BORDER PROTECTION, ANTITERRORISM, AND ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION CONTROL ACT OF 2005 -- (Extensions of Remarks - December 17, 2005)
The House in Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union had under consideration the bill (H.R. 4437) to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to strengthen enforcement of the immigration laws, to enhance border security, and for other purposes:
* Mr. UDALL of Colorado. Mr. Chairman, while there is much in this bill that concerns me, I will vote for it because its primary purpose is to make necessary improvements in securing our borders, which I think is needed as part--but only part--of immigration-reform legislation.
* To be frank, however, if this bill represented our last word on immigration reform, I would vote against it. By focusing exclusively on the question of border security and immigration enforcement, the House Republican leadership is ignoring the most difficult and challenging aspect of immigration reform, namely the question of how to deal humanely and effectively with the estimated 8-11 million illegal immigrants currently living and working in this country.
* Moreover, I am not in favor of making every man, woman and child who overstays a visa or resides in this country illegally a criminal. By making any violation of immigration rules a criminal rather than a civil offense we may only end up discouraging law enforcement from discovering real threats of terrorism or violent criminal conduct. Driving illegal immigrants deeper underground, even more than current law, which keeps them in the shadows, is a terrible tactic if our overarching goal is national security.
* So, Mr. Chairman, there are some strong reasons for voting against this legislation. It offers no full solution to the problem of illegal immigration; it is unnecessarily punitive toward otherwise law-abiding individuals, and it unwisely commits this country to the construction of a costly border fence that many security experts believe will divert resources away from more important homeland security needs.
* My readiness to support this bill was also reduced by the rhetoric of some who are most vocally in support of it. There is perhaps no more divisive issue in our country than immigration, and sadly, the tone and content of much of the debate in the House has only fueled the division. I discussed the tone and substance of this debate with a good friend and colleague from the Republican side of the aisle and found that we agreed that the House was missing an opportunity to unite the country and pass a sorely-needed comprehensive immigration reform bill.
* Despite these concerns, I will vote in favor of this bill because we have to make necessary investments in border security and enforcement. The 9/11 Commission has recommended increased immigration enforcement personnel, stronger surveillance, tougher entry-and-exit procedures and the use of better technologies to enhance our border security. This bill addresses these concerns and I favor all of these provisions.
* Finally, I am convinced that reassuring the American people that we have taken strong action to strengthen enforcement and secure our borders is a necessary predicate for the harder and more complicated task of addressing the problem of existing illegal and undocumented workers.
* With stronger border security and enforcement established we can work with the Administration and our colleagues in the Senate to build a consensus for the harder task of clarifying the status of existing illegal immigrants, most of whom are hard-working and otherwise law-abiding people, in a humane and thoughtful way that will protect children, include guest-worker needs and establish a fairer process for legalized entry. If that effort succeeds--as I think it can and am convinced it must--the result not only will be better than the bill before us, it will be a measure that deserves to be sent to the President for signing into law.