U.S. Senate and public should back McCain-Kennedy immigration bill, not Sensenbrenner
-- Updated: 3/29/2006, 2:07 p.m. Central Time, to correct phone numbers for contacting senators listed in last paragraph.
By Tony Staley
The U.S. Senate should defeat the Border Protection, Anti-Terrorism and Illegal Immigration Control Act, sponsored by Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis, which passed the House 239-182 on Dec. 16. The Senate should also reject a version of that same bill offered by Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa.
Instead, Congress should pass the Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act, co-sponsored by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Ted Kennedy, D-Mass.
The Sensenbrenner and Specter bills would: criminalize violations of immigration law, including helping illegal immigrants; make it harder for legal immigrants to become citizens;
penalize state and local governments that do not pointedly enforce immigration laws; and build 700 miles of new fence along the 2,000-mile border with Mexico.
The McCain-Kennedy bill has the support of the Arizona Catholic bishops and several immigrant groups. It includes provisions for border security, temporary worker visas and family reunification. It would require foreign countries to help control the flow of emigrants and promote citizenship.
Yes, our country needs safe, secure borders, which McCain-Kennedy would provide. But our country also needs and benefits from immigrants. For example, immigrant workers pay $90-140 billion a year in state, federal and local taxes and receive only $5 billion in services. They also pay up to $7 billion a year in Social Security taxes that most will never collect.
In northeast Wisconsin, immigrants work: on farms, keeping the dairy industry alive; in meat packing plants; in construction; in nurseries and other agricultural jobs. They are not doing high-paying or glamorous work - consider, for example, spending all day in a large refrigerator using sharp knives to cut beef.
Most immigrants are trying to learn English and your local Literacy Council desperately needs more volunteer tutors to trim their growing waiting lists.
For more on Catholic Church efforts on immigration reform, including resources for parishes, individuals and groups, go to www.justiceforimmigrants.org. And contact our U.S. senators, urging them to support the McCain-Kennedy bill. Sen. Russ Feingold can be contacted through his Green Bay office at (920)465-7508 or his Washington, D.C., office at (202)224-5323. Sen. Herb Kohl can be contacted through his Appleton office at (920)738-1640, or his Wisconsin toll-free number, 1-800-247-5645, or his Washington, D.C., office at (202)224-5653. Or contact them by e-mail: Sen. Kohl (at his website, www.kohl.senate.gov/gen_contact.html) and Sen. Feingold directly at [email protected].