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Presidential Candidates On Immigration Reform

by Michele Kim

Editor's note: Below is a round-up of the Democratic and Republican candidates and their respective positions on immigration reform.





Select news stories covering this issue include:

"GOP Candidates Discuss Key Business Issues: Full Responses" by New Hampshire Business Review
Despite Danger, GOP Tees Up Immigration as 2008 Wedge Issue by Real Clear Politics
Cooking Up A Row: Immigration And The Presidential Race by The Economist


"In approaching immigration reform, I believe that we must enact tough, practical reforms. . . . We need stronger enforcement on the border and at the workplace. . . . But for reform to work, we also must respond to what pulls people to America. . . . Where we can reunite families, we should. Where we can bring in more foreign-born workers with the skills our economy needs, we should. . . . The time to fix our broken immigration system is now. It is critical that as we embark on this enormous venture to update our immigration system, it is fully reflective of the powerful tradition of immigration in this country and fully reflective of our values and ideals."

Barack Obama has played a leading role in crafting comprehensive immigration reform. Obama believes the immigration issue has been exploited by politicians to divide the nation rather than find real solutions. This divisiveness has allowed the illegal immigration problem to worsen, with borders that are less secure than ever and an economy that depends on millions of workers living in the shadows. Obama believes that our broken immigration system can only be fixed by putting politics aside and offering a complete solution that secures our border, enforces our laws and reaffirms our heritage as a nation of immigrants.

Creating Secure Borders

Barack Obama wants to preserve the integrity of our borders. He supports additional personnel, infrastructure, and technology on the border and at our ports of entry. Obama believes we need additional Customs and Border Protection agents equipped with better technology and real-time intelligence.

Improve Our Immigration System

The overwhelming majority of immigrants, both legal and undocumented, come to this country with the hope that hard work and sacrifice will secure a better life for their children. Every year, a million people enter the country legally and another 500,000-800,000 people come illegally or illegally overstay their visas. Barack Obama believes we must fix the broken system to meet the needs of the U.S. economy. Obama believes immigrant workers should have legal protections to avoid abuse and downward pressure on American wages and working conditions. He also realizes the need to increase the number of people we allow into the country legally to a level that keeps families together and meets the demand for jobs that employers cannot fill.

Obama joined Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) to introduce the Citizenship Promotion Act to ensure that immigration application fees are both reasonable and fair. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services decided to raise fees on applications to as much as $2,400 for a family of four. Obama's bill reverses large fee increases for legal immigrants seeking to become citizens and provides grants to states to help promote citizenship. Another key choke point in the process to becoming a legal permanent resident or a U.S. citizen is the F.B.I. name/security check. Many law-abiding legal immigrants see their immigration applications delayed by months and often years as the overwhelmed F.B.I. completes their background checks. Obama introduced legislation that passed the Senate to improve the speed and accuracy of these background checks.

In the most recent immigration debate on the U.S. Senate floor, Obama fought to improve and pass a comprehensive bill. Obama introduced amendments to put greater emphasis on keeping immigrant families together and to revisit a controversial new points system that never received a proper public hearing. Obama will continue to work for a comprehensive bill that fixes our broken immigration system.

Bring People Out of the Shadows

There are millions of people living in the shadows who would like to fully embrace our values and become full members of our democracy. For the millions living here illegally but otherwise playing by the rules, we must encourage them to come out of hiding and get right with the law. Barack Obama supports a system that allows undocumented immigrants who are in good standing to pay a fine, learn English, not violate the law, and go to the back of the line for the opportunity to become citizens.

Remove Incentives to Enter Illegally

To remove incentives to enter the country illegally, we need to crack down on employers that hire undocumented immigrants. Barack Obama has championed a proposal with Senators Charles Grassley (R-IA), Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Max Baucus (D-MT) to create a new employment eligibility verification system so employers can verify that their employees are legally eligible to work in the U.S.

Reform H-1B Visas

Immigrants have helped create wealth in America's economy. Barack Obama supports improvements in our visa programs, including the H-1B program, to attract some of the world's most talented people to America. However, Barack Obama would like to see immigrant workers less dependent on their employers for their right to stay in the country and would hold accountable employers who abuse the system and their workers.

Honor our Immigrant Troops

About 69,300 foreign-born men and women serve in the U.S. armed forces - roughly 5 percent of the total active-duty force. Of those, 43 percent - 29,800 - are not U.S. citizens. The Pentagon says that more than 100 immigrant soldiers have died in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. Barack Obama believes that legal immigrants who have fought for us overseas should have expedited procedures towards citizenship.


Our immigration system is in crisis. The laws we currently have on the books are inadequate and no longer serve our best interests. As a nation, we place a premium on compassion, respect, and policies that help families, but our immigration laws don't reflect that.

