Our immigration system is broken. It's broken at the federal level, where the leaders of both parties and their pet lobbyists have turned the victims of their failed policies into human footballs to kick around to score political points.
That failure impacts us directly here in Maryland, where a rising gang population is decimating our communities and corrupting our young people with drugs and violent crime.
Montgomery County Executive Ike Legett has contributed to this culture of illegality by declaring Montgomery a "sanctuary" county. Certain municipalities such as Takoma Park have followed suit.
Governor O'Malley has pushed further to making Maryland a "sanctuary state" by promoting driver's licenses for illegal aliens and through legislation to grant in-state tuition to the children of persons who themselves have no legal resident status.
On May 29th, Fox News reported that scores of illegal immigrants, caught by authorities in Texas trying to enter the country via the Rio Grande Valley, are now being "flown, bused and then abandoned out of state in places like Arizona, New York and Maryland."
Is that what we want for Maryland? A state that operates outside the law that encourages illegals to make Maryland their home?
In our June 24 primary and in November, new American citizens will be voting for the first time. Many came to this country to flee nations that operated beyond the rule of law. We welcome them and applaud them for choosing to be part of the American dream.
Ken's wife is a legal immigrant. She came here the hard way. She stood in line, and it took her years to achieve the goal that so many people around the world covet: American citizenship.
What kind of message do we want to send to those legal immigrants who did what Christina did and played by the rules?
Do we have one set of laws for law-abiding citizens, and another set of rules for those who think they deserve special dispensation?
A New Way Forward
The New Way Forward that Ken and I propose will tackle these difficult issues head on. We will sit down with law enforcement officials and legislators, immigration advocates and their opponents, for an honest discussion of the issues and how we can resolve them.
We believe that:
• The southern border with Mexico must be secured to stem the flow of illegal immigration, which includes an increasing number of terrorists who take advantage of that open border area. While this is a federal issue, we must insist on a seat at that table, because Maryland is paying the price for failed federal policies.
• Farmers shouldn't be forced to break the law just to harvest their crops. We support a "Red Card" Guest Worker program that gives businesses the ability to hire the workers they need, while protecting guest workers from exploitation and abuse. Farm workers and their employers should be able to go to bed at night knowing that they pay their taxes and are in compliance with the law.
• Maryland workers shouldn't face unfair competition from illegals. We need to enforce our labor laws and mandated social security checks. We must enforce the laws punishing employers who knowingly hire illegals.
• Children born in this country to illegals cannot be treated as illegals. Most of them have never been to another country, and certainly can't call any other place home. We need to find a humane solution for these young people, in accordance with the law.
• We need to put an end to the myth that our high-tech industries can only thrive by importing high-tech workers on H-1B visas. According to one study, 92% of the founders of the top tech companies created in the United States were non-immigrants. There is no STEM-worker shortage in America; on the contrary. Recent studies show there are five million more American citizen STEM workers than currently have STEM-industry jobs.
• We support programs such as 287g, which allows county sheriffs to partner with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) so they can check the immigration status of individuals arrested for violent crimes. This program provides a guarantee to immigrant communities that the state will remove violent predators from their midst.
• Additionally, we need to end the myth that fear of immigration enforcement will reduce the reporting of violent crime in immigrant communities. Law enforcement officials have already gone out of their way through community policing efforts to make it known that they will not check the immigration status of individuals reporting crimes, and a Lollar-Timmerman administration will make sure that this continues.