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America Needs Comprehensive Immigration Reform By Michael Chertoff and Carlos Gutierrez

June 14, 2007

America Needs Comprehensive Immigration Reform

By Michael Chertoff and Carlos Gutierrez

McClatchy-Tribune

June 13, 2007

hpc-larger.jpgThe Senate’s inability to move forward on a bipartisan immigration reform bill preserves a broken system with ineffective and insufficient laws. Maintaining the status quo is unacceptable and would be a serious setback to those of us who are charged with securing our homeland and advancing our nation’s competitiveness.

Effective immigration enforcement requires the right tools and resources – precisely what the new bill would give us. By denying our law enforcement critical assistance, the current system impedes their brave efforts to protect our country.

The strongest magnet drawing illegal aliens across the border is the ease with which they can find employment. All that’s needed is a fake driver’s license and a bogus Social Security card, both of which can be bought on a street corner for about $200. Current law facilitates this state of affairs. It does not guard against cases of identity theft or phony driver’s licenses.

Unfortunately, some employers have built illegal labor into their business model, partly because the minimum penalty for a civil violation is just $275. Plenty of cities charge more when they unboot a car with too many parking tickets.

The Senate bill would end this outrage. It would require more secure, tamper-resistant identification in order to get a job. What’s more, employers would have to use an online network to ask agencies whether they in fact issued the ID that the worker has presented, bringing a halt to fabricated IDs. To stop identity theft, the network would even display to the employer a copy of the photo that should be on the ID, ending photo-substitution fraud as well.

The bill would raise civil penalties for employers who make a practice of violating the law to as high as $75,000 for each illegal worker they hire. That would take the profit out of hiring illegal workers for the small but unacceptable number of businesses that treat fines as simply a cost of doing business. Putting an end to this practice also will help stop deplorable workplace exploitation that a system of illegal labor fosters.

These tools are essential to effective enforcement. All of them will be denied to us if the bill does not pass.

But that’s not all.

Today, in order to find a handful of dangerous aliens – criminals, terrorists and gang members – the Department of Homeland Security must sort through a crowd of illegal maids and gardeners. Bringing the majority of illegal aliens out of the shadows will help us track down the dangerous ones.

Even after these aliens are found, removing them is a complicated, lengthy process that can take months or even years. If the aliens are not detained, many of them abscond and have to be tracked down at great expense. Detaining just one alien costs the government close to $35,000 a year.

Supporters of the Senate bill have a solution that is both clever and just. They want the 12 million illegal immigrants to pay the enforcement costs.

Every alien who steps out of the shadows and applies for legal status will have to pay both a processing fee – up to $1,500 – and a penalty as high as $1,000. The fee will pay for the background and criminal checks needed to separate murderers from maids, gang members from gardeners, terrorists from truck drivers. And under amendments introduced by Sens. Lindsey Graham and Jon Kyl with wide support, $4.4 billion of the penalties will be transferred to immigration enforcement agencies to strengthen our border and improve interior enforcement.

In addition to not being tough enough, the current immigration system fails to advance America’s place in the global economy. In the midst of fierce worldwide competition for brains and talent, today’s dysfunctional immigration system is driven primarily by a person’s family connection to the United States. We can do better, and the Senate bill includes a historic proposal to balance family relationships with attracting the skilled and educated workforce we need to maintain our status as an economic superpower.

Opponents of the immigration bill insist we don’t need such solutions. They say we should simply enforce the status quo. But they should seriously reconsider their position. Without these solutions, how can we effectively target the most dangerous people? And how can we ensure America’s immigration system serves our national interest?

Clearly, the way to better enforcement and a more competitive America is to pass the Senate bill.

Michael Chertoff is secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and Carlos Gutierrez is secretary of the Department of Commerce.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 14, 2007 1:18 PM

    We need to make our boarders safe. Pull the troops home from Japan,Germany and other places. We have the resources that a fly could not come across our boarders. The constitution states that the armey can arrest a citizen on our soil. That is corect , but illegal immigrants ARE NOT American citizens and can be put back in Mexico or Canada in the back of troop transports.I do not think that our Legislators in Washington know the definition of ILLEGAL or IMMIGRANT.If they can not get rid of theese LAW BREAKERS then vote them out of office.

  2. June 14, 2007 1:21 PM

    We need to make our boarders safe. Pull the troops home from Japan,Germany and other places. We have the resources that a fly could not come across our boarders. The constitution states that the armey can not arrest a citizen on our soil. That is correct , but illegal immigrants ARE NOT American citizens and can be put back in Mexico or Canada in the back of troop transports.I do not think that our Legislators in Washington know the definition of ILLEGAL or IMMIGRANT.If they can not get rid of these LAW BREAKERS then vote them out of office.

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