Op-Ed: The wall must come first

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This article first appeared in The Hill.

Decades of failure by the federal government to enforce the law, to keep its promises and to create immigration policy have left the United States with a host of problems, including what to do with the children of illegal immigrants who have never known another home. Whether it is the DACA question, crime, drug trafficking, labor issues or national security threats, these are the symptoms of a problem that must be addressed by finally building a wall and stopping out-of-control illegal immigration across the southern border.

It is very clear that unless the border is secured first, it will never happen.

Washington liberals will never agree to any policy that actually secures the border. This is because a secure border runs counter to their open-borders ideology and takes away a political issue Democrats use to fire up their political base every election season. The idea they would ever cut a deal in good faith, or agree to a comprehensive immigration reform that secures the border first, is simply naive.

As a result, before anything is done to deal with illegal immigrants already here, Republicans must work with President Trump to build a border wall and secure the border with all available technology, strengthen internal enforcement to prevent visitors from overstaying their visas, and put an end to dangerous sanctuary cities that allow violent criminal illegal immigrants to stay on our streets.

Once that has occurred, Congress can look at how to handle the children of illegal immigrants who are contributing to society.

First, this will not include amnesty. They will be required to go through the same process as other foreign nationals waiting in line and following the law to become Americans. It is fundamentally unfair to award citizenship while there are hundreds of thousands waiting in line and following the rules. We also need to stand in strong opposition to chain migration, which would allow illegal immigrants, if they’re granted citizenship, the ability to sponsor others. This is just another loophole, and we need to close it.

Second, Congress must make the policy and design it in such a way as not to serve as an incentive for more illegal immigration. President Obama’s DACA did the opposite of that — it incentivized illegal immigration and border crossings. Obama’s executive order also represented the worst of executive overreach. This elitist mentality is all too common in Washington. We have a Constitution and a rule of law that must be followed and respected. Rule of law is one of the things lacking in many of the corrupt and failed states supplying the influx of illegal immigrants across the southern border.

On the topic of ignoring the law, there is no more troublesome example than the liberal madness of sanctuary cities where liberal local officials refuse to comply with federal immigration enforcement efforts despite the clear threats dangerous illegal immigrants pose to their own citizens. Kate Steinle, Sarah Root and Grant Ronnebeck each had a bright future ahead of them until their lives were quickly and tragically taken away by illegal immigrants. For all three of these law-abiding Americans, they were living their lives as any of us would, but illegal immigrants — each convicted felons who were released by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents — took their lives away. Sarah was killed by a drag racer, Grant by a man demanding cigarettes, and Kate was shot while walking with her father. We passed Kate’s Law in the House to address this absurdity, and the Senate needs to act.

Enforcing our already-existing immigration laws could have prevented these tragic deaths. It could also help prevent the flow of drugs across our borders. A study by the State Department found that 90 percent to 94 percent of heroin that is consumed in the United States comes from Mexico. In addition, according to the CDC, each day in the U.S. more than 1,000 people are treated for failing to use prescription opioids properly. Any politician who touts their efforts to combat the opioid epidemic while ignoring the flow of heroin and other illegal drugs across the southern border are not being honest.

Congress also needs to make sure immigration policy is helping the American economy, not hurting American workers. We should reexamine immigration quotas and prioritize immigrants who contribute to our economy in ways that create more jobs for Americans. We want the best and the brightest contributing to our economy and society.

Immigration is a critical issue facing our nation. It must be addressed, but it must be addressed in the right order. We need security — we need to build the wall. This will address the root cause of our immigration crisis and it will help create a situation in which we can address other significant issues that have arisen in conjunction with failed immigration policies of the past like DACA, sanctuary cities, chain migration, the flow of illegal drugs and the impact on American jobs and opportunities.

Rokita represents Indiana’s 4th District.

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