U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal says some of his colleagues in Washington are still amazed at his interest in immigration matters.

Deal, R-Gainesville, who held town hall meetings in Chatsworth and Dalton Tuesday, says some lawmakers still believe immigration is something that impacts primarily border states.

“I invite my colleagues to come to North Georgia. I tell them, ‘You’ll think you are in a border state,” Deal ßsaid.

About 75 people attended each forum. Deal started off each with a brief discussion of budget issues and immigration. When the floor was opened for questions, audience members brought up a number of issues, but the discussions were dominated by two topics: immigration and veterans affairs.

Deal says he believes enforcement is the key to dealing with the problems caused by illegal immigration. Deal noted that he has served in Congress during two presidents, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

“Neither of those administrations, in my opinion, has had any real interest in enforcing immigration laws,” he said.

Deal said he currently has 89 co-sponsors for a bill he authored that would end birthright citizenship, the automatic granting of citizenship to anyone born on U.S. soil.

Deal says his bill would require that at least one parent be in the United States legally for any child born here to receive citizenship. In Dalton, Susan Rogers asked about Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean, two Border Patrol agents convicted of shooting a drug smuggler.

“They were working to secure our border, and when you have someone who is transporting poison across our border - he was here illegally and he had a load of drugs - and they shoot him, what’s wrong with that? And now they are in prison,” she said.

Deal said he could not understand why the Justice Department prosecuted the two agents nor why the Bush administration has refused any sort of clemency for them.

“There are so many unanswered questions,” he said.

But he said that if Bush does not want to pardon the two agents, there is little Congress can do about it.

In Chatsworth, Lori Rosen, of the American Red Cross, asked about health care for veterans.

“When a service member gets back from the service, one of the places they inevitably stop is there local Red Cross chapter,” Rosen said.

Rosen said veterans often find it difficult to navigate the Veterans Administration bureaucracy and are looking for help.

Deal got big and sustained applause when he suggested that veterans should be given vouchers for health care instead of being required to go to VA facilities.

“Let’s say to them ‘Take this and go to your local hospital. Go to your local doctor,” he said.

Deal said such vouchers would be better for veterans and help sustain local health care providers.

In Dalton Allen Croft asked about the presidential campaign of Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas.

“I’ve been supporting him for many years,” Croft said.

Deal said Paul has “added a lot to the presidential debates.”

“He’s clearly saying a lot of things that resonate with a lot of people. His popularity has been surprising,” he said.

Deal compared Paul to another Republican presidential contender Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo.

Deal said Tancredo knows that he has little chance of being elected president but is running to make sure the issues that are important to his, such as illegal immigration, are debated.

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