Column by Sen. Trent Lott Filed 5/5/06 GCN
Thereís a difference between legal immigration and illegal immigration. Itís a difference some politicians and press ignore, but the American people certainly understand it. Overwhelmingly, Americans donít have a problem with legal immigrants, but judging from the May 1 boycott marches, millions of illegals have a problem with America, especially with the borders which define American soil.
Like most native or naturalized Americans, Iím highly offended when illegal aliens come into this country, take jobs illegally, become a burden to our taxpayers, schools and health care systems and then protest our country by waving foreign flags. Itís nothing short of an act of intimidation and extortion. Itís not smart, and itís pushing millions of Americans, including me, away from their pleas for leniency.
A broad cross section of American citizens from all regions, races, religions and political stripes overwhelmingly wants tighter borders and strict enforcement of our immigration laws. On a national television program on May 1, I found myself in agreement with fellow guest Ed Koch Ė the former mayor of New York City and a lifelong liberal Democrat Ė on this point: If Mexican nationals want to work in the U.S., we should set up a temporary worker program where they perform a specific job, in a specific location and require them to return home at the end of that work. This would be a better alternative to a guest worker program where these workers would receive amnesty and free passage to citizenship.
Already in Mississippi, our State Auditor says up to 100,000 illegal aliens are costing our state $25 million annually in public services. Since most are paid ďoff the books,Ē they donít pay taxes. Instead, Mississippi taxpayers are paying and competing with them for limited state benefits.
Itís time for the Senate to have a full and honest debate on illegal immigration. First in this bill, Iím urging my fellow Senators to secure our borders, and then address immigration reform. But to think that weíre going to grant amnesty or give quick citizenship to illegal aliens who are out boycotting and protesting in our streets Ė staying off their jobs and keeping their children out of school Ė thatís not going to happen.
In fact, the politics of the boycotts may have boomeranged against those staging them and against some seeking political advantage by organizing illegal voters. Questions now are being raised about some of the organizations unabashedly for an amnesty program and against enforcement of any immigration laws.
These amnesty advocates are just about pro-anything thatís anti-American. Immigrants make a terrible mistake by allowing their cause to be associated with any vestiges of this failed movement. And, Americans are surely taking note.
I hope the Senate will act soon on our bill and then go to conference with the House, focusing first on border security. From there, we can design an enforceable, controlled, temporary worker program, not a guest worker amnesty for millions of undocumented, illegal aliens.
Americans make a clear distinction between legal and illegal immigration, even when politicians and the press do not. Illegal immigrants who really want to become Americans, who honestly want to live here and prosper, will respect our laws and our people. If they truly want to be American citizens, theyíll want to do it legally, living under an American flag on American soil.
Senator Lott welcomes any questions or comments about this column.
Write to: U.S. Senator Trent Lott, 487 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510 (Attn: Press Office) or Email