BORDER PROTECTION, ANTITERRORISM, AND ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION CONTROL ACT OF 2005 -- (House of Representatives - December 16, 2005)
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Mr. HOLT. Mr. Chairman, I rise today to oppose the so called Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005, H.R. 4437. I am deeply concerned by this bill's enforcement-only focus and the simple fact that it fails to seriously address our Nation's true immigration problems.
Our Nation's immigration system is broken. It does not work. Our legal immigration system does not meet the needs of American employers, lawful immigrants seeking residence in the U.S., and families seeking to reunite and pursue the American dream.
And yet that does not need to be the case.
One of the main reasons we have a huge illegal immigration problem is that our legal immigration system just does not work. We could be talking today about the widely recognized problems and debate comprehensive immigration reform. But we will not do that today.
I am deeply troubled that this bill, which would drastically alter our Nation's immigration laws, was rushed to the House floor just a little more than a week after it was introduced and after only one committee hearing it was voted out on party lines. On this key issue we should be able to work together.
Immigration is not a Republican or Democratic issue. It is truly an American issue.
The history of America is a history of immigration and immigrants. From the first Europeans to settle on our shores in places like Jamestown and Plymouth, to the millions who were greeted by the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island trying to flee hunger and poverty in the Old World in search of a new life and a new start in America, legal immigrants continue to this day to be a vital part of our social fabric and our economic growth.
I firmly believe in the necessity of legal immigration. Our country was founded on the principle of immigration, and we are fortunate to have millions of hardworking, law-abiding immigrants living in this country. Studies show that, far from being a tax burden on us, immigrants add billions of dollars to the U.S. economy. Statistics also reveal that immigrants are likely to set up their own businesses, which creates jobs for workers and sales opportunities for American companies. It is important to recognize the many benefits--economic and otherwise--that legal immigrants provide to our country.
However, like many Americans, I am concerned about the influx of illegal immigrants into our country. I believe the best answer to this problem is to comprehensively address our Nation's legal immigration system and to also fully and effectively enforce our immigration laws on the books.
But this bill focuses almost solely on new enforcement actions. It is a piecemeal attempt to solve a much larger problem and it will end up jailing foreign citizens who come illegally into the United States and make all employers in the country deputy immigration officials. These are not sensible solutions to the immigration problems that exist. I strongly believe that we need to secure both our southern and northern borders. It is also imperative to secure our seaports and airports. But we also need to acknowledge and deal with the fact that an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants hide in the shadows of our country. This bill simply ignores them and tries to fool the public into thinking that real changes are being made to secure our borders.
Over the last 20 years, Congress has passed into law 17 different immigration-related pieces of legislation. But a clear problem still remains. Rather than seriously doing something about immigration, the Congress has passed politically expedient but not policy-based legislation. It is clear that the Immigration and Nationality Act, INA, needs dramatic changes and the American people have continually called for such changes. The INA needs to be updated to meet the labor shortages that American employers face. It needs also to be fundamentally altered in how it handles foreign-born workers. Too often the INA is more complex and arcane than even the IRS Tax Code. This leaves businesses, citizens and prospective immigrants confused and unsure of what to do.
In my central New Jersey district alone this means that I have more than one full-time employee to help the citizens and residents of my district navigate these laws and the out-of-control bureaucracy they have created.
This bill is extreme and will not fix these arcane rules and procedures. And it will certainly fail to do what it promises. This bill requires the Department of Homeland Security to detain all illegal immigrants who enter the United States until they can be returned to their country of origin. Yet the bill does nothing to provide DHS with facilities or capacity to do just that. DHS will not be able to meet this flawed expectation and it will prove to be an untenable burden on an already over-extended detention system.
The bill also creates a new Employment Eligibility Verification System, EEVS, based on a small previously existing pilot program. This would require all employers to check their employees' work status. This essentially deputizes employers as immigration officers and forces an undue burden on them to do the Government's work. Currently, employers are already required to check the work documents of all of their employees. The GAO has estimated that this new provision alone will push an unfunded mandate on employers of close to $12 billion a year. This simply is not a practical solution.
This bill is strongly opposed by a broad range of organizations such as U.S. Chamber of Commerce, American Immigration Lawyers Association, American Nursery & Landscape Association, Catholic Charities USA, Associated Builders and Contractors, United Auto Workers, and even the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. This broad coalition of organizations and interest groups understands that this is not a solution to our existing immigration problem and in fact may exacerbate the problem.
I urge my colleagues to oppose this bill and to seriously and comprehensively address the important issue of immigration.
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