Hillary has consistently called for comprehensive immigration reform that respects our immigrant heritage and honors the rule of law. She believes comprehensive reform must have as essential ingredients a strengthening of our borders, greater cross-cooperation with our neighbors, strict but fair enforcement of our laws, federal assistance to our state and local governments, strict penalties for those who exploit undocumented workers, and a path to earned legal status for those who are here, working hard, paying taxes, respecting the law, and willing to meet a high bar.

Hillary strongly believes we need to do more to know who is in our country by securing our borders and ensuring that employers comply with the law against hiring and exploiting undocumented workers. She supports deploying new technology that can help stop the flow of undocumented immigrants into the country and an employer verification system that is universal, accurate, timely, and does not lead to discrimination and abuse by employers.

Along with these changes, Hillary believes we need to repair those broken portions of our immigration system that irrevocably damage families and force citizens and lawful immigrants to choose between their newly adopted country and living with their spouse or children. We have a national interest in fostering strong families. This is why she introduced an amendment during consideration of the immigration reform bill that would have taken steps to protect the sanctity of families. Our American values demand no less.

And Hillary understands that our immigration policies have a direct impact on American workers. She opposes a guest worker program that exploits workers and creates a supply of cheap labor that undermines the wages of U.S. workers. Hillary believes all workers deserve safe conditions and decent wages. She supports an Ag Jobs program, which will keep our agricultural industry vibrant while enabling agricultural workers to receive the fair wages and labor protections they ought to receive.

When Hillary is president, comprehensive immigration reform will be a top priority.

Ready to Lead

Hillary has advocated for policies to help smooth the transition of legal immigrants once they arrive in the U.S. so that they can add to our economy and culture.

  • She championed the Legal Immigrant Children's Health Improvement Act, which would give states the option to provide federally funded Medicaid and SCHIP benefits to low-income legal immigrant children and pregnant women.
  • She wrote the Access to Employment and English Acquisition Act to meet the growing demand for English language courses and other job skills.
  • She strongly supports the DREAM Act, which provides a path to citizenship through military service or higher education for children who were brought to the U.S. by their parents.
  • She offered an amendment to make family reunification the guiding principle of our immigration system.


Comprehensive Immigration Reform

"Immigration is central to the story of America, but our immigration system needs a fundamental overhaul. Our security is threatened by borders we cannot control. Our economy is harmed by a large underground economy with an unprotected labor force. And our values are violated when 12 million people live in the shadows of our society, vulnerable to abuse." – John Edwards

Strengthen Our Borders

The first step in overhauling the immigration system is to secure our borders and stop illegal trafficking. Edwards supports doubling the number of border patrol agents and investing in surveillance technology to police the borders. We also need to crack down on employers that hire undocumented immigrants. Edwards supports more vigorous workplace enforcement and increased fines for businesses that knowingly break the rules.

Provide an Earned Path to Citizenship that Requires English

It is unrealistic to think that we can deport more than 12 million people. Edwards believes people who are already here should have the opportunity to earn American citizenship by avoiding a criminal record, paying a fine in recognition that they came here illegally, and learning English – the surest path to success in this country.

Preserve Family Reunification

Our immigration policies should bring families together, not keep them apart. Edwards believes family reunification is an important value that our immigration laws should continue to respect. We should remove barriers to family reunification.

No New Second-Class of Laborers

America is a land of equals, not a land of first-class citizens and second-class laborers. Edwards opposes new temporary guest worker programs that do not provide adequate workplace protections and a reasonable path to citizenship. If we invite you to work in America, we should invite you to become an American with all the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.

End the Backlog

The process for background checks on legal immigrants has broken down, delaying proper applications for naturalization and jeopardizing security. The backlog of applications has doubled to nearly 330,000. Edwards will end the background check backlog for people who are already in this country and are applying to become lawful permanent residents and, eventually, citizens.


“Our immigration system is broken and we have an obligation to work on it until we fix it. The immigration bill isn’t perfect, but it’s an important step forward. To be honest, there are many things I don’t like about it such as the temporary worker program and a green card system that overemphasizes wealth and devalues family ties. But we owe it to the people we serve to work through our differences and ultimately resolve this problem. That’s why I voted to keep working on the bill – this issue is too important to just quit on.”


"I am gravely disappointed that comprehensive immigration reform has again been put off, and at the tenor with which the debate was conducted. The failure of this bill was in part due to the divisiveness that has been sewed into the American political fabric over the last six years. We need to restore leadership that can bring people together to get things done."


Realistic Immigration Reform

I am committed to implementing comprehensive reforms that secure our borders and our ports and provide for an effective and humane immigration policy

As the Governor of a border state I deal with the effects of immigration, legal and illegal, every day. The federal government has not done enough to solve the problem. In 2005 violent crime, drugs, and crime were out of control along New Mexico's border with Mexico. I took action, declaring a state of emergency along the border, making $1.75 million available to local law enforcement agencies to increase patrols and add personnel. As a result, arrests are up, crime is down, and the flow of undocumented immigrants has slowed. The New Mexico border town of Village of Columbus, for example, saw an 80 percent reduction in crime.

