U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., today spoke on the Senate floor about his priorities for solving America's broken immigration system. Senator Wicker's comments took place during the Senate's discussion of the immigration reform bill, S. 744, known as the "Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act."
Excerpts of his remarks:
"Mr. President, in the next few weeks the Senate will have an opportunity to address – clearly and resolutely – America's broken immigration system.
"Part of that means seeking policy solutions that will make our country stronger and safer – not only today but decades from now.
"Partisan politics should not derail the pursuit of an honest and good-faith approach to solving national problems – problems like our broken immigration system. Americans are right to demand better from their elected representatives, and there is merit in allowing this legislation to proceed in an open and transparent manner. In doing so, we rightfully recognize that widespread and bipartisan consensus exists for lasting immigration reform – both within this chamber and across the country.
"For that reason, we cannot ignore the reality that there are 11 million undocumented immigrants in America today. We cannot dismiss the economic implications of a failed immigration system.
"Disagreements are part of the legislative process. I do not expect our work on this issue to be seamless or easy. But robust debate has always been central to the Senate's function and purpose. We would do well to uphold that proud tradition now. Lasting and effective immigration reform requires a willingness to work on issues collaboratively and constructively.
"I am a longtime supporter of reinforcing our borders, increasing the number of border patrol agents, and using surveillance technology to prevent illegal immigrants from crossing into the country. I support policies that come with enforcement and accountability, where those who have broken the law face consequences for their wrongdoing. I believe that measures to strengthen employment verification are important to making sure that American jobs are held by American citizens and by those who live and work in our country legally.
"In my view, the immigration bill prepared by a bipartisan group of eight and supported by the Judiciary Committee is a start but lacking in many ways, and I cannot support it in its current form.
"More should be done to ensure, first and foremost, that our borders are secure. Without this fundamental first step, true reform remains elusive and the problem of illegal immigration will persist. As we proceed with this bill, I look forward to amendments that would implement a stronger border security strategy, interior security protections, and processes for employers to assess their employees' work rights.
"A responsible way forward must recognize past failures to secure the border and unfulfilled promises for better enforcement. A comprehensive plan must include mechanisms to track those who unlawfully overstay their visas just as it seeks to remedy gaps in border security.
"Over the course of the past few weeks, Mississippians have contacted my office and spoken to me directly regarding their concerns about whether the bill will offer amnesty and federal benefits for illegal immigrants.
"Let me be clear: I will oppose legislation if it grants legal status without penalties or if it issues welfare benefits to individuals who have broken the law to live and work in this country. These individuals should not go to the front of the line, ahead of those who have patiently waited to become Americans.
"We are a country of immigrants. Throughout American history, people of all nations have recognized the promise of opportunity and freedom in the United States. Legal immigration has sustained and advanced our communities in positive ways. Whether our immigration system going forward works in a way that benefits our society depends on how we act in the coming weeks. I hope we can do so thoughtfully and meaningfully as we seek solutions to a flawed system.
"This bill in its current form does not contain the reforms we need, but it serves as a vehicle for continued discussion about the future of U.S. immigration policy. We should welcome this debate – and confront the challenges of our day – in a way that is deliberative and principled."
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