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Providing for Further Consideration of H.R. 4437, Border Protection, Antiterrorism

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Location: Washington, DC


PROVIDING FOR FURTHER CONSIDERATION OF H.R. 4437, BORDER PROTECTION, ANTITERRORISM, AND ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION CONTROL ACT OF 2005 -- (House of Representatives - December 16, 2005)

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Mr. PUTNAM. Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend from Georgia for yielding.

My good friend from Florida closed his opening statement with the inscription at the base of Lady Liberty, and that new colossus that was so new and shiny at that time has grown into the great colossus.

That shining city upon a hill that Winthrop commented on and that Reagan resurrected in his soaring rhetoric is still a shining city upon a hill that all of us like to speak of and remark upon on a number of occasions on this floor.

Who was that city shining to? Who was it beckoning? Who was it welcoming but immigrants? We are still that great city shining upon a hill. We are a nation of immigrants, and they are our strength, and they are our diversity, and they are our source of innovation, and they are what prevent us from being stagnant in the old ways of the old world.

But a key change has occurred since the wave came over from Ireland and Poland and the European nations, and then subsequently from the Latin American nations and the Asian nations, and that is the rise of Islamic fundamentalist terrorism.

And so that immigration policy cannot be unfettered. We have to put in place common-sense, meaningful reforms so that we address it in three parts. We do not disagree about that. There is not an ounce of disagreement between our parties about strengthening our borders.

We all agree that we cannot continue to have a policy that allows hundreds of thousands of people to come across our borders, many of whom are seeking a better life, but a goodly number of whom are not. They are part of MS-13 gangs, they are part of human exploitation or sexual traffickers or even terrorists trying to bring in bombs or other equipment to do our society fundamental harm. So we have to be very careful in moving forward with this legislation and craft a balanced approach.

I commend the authors on their enforcement provisions at the border. That is phase one, to address our border security, to make sure that we have boots on the border, equipment, sensors, all of the technology that our innovation can provide to make sure that we are welcoming those immigrants who are coming here to build a better life for themselves and their family, and stopping those who are not.

The bill is incomplete in that it does not deal in a comprehensive way with the other two pieces of immigration policy, which are very sticky, difficult issues, that of what to do with those 11 million people who are already here and that of how we address the temporary worker program. It is incomplete in that sense. But this is an important step.

I would only characterize it as a baby step. But it is an important step forward to moving what I believe will become comprehensive immigration reform that deals with these three key components of this hugely important policy in a post-9/11 world.

I firmly believe that we are a stronger nation because of the diversity that our immigrants have brought us. I feel blessed to live in a nation that women seek to be here so badly that they are willing to put their babies on inner tubes to float across the Florida Straits to be here or to risk everything to come across a wall or a fence or a river to be a part of the freedoms and liberties that we take for granted every day.

I fundamentally feel blessed to live in a nation that everyone else strives so hard to join. And we have to have an immigration policy that meets the needs of our economy and welcomes those people who want to bring positive, meaningful developments to our Nation and help them find a better life for themselves and their families; and this bill puts us on the path toward doing that.

But it is important that we recognize what is not in the bill, and before it becomes law what must, what must become part of it, which is a comprehensive assessment of a temporary worker program and a way to deal with the enforcement of the 11 million people who are here.

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Mr. BERMAN. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding me this generous amount of time in the context of the deliberations on this bill.

I would like to lay a little bit of a foundation for a question which I would like on my time to yield to either Mr. Dreier, because we have spoken privately about this issue for so long, or Mr. Putnam, who very specifically and straightforwardly addressed the issue on the floor.

And that is, the background, I have said on a number of occasions in the Rules Committee and in the Judiciary Committee and on the floor yesterday that this bill is either an insult to our intelligence or a con on the American people. And I say that, and those are harsh comments, and I do not use that language a lot around here, because one of two things is going to happen: Either the leadership of this House and the Rules Committee is refusing to allow us to address a fundamental and essential question of whether or not to have a program for the adjustment of 11 million or more people now in this country where they would come out of the shadows, be identified, deport the criminal aliens and find a way to condition those who are working in this society into coming out and giving us their true identities; and dealing with future shortages and a temporary guest worker program, particularly for seasonal industries. The refusal to do that tells me that J.D. HAYWORTH is right.

There is one of two agendas here. One agenda is the agenda that Mr. Putnam and that Mr. Flake hoped for, and that is we will pass a bill with a number of really some very silly and harsh provisions; the Senate will clean those up, turn it into a comprehensive approach; and the people here who have been screaming the word ``amnesty'' for any effort to solve this problem will now be forced to come back and cast a vote for it.

I do not think that is what is going to happen. This bill will probably pass today, and we will never again in this Congress see the immigration issue. And guys will go back to their districts, and they will talk about how they tried to get tough on the border and they tried to do something.

This is not a border enforcement bill. There is a case that we could try to do some things on the border to be more effective than we have been. When this bill tries to deal with employer verification in the context to our 11 million people in this country who are working without documents or without work status, we know it can never go into effect. We have to either deal with that and then do employer verification, which is the critical component of a comprehensive approach, or we are never going to pass this bill into law.

So what I would like to do is have Mr. Dreier or Mr. Putnam, and I do not know how they want to do it, if they would be willing to, explain to me what the fairness is of not letting this body decide, and J.D. HAYWORTH has one view, HOWARD BERMAN has another view, but decide whether or not on a critically important issue that the President has spoken of the need for, others have denounced, why we cannot have a debate and a vote on that kind of a program.

Mr. PUTNAM. Mr. Speaker, will the gentleman yield?

Mr. BERMAN. I yield to the gentleman from Florida.

Mr. PUTNAM. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding to me, and I thank my chairman for allowing me to respond.

The gentleman made the statement that this is not a border enforcement bill, and I would disagree and say that it is a border enforcement bill. It is not a comprehensive immigration reform bill.

Mr. BERMAN. Mr. Speaker, reclaiming my time, just to clarify, there are provisions about border enforcement in this bill, but when you implement, as this bill pretends to do, a massive comprehensive verification system, that has nothing to do with border protection. That is about ensuring that no one gets hired who is here without status. We cannot do that with 11 million people in this country, many of whom are working now.

I am sorry for cutting the gentleman short.

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