Building a fence will not increase security, just as attempting to deport 12 million illegal immigrants is not feasible or reasonable. I believe a realistic immigration reform plan must address the problem from all sides -- securing the border, penalizing employers for knowingly hiring illegal workers, offering a tough but reasonable path to legalization, engaging Mexico in the reform process, and improving our current immigration quota system.

Secure the Border by Hiring and Training Enough Patrol Guards to Cover the Entire Border

We must more than double the number of guards, and provide them with the best surveillance technology available.

Establish a Reasonable Path to Legalization for Many of Those Who are Already Here

This is not amnesty, but is a tough but fair opportunity for legalization and the possibility of citizenship. Most of the illegal workers in the country are hard-working, law abiding people simply pursuing the American Dream. Those who pass a background check, learn English, pay back taxes and fines for being here illegally get the opportunity for legal status. Those that don't must leave.

Crack Down on Immigration Fraud and Illegal Workers

We should offer informant visas and cash rewards for aliens who provide law enforcement with credible information on human traffickers and document forgers. As President, I would establish a fraudulent documents task force to constantly update law enforcement and border officials on the latest fraudulent documents being marketed for entry into the United States. In addition, I believe we must improve identification documentation of immigrant workers.

Eliminate One of the Prime Attractions for Illegal Workers

We must crack down on employers who knowingly hire undocumented immigrants and enforce the laws already on the books.  After establishing a national ID system, employers will have no excuses.

Work in Partnership with the Mexican Government and Nations Throughout Latin America

Mexico is our friend and a major trading partner but they must take action to help reduce the northward flow of illegal immigrants and illegal drugs. We must improve border infrastructure to streamline the movement of goods through the free-trade zones along the border, revitalizing communities on both sides of the border and creating much-needed jobs. The Secretary General of the Organization of American States appointed me as a special envoy to Latin American to promote initiatives that focus on economic development and immigration. Through intensive diplomacy and face-to-face dialogue we must demonstrate to OAS member states that they have an equal responsibility to help solve the immigration problem.

Throughout my career I have worked closely and effectively with Mexico on issues such as border security, trade, and education. As Governor I convinced the Mexican government to bulldoze a section of the border town of Las  Chepas, where abandoned buildings had become staging points for bringing illegal immigrants and drugs into the US. I also met with President Calderon to discuss how the United States and Mexico can work together to solve the problems associated with illegal immigration. I don't need to learn about the problems or to figure out how to get things done. I've done it.

Increase the Number of Legal Immigrants Allowed Into the US Each Year

The number of guest workers allowed at any one time must be based upon the needs of the US economy. Our goal must be to meet demand for jobs that go unfilled by American citizens, and no more.

I Was the First Governor in the Nation to Send National Guard Troops to the Border

In 2006 President Bush called for the deployment of National Guard troops to fortify the nation's borders and stem the flow of undocumented immigrants. I was the first Governor to honor that request and send National Guard support to the existing border patrol forces, with the condition that the assignment was temporary until the administration could recruit and train a large number of new Border Patrol agents.


Our country is a nation of immigrants. They have enriched our heritage and enlivened our culture. As millions of newcomers continue to work hard, raise families, serve in our armed forces, and study at universities, the Bush administration has waged an assault on immigrant's rights. Undocumented workers have been left in legal limbo, while local police forces have been pressured against their will to hunt down undocumented workers, which jeopardizes their relationships with immigrant communities. Thousands of immigrants have been detained in secret, denied due process, and deported. In the economic sphere, undocumented workers have become convenient scapegoats. Yet the reality, as shown in study after study, is that they pay more in taxes than they receive in government services.

Welcoming immigrants to our shores is one of our country's vital traditions -- the heart and soul of the American dream. In Congress, I have co-sponsored a number of bills to help immigrants, including the Family Unity Legalization Act, which allows those who have been in the country for over five years to legalize their status. Among other legislation in this area, I have co-sponsored a bill supportive of refugees from Columbia and Peru and a bill helping nationals from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Haiti to become permanent residents.

We need to honor this welcoming legacy by legalizing the status of hard-working, taxpaying undocumented workers in the U.S. It would clear out the backlog in the naturalization process so that those who are eligible to become citizens can do so without endless delays. It would offer immigrants a clear road map to citizenship, so that they can become fully participating members of our communities. And it would work with our partners in Mexico to normalize the flow of immigrants by forging an agreement on migration.

I am a strong supporter of the USA Family Act (HR 440). It offers immigrants a clear road map to legal status in the United States. Among other changes, it grants legal permanent residence to immigrants who have been living in the U.S. for five or more years. It offers conditional legal status and work authorization to all law-abiding immigrants living in the United States for less than five years. And it revokes current laws that bar certain people who live abroad from re-entering the U.S. for a period of three to 10 years.

