June 3, 2005

June 3, 2005 | News Releases on Legal Issues

Enforce Laws, Avoid Amnesty to Trim Illegal Immigration, Experts Say

WASHINGTON, JUNE 3, 2005-The United States should reduce illegal immigration by upholding our laws and encouraging illegals to return to their home countries, but it should not give amnesty to those already here, says a paper from The Heritage Foundation.

Even though there are at least 11 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. today, the government hasn't paid nearly enough attention to the problem, write Edwin Meese, James Carafano, Matthew Spalding and Paul Rosenzweig, legal and national security experts at Heritage.

Federal authorities should begin cracking down on illegals and also involve states and the private sector in the effort, the authors write. For example, that could mean encouraging local governments to enforce laws and improving the infrastructure at border checkpoints.

But, the experts say, providing amnesty to illegals is not the answer. "Any program that does not require lawbreakers to leave the United States and re-enter through legal means if they wish to reside here will never satisfy the tenets of good immigration law," they write.

That won't be easy, the authors admit. Millions of undocumented workers aren't simply going to get up and leave, and there aren't any practical ways to force them to go. However, the authors write that the government should set up voluntary programs to encourage illegals to return home.

Again, they write, this will require the cooperation of state and local officials. And the federal government should reward other nations that develop robust repatriation programs. At the same time, Washington should work with non-governmental organizations to set up programs to help illegals finance their own return, the authors write. And it should allow individuals with no criminal record to eventually return to the United States, if they apply through the proper channels and meet certain conditions.

Reducing illegal immigration also will make the country safer, the experts write. "When the only individuals seeking to enter the United States illicitly are terrorists and transnational criminals, meeting the challenge of securing our borders will be more realistic," they write.

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