LINCOLN — State Sen. Deb Fischer, vying for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate, called for tighter borders and strengthened federal enforcement of immigration laws.
"It's a matter of national security," she said Thursday. "We don't know who's coming into the country. We don't know what they're bringing."
Fischer is fighting an uphill battle for the GOP nomination in a race that's been dominated by the stronger fundraising and broader name recognition of Attorney General Jon Bruning and State Treasurer Don Stenberg.
Both Stenberg and Bruning also oppose illegal immigration and call for tighter borders.
They were not available for comment Thursday, but their immigration positions are detailed on their websites.
Bruning joined Nebraska in a "friend of the court" brief supporting Arizona's law dealing with illegal immigration. He says the "flood" of illegal immigrants into the United States has cost taxpayers billions in additional funding for schools, hospitals, prisons and social programs. "Porous" borders also make the country vulnerable to terrorists and drug smugglers, he said.
He issued a statement late Thursday saying, "I've long been a staunch opponent of illegal immigration. I don't believe it's cruel for people who want to come to this country to do so lawfully.''
Stenberg calls for "greatly strengthening" U.S. borders to stop terrorists, weapons of mass destruction and illegal immigrants from entering. He says the United States needs to establish levels of legal immigration that meet its economic needs and are "consistent with social needs."
Fischer, a Valentine, Neb., lawmaker, voted against a proposed state law Wednesday that would allow illegal immigrants to be among the pregnant women who can receive publicly supported prenatal services.
Some of Fischer's GOP colleagues, including Speaker Mike Flood of Norfolk, supported the bill, describing it as a measure that will prevent abortion and reduce the state's future medical expenses.
Gov. Dave Heineman rebuked Flood for supporting the bill.
Fischer said she does not view the measure as "pro-life." She also said she's opposed to provisions that might encourage more people to enter the country illegally.
Fischer declined to criticize Heineman for his targeting of a fellow Republican.
"It's a very emotional issue, and we are at the end of the session when emotions are high," she said. "It's politics. It's policy-making."
Fischer also said she opposes allowing illegal immigrants access to these benefits:
» Amnesty so they can become citizens after they have lived in the country.
» U.S. driver's licenses.
» Lower-cost resident tuition rates at state colleges and universities for those who have lived long enough in the country to be otherwise considered residents. Nebraska has such a law.
"First of all, we need to secure the borders," she said. "I'm very leery about discussing more than that, because I don't want to offer incentives that give people the idea that, if they come here, there is a way for them to become citizens. I don't support a path to citizenship."
Fischer calls for increased funding to secure both northern and southern borders, as well as the nation's ports. She would hire more Border Patrol and enforcement agents and she wants to give state and local authorities more power to enforce immigration laws.
Fischer said U.S. employers should be required to use the E-verify system to confirm that their workers are legal residents and should face strict penalties if they knowingly hire illegal immigrants.
With high unemployment rates across the country, employers should not have to staff their businesses with illegal workers, she said. They should improve their wages and benefits to make their jobs more attractive to citizens.
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