Proposed laws frame immigration fight
GREELEY – What is the Comprehensive Enforcement and Immigration Reform Act?On July 20, two Republican senators, John Cornyn of Texas and Jon Kyl of Arizona, proposed hiring 10,000 border patrol agents and 1,250 new customs officers to strengthen border security.It also would provide $5 billion for as cameras, sensors and other devices aimed at preventing border crossings.The proposal also would create two-year visas and require guest workers and illegal immigrants already here to leave the U.S. within five years before they can apply for the chance to work legally in the country. Illegal immigrants who left within the first year of the bill’s enactment wouldn’t have to pay a $1,000 fine upon re-entry.The legislation counters a proposal introduced May 12 by two other senators – Arizona Republican John McCain and Massachusetts Democrat Edward Kennedy – that would allow thousands of illegal immigrants to apply to be temporary guest workers and, after three years, become citizens after paying $2,000 in fines and fees.Congress is scheduled to look at both proposals this fall.ProTighten the borders. Send home the estimated 10 million illegal immigrants. Create a checks-and-balance system for guest workers. The concept, in the form of Conryn’s and Kyl’s immigration reform legislation, has gained acceptance among many politicians and authorities on Colorado’s Front Range. Weld County Sheriff John Cooke, Weld District Attorney Ken Buck and Greeley’s Republican state representative, Dave Owen, support the proposal. Wayne Allard, Colorado Republican U.S. senator, said it seems like the best proposal to date. And Eastern Plains Congresswoman Marilyn Musgrave, also a Republican, said she’s studying all proposals, but isn’t opposed. Buck called the proposal exactly what the country needs. He said the legislation would help reduce flow of illegal drugs from other countries and increase homeland security. “First, it shuts down the border, and I don’t think you can do anything until you do that first,” Buck said. “It doesn’t matter what else you do. If you can’t shut down the border, it doesn’t matter the next day.”Allard hasn’t yet given his full-fledged support, but so far, he said, he likes what he reads.”To me, it’s a common-sense approach as far as legislation is concerned, because it rewards those who are here legally and rewards those who abided by the law, opposed to those who decided to come in illegally and not abide by our laws,” Allard said. Musgrave said she’s reviewing all immigration proposals and opposes any proposal that would grant amnesty. She wants to see a proposal that has strong border security and a guest-worker program that would bring workers into the country at the peak agriculture season and send them home when the season ends, she said. Owen said the U.S. needs to close the leaks on the borders not only with Mexico but with Canada as well. He believes terrorists are taking advantage of those borders to enter our country illegally, he said. The bill could be costly but is a good start, he added. “I think the sooner we strengthen those borders, the better off we’ll be,” Owen said. All agreed that immigration reform is among the most urgent issues Congress must address this fall. “I think they should do it as soon as possible because it’s causing a lot of tension in our society,” Cooke said. “Whether it’s true or not, illegal immigrants are getting blamed for everything, and that’s causing tension. The perception of the people, the citizens, is that the government’s not doing anything about it.”ConKim Salinas sees examples of the broken immigration system every day in her Fort Collins office. Salinas, an immigration attorney, said she sees it in crying wives and mothers who are separated from husbands and children because of their immigration status. She also sees it in frustrated employers who can’t get the sufficient work visas to bring in needed workers legally. That’s why Salinas and the American Immigration Lawyers Association are urging legislators to consider immigration reform, but the Cornyn/Kyl proposal isn’t what they have in mind, she said. “It’s basically a punitive, enforcement bill and it doesn’t deal with the needs of employers and families that need to be together,” Salinas said. Greeley’s Democrat state representative, Jim Riesberg, said he agrees with the proposal’s measures to secure the border and increase fines against employers hiring illegal immigrants. Overall, though, he said he also opposes the proposal. Like the lawyers association, Riesberg supports the Secure American and Orderly Immigration Act proposed by McCain and Kennedy.Riesberg and Salinas said Cornyn and Kyl’s proposal’s call for an estimated 10 million undocumented workers to turn themselves in, go back home and get back in line is unrealistic. Riesberg said illegal immigrants who have work and homes would have no incentive to turn themselves in with no guarantees of returning. Salinas said these people would be reluctant to return to their home countries knowing they may have to wait five to 10 years to get back in the country legally. And if all the illegal immigrants went home, the loss of 10 million workers would cause major damage to the U.S. economy. A recent study by the Pew Hispanic Center shows illegal immigrants account for 19 percent of farm workers, 17 percent of cleaning workers, 12 percent of construction workers, and 11 percent of food preparation workers. “What would happen if 10 million workers all of the sudden left our country?” Salinas said. “Every industry would suffer.”Riesberg said the immigration debate comes down to a decision for citizens of the U.S.: Choose bargain prices on goods and services at the cost of 10 million undocumented workers living here, or accept increased prices with U.S. citizens replacing undocumented workers in those jobs. Government officials would have to significantly raise the minimum wage to entice native workers to fill jobs currently held by illegal immigrants, which would in turn drive up prices on goods and services, Riesberg said. “It’s not as simple as some of these bills try to make it,” Riesberg said. Riesberg doesn’t think either legislation proposal will pass as is. He would like to see a compromise of the two bills, he said. “I think what we need to do is put them side by side and take the best features of each and try to create a comprehensive legislation,” Riesberg said.Vail, Colorado
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