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Borders need to be secured against illegal immigration, Skelton says
Borders need to be secured against illegal immigration, Skelton says

Congressman Ike Skelton
WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 10, 2010) — Over the past several weeks, the issue of illegal immigration has splashed across television talk shows and national headlines. During a recent conference call I conducted with thousands of Fourth District residents, many of the questions and comments revolved around this issue as well. Like many of those from whom I have heard, I believe this is a serious issue. Therefore, I have worked hard to provide our law enforcement and border security officials with the tools necessary to prevent illegal aliens from coming across our border and to enforce America’s immigration laws that are already on the books. Without first securing our border, taking other immigration reform steps will be useless.

The United States has more than 7,000 miles of border and 12,000 miles of coastline, so keeping these boundaries safe and secure is no small task. However, securing these vast stretches is a vital part of any immigration policy — not to mention an issue of national security. That is why Congress, particularly in the past three years, has taken unprecedented steps to build a robust border security force, completed portions of the Southwest border fence that had been previously authorized, and brought into action advanced border-control technologies that increase the effectiveness and efficiency of American patrol operations.

Over the past three years, Congress has dedicated more resources to securing our borders than ever before. Since 2006, over 6,000 border patrol agents have been added to the forces monitoring the Mexican and Canadian borders. About $1.2 billion has been spent to complete the portions of the previously authorized Southwest border fence segments, bringing over 700 miles of border under effective control. Also, new control technologies like sensors, radars, camera systems, and unmanned aerial vehicles — similar to those being used to hunt terrorists in Pakistan and Afghanistan — are now being used to increase the effectiveness of each border security agent.

Congress hasn’t stopped there. Despite the ongoing efforts to close American border security gaps, lawbreakers do continue to slip through. Thus, Congress has also strengthened the capabilities needed to find and remove illegal aliens once in the United States. For example, Congress recently passed a three year extension of E-Verify, an Internet-based system that allows U.S. employers to ensure their employees are working in our country legally. Among other improvements, Congress has raised the funding for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency by over 25 percent since 2006. I have supported these actions but feel Congress must continue pushing for stronger enforcement of immigration laws.

Throughout our history, newcomers to America have been a source of national strength. Immigrants have helped make our culture, economy, and democracy strong. However, those who choose to enter the United States illegally weaken our nation and sometimes bring crime along with them. Before we attempt to overhaul our immigration laws, we must improve our ability to secure our borders.

Congressman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) serves as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. Congressman Skelton’s website is at www.house.gov/skelton.

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