One Tough Border Collie
Sen. George Allen, a Virginia Republican and former maestro of his party's electoral strategy in the Senate, is ramping up his own 2006 campaign, though his eye might be on a bigger prize: the 2008 presidential race. As he navigates this election year, Allen sat down with U.S. News to discuss what may be the trickiest political battle of 2006: immigration reform. Excerpts follow:
What do you think of the Senate's compromise deal on immigration legislation last week--it's now stalled--that would have puts millions of illegal workers on the road to citizenship?
Throughout this debate I've consistently said the legislative priority should be to secure the borders and stop the flow of illegal entry. That fundamental responsibility must be addressed. Congress should move to forge both a stable and consistent legal immigration policy and a responsive legal-temporary-worker plan, but no plan should reward illegal behavior. That's why I just cannot support the convoluted three-tiered amnesty deal that was brokered last week because it rewards illegal behavior.
So where do you stand in the immigration reform debate?
The first responsibility is to secure our borders. The federal government, in my view, has been neglectful of doing this.... There are terrorists who would like to hit this country, and they're not necessarily going to come in on a flight from Paris or from London or from Frankfurt. They see that you can get into this country fairly easily by crossing the border.
So the question is, what should we do? My view is secure the borders. Everything from unmanned vehicles, to virtual fences, to actual fences, more personnel, detention centers. The places where you need an actual fence are where you have a big inflow. There are other places where you could use unmanned aerial vehicles and these unattended ground sensors. ... The point is to secure the border, and with more personnel, with more technology, and with more actual fences, we will stem the flow. Because unless we control our borders we will not be able to control our destiny as a nation.
What about creating a way for illegal immigrants to gain citizenship?
Just look back 20 years ago when Simpson-Mazzoli passed, giving amnesty to millions and millions of people and they said, all right that will be it. Here we are 20 years later, and some amount [of] over 10 million [people] are in here illegally. If this is rewarded and they're put on a track toward citizenship, that then will mean probably 20 years from now we'll be going through the same sort of exercise. To me it is very common-sense logic that if you reward illegal behavior you're going to get more of it.
Is a temporary-worker system possible?
I think we ought to come up with workable temporary-worker reforms in this country because the current [system] is inadequate in a variety of areas, from agriculture to seasonal workers and, to some extent, also in technology workers.
Can the borders be secured and temporary workers be permitted too?