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Third, the Senate proposal treats illegal immigrants better than legal immigrants who have played by the rules. Under the Senate plan, legalization leads to green cards, and green cards lead to citizenship.

Many individuals who followed the law have waited years to obtain lawful status. Amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants sends the message to would-be immigrants that there’s no benefit to following the rules. They can come illegally tomorrow, live and work in the United States, and sooner or later get amnesty.

Further, the assumption that we somehow owe amnesty to almost all individuals who are in the country illegally is misguided. America has the most generous immigration system in the world, admitting 1 million immigrants legally every year.

Though we are a nation of immigrants, we are also a nation of laws. We have the right to expect that individuals will respect our laws when coming to the United States.

Citizenship is the highest honor our country can bestow. It should be reserved for those who have followed the laws and come in the right way.

Rather than learning from the past, the Senate proposal again offers amnesty now and border security later, if at all. It would lead to reduced wages for American workers, and it would treat those in the country illegally better than those who have played by the rules and waited their turn.

Rep. Lamar Smith, Texas Republican, is the former chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and serves on the immigration subcommittee.