It was with dismay that I read Joann Odd’s June 5 letter to the editor (Clarion). I expect those who contact my office to be treated with respect, and Ms. Odd’s experience is not representative of how my staff interacts with constituents.
My motto has always been “Do what’s best for Alaska,” and those who work in my offices understand we serve all Alaskans. When you call, I expect my staff to take down your thoughts on pending legislation and relay them to me. I greatly value the input and feedback I receive from Alaskans.
I am disappointed Ms. Odd did not get the information she was seeking when she called my office about the immigration bill. Since she expressed concerns about this bill in her letter, let me explain why I voted in favor of its passage.
I believe the Senate’s immigration bill starts a new approach to a difficult problem facing our nation. We have tried to resolve this issue in the past and failed. The bill recently passed by the Senate closes our borders and increases law enforcement to prevent further illegal entry. It also establishes a process to deal with those who have already entered our country to work.
From my perspective, one of the most difficult aspects of immigration reform is the problems regarding the children of illegal immigrants. These children did not choose to break the law. They did not choose to live here illegally. They need a chance to live their lives within the law.
I understand Ms. Odd’s concerns regarding this bill. In the past, I had similar concerns and voted differently on this issue. But the problem has become much more serious than we ever imagined it could, and it cannot be solved when it is almost impossible to identify illegal residents. We do not have the resources to both close the border and really enforce our laws by starting a house-to-house, nationwide search for illegal residents.
The Senate bill requires illegal immigrants to come forward and identify themselves to get a new type of resident card. It does not grant amnesty to illegal immigrants. Instead, it establishes a three-tier system. Those who have been in our country for five or more years must undergo an 11-year probationary period and pay fines, fees and back taxes before becoming eligible to undertake the legal process to become permanent residents.
Illegal immigrants who have been in our country for two to five years would be eligible to enter a temporary worker program, and those who have been here for less than two years would be required to leave. I believe this system strikes the right balance between the available solutions.
I urge Alaskans to contact my offices with your comments, concerns or questions. My staff and I will do our best to assist you, and we will be courteous and professional. The phone number for my Washington, D.C. office is (202) 224-3004; Anchorage, (907) 271-5915; and Kenai Peninsula, 283-5808.
Sen. Ted Stevens
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