life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

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