By Scott Broden, Gannett
The U.S. Senate immigration reform bill approved last week will now be considered by the House of Representatives. The bill offers hope to the estimated 11 million immigrants living illegally in America while vowing to step up efforts to secure the Mexican border.
The Daily News Journal asked U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais of South Pittsburg and two of his Republican primary challengers, state Rep. Joe Carr of Lascassas and state Sen. Jim Tracy of Shelbyville, to provide statements about their positions on the Senate bill and what they'd do if they could craft legislation on immigration.
What's your position on the Senate immigration reform bill?
DesJarlais: I absolutely oppose the recently passed Senate immigration bill. This plan would further exacerbate our nation's illegal immigration problem, much like the immigration law passed in 1986, by granting amnesty to millions of individuals who broke the law. As I've said before, this omnibus bill puts the cart before the horse and does not address the root of the problem -- securing our border.
Carr: In the last five years of serving in the Tennessee General Assembly, I have authored and sponsored every major piece of illegal immigration legislation in Tennessee. I have passed into law Tennessee's E-Verify Law, the Systematic Alien Verification Entitlement act, the No Sanctuary Cities Law and the Identity Theft for Employment Act just to name a few. I have always defended the liberty of Tennesseans and the sovereignty of Tennessee.
The Senate bill as amended while has the best of intentions sadly misses the mark on achieving any of its stated goals. It will not secure the border nor will it provide the will power required to the Obama Administration to enforce the law. This Senate bill will grant 11 million illegal aliens amnesty along with another 30 million aliens who would be attached to them as a result of their legalized status. All this at a cost of $48 billion. To understand how poorly this bill will achieve its goals, we have to look no further than the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act that provided amnesty for 6 million illegal immigrants while requiring the United States to secure the border. Illegal Immigrants got the amnesty, the jobs and the public benefits and the lawful taxpayer got the bill and a unsecured border. This senate bill is destined to repeat of that mistake. For this and so many other reasons I am adamantly opposed to this senate bill.
Tracy: First, the attempts in this bill to deal with border security don't pass muster because they leave certification of border security up to Congress or a Congressionally appointed group. That's asking the fox to guard the hen house, and it's bound to fail. Certification of border security has to come from outside of Washington to have any credibility. That means including the border states. That could be the border state governors or legislatures or both, but it definitely needs to come from outside Washington and the federal government. Second, the voters tell me they are downright angry that this bill is being loaded up with pork, and rightly so. Most voters are sick of pork in general, but they especially hate it when Congress loads up critically important legislation like this.
If you could craft legislation on immigration, what would your bill do?
DesJarlais: Rather than implementing an untested comprehensive package, like we saw with the Democrat's health care bill, we should begin by enforcing the laws that are already on the books. Next, it is imperative that we secure our borders to prevent any further influx of illegal immigrants coming to the United States. Finally, we must ensure that illegal immigrants do not have access to benefits that are meant for taxpaying Americans. I will encourage House leadership to not bring the Senate bill to the House floor and instead work on real solutions that will secure our border.
Carr: The solution to fixing our immigration problem is really quite simple; enforce the current federal law and allow the states to enact laws to protect their citizens from those who come here and stay unlawfully. We don't need new laws. We need elected officials with the will to enforce the current law. It may be necessary to revise our current immigration system, but we won't know that until the current laws are enforced and the border is secure. Until the border is secure there can be no discussion of any revised status for those who are here illegally. Any additional legislation needs to focus on delivering the tools to law enforcement to enforce the law and to secure the border.
Tracy: As I've already indicated, we should not grant the illegals currently here a new legal status until we secure the border. There is no point in bailing out the boat until you put the plug in. We already tried amnesty in the '80's. Clearly, it didn't work then, and it won't work now. For that reason, I believe the current bill needs to be broken up. We should first pass a border security bill with real, border state certification, and then we can talk about how to deal with the illegals already here. And by the way, if we did that I believe we would find the American people far more willing to grant the 11 million illegals currently in the country legal status. Finally, Harry Reid should ensure that nothing not directly germane to this issue is attached to this bill. It's too important to play games with pork.
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