The solution to illegal immigration resides in the enforcement of laws already in the books says Rep. Lamar Smith, one of legislators expected to set the immigration debate in the next Congress.
“In the next Congress we have an opportunity to address the problem of illegal immigration by pushing the Administration to enforce current immigration laws,” said Smith, a Texas Republican who is expected to become the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, in a statement for FoxNewsLatino.com.
“Currently an estimated seven million illegal immigrants are in the workforce,” Smith said. “Worksite enforcement could help make those much-needed jobs available for U.S. citizen and legal immigrant workers.”
President Obama and many Democrats in Congress support comprehensive immigration reform legislation that would bolster border security, crack down on employers who hire illegal immigrants, but also provide undocumented people who have no criminal record and meet other criteria with an opportunity to legalize their status.
Critics of immigration reform legislation say that providing a path to legalization for illegal immigrants is tantamount to rewarding lawbreakers.
"Voters sent many pro-enforcement candidates to the House and Senate because they are tired of the failed immigration policies of the current administration," Smith said.
“We must do more than deport only so-called 'serious' criminal aliens. We must secure our borders and enforce all of our immigration laws.”
Advocates of comprehensive immigration reform called Smith’s comments chilling, and say they confirm the hard line on immigration that many of them fear is looming in a Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
Amy Gottlieb, program director of the immigrant rights program of the American Friends Service Committee for the New York metropolitan region, said: “His comments are truly sad. They fundamentally disregard why people come here, and they’re part of families and communities here.”
“We have our work cut out for us.”
Elizabeth Llorente is Senior Reporter for FoxNews.com, and can be reached at Elizabeth.Llorente@Foxnews.com. Follow her on Twitter @Liz_Llorente.