Illegal Immigration to US: a Crisis That Must Be Handled

PRESIDENT Clinton's new attorney general, former Dade County, Fla., prosecutor Janet Reno, listed three top concerns in her Senate confirmation hearings: violent crime, drugs, and civil rights. All three are critical, but I would add a fourth that hasn't received the attention it deserves in the past 12 years - the complex issue of illegal immigration and the role of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

More than ever, immigration problems are in the public spotlight. The tragic bombing of the World Trade Center in New York, the fact that Mr. Clinton's first attorney general nominee, Zoe Baird, hired illegal aliens, the documented costs of undocumented aliens in California, and a recent report that 90 percent of the crime committed in an Arizona-border town is committed by illegal aliens all point out that illegal immigration is a growing problem in many regions of the United States.

In fact, it is safe to say that our borders are a revolving door for anyone who really wants to come here, including international terrorists. And while we have experienced relatively few incidents, we need to take tough, decisive steps now to reduce the many threats that this revolving door poses.

As a member of the House Judiciary Committee who has been working for years to regain control over our borders, I am pleased that more and more Americans are aware of how severe this crisis really is. For those who may not yet fully understand, here are a few facts:

There are an estimated 4.5 million illegal aliens living in the US today. These aliens come to the US to find work, obtain free medical care and other government benefits, and have a better life than they can have in their homelands. This virtually unchecked influx of illegal aliens has caused serious problems for the nation, and has reached crisis proportion in California.

The Center for Immigration Studies estimates the net cost to American taxpayers at some $5.4 billion a year, and a report from the California Auditor General last summer estimated the net cost to the state at some $3 billion annually.

Illegal immigrants also are responsible for a rising amount of crime. Just two Los Angeles street gangs, heavily composed of illegal aliens, are alleged to be responsible for more than 100 murders. Moreover, police officials in Nogales, Ariz., recently told reporters that 90 percent of the crime in their community was committed by illegal aliens.

The World Trade Center bombing graphically illustrates the need to re-examine how we keep tabs on people who enter the US legally, but then decide to stay after their visas expire.

It's been said that illegal aliens take jobs no American wants, but if we limit the supply of illegals, employers may be forced to find ways to hire legal residents and pay them living wages.

I have proposed legislation to strengthen the US Border Patrol, increase penalties against employers who hire illegal aliens, prohibit illegal aliens from receiving federal welfare or other benefits, bar anyone from knowingly transporting illegal aliens for purposes of employment, and require new, tamper-resistant "green cards."

I also have introduced a constitutional amendment to bring our citizenship laws into line with the vast majority of countries around the world by requiring that a mother of children born in this country be a citizen or legal resident for those children to automatically be born US citizens.

So many women come to Texas or California just to give birth that we have to take this step. Although I have been attacked as a racist for introducing these bills, almost 60 representatives from 20 states have cosponsored some or all of my bills.

It is clear that virtually unchecked illegal immigration poses growing risks for our economic - indeed our national - security. How many more incidents must the American people face before their elected officials finally take action to regain control over our borders?

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