We cannot continue with a system in which millions of workers and their families live in fear and are subject to economic exploitation. There is no place in our country for second-class status. It is time to restore respect for the rights and contributions of immigrants.


"Real immigration reform must put security first because border security and homeland security are inseparable in the Terrorists' War on Us. The first responsibility of the federal government is to protect our citizens by controlling America's borders, while ending illegal immigration and identifying every non-citizen in our nation. We must restore integrity, accountability and the rule of law to our immigration system to regain the faith of the American people." - Mayor Rudy Giuliani

Control Our Nation's Borders

Bring Order To The Border: Congress authorized the construction of 700 miles of border fence in 2006 and then appropriated over $1.1 billion for border security. However, Washington has only built a few dozen miles of fence. Rudy will commit to building the fence - both physical and high-tech - now, while deploying and maintaining 20,000 Border Patrol agents and measuring their progress toward ending illegal immigration. It is important to accomplish this goal in order to preserve and expand legal immigration.

Implement BorderStat: Rudy will propose BorderStat to bring accountability to measuring the progress in securing our borders. BorderStat is modeled after the Mayor's successful New York City program CompStat which helped reduce the city's crime by imposing accountability. It will use key indicators to identify both effective enforcement strategies that demonstrate tangible results and areas of the border where we are failing so the failures can be immediately corrected.

Identify All Non-Citizens Entering And Exiting America

Issue A Single, Tamper-Proof Biometric ID Card: Rudy will propose the Secure Authorized Foreign Entry Card (SAFE Card) to be uniform for all non-citizen workers and students, utilizing tamper-proof and biometric features for secure identification.

Create A Single National Database Of Foreigners: It is critical to America's security to have one national database of non-citizens in our country. Rudy will propose consolidating all existing databases into one so a foreigner's legal status can be quickly checked.

Identify Those Who Have Left The Country With Biometric Check-out System: Forty-five percent of illegal immigrants in America came into our country legally but overstayed their visas. Rudy believes we need a biometric check-out system so we know who has left America and can focus enforcement on those who remain.

Deport Criminal Aliens

Deport All Illegal Aliens Who Commit A Felony: America currently only deports 14% of the roughly 300,000 foreigners who commit crimes in our country. Rudy will commit to deporting all foreign individuals who have abused their privilege of staying in the United States.

Americanize Immigrants

Require All Immigrants to Truly Read, Write & Speak English: Rudy believes immigration and Americanization go hand-in-hand. As President, he will propose that all immigrants who want to become citizens must truly read, write, and speak English and learn American civics. For the American experiment to succeed, we need a common language.

Released: 8.13.07


Challenges: The number of illegal immigrants in the U.S. has exploded in the last decade from 3 million to over 12 million. The increasing tide of illegal immigration has eroded Americans' faith in the rule of law, put great pressure on our health and education systems, and compromised our national security as our ability to secure our border is questioned around the world. This tide of illegal immigration has made a mockery of our legal immigration system and been fundamentally unfair to those legal immigrants who play by the rules as they wait patiently to pursue the American dream. Sanctuary cities, in particular, attract more illegal immigrants and increase the pressure on federal law enforcement and border control.

Governor Romney: "The current system puts up a concrete wall to the best and brightest, yet those without skill or education are able to walk across the border. We must reform the current immigration laws so we can secure our borders, implement a mandatory biometrically-enabled and tamperproof documentation and employment-verification system, and increase legal immigration into America." (David Yepsen, Op-Ed, "So Far, Romney's Been Most Impressive Republican," Des Moines Register, 7/11/07)

The Romney Plan To Stop Illegal Immigration

Secure The Border. Follow through on Congressional commitment to build a physical and technological fence along the southern border, and secure other points of entry.

Implement An Enforceable Employer Verification System. Issue a biometrically-enabled and tamperproof card to non-citizens and create a national database for non-citizens so employers can easily verify their legal status in this country.

Reject Amnesty. Do not give amnesty or any special pathway to those who have come to this country illegally.

Punish Sanctuary Cities. Cut back federal funding to cities that are "sanctuaries" for illegal immigrants and refuse to comply with federal law or aid federal law enforcement.

Improve Interior Enforcement. Provide resources to enforce immigration laws throughout the nation, and crackdown on employers who continue to hire illegals with stiffer fines and penalties.

Encourage Legal Immigration. Streamline the system to recruit and retain skilled workers and welcome the best and the brightest from around the world to our universities.

Governor Romney: "I was at the San Diego border and met with our Border Patrol agents. They told me that more than a half of those that try and come across those fences are able to do so. They said there's no way to stop them at the border, unless you close down the magnets. And the magnets are sanctuary cities and having employers sign people up that have come here illegally to do work here. You have to end sanctuary cities. You have to cut back on federal funding to cities that continue to call themselves sanctuary cities and welcome people in, as New York has done. And you have to say to employers that hire people illegally, 'That's also going to be sanctioned.' This is the way we're going to have to finally end it. And the other key point is this, which is having amnesty and saying to individuals, as the mayor has said, if you come here and you're willing to work here and pay taxes, we'll sign you up. That's not the right message. We've got to enforce the law, welcoming legal immigration but ending illegal immigration." (Fox News, Republican Presidential Candidate Debate, Durham, NH, 9/5/07)


Immigration: Securing our borders must be our top priority and has reached the level of a national emergency.

