“I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the armed forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”
Since that time, there have been millions of people who have come to America and become citizens by uttering these 140 words.
And, as of today, there are nearly 11 million people in America who are not citizens who have yet to say these words as a requirement of becoming legal United States citizens.
That must change. It has to change.
Members of Congress recently have been away from Washington for their August recess. During this time, many of them were back in their districts listening to what their constituents care about and what concerns them.
I suspect that many in the Minnesota delegation got an earful about jobs, the economy and the cost of health care, particularly the negative impact that Obamacare is having on small businesses and the 40-hour workweek. They also likely heard about the issue of comprehensive immigration reform.
The U.S. Senate has passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill — one that is tough, but fair, and that provides the strongest border security measures in history.
The bill also requires the completion of at least 700 miles of secure pedestrian fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border.
It also includes a border surge — doubling the number of border patrol agents with 20,000 new border patrol agents, and providing all nine sectors of the southern border with the state of the art technology and resources our border patrol agents need to secure the border, including unarmed drones, camera systems, ground sensors and radars, among other resources.
E-verify must be completely implemented and mandatory for all U.S. businesses. And to crack down on foreigners who overstay their visas — which accounts for 40 percent of today’s illegal immigrant population — an entry-exit system must be completely implemented.
All this being said, what the Senate did does not bind the House to pass the same piece of legislation, nor should it.
Speaker of the House John Boehner has said the House must take up its own legislation regarding immigration reform.
And, it’s work that must be done.
President Obama thinks he can “speech” our country to immigration reform.
Yet true immigration reform will happen because Democrats and Republicans in the House and the Senate will do the hard work to come to a compromise that will make it a reality.
There are no shortcuts. No easy tricks or sleight of hand.
The nation wants immigration reform, but it wants it to be done in a way that will solve the problem — not just push it along to the next election.
Those clamoring that the U.S. House should accede to the Senate version of immigration reform, and those who believe the House should do nothing are both wrong. Congress needs to act.
Let’s get bipartisan, honest and real immigration reform legislation passed in the House, bring it back to the Senate, get to conference committee and get it passed and put in front of the president.
The immigration system is broken. Congress must seize this opportunity to finally fix it.
Norm Coleman is a former U.S. senator from Minnesota. He currently serves as chairman of the American Action Network.