The Issue Is Immigration
by John Courage
We need a common-sense, comprehensive solution to the problem of illegal immigration. Enforcement-only does not work. From 1993 to 2004, the number of Border Patrol agents tripled (from about 4,000 to about 11,000) and the amount of spending has gone up five times (from $740 million to $3.8 billion), yet the number of undocumented immigrants doubled (from 4.5 million to 9.3 million). Building a fence along our southern border-as my opponent, incumbent Rep. Lamar Smith, advocates-and making felons of millions of undocumented immigrants and those who help them will not solve our immigration problems. It will only make matters worse.
I support a bipartisan, comprehensive approach that combines full implementation of border security measures recommended by the 9-11 Commission and fair and equitable immigration reform that serves to permit workers to come for available jobs, and reunites immigrants with family members who are United States citizens and lawful permanent residents.
For two decades, the country has been toughening border enforcement, building more fences, adding thousands of Border Patrol agents, and making it more costly and dangerous to cross. The result: Many more undocumented workers, 'economic refugees' as I to refer to them, who were once part of the seasonal workforce-north in spring, south in the late fall-stay here permanently, sending for families and driving up growth in the undocumented population.
In the long run, the country benefits economically and culturally from immigration and always has. But given the nation's tax and public service structure, in the short run at least, low-wage immigrants put burdens on local and state social services that their taxes don't pay for. The taxes they pay-Social Security in particular-go largely to the federal government, which is augmenting its surplus with billions from illegal workers. The costs of emergency health care and schools are borne largely by the states and local districts.
But the economic data (always controversial) isn't as important as the politics. Undocumented workers are already denied most social services, including welfare and all but emergency health care, but the widespread belief that they suck up taxpayer dollars and take American jobs has continued to feed the discontent with America's immigration policies.
An approach to the immigration problem that I support is a combination of a reliable identification system, tougher enforcement of employer sanctions and labor laws, expansion of the number of skilled worker visas, a guest-worker program that will allow less-skilled workers to work and return to their homeland with reasonable restrictions and measures to allow the undocumented who are already here to come out of the shadows.
Other Points on Immigration
1) Undocumented Immigrants Facts and Figures - Urban Institute January, 2004
2) Public Statement by Rep. Lamar Smith (TX), December 2, 2005 (as printed in The Washington Times).
3) H AMDT 1084 to HR 1227, May 23, 1996.
4) Public Statement by Rep. Lamar Smith (TX), December 16, 2005.
5) H AMDT 648 to HR 4437, December 15, 2005.
6) H AMDT 581 to HR 4567, June 18, 2004.
John Courage is running for United States Congress for the 21st District of Texas. Courage came to San Antonio for basic training after enlisting in the U.S. Air Force in 1971. He was honorably discharged four years later and enrolled in the University of Texas at San Antonio, working his way through with jobs in a local children's home and the Bexar County Mental Health and Retardation Department. He earned a BA in American Studies at UTSA. Returning to UTSA to earn a teacher's certification, Courage has been a classroom teacher for the past decade-and-a-half, primarily serving special education students in inner-city public schools. Courage has served on the San Antonio Teachers' Council Board, been a delegate to the National Education Association's convention for many years, and testified before the Texas House of Representatives' Committee on Education and the State Board of Education.
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