Sen. Johnson talks immigration reform in Merrill
Fueled by the ongoing Presidential campaigns, immigration reform has become a hot button issue as of late. During a visit to Merrill Monday, Sen. Ron Johnson discussed his stance on immigration reform with a crowd that included members of Comunidad Hispana, Merrill’s local Hispanic support agency.
Tony Gonzales, director of Comunidad Hispana, translated Johnson’s remarks for Spanish-speaking members of the audience that gathered to greet Johnson at Chip’s Hamburgers.
Hispanic audience members also asked their questions of Johnson through Gonzales. One woman wanted to know how Johnson feels about Presidential candidate Donald Trump’s position on immigration reform. Trump has stated he would kick all illegal immigrants out of the country.
“That is not a solution,” Johnson said. “We have to secure our border, but we’re a nation of immigrants. We always have been. It has made our nation strong. We want people coming here and embracing what the best of America is.”
Johnson prefers a systematic approach to immigration reform that starts with securing the nation’s border.
“We first have to secure the border,” Johnson said. “Here’s how unsecure our borders are, we’re only interdicting 5-10 percent of the illegal drugs coming through our sourthwest borders.”
Then, he would deal with the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants currently living in the United States. Of those estimated 11 million, approximately 8.1 million of them hold jobs in this country. Johnson doesn’t favor mass deportation.
“The number one incentive for people coming into this country illegally is to work,” he said, “same as any other wave of immigrants since our founding. People came here seeking the land of unlimited opportunities. And I understand that, but it has to be a legal process. We’ve got to get serious about this. Once we do that then I’m fine with offering someone probation. If you’re here, living and working and contributing to the community, come forward and register. You may have to pay a fine. That was an illegal act, we can’t condone it, but we’ll do something like put you on probation.”
Local dairy farmer Hans Breitenmoser addressed immigration issues with Johnson.
“We need to come up with some sort of passport for people who are in this country so they can stay here,” he said. “They have families, they have work. The vast majority of people here are just trying to get a job and make a better life for themselves.”
“From my standpoint, I appreciate anybody that’s willing to work hard to build a life for themselves and their family,” he said. “We’ve got to get those folks out of the shadows and set some kind of path to legal status.”
Johnson said he voted against the failed comprehensive immigration reform bill.
“I voted against it because I did not think it was a good bill,” he said. “I thought it created more incentives for illegal immigration and not solved the problem. I want to support real long-term solutions.”
Johnson also addressed the ongoing court battle over President Barack Obama’s executive order on “deferred action” that would allow nearly half of illegal immigrants to remain and work in the United States.
“President Obama exceeded his authority, so the courts have taken that issue up and will decide that issue,” Johnson said.
Gonzales said representatives of Comunidad Hispana were invited to meet with Johnson to hear his stance on immigration issues and voice their concerns.
“We want to know what the plans are in Washington to solve immigration issues,” Gonzales said.