In a lengthy interview on immigration reform efforts currently before Congress, Rep. John Barrow (D-GA) said the border must be secured and the nation’s interior immigration laws must be enforced before granting any legal status to America’s at least 11 million illegal aliens.
“Well what I think we need to do is secure the border and secure the jobs and secure the benefits,” Barrow told Breitbart News in a phone interview. “We need to do that before we do anything else about the humanitarian and economic problems of having 11 million people in this country who are here illegally. We need take care of first things first. A preacher I know of used to say ‘the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.’ And the main thing we got to do as the government is to secure the border first and secure the jobs in this country.”
Barrow has sponsored legislation, called “Keeping the Promise of IRCA,” to fulfill the promises of the 1986 amnesty law. At the time, 3 million illegal aliens were granted amnesty in exchange for a promise of future border security and interior immigration law enforcement that never came. Barrow’s bill would have border security and interior enforcement first.
“What they [those pushing amnesty efforts] don’t realize is we must take care of the problem at its source or we’ll be in the same spot 25 years from now, if not worse, that we are in right now 25 years after the last time this effort was made,” he told Breitbart News. “Back in 1986, we were promised border security in exchange for amnesty. We got the amnesty but no border security.”
Barrow said interior enforcement, a hallmark of his bill, is just as important as securing the border because “that is when the ongoing activity that undermines the value of labor in this country.”
“It’s like Gresham’s law: bad currency drives out the good. Well, a flood of folks who are here illegally raising their families in many cases taking care of their primary responsibility at someplace else where the cost of living is much greater are greatly undermining the value of the legal labor force that has no opportunity to go someplace else and just can’t raise their families anyplace else. What you end up doing is importing into the country gradually and steadily the cost of living, and workers who have to meet the cost of living someplace else for their families. That’s a tremendous drag on the value of labor in this country.”
“If you want to think it about in those terms, there is no victimless crime here. Everybody is affected by it. You may not be able to connect the dots from this problem in general to a particular pay scale for a particular employee in a place, but there’s no question it’s happening. That’s why I think interior enforcement is necessary because this problem doesn’t stop, this crime doesn’t cease, when someone crosses the border illegally. That’s when all these other effects of having a porous border accumulate slowly. In fact, when the full cost of not securing your borders and not preserving and enhancing the value of legal labor in your country, it begins to pile up.”
Barrow said he thinks the reason why legalization first is getting discussed, while actually solving the problem with border security and law enforcement first is getting ignored, in the larger scheme of the political debate is because special interests on both sides of the aisle have polluted the conversation.
“I think it’s a case of strange bedfellows,” he said. “We have some folks who think the problem of securing the border is too big to get their minds around so they think it can’t be done. It’s a defeatist mentality. It’s like they think the only problem that’s worth addressing is the one they can do something about. So they tend to look at only one side of the problem. I think that’s terribly mistaken.”
“There’s no question that we not only can secure our borders, it does involve different infrastructure and different policies in different places–the men and women who do this for a living, they’ll explain that to you so you can understand it–but there are folks who think it can’t be done and they want to focus on what they think can be done.”
Barrow worries this ongoing debate in Congress is “driven by politics rather than policy.”
“When prominent representatives of the movements on both sides begin to direct deals to voters not now but generations hence, you know something–you know this is not being decided on the merits, on the basis of what’s in the best interest of the country as a whole,” Barrow said.
“People smell a rat when they see folks on both sides basically bargaining for folks yet unborn. That should not be how we focus on this problem. That’s a concern. Another concern is when you have must-pass legislation, something that’s building up a head of steam that’s going to move and that in order to get this person’s support or that person’s support, you hang another ornament on the Christmas tree. Then it becomes heavily laden with stuff that would never pass on its own and shouldn’t pass on its own. It gets added into the mix.”
“We saw that with the healthcare bill and we can probably see that taking place with the massive immigration reform bill. We ought to stick to first things first. We ought to vote for the resources necessary to secure the border and secure the jobs. I’m convinced that if we did that first, if we committed ourselves to doing that first, we would deal with the humanitarian problem that remains much more meaningfully and much more confidently than we do if we vote and are basically forced to accept a combo plate where you’re getting amnesty now with an effort to secure the border sometime down the road.”
Barrow said “I do not know” when asked what will happen with immigration efforts in the House. “I do know that in the House the problem is the exact opposite of the Senate,” Barrow said. “In the Senate, each individual person has too much power by just the institution of it. In the House, the institution is very strong and that is because too much power is in the hands of too few people. You really need to direct that question to the leadership of the majority because they’re the ones who decide what we get to vote on.”
Barrow added that he is clearly an example that Democrats are not united in support for amnesty, as much as the conventional wisdom in Washington politics says otherwise. Still, he would not speak for Democrats in Congress other than himself. “Obviously not all Democrats feel that way but it would be presumptuous for me to speak for any other Democrats in the caucus about this,” Barrow said. “They’re perfectly free to speak for themselves. I can tell you this: There are a lot of people both Republican and Democrat and Independent back home who feel the same way.”
“They recognize that we have a problem that we need to deal with, with respect to the folks that are in this country illegally. But they also recognize that didn’t happen by itself. It happened because we did not take care of the first thing first, and that was secure our borders so that this problem would not emerge again with even larger numbers than was the case when we last dealt with this problem back in 1986. Folks know we need to do that and I agree with them.”