Immigration priorities set by Sen. Alexander
Let's be clear -- the immigration status quo is unacceptable. Now that the Senate has agreed to start talking about fixing our broken immigration system, I will be keeping a close eye on making sure our borders are secure and that the rule of law is respected. If the final immigration bill doesn't fix these flaws in the current system, then I will vote against it -- just like I did last year.
When I ran for President in 1996, I proposed a new branch of the military to secure the border. But for the past decade Congress has gone home without fixing the problem. It's not OK to let another year go by with porous borders, a weak employment verification system and no incentives for legal immigrants to become American.
Fortunately this year's bill is an improvement on last year's because of a measure inserted by Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson requiring border security measures to be in place before triggering other major changes to the immigration system.
But the Senate still has much work to do.
Before the Memorial Day recess, I voted to send back to the drawing board the section of the bill that would give visas to the 12 million illegal immigrants in our country. I am now working with Senator Corker and others to draft an amendment that would require
anyone who is here illegally and wants a visa to stay to first go back to his or her country and return through legal channels.
As we crack down on illegal immigration, we should also help those immigrants here legally to learn our language, our history and our way of life so that they understand what it means to be American.
That is why I will be offering amendments to:
* Provide $500 vouchers to prospective citizens who are here legally to learn English, U.S. history and civics.
* Allow prospective citizens who become fluent in English to apply for citizenship one year early.
* Codify the Oath of Allegiance to which new citizens swear when they become American.
* Give a tax deduction to businesses that offer English language programs to their employees.
In the end, passing a tough immigration bill won't be enough. More border patrol agents and fencing costs money, and Congress needs to pay for it -- all of it. Only then will Americans know Washington is finally serious about fixing a problem that it should have taken care of 12 million people ago.