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Barletta: Secure the Borders Before Addressing Illegal Immigrants

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo

We have been presented with a false choice in the Washington-based debate over illegal immigration. On one hand, we are offered the Obama plan, conveniently leaked to the media, which offers permanent residency after a shockingly long eight years on probation. On the other, we have the “gang of eight,” who say citizenship lies at the end of an amorphous path following a declaration of secure borders by a yet-to-be-named commission. Both of these are unacceptable and fail to address the causes of illegal immigration and the massive costs associated with legalizing millions of people who have already broken our laws.

As mayor of Hazleton, Pa., I passed two significant ordinances. One suspended the licenses of businesses that knowingly hired illegal aliens, and the other enforced similar penalties on landlords who knowingly rented property to them. Those common-sense solutions are still tied up in court.

Because of my experiences, I refer to any proposals short of real enforcement as “temporary amnesty  . . .  indefinitely.” In 1986, we were told that if we granted amnesty to a mere 1.5 million illegal aliens, we would secure the border and be rid of the problem. In the end, more than 3 million came forward. Today, we are to believe that there are about 11 million, but when we wave the carrot of citizenship to the world, that number is sure to double, as history has shown it will.

And when the 20 million (or so) newly minted residents come forth, the burden on our already sagging economy will be disastrous. The Heritage Foundation estimates that the cost in social programs will exceed $2.6 trillion over 20 years once Social Security, Obamacare, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment benefits and food stamps are factored in. As the nation teeters on the edge of financial ruin, these are more costs that we simply cannot sustain.

There should not and cannot be a plan to address the millions of illegal aliens until we secure the borders. The two plans put forth are inadequate, in that there are no standards for what a secure border truly is. Putting the northern, southern and water-bound borders aside, what about all of the inland portals? If your state is home to an international airport, then you effectively live in a border state, given that 40 percent of all illegal aliens present today arrived on visas that have now expired.

As I like to say, a homeowner would never replace the wet carpet while there was still a hole in the roof.

The real losers in this debate will unfortunately be those immigrants who have come here legally — new Americans — who have chosen our country to improve their own lives and those of their families. They have obeyed our laws and will see untold millions of illegal aliens emerge and compete for jobs, opportunities and resources that are already scarce. The message we will be sending to them is that their hard work and perseverance were pointless, because we will reward lawbreakers with the chance to take jobs at lower wages and cut in line in front of them.

On the serious question of illegal immigration, America can do better. I will oppose both of these plans until we get serious about border security.

Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa., represents the state’s 11th District.

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