Smith: Enforcing Immigration Laws Is Key to Success

Posted January 14, 2011 at 5:06pm

Mort Kondracke draws unfounded conclusions in his recent column “‘Nativist Lobby’ is Winning on Immigration,” claiming that a rise in pro-enforcement policies is due to anti-immigrant sentiments. This often-used claim by amnesty supporters is both ignorant and insulting.

There has been a shift toward pro-enforcement policies in the U.S., but it is not mean-spirited. It is driven by the American people’s desire to see our immigration laws enforced.

The November midterm elections results repudiated Democrats’ liberal open-borders philosophy, as well as the idea that Republicans must support amnesty to appeal to Hispanics. Exit polls showed 38 percent of Hispanic voters cast ballots for House Republican candidates in 2010 — more than in 2006 (30 percent) and 2008 (29 percent). Republican Latino candidates in Florida, New Mexico and Nevada won statewide races while calling for enhanced border security and enforcement of immigration laws instead of amnesty. The Senate also saw seats held by pro-amnesty incumbents change to pro-enforcement advocates, namely in Utah, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

This level of Hispanic support for Republican candidates came despite widespread pre-election claims by advocates for illegal immigration that the Arizona law and a pro-rule-of-law stand would undercut Hispanic support for Republicans.

There is little evidence to support Kondracke’s claim that “immigrants tend to take jobs that Americans won’t or can’t do.” Even in the agriculture industry, where pro-amnesty supporters insist we need illegal workers, 50 percent of the agriculture jobs are held by U.S. citizens and legal immigrants! Statements that Americans are not willing to do these jobs not only are false but also demean the hardworking Americans who do them.

More than 26 million Americans are unemployed or underemployed. Meanwhile, 7 million illegal immigrants remain in the U.S. work force. We could make jobs available for citizens and legal immigrants if we simply enforced our current immigration laws.

Work site enforcement efforts ensure jobs go to unemployed citizens and legal immigrants. Unfortunately, these enforcement efforts have dropped by 70 percent under the Obama administration.

Additionally, expanding the use of E-Verify will protect jobs for American workers and reduce the jobs magnet that encourages illegal immigration. Individuals eligible for work receive immediate confirmation 99.5 percent of time. E-Verify is used by more than 225,000 businesses, with an average of 1,300 additional businesses signing up each week.

There is no doubt that employment in the United States is the main draw for illegal immigrants. However, U.S. citizenship for their children is also a motive to enter our country.

The granting of automatic citizenship to the children of foreigners comes from a misinterpretation of the 14th Amendment. The framers never sought to guarantee citizenship to children of illegal immigrants. During the debate in 1866, the Senator who authored the 14th Amendment said it would “not of course include persons born in the United States who are foreigners.”

Some have estimated that in many large U.S. cities nearly two-thirds of the births are to illegal immigrant mothers. And health care and social services for illegal immigrants cost American taxpayers an estimated $1.1 billion per year.

Passing a law to eliminate birth citizenship would help deter illegal immigration and reduce the burden on the taxpayer.

The pro-enforcement movement has defeated amnesty attempts by both this and previous administrations. Whether it was the 2007 comprehensive immigration reform proposal or last year’s push for amnesty under the DREAM Act, time and again the American people have rejected calls to reward lawbreakers and put the interests of illegal workers ahead of the interests of American citizens and legal workers.

That’s why Kondracke and others who support amnesty resort to name-calling and misrepresentations to attack supporters of the pro-enforcement approach to illegal immigration. They know the American people are overwhelmingly opposed to amnesty. Enforcing our immigration laws, not engaging in misleading partisan rhetoric, will ensure that the needs of citizens and legal workers are placed before the desires of lawbreakers.

Rep. Lamar Smith (R) of Texas is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.