I support the $3 billion the Senate has voted for border security. This money will train and deploy 23,000 more agents, add four drone planes, build 700 miles of fence and 300 miles of vehicle barriers, and put up 105 radar and camera towers. This money will turn "catch and release" into "catch and detain" of those entering illegally, and crack down on those who overstay their visas.

In this age of terror, immigration is not only an economic issue, but also a national security issue. Those caught trying to enter illegally must be detained, processed, and deported. As Governor, I ordered my state troopers to work with the Department of Homeland Security to arrest illegals and enforce federal immigration law.

I oppose and will never allow amnesty. I opposed the amnesty President Bush and Senator McCain tried to ram through Congress this summer, and opposed the misnamed DREAM Act, which would have put us on the slippery slope to amnesty for all.

I oppose and will not tolerate sanctuaries for illegals. The federal government must crack down on rogue cities that willfully undermine our economy and national security.

I oppose giving driver's licenses to illegals and supports legislation to prevent states from doing so. In 2005, I signed legislation that prevents illegals in Arkansas from getting driver's licenses.

I will stop punishing cities which try to enforce our laws and protect the economic well-being, physical safety, and quality of life of their citizens.

I oppose and will not tolerate employers who hire illegals. They must be punished with fines and penalties so large that they will see it is not worth the risk.

I oppose the economic integration of North America that would create open borders among the United States, Canada, and Mexico. I will never yield one iota or one inch of our sovereignty.

I will take our country back for those who belong here. No open borders, no amnesty, no sanctuary, no false Social Security numbers, no driver's licenses for illegals.

I know that securing our borders must be our top priority and has reached the level of a national emergency. I am as sick and tired as you are that it is harder for us to get on an airplane in our home town than it is for all these illegals to cross our international border unchallenged.

We cannot stem the tide of illegals until we turn the tide. Before you fix the damage to your house caused by a leaking roof, you have to stop the leak, which I am determined to do.

I supported the $3 billion Congress passed this summer for border security. This desperately-needed money will train and deploy 23,000 more agents, add four drone planes, build 700 miles of fence and 300 miles of vehicle barriers, and put up 105 radar and camera towers. This money will turn "catch and release" into "catch and detain" of those entering illegally and crack down on those who overstay their visas.

But where is this $3 billion? The President threatened to veto the bill it was part of! Now the Senate has again voted for this money as part of the Defense Bill. I will continue to fight until we get these funds.

In this age of terror, immigration is not only an economic issue, but also a national security issue. We must know who is coming into our country, where they are going, and why they are here. All those who are caught trying to enter illegally must be detained, processed, and deported. As Governor, I ordered my state troopers to work with the Department of Homeland Security to arrest illegals and enforce federal immigration law.

I oppose and will never allow amnesty. I passionately rejected the amnesty bill that President Bush and Sen. McCain tried to ram through Congress this summer after secret meetings of an under-the-radar cabal of amnesty-loving senators.

I opposed the misnamed DREAM Act, which was a nightmare because it would have put us on the slippery slope to amnesty for all. Because once we open that door even a crack, we'll never get it closed again.

I oppose and will not tolerate sanctuaries for illegals. The federal government must enforce our existing laws by cracking down on rogue cities and towns that willfully undermine our economy and our homeland security by giving benefits and protection to illegals. The consequences for illegal entry must be swift, certain, and uniform throughout our country.

I oppose giving driver's licenses to illegals, such as Governor Spitzer tried to do in New York. I support legislation that would prevent the states from granting this privilege to illegals. In 2005, I signed legislation that prevents illegals in Arkansas from getting driver's licenses.

I will stop punishing cities which are trying to enforce our laws. I will appoint judges who will uphold the law, not side with the ACLU against cities like Hazelton, Pennsylvania, which are trying to protect the economic well-being, physical safety, and quality of life of their citizens.

I will not tolerate employers who hire illegals - they must be punished by fines and penalties so large that they will understand it is not worth the risk. Once again, as with Hazelton, liberal judges are gumming up the works. Right now, a court in San Francisco -- Pelosiland - has delayed enforcement of the "no match" letters for Social Security numbers that the Department of Homeland Security will use to crack down on those who hire illegals. If illegals cannot find work, they will go back where they belong. I will do everything I can to hasten their trip home by denying them employment.

I strongly oppose the economic integration of North America that would have open borders among the United States, Canada, and Mexico. I know we must have closed and secure borders. I will never yield either one inch or one iota of our sovereignty. I will recognize no authority but our Constitution.

