WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and Saxby Chambliss(R-Ga.) today urged their House and Senate colleagues to recognize the critical importance of a “border-security-first” approach to immigration reform.
“We’ve had in this country for two centuries a pathway to citizenship, and it’s known as legal immigration. It’s absolutely essential that we restore the confidence of the American people, and we send the message to those that yearn to come to this country that there’s one way to get here and that one way is the legal route,” Isakson said at a news conference in the U.S. Capitol. “As long as you look the other way on our border, you’re going to have disrespect for legal immigration and a compounding of the problem we have today. Border security is the prerequisite for comprehensive immigration reform.”
“The Senate passed a bill that emphasized a pathway to citizenship first and border security second, and that simply is the wrong prioritization of the issues involved in immigration reform,” said Senator Chambliss. “Since the passage of the Senate bill I have been from the East Coast all the way to the West Coast visiting with farmers, with business people, as well as with folks who have immigrated to this country in some legal fashion and I will tell you, these group are outraged with the idea that immigration reform ought to have tied to it a pathway to citizenship.”
During debate in the Senate on immigration reform, Isakson introduced an amendment, which Chambliss co-sponsored, that would have prohibited the implementation of any program granting legal status to those who have entered the country illegally until the Secretary of Homeland Security has certified to the President and to the Congress that the border security provisions in the immigration legislation are fully funded and operational. The Senate defeated the amendment by a vote of 40 yeas to 55 nays.
Members of the House plan to hold hearings on the Senate immigration bill in July and August. The Senate bill includes a guest worker program. The House bill deals with border security only.
Isakson and Chambliss believe it is critical to secure the borders before implementing a new temporary worker program because otherwise the United States will face a repeat of 1986, when amnesty was granted to 3 million illegal immigrants without enhancing border security first. The result was that millions more immigrants have flooded into the United States illegally and now are straining our schools, our hospitals and our local jails.