Every once in a while the smallest memories stick in your mind. They drift to the recesses of our consciousness and then, randomly, a seemingly unrelated occurrence triggers their return to our memory. Such it has been over the past week, as I have recalled that homemade sign in front of an old country nursery. The wooden plank had been nailed onto a stake and wedged into the ground just outside of the gravel entrance adorned with neatly arranged shrubbery and flowers. Written on the plank was the hand-painted phrase: “The best time to plant a tree was 25 years ago. The second best time is now.”
That bit of wisdom could be applied to anything from gardening, to education, to business ventures. It also appropriately describes our nation’s illegal immigration situation. Perhaps the fact that the 24-hour news cycle is firmly zeroed in on Arizona’s recent immigration legislation is why this old sign has recently come to the front of my memory. While illegal immigration would have been best addressed years ago, we as a nation have to start somewhere.
No matter your personal view on the Arizona law, the nationwide response to it should make evident that while the illegal immigration issue has been placed on the backburner by lawmakers in Washington, it is still very much a personal and heated issue for many American citizens. This reality should not be a surprise, especially to leaders in Washington. Illegal immigration is an issue that touches almost every rung of American life, from our economy, to our national security, to our English language, to our education and healthcare systems. It impacts every level of government, from our federal agencies, to state government, to local law enforcement.
The fault of illegal immigration cannot be placed solely on the individuals who have come across our borders. Our government must also share in the blame for its repeated failure to address this issue. In 2006, I wrote that the problem with illegal immigration is not loopholes in the law. It is not a lack of compassion. It is not that we are turning from our immigrant traditions. Our current immigration system is broken – plagued by insufficient immigration enforcement, devoid of serious border security resources, and wrought with a wholesale disregard for our current immigration laws.
I penned those words almost exactly four years ago. Unfortunately, not much has changed by way of illegal immigration policies. And over the past two weeks, we are seeing the effect of a broken immigration system. The enactment of the Arizona law makes one point very clear: when it comes to addressing illegal immigration, the federal government has failed.
However, it is never wrong or too late to do what is right for America. While we must remember that these individuals are human beings, we also must recognize that we have established laws governing proper entry into our nation, and we as leaders have a responsibility to do what is right for America. The second best time to do that is now.
Available on my website is a list of bills that I have cosponsored and that I am working to pass to create lasting solutions to address illegal immigration. The list includes bills to enforce our nation’s current immigration laws, to staff our borders, to deport illegal aliens, to assist our overburdened states and localities and to improve our nation’s immigration databases and enforcement techniques. I encourage you to review these bills at http://randyforbes.house.gov/issues/immigration.htm.
While our nation has long recognized the value and importance of immigrants to our nation, she has equally realized the importance of immigrants and citizens adhering to the rules of our legal system. Entry into the United States is not a right. It is a privilege. When we fail to acknowledge that principle and the laws that our nation has established, American citizens are the ones who are impacted.
As we move forward, I would like to hear what you are thinking on immigration reform. Do you think this is something Congress should address right now? How important a priority is this issue to you? What do you think our first step in immigration reform should be? Send me an e-mail with your thoughts on my website, www.forbes.house.gov.