I will take our country back for those who belong here and those who are willing to play by the rules for the privilege to come here. No open borders, no amnesty, no sanctuary, no false Social Security numbers, no driver's licenses for illegals.


Immigration is one of those challenging issues that touch on many aspects of American life.

I have always believed that our border must be secure and that the federal government has utterly failed in its responsibility to ensure that it is secure. If we have learned anything from the recent immigration debate, it is that Americans have little trust that their government will honor a pledge to do the things necessary to make the border secure.

As president, I will secure the border. I will restore the trust Americans should have in the basic competency of their government. A secure border is an essential element of our national security. Tight border security includes not just the entry and exit of people, but also the effective screening of cargo at our ports and other points of entry.

But a secure border will contribute to addressing our immigration problem most effectively if we also:

  • Recognize the importance of building strong allies in Mexico and Latin America who reject the siren call of authoritarians like Hugo Chavez, support freedom and democracy, and seek strong domestic economies with abundant economic opportunities for their citizens.

  • Recognize the importance of pro-growth policies -- keeping government spending in check, holding down taxes, and cutting unnecessary regulatory burdens -- so American businesses can hire and pay the best.

  • Recognize the importance of a flexible labor market to keep employers in business and our economy on top. It should provide skilled Americans and immigrants with opportunity. Our education system should ensure skills for our younger workers, and our retraining and assistance programs for displaced workers must be modernized so they can pursue those opportunities

  • Recognize the importance of assimilation of our immigrant population, which includes learning English, American history and civics, and respecting the values of a democratic society.

  • Recognize that America will always be that "shining city upon a hill," a beacon of hope and opportunity for those seeking a better life built on hard work and optimism.

Border security and our failed immigration system are more examples of an ailing Washington culture in need of reform to regain the trust of Americans. In too many areas -- from immigration and pork barrel spending to Social Security, health care, energy security and tax relief -- business-as-usual politics prevents addressing the important challenges facing our nation.


Border Security and Immigration Reform Plan

In the post-9/11 world, immigration is much more of a national security issue. A government that cannot secure its borders and determine who may enter and who may not, fails in a fundamental responsibility.  As we take steps to secure our borders and enforce our laws, we must also ensure that our immigration laws and policies advance our national interests in a variety of areas, and that the immigration process itself is as fair, efficient, and effective as possible.

Securing the Border and Enforcing the Law

A fundamental responsibility of the federal government is to secure the nation's borders and enforce the law. The following policies and initiatives will put the nation on a path to success:

  1. No Amnesty. Do not provide legal status to illegal aliens. Amnesty undermines U.S. law and policy, rewards bad behavior, and is unfair to the millions of immigrants who follow the law and are awaiting legal entry into the United States. In some cases, those law-abiding and aspiring immigrants have been waiting for several years.

  2. Attrition through Enforcement . Reduce the number of illegal aliens through increased enforcement against unauthorized alien workers and their employers. Without illegal employment opportunities available, fewer illegal aliens will attempt to enter the country, and many of those illegally in the country now likely will return home. Self-deportation can also be maximized by stepping up the enforcement levels of other existing immigration laws. This course of action offers a reasonable alternative to the false choices currently proposed to deal with the 12 million or more aliens already in the U.S. illegally: either arrest and deport them all, or give them all amnesty. Attrition through enforcement is a more reasonable and achievable solution, but this approach requires additional resources for enforcement and border security:

    1. Doubling ICE agents handling interior enforcement, increasing the Border Patrol to at least 25,000 agents, and increasing detention space to incarcerate illegal aliens we arrest rather than letting them go with a promise to show up later for legal proceedings against them.

    2. Adding resources for the Department of Justice to prosecute alien smugglers, people involved in trafficking in false identification documents, and previously deported felons.

    3. Maximizing efforts to prosecute and convict members of criminal alien gangs, such as MS-13 and affiliated gangs. These gangs have brought unusual levels of violence to more than 30 U.S. states and have also become very active in drug-smuggling, gun-smuggling, and alien-smuggling.

    4. Implementing fully and making greater use of the expedited removal process already allowed under federal law.

    5. Enabling the Social Security Administration to share relevant information with immigration and law enforcement personnel in a manner that will support effective interior enforcement efforts.

  3. Enforce Existing Federal Laws. Enforce the laws Congress has already enacted to prevent illegal aliens from unlawfully benefiting from their presence in the country:

    1. End Sanctuary Cities by cutting off discretionary federal grant funds as appropriate to any community that, by law, ordinance, executive order, or other formal policy directs its public officials not to comply with the provisions of 8 USC 1373 and 8 USC 1644, which prohibit any state or local government from restricting in any way communications with the Department of Homeland Security "regarding the immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of an alien in the United States."

    2. Deny discretionary Federal education grants as appropriate to public universities that violate federal law by offering in-state tuition rates to illegal aliens without also offering identical benefits to United States citizens, regardless of whether or not they live in the state, as required by 8 USC 1623.

