Illegal immigration a big threat

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Our state and nation has a serious illegal immigration problem.

This problem threatens the very social structure of our society.

This issue has been building for several years and has finally come to a boil in many parts of the country.

Immigration reform must take center stage in any political debates conducted by our civic leaders in the upcoming elections.

Immigration has always been a part of our cultural fabric.

In fact, unless you are a Native American everyone is the descendent of an immigrant.

The problem is that there is a clear distinction between a person who is in this country legally and who is here illegally.

Some people wait for months and even years to complete the necessary paperwork to come to the United States and get citizenship.

Others skip this process and sneak into our country to reap the benefits of citizenship without making the same sacrifices that full citizens make.

In my mind this is very similar to walking up to a long line of people and skipping everyone else by cutting in line at the very front.

This is a slap in the face to those who are working hard to earn the citizenship they so dearly cherish.

While immigration has long been strictly controlled and regulated by the federal government many in Washington are starting to realize the fallacy of this policy.

Illegal immigration has a huge impact on the economies of every state.

For the federal government to restrict how we in Alabama confront this growing issue is just not right.

Under current federal guidelines state and local law enforcement agencies cannot enforce immigration laws unless given specific permission by the federal government.

Recently, several states have taken it upon themselves to confront the growing ranks of illegal immigrants in their respective states.

During the last legislative session I co-sponsored two bills that would allow Alabama to get to the root of the illegal immigration problem.

The first bill would have denied state benefits to a person who is in this country illegally.

It is not fair for someone to reap the benefits of citizenship and not contribute to the system that provides these services.

If we do not end the increased spending on state social services for non-citizens we will bankrupt our state government&8217;s ability to provide benefits to Alabama taxpayers.

The second bill would penalize businesses that hire illegal immigrants. I think most people agree that one of the biggest reasons for the massive influx of illegal immigration into our state has been the attractive job market.

These jobs are low paying and usually allow the worker to avoid paying taxes.

Businesses engaging in such a practice should be severely punished because they are contributing to a black market system where workers are not contributing back in taxes what the rest of the citizens in our state have been doing for years.

Unfortunately several special interest groups prevented these bills from passing, but we have a duty to keep trying.

While the ultimate answer to immigration reform is for the national government to tighten border security and enforce the citizenship laws already in place, our state does not need to wait around for congress to act.

By making it harder for illegal immigrants to live off of a system they do not financially contribute to, we as a state can bring immigration reform to the forefront of the national political debate.

Cam Ward serves in the Alabama House of Representatives, District 49