Reps. Bilbray and Gutierrez Debate Immigration

In a "This Week" debate, two top members of Congress on immigration issues agreed that the U.S. needs better Immigration enforcement, but found no common ground on what to do with the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants now in the U.S.

Democratic Congressman Luis Gutierrez, chairman of the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus told me he agrees the federal government has failed to enforce immigration laws. He acknowledged that “we have a problem at the border and that “we may need more” border agents. “We should do everything we need to in order to secure that border,” he told me.

Republican Congressman Brian Bilbray argued that in addition to border enforcement, more “interior enforcement” – immigration enforcement in non-border states - is needed. “You really want to secure the border? Secure the workplace in the United States. Have more ICE agents breaking down the – the barriers to enforcement that we need to be breaking down -- the employment opportunities in places like Chicago. Then we'll be able to secure the borders,” Bilbray said.

But no consensus could be found on the issue of dealing with illegal immigrants who already in the country. Bilbray cautioned that rewarding those already here illegally would be sending the wrong message. “As long as we offer the same proposal to those who are waiting patiently to immigrate legally, as we're going to offer those who are illegally here -- because once you send the message that we're going to reward and create a special status for those who are illegally here, you will not be able to build a fence tall enough,” Bilbray said.

Gutierrez argued that many of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. have deep roots in this country and the federal government should “register them, have them learn English, pay taxes and be good with the law.”

With no solution in sight to bridge the political gap on so-called amnesty for illegal immigrants, immigration reform faces a very tough road.

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