    3. Deny discretionary Federal grants as appropriate to states and local governments that violate federal law by offering public benefits to illegal aliens, as prohibited by 8 USC 1621(a).

  4. Reduce the Jobs Incentive. Ensure employee verification by requiring that all U.S. employers use the Department of Homeland Security's electronic database (the E-Verify system) to confirm that a prospective employee is authorized to work in the U.S. Now that the technology is proven, provide sufficient resources to make the system as thorough, fast, accurate, and easy-to-use as possible.

  5. Add to the Cost of Hiring Illegal Aliens. Deny a tax deduction to employers for the wages they pay to illegal aliens, thereby dramatically increasing the real cost of employing illegal aliens. Businesses that do not play by the rules should not be rewarded under our tax system.

  6. Bolster Border Security. Finish building the 854-mile wall along the border by 2010 as required by 8 USC 1103. Extend the wall beyond that as appropriate and deploy new technologies and additional resources to enhance detection and rapid apprehension along our borders by 2012.

  7. Increased Prosecution. Deploy the additional assets outlined above to prosecute alien smugglers ("coyotes"), alien gang members, previously deported felons, and aliens who have repeatedly violated our immigration laws much more vigorously.

  8. Rigorous Entry/Exit Tracking. Complete the implementation of a system to track visa entrants and exits, as has been required by federal law for more than ten years, and connect it to the FBI's National Crime Information Center (NCIC), in order to curb visa overstays and permit more effective enforcement.

Improving the Legal Immigration Process

The United States is a nation of immigrants. We must continue to welcome immigrants and foreign workers who come to our country legally, giving priority to those who can advance the nation's interests and common good. Immigrants and foreign workers who play by the rules need to be rewarded with faster and less burdensome service, not delays that last years. Advancing the following initiatives will require close cooperation between all levels of government, the business community, and concerned citizens:

  1. Maximize Program Efficiency. Reduce the backlogs and streamline the process for immigrants and employers who seek to follow the law. Also, simplify and expedite the application processes for temporary visas. This can be accomplished by hiring more personnel at Citizenship and Immigration Services and the FBI. Caps for any category of temporary work visa would be increased as appropriate, if it could be demonstrated that there are no Americans capable and willing to do the jobs.

  2. Enhanced Reporting. Improve reporting to the government by businesses that rely on temporary workers so that the government can track whether the visa holder remains employed.

  3. Modernize Immigration Law/Policy. Change the nature of our legal immigration system to welcome immigrants who can be economic contributors to our country, are willing to learn the English language, and want to assimilate.

    1. Reduce the scope of chain migration by giving family preference in the allocation of lawful permanent resident status only to spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens, and no one else (no siblings, no parents, no adult children, etc.).

    2. Eliminate the diversity visa lottery.
  1. English As Official Language. Make English the official language of the United States to promote assimilation and legal immigrants' success, and require English proficiency in order for any foreign person to be granted lawful permanent resident status.

  2. Freedom from Political Oppression. Preserve U.S. laws and policies to ensure that the United States remains a beacon and a haven for persons fleeing political oppression, while assuring appropriate admission standards are maintained.

  3. Service to Country. Place those foreign persons who are lawfully present in the country and who serve honorably in the Armed Forces of the United States on a faster, surer track to U.S. citizenship.


Congressman Hunter has a 27 year record of fighting illegal immigration and promoting border security.  As a member of Congress with a Southwest border district heavily impacted by the effects of illegal immigration, Rep. Hunter has steadfastly opposed amnesty proposals, including voting against the 1986 amnesty law, while tirelessly working to strengthen border security.  Amnesty is not the answer.  In fact, it encourages a whole new wave of illegal immigrants who seek to catch the next amnesty.

America has one of the most generous immigration policies in the world.  It is unacceptable that we allow millions of people to sneak in the back door of our country when the front door is available.  We have tried amnesty and it does not work. We must enforce and, as necessary, tighten our immigration laws and secure our border–it is a matter of national security.

Border Fence

As part of the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform Act (P.L. 104-208), Rep. Hunter authored the legislative language mandating a 14-mile triple fence along the San Diego-Mexico land border, which augmented the single layer fence he had built with surplus landing-matt in 1989.  Since then he has worked, most notably against strong opposition of the Clinton Administration, to see that project completed.  Since construction of the San Diego fence began:

·         Illegal alien apprehensions along the fenced region dropped from over 202,000 in 1992 to about 9,000 in 2004.  Further, it is estimated that the apprehensions vs. attempts ratio increased to over 90%;

·         With the establishment of the San Diego border fence, crime rates in San Diego have fallen off dramatically.  According to the FBI Crime Index, crime in San Diego County dropped 56.3% between 1989 to 2000;

·         Vehicle drive-throughs in the region have fallen from between 6 to 10 per day before the construction of border infrastructure, to only 4 drive-throughs in 2004 and those occurred only where the secondary fence is incomplete;

·         The fence has forced drug smugglers, who once easily crossed the San Diego border, to attempt to enter the U.S. through major ports of entry instead. This significantly increases the likelihood of discovery and seizure of illegal narcotics entering our country.

