The Fight for Immigration Reform

Presidential candidates claim to have all the answers. But do they?

Immigration is one of those controversial issues that touch on many aspects of American life. It's challenging because on one hand, there are those who come to the United States to seek a better life. But in doing so, they are breaking the law.

Three people believe they have the answers to resolve this issue, and oddly enough, all three want to be president of the United States. All have had the power to do something about immigration reform because all are U.S. senators. However, this is an issue they should have been talking about long ago.

In writing about comprehensive immigration reform, I make no apologies and excuses about my political leanings. I'm a Republican -- always have been. So my thoughts tend to lean to the right. With that, I believe there is a proper way to come into this country to work, live and prepare for a better future.

I'm also of the opinion that those people who sneak into this country should remain in their own country and try to make those surroundings more tolerable. I've always believed that our borders must be secure, and it is my opinion that the federal government has failed to ensure that security. The fact is, Americans have little, if any, trust that the government will honor its responsibility to do whatever it takes to make the borders secure. Part of the problem lies within our own halls of Congress.

Let's look at the views of the senators seeking the presidency: John McCain (R-Ariz), Barack Obama (DIll.) and Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.).

John McCain. He promises to secure the borders and restore the trust Americans should have in government competency. He claims that a secure border is an essential element of our national security, which includes tight border security with the entry and exit of people and the effective screening of cargo at our ports of entry. In addres

sing the immigration problem, McCain recognizes the importance of building strong allies in Mexico and Latin America who reject the siren call of leaders like Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and who support freedom and democracy with strong domestic economies and abundant economic opportunities.

Barack Obama. The Obama campaign claims he played a leading role in crafting comprehensive immigration reform. But the part I like best about this candidate is his opinion that the immigration issue has been exploited by politicians to divide the nation rather than find real solutions. Obama is speaking of himself, because he is a politician, though he believes this has been a divisive issue that has actually allowed illegal immigration to worsen.

In fixing the dysfunctional bureaucracy, Obama wants to balance the needs of American workers and the U.S. economy. He wants to preserve the integrity of the borders by adding more staff, infrastructure and technology on the border and at ports of entry. Obama is in favor of more U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents equipped with better technology and real-time intelligence.

Hillary Clinton. She argues that the current laws are inadequate and no longer serve the best interests of the United States. The immigration laws don't reflect the compassion, respect and policies needed to help families, the senator said. Clinton wants greater cross-cooperation with our neighbors, strict but fair enforcement of the laws and federal assistance for state and local governments.

In reviewing each of the candidates and their ideas to strengthen border security, I have a few questions. Who is going to pay for everything Clinton wants to enact? Can we charge $5 per airplane passenger to offset costs? Is it doable to increase the cigarette tax to pay for these programs, or shall we just raise income taxes?

The answer: Clinton is so far off base in her meanderings that I'm not sure she's even within the borders of this country when she speaks. This is the same candidate who suggested spending $1 million for a museum devoted to the Woodstock Music Fest. Wouldn't that money be better spent on border control?

The answer: Obama is essentially on the right track, but it always bothers me when someone says America has always been a nation of immigrants. When our forefathers came to this country, they broke no laws by stepping onto what is now American soil. Obama wants the millions of illegals living in the United States to come out of the shadows and get right with the law. Illegal immigrants in good standing could pay a fine, learn English, not violate the law and go to the back of the line for the opportunity to become citizens. What he doesn't say is these same people have already violated the law by coming to the United States.

The answer: McCain understands the needs of a pro-growth policy, such as keeping government spending in check, holding down taxes and cutting unnecessary regulatory burdens. The senator is in favor of providing skilled Americans and immigrants with opportunity, such as retraining and assistance programs. He also wants to assimilate the immigrant population, which includes learning English, American history and civics, and respecting the values of a democratic society. Some would say that it doesn't make sense to have strict border control but assimilate those who are already here.

My opinion: Border security and the failed immigration system are more examples of an ailing Washington culture in need of reform. Politicians talk about America in regard to that "shining city upon a hill," and I hope they aren't talking about Washington, D.C. It's a wonderful American city, but many politicians have tarnished even the very goal immigrants are seeking—to build a better life on hard work and optimism.

The solution: Other than running for president myself, I like what Theodore Roosevelt said in 1907. Becoming an immigrant should be predicated upon becoming an American and nothing but an American. There can be no divided allegiance here.

"Any man who says he is an American, but is something else also, isn't an American at all," Roosevelt said. "We have room for but one flag, the American flag, and this excludes the red flag, which symbolizes all wars against liberty and civilization, just as much as it excludes any foreign flag of a nation to which we are hostile ... We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language ... and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people."

About the Author

Ralph C. Jensen is editor-in-chief of Security Today magazine.

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