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House Immigration Principles: Not Working for the American People | Commentary

No one is denying that our nation’s immigration system is broken and needs to be fixed. Unfortunately, the immigration proposal recently unveiled by House leaders bears an uncanny resemblance to a “piecemeal” repackaging of the disastrous Senate plan. If it talks like a duck and walks like a duck, it’s a duck.

I’ve said time and time again, there should be no talk of amnesty until we secure our porous borders — land, air and sea. Any proposed immigration reform should protect our national security and ensure economic stability for the American people we represent in Washington.

Illegal immigration is a clear and demonstrable threat to our national security — of that there can be no question. Border security must come first.

We are told that there are approximately 11 million illegal immigrants currently in the country; although, if the 1986 amnesty program taught us anything, it’s that this number is bound to double. The problem is we have no real way of validating that figure. Nearly 50 percent of immigrants never crossed what we consider a traditional border. They arrived on a visa, allowed the visa to expire and simply disappeared into the interior of the country. The truth is, if your state is home to an international airport, then you effectively live in a border state.

Establishing and implementing a biometrics entry/exit system to track visa compliance and travelers is vital to the security of our country and its citizens. Importantly, Congress mandated the creation of such a system in 1996, but 17 years later it still doesn’t exist.

Those who wish to do us harm could also inevitably benefit from amnesty. They don’t fear deportation and could care less about achieving American citizenship. They simply need to find a legal way to remain in the country. Look at one of the bombers in the 1993 World Trade Center attack. He was granted amnesty in the 1986 program as an agricultural worker. In reality, he was a cab driver, and we now know that the only thing he planted was a bomb.

Amnesty proponents claim that bringing illegal immigrants out of the shadows will actually make America safer by identifying criminals. I couldn’t disagree more. It’s true, the Senate bill requires background checks for amnesty applicants, but what it does not require are face-to-face interviews. With illegal immigrants already using stolen identities to work within our borders, how can we confirm their true identity without a thorough and complete background check?

Border security must be considered a cornerstone of our national security policy. It should not be considered a bargaining chip in immigration reform.

In the Senate’s rush to approve immigration reform, it has also completely disregarded how it will affect the American worker. Amnesty, by any name, will result in millions of illegal immigrants flooding our nation’s job markets. As soon as they are granted legal status and work authorization, they will be able to compete for any job in America, not just in agriculture but in every industry.

This will further destroy the employment prospects of American workers who have already seen their wages and employment rates nose-dive and are struggling to make ends meet. From 2000 to 2013, the number of Americans with jobs declined by more than 1 million. Today, more than 20 million hardworking Americans still cannot find a job. Bearing in mind that we are currently experiencing the slowest economic recovery since the end of World War II, the last thing our economy needs is an enormous, harmful economic shock by legalizing untold millions of illegal immigrants.

We should be focused on helping unemployed Americans get back to work, not granting amnesty to illegal immigrants who can then compete for already scarce American jobs. We need to help Americans first.

President Barack Obama recently talked about “equal opportunities” for all in his State of the Union address. To me, this plan looks like unequal opportunities for Americans, especially the legal immigrants who came to this country to pursue better opportunities. It also puts Americans at risk each and every day.

We don’t work for illegal immigrants. We work for the American people.

Rep. Lou Barletta is a Republican from Pennsylvania.

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