As a result of the success of the San Diego fence, Rep. Hunter authored the provisions of the Secure Fence Act calling for the construction of 854 miles of border fence along the five most prolific smuggling corridors on the Southwest border.  While construction of the Secure Fence project is not moving as rapidly as Rep. Hunter would like, the Administration is moving forward and as of September 30, 2007, 70 miles of new border pedestrian fence has been constructed.  Congressman Hunter remains engaged in ensuring that the Administration meets the mandates put in place by the Secure Fence Act and secures our borders as rapidly as possible.

Birth Right Citizenship Reform

Congressman Hunter opposes summarily bestowing citizenship on people who have crossed our borders illegally. Therefore, he is a cosponsor of H.R. 1940, the Birthright Citizenship Act, grants automatic citizenship only to those who have at least one parent who is a U.S. citizen.  The Constitution has been interpreted to grant U.S. citizenship to any person born on U.S. territory.  The unintended consequences of this policy has been thousands of women a year illegally cross our international border, often in dangerous circumstances, to give birth to their child in the U.S. and thereby guaranteeing that child U.S. citizenship.

Employer Verification

One of the strongest draws to the United States for illegal immigrants is our economy and enticing job market.  It is critical that we remove this incentive for illegal migrants.  As a result, Rep. Hunter has cosponsored H.R. 19, which would require the Department of Homeland Security to implement a nationwide employment verification system.  Employers need to have an easy, reliable and efficient system to verify an employee’s status and there must be real consequences imposed on employers who willfully break the law and employ illegal immigrants.

Border Patrol Agents

Border Patrol Agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean were convicted for what amounted to procedural violations in their attempted apprehension of drug smuggler, Aldrete-Davila, along the Southwest border in Texas.  For reasons that remain unclear, U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton used his prosecutorial discretion to indict Agents Ramos and Compean on a weapons charge that carries a 10-year mandatory sentence.  Given the evidence and circumstances of the case, this indictment against these Border Patrol Agents was completely unjustified.

In addition, information has come forward since the agents’ convictions that the drug smuggler, who was granted immunity, received free medical care and a humanitarian visa for his testimony against the agents, was involved in another drug smuggling incident just 8 months later. 

Understanding the miscarriage of justice that has been perpetuated against these agents, Rep. Duncan Hunter has introduced H.R. 563, legislation granting a congressional pardon to the agents. While this has never been tried before and some argue that it is unconstitutional, legal advisors have stipulated that it has never been adjudicated and that there are some indications that such an action would be valid.  Regardless, since the agents remain in jail, Rep. Hunter believes it is appropriate to try this course of action. 102 of his House colleagues agree and have cosponsored the legislation.

In addition, Rep. Hunter is circulating a letter amongst his colleagues to ask the President to reevaluate his previous position and immediately pardon the agents.

Finally, Rep. Hunter and Rep Poe offered an amendment to the Commerce Justice and Science Appropriations Act, which funds the federal Bureau of Prisons, to bar any funding included in the bill to be used for the incarceration of the two agents.  The amendment passed by voice vote.  Now it is hoped that the Senate will follow the House’s lead.


"I don’t think the problem of illegal immigration will ever be solved until we have a healthy, thriving economy." – Rep. Ron Paul
The talk must stop. We must secure our borders now. A nation without secure borders is no nation at all. It makes no sense to fight terrorists abroad when our own front door is left unlocked. This is my six point plan:

  • Physically secure our borders and coastlines. We must do whatever it takes to control entry into our country before we undertake complicated immigration reform proposals.
  • Enforce visa rules.  Immigration officials must track visa holders and deport anyone who overstays their visa or otherwise violates U.S. law.  This is especially important when we recall that a number of 9/11 terrorists had expired visas.
  • No amnesty.  Estimates suggest that 10 to 20 million people are in our country illegally. That’s a lot of people to reward for breaking our laws.
  • No welfare for illegal aliens.  Americans have welcomed immigrants who seek opportunity, work hard, and play by the rules.  But taxpayers should not pay for illegal immigrants who use hospitals, clinics, schools, roads, and social services.
  • End birthright citizenship.  As long as illegal immigrants know their children born here will be citizens, the incentive to enter the U.S. illegally will remain strong. 
  • Pass true immigration reform.  The current system is incoherent and unfair.  But current reform proposals would allow up to 60 million more immigrants into our country, according to the Heritage Foundation.  This is insanity.  Legal immigrants from all countries should face the same rules and waiting periods.

About The Author

Michele Kim is the legal editor of Immigration Daily and ILW.COM.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.

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