The immigration debate is intensifying once again on Capitol Hill, focusing on the fate of the estimated 11 million foreigners living in the U.S. illegally. A week ago, a bipartisan group of eight U.S. senators presented a list of proposals that come close to suggestions made by the Obama Administration. Both proposals would let illegal immigrants stay, work and eventually become citizens with stipulations that include payment of fines and back taxes, a requirement to learn English, along with years of waiting.
Appearing on CNN Tuesday morning, 4th District Congressman Trey Gowdy said in a recent meeting with members of his district, they indicated that they would be open to comprehensive immigration reform, but it must include border security. Gowdy asked, “Would you be open to a path to legal status, whether that be citizenship or something else?”
He said he was surprised at the responses.
“Meeting with some of the most conservative folks in my district they said if you can secure the border, give us employment verification, and guarantee that we don’t have to go through this conversation again, we would be open to it,” Gowdy said
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano argues that her agency has been strong on border security with a record level of deportations, including nearly 400,000 in 2011.
Gowdy said there are examples that indicate more help is needed: “A kilo of cocaine is cheaper today than when I was a federal prosecutor, so we’re not doing a terribly good job of keeping the drugs out, and 200 AK-47s (assault rifles) went from Phoenix, Arizona to arm the Mexican drug cartel. So if we really had operational control of the border, I don’t think either of the aforementioned facts would be accurate.”
A report from the Migration Policy Institute, a non-partisan Washington D.C.-based group focused on global immigration issues, said that in the 2012 budget year, the government spent about $18 billion on immigration enforcement programs run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement; the US-Visit program; and Customs and Border Protection, which includes the Border Patrol.
Gowdy says he is not calling for an isolationist approach to border security, just a system that would be fair to all.
“From a national security standpoint, a law enforcement standpoint, and a sovereignty standpoint, I don’t think it is asking too much that we know who is coming in to our country. First of all it’s not fair to the people who are following the legal process to have an unlawful process..” Gowdy said.