Feb 07 2006

Shelby backs tough stance on illegals

Decatur Daily

By Holly Hollman


U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby could easily answer questions about Jesus and abortion Monday at Athens High School .


How to deal with the conservatively estimated 12 million illegal aliens in the United States required a more complex answer that included Shelby disagreeing with President Bush.


"The immigration system is broken," said Shelby , R-Tuscaloosa, who referred to Bush's temporary worker program as one problem.


In 2004, Bush proposed a temporary worker program to match willing foreign workers with willing U.S. employers when no Americans would fill their jobs. These temporary workers must either return to their home countries at the end of three years or apply for renewal of their legal status.


"I think the president is wrong on immigration," Shelby said. "I won't support amnesty."


Shelby said the first step to prevent illegal immigration is to secure America 's borders.


"I will support the toughest, strongest immigration reform that comes before me," Shelby said to an applauding audience.


Shelby would not say whether national identification cards — Real ID — are part of the answer. Congress approved Real ID after the 2001 terrorist attack and new driver licenses are to be in effect by 2008. These licenses will be supported by state databases accessible by local, state and national law enforcement agencies.


'Come here legally'


"That's something that would come up later," Shelby said. "If immigrants are going to come here, they need to come here legally, so controlling our borders is a priority."


Shelby fielded questions on Jesus, abortion and wire tapping from the Athens High students, while teachers and citizens wanted his stance on Medicare Part D, taxes, No Child Left Behind and drug prevention funding.


Shelby said he believes in Jesus. He's pro-life. He supports a flat tax. Shelby said he wants the federal government to give more flexibility and funding to local school boards to meet No Child Left Behind requirements.


He supports drug prevention programs.


He thinks one intercepted phone call that leads to the arrest of a terrorist cell is worth wiretaps of U.S. citizens that are not authorized by a judge.


Medicare Part D is frustrating for some, but Shelby wants to give the program two to three months to "see if it works out."