Illegal Immigrant Testifies before Senate Hearing

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WASHINGTON -- Immigration reform was a top topic in President Obama's State of the Union speech Tuesday and in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday.

The Senate held its first immigration reform hearing of the year, and it was possibly the first such hearing where an openly illegal immigrant testified.

"I come to you as one of our country's 11 million undocumented immigrants," said Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas. "Many of us [are] Americans at heart, but without the right papers to show for it."

Vargas called on Washington to ponder the plight of the illegals.

"For all the undocumented immigrants who are sitting here at this hearing, for the people watching online and for the 11 million of us, what do you want to do with us?" Vargas asked.

Many former opponents of immigration reform in Congress have said they're ready to enact reform now, but only if the border between Mexico and America is secured first to prevent a new flood of illegals.

Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano told the Senate Judiciary Committee that's been largely dealt with.

"Our border is better staffed with more people, infrastructure and technology than at any time in our nation's history," Napolitano stated.

But Texas Republican John Cornyn said that's not what he hears from border agents in Texas.

"We probably catch about one out of every three individuals who try to make it across," Cornyn said they've told him.

Jessica Vaughan, with the a largely anti-immigrant think tank Center for Immigration Studies, said a government that so mishandles visas and paperwork for foreigners now can't be trusted to do it better in the future.

"One of the worst examples was Mahmud Abouhalima, a cabdriver from New York City who was approved as a farmworker and later went on to help blow up the World Trade Center in 1993," she pointed out.

Also on hand was union president for Immigration and Customs Enforcement Chris Cane, who complained the Obama administration is so much on the side of illegals, it's almost criminal.

"Morale is at an all-time low as criminal aliens are released to the streets and ICE instead takes disciplinary actions against its own officers for making lawful arrests," he said.

But Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., pointed out that reform is needed because just cracking down on aliens and walling off the border will never do.

"You could build a hundred-foot high wall, and if you're getting a job pretty easily on the other side of the wall, people will go under it, over it or around it," he said.

Still, the prediction from many on Capitol Hill is there will be a reform deal in the near future.

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Paul  Strand

Paul Strand

CBN News Washington Sr. Correspondent

As senior correspondent in CBN's Washington, D.C., bureau, Paul Strand has covered a variety of political and social issues, with an emphasis on defense, justice, and Congress.  Follow Paul on Twitter @PaulStrandCBN and "like" him at Facebook.com/PaulStrandCBN.