Pelosi Statement on National Immigration Policy
December 22, 2005
San Francisco - House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi released the following statement today as the Immigrant Legal Resource Center commemorates the 100th Anniversary of the United States providing refugee to millions of Jews fleeing pogroms in Eastern Europe:
"We take this moment to remember the waive of pogroms that took place in Eastern Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Depending on the time and place, tens of thousands of homes were burned, Synagogues were looted and Jews were murdered. Late 1905 marked a particularly bloody period with pogroms staged in more than 300 towns and villages.
"The United States opened its doors and welcomed those in need of refuge to her shores. As we recall the millions who came to our country in the early years of the last century, we need to remember that our country has become home to those fleeing persecution and those in search of a better life.
"Unfortunately, the recently passed Republican Immigration Bill does not promote opportunity and freedom for our nation's immigrants.
"For the first time in our history, this bill will make it a federal crime, instead of a civil offense, to be in the United States in violation of an immigration law or regulation. This provision could turn millions of immigrants currently here into criminals, hindering their ability to acquire any legal status - and would effectively frustrate the proposals that would provide real immigration reform.
"Under the guise of an expansive definition of smuggling, it could make criminals out of Catholic priests and nuns, ministers, rabbis, and social service workers who provide assistance and acts of charity to those in need. It could impose prison sentences up to five years on those who answer God's call and provide assistance.
"Democrats have long called for strong border security, effective law enforcement, and for comprehensive immigration reform, not this punitive, mean-spirited legislation that does nothing to weed out terrorists.
"This Republican bill is an attempt to belatedly address some border security needs, but fails to provide real security as envisioned by the 9/11 Commission. It is not comprehensive immigration reform.
"In all that we do as elected officials, we have a responsibility to make the American people safer, and to make America stronger. We can make America stronger - not only at our border - but in upholding our values and principles and by honoring the tradition of providing a safe haven to our immigrants seeking a better life -- full of freedom and opportunity on our shores. I stand strongly with you today in honoring those that have been lost and in working for a better tomorrow for all immigrants."