With Congress returning to session today after a month-long break, District 2 Congressman Dan Boren thinks the House has the right idea on an immigration bill.

Boren said he voted with a House bill to try and seal the border with Mexico because it’s too dangerous to have an influx of people entering the country illegally.

Boren stopped in McAlester for a meeting at the old McAlester High School on Thursday and also attended the Choctaw Nation’s Labor Day Festival in Tushkahoma on Sunday.

The immigration issue arose following a question from a Wilburton resident at the McAlester meeting.

“I voted for a bill that did not deal with just workers or amnesty,” Boren said. “It said if you enter the country illegally, you’re a felon.”

The bill included penalties for employers who knowingly hire illegal aliens, with fines of up to $40,000 for a third offense. Conviction of altering documents could result in a 25-year prison sentence, Boren said.

The House bill also supported construction of a fence along the U.S. and Mexican border and beefing up security.

Boren differed with the U.S. Senate bill, which he said stressed a guest worker program and a “path to citizenship.”

Lax border crossings result in more than illegal immigration, he said.

“We were so successful in taking out meth labs” in Oklahoma that more methamphetamine is being smuggled across the Mexican border, he said.

“The meth is much more pure; basically, it’s much more dangerous,” Boren said. “We need to seal the border for that reason.”

He said it’s wrong to assume all the people entering the country illegally from the nation’s southern border are from Mexico.

“Some people coming across the border aren’t Mexicans,” Boren said. “They’re Chinese or Russian.”

If they can enter the country that way, Boren is concerned that terrorists could do the same.

The congressman said several business owners have told him they will have to shut down if they can’t hire illegal aliens because they can’t find Americans to do the job.

“This is what we should do first — seal the border,” Boren said. “There are from 12 to 20 million people in this country illegally. Let’s find out who these people are.”

Then, if businesses are affected, that can be addressed, Boren said. He said the nation’s security should be addressed first.

“Let’s not put it at the very end. That’s the problem with the Senate bill,” Boren said.

The Congressman said he’s been busy in Congress.

“Since I’ve been elected, we’ve had about 33,000 pieces of mail,” Boren said. “I’ve signed every one of those letters personally.

“It’s not a stamp; it’s not an auto pen,” he said.

“We’ve helped 2,000 individual people with their concerns,” Boren said.

He said he’s the only member of the Oklahoma delegation that’s had a bill signed into law in the past two years.

One of his measures was included in the Patriot Act. Boren said the provision calls for medicines containing specified amounts of pseudoephedrine be placed behind shelves, similar to the state law in Oklahoma.

Anyone purchasing the medication must show an ID and sign for the substance.

“We had an 80 percent reduction in drug labs,” Boren said of the Oklahoma law. He hopes for similar results at the federal level.

On other issues, Boren said he will continue to try and work for more federal drought assistance for Oklahoma.

Bennie Durant, who attended the McAlester meeting, said he’s seen reports about global warming.

“They say in the next 100 years, New York City will all be under water,” he said.

“Am I a scientist? No,” Boren said, answering his own question. “All the evidence points to there’s some sort of problem.

“In the long term, we’re going to have to invest in alternative fuels. Maybe the oil and gas companies could be part of that.”

“Yes, there’s a problem. I’m going to leave it up to the scientists,” Boren said.

Durant wondered about other issues.

“If you believe we are in trouble, these other issues are very minor,” Durant said.

Author Sharon Ervin questioned Boren about the war in Iraq.

“I think we need to start letting the Iraqi people stand up,” Boren said, referring to Iraqi government forces handling more of Iraq’s security.

He said the Shiites and Sunnis are basically fighting a civil war.

“We can’t immediately pull out,” he said.

A. J. Bristow, of the Blocker area, asked about concerns that animal waste might be branded as a toxic substance. Boren said he didn’t think that would happen.

Boren said the U.S. should have a balanced budget and he doesn’t think President George W. Bush will try again to revamp Social Security.

“I’m more worried about Medicare; Medicare is in pretty bad shape,” Boren said.”

Referring to the deficit, Boren said “We’re paying interest on all the money we’re borrowing. Eventually, it starts hitting our entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare.”

Ervin wondered if there’s hope for a turnaround.

“I’m an optimist,” Boren said. “Things are really going well in McAlester. Get on Highway 69, go to Durant, Things are booming.”

During the meeting, Orvel Romine stood and said he’s a Freewill Baptist Church minister in Hoyt. He credited Boren’s McAlester office with helping him. Boren said his McAlester field representative Janice Beatty did the work.

“I’ve been pushed around for three years,” Romine said, referring to surgery he was told he needed three years ago, but could never get scheduled by the Veterans Administration.

Romine said Boren took care of the problem.

“He’s done it in six weeks,” Romine said.

Boren said serving in congress has been incredible.

Referring to Pittsburg County, he said. “It was my biggest county, percentage-wise, in the primary. You don’t forget things like that.”

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