Both President Obama and a bipartisan group of eight senators have offered plans for so-called comprehensive immigration reform. But what does that really mean, and what's the difference between the two plans?
The most notable difference is that the Senate version calls for effective control of our borders before other parts of the plan are implemented, while the president's proposal would grant conditional amnesty to an estimated 11 million illegal aliens living in our country. Obama's plan would be a disaster much like ex-President Ronald Reagan's 1986 blanket amnesty, which opened our borders to a flood of illegal immigrants.
As I've written before, when it comes to immigration reform, many Democrats see 11 million potential voters while some Republican businessmen see millions of low-wage workers who will work off the payroll and without benefits. Both approaches are cynical and do little to resolve the illegal immigration problem.
Speaking in Las Vegas this month, President Obama said his immigration-reform plan would "provide a pathway to earned citizenship," crack down on businesses that knowingly hire illegals and give special consideration to high-skilled immigrants. By contrast, the Senate plan would require the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency to seal our borders before proceeding with the rest of the plan. I endorse the Senate plan because it's simply wrong to reward people who knowingly violate our immigration laws.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., the son of Cuban immigrants, said it best: "Every nation has a right to protect its sovereignty by enforcing its immigration laws. We must attain operational control of our borders, create an effective workplace enforcement mechanism, and make sure that visitors . . . leave our country when they're supposed to." He added that illegals "who have committed serious crimes should be found, arrested and deported." Amen!
Although illegal-immigration advocates tell us that all "undocumented workers" (their term) are honest, hard-working family people, law enforcement officials in Nevada and throughout the nation know better because too many illegals are involved in drug trafficking and other nefarious activities. Hispanics now account for more than 25 percent of Nevada's population and between 10 percent and 15 percent of the voters in the Silver State. The illegal portion of that population costs Nevada taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in law enforcement and court expenses, medical care and public education for their children.
As for the "pathway to citizenship" - remembering that many illegals don't want to become American citizens - Sen. Rubio said they "will have to come forward, admit wrongdoing, undergo background checks, and pay back taxes and meaningful fines for violating our laws." They'll also have to learn English and go to the back of the citizenship line and won't be eligible for welfare or public assistance while they're waiting their turn. Fair enough.
I think the pathway to citizenship should be tied to specific improvements in border security, and the feds should stop suing states that attempt to help enforce our immigration laws.
Yes, President Obama received 70 percent of the Hispanic vote last November, but that doesn't mean Republicans should throw in the towel and agree to the rapid legalization of 11 million illegal aliens. This is still a nation of laws and no one is above the law, no matter what their motives are.
• Guy W. Farmer, of Carson City, follows the immigration debate closely.