Columbia, SC — Congress has a lot of things that need to be resolved before the end of the year, but that doesn’t change the fact that failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform will leave in place the de-facto amnesty we have today and prolong a badly broken system that is harming critical sectors of our economy.
Let’s get back to the basics. Secure our border first. The federal government tries to do way too much, but one of its main responsibilities is to “protect” us from foreign invasion. South Carolina’s employment verification system using E-verify has proven to be effective, so it is encouraging to see that the Senate passed legislation to mandate the use of E-Verify. Cracking down on illegal employment removes the magnet that attracts many to come here illegally in the first place.
In reality, we never are going to deport millions of illegal immigrants. Our failure to secure our borders and our willingness to look the other were an implicit wink to those who came here seeking work. Our laws may have said one thing, but our inactions communicated something else.
Some conservatives scream that Senate-passed reform would grant amnesty to millions of undocumented immigrants already in the country. But amnesty is defined as “an act of forgiveness for past offenses, especially to a class of persons as a whole”; the Senate bill recognizes that these undocumented immigrants came here illegally and includes tough fines, English-proficiency tests, keeping a job and criminal background checks as requirements for the long pathway to citizenship. That hardly sounds like amnesty to me, but more of a positive step toward a tough but fair proposal that can pass Congress.
Some say “Let them stay, but no citizenship.” They would at least then be able to come out of the shadows and pay taxes, even if they could never vote. I could support either strategy.
Sen. Lindsey Graham supported the Senate bill that represents a big step toward fixing the system. South Carolina’s congressmen have an opportunity to lead when the Republican House gets back to work on immigration reform. Let’s finish this job before Congress goes home.
Hal W. Stevenson