As a state with a liquid border of more than 10,000 miles, we are extremely aware of the 11 million individuals estimated to be residing in our country illegally. It is clearly evident that federal immigration policies are failing and badly in need of reform. Such reform must be done in a comprehensive manner, and the physical security and economic well-being of the American people must be the federal government’s top priority.
That is why Congress must, first and foremost, secure the southwest border and prevent illegal border crossings. I supported the Secure Fence Act and subsequent legislation that directs the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to construct fencing along 700 miles of the southwest border. I also support the deployment of a “virtual fence,” which uses new surveillance technologies and unmanned aerial vehicles to ensure illegal aliens are not crossing the border illegally.
However, since taking office President Obama has repeatedly delayed both the construction of the southwest fence as well as the deployment of a virtual fence. To move ahead with these important border security initiatives, I supported passage of the Fiscal Year 2012 Final Consolidated Appropriations Bill, which increases funding for construction of the southwest fence and the deployment of new border technologies. The bill also increases funding for U.S. Customs and Border Patrol as well as Immigration and Customs Enforcement to ensure these agencies have sufficient personnel and resources to effectively interdict and detain those seeking to enter the country illegally.
In addition to preventing individuals from illegally crossing our borders, Congress must bolster federal efforts to locate those here illegally and ensure illegal immigrants are not stealing U.S. jobs. I was proud to support the creation of the DHS E-Verify Program. This voluntary program allows employers to confirm an employee’s information against federal databases to ensure they are not here illegally or using false documents. Likewise, Congress must ensure illegal immigrants are not receiving federal benefits. There are protections in place under current law that prevent illegal immigrants from receiving Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment benefits, but these provisions must be better enforced at the local, state, and federal levels to ensure taxpayer dollars are not being squandered.
Finally, America is a melting pot and a multi-cultural nation. At the same time, just as our ancestors before us did, those who become American citizens and live, work, and raise families here should be expected to learn the English language. In numerous Congresses, I have cosponsored the English Language Unity Act to make English the official language and require official functions of government to be conducted in English.
I am committed to reforming federal immigration policies and will continue to support legislation in Congress that advances a comprehensive approach – one that secures our borders, protects U.S. citizens and their livelihoods, and ensures those here illegally are dealt with in a tough but fair manner.