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2015-10-08

Why some Americans care about immigration enforcement

Congressman Lamar Smith

Special to the Courier

When Americans are asked which issues drive them to the ballot box, immigration is rarely one of their main concerns. In poll after poll, immigration is the fourth or fifth topic on the list, below other priorities such as jobs and the economy and national security.
So why has immigration become the focal point for presidential politics for the better part of the last two months? I believe we are experiencing the backlash against the Obama administration's extreme amnesty agenda, and the arrogance of executive overreach.
Many Americans are aware that our immigration system is broken. But many of those same Americans would be surprised to learn that Congress has acted many times to strengthen and improve our immigration system.
When I served as chairman of the Immigration Subcommittee, I authored some of the most substantial reforms to immigration law. These policies require the cooperation of cities and states with federal law enforcement to identify and deport illegal immigrants - especially criminals. They also outlawed the same sanctuary city policies that led to the death of Kate Steinle in San Francisco just months ago.
Other measures greatly increased penalties for illegal entry and illegal presence in the United States, made it easier to deport illegal immigrants, cracked down on immigration fraud, established an entry-exit tracking system and increased personnel to combat illegal immigration.
One of the most popular immigration programs I authored is an employment authorization verification system pilot program known as E-verify.
The reason why so many Americans are frustrated is that these policies have been consistently undermined by the executive branch. The Obama administration has been the worst offender.
Its policies prevent the deportation of illegal immigrants, including dangerous criminal immigrants. In the last two years, more than 60,000 dangerous illegal immigrant criminals have been released back into our neighborhoods instead of being deported.
Also, Americans struggling to find jobs will be forced to compete with five million more workers if the president's executive orders from last November are upheld. These lawless individuals are rewarded with work permits and then compete with underemployed Americans for jobs.
Along with Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, I have filed a brief supporting the lawsuit to halt the president's executive amnesty. It is crucial that the next president we elect reverse lawless executive orders and enforce, not undermine, our immigration laws.
And a national crisis on our southern border occurred in direct response to the President's policies - tens of thousands of illegal immigrants flooding across our southern border. Most sought asylum and benefits they were not legally eligible for - yet 90 percent were approved by immigration officials. The president's executive actions on immigration have left many Americans feeling helpless against an all-powerful government that is ignoring the safety and well-being of the American people.
As founder of the House Border Security Caucus, I've worked closely with fellow enforcement advocates to put a stop to the president's lawlessness and halt other efforts in Congress to advance the amnesty agenda. Border security is not a pawn to be traded off for amnesty in backroom deals; border security is the most basic obligation the federal government must make to protect the American people.
In the House, we remain committed to enacting further legislation to improve our immigration system and strengthen enforcement. Among those bills is "The Legal Workforce Act," which I introduced.
My bill ensures that employers have the tools they need to prohibit hiring of those here illegally. This crucial legislation puts American workers first by requiring employers to use the E-Verify system to check the eligibility of potential employees. It would end the incentive of illegal employment and turn off the jobs magnet that draws so many across our borders.
No single entity has done more to break down our immigration system than this administration. But if Americans insist upon common-sense enforcement measures, we can turn around our broken immigration system.