BORDER PROTECTION, ANTITERRORISM, AND ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION CONTROL ACT OF 2005 -- (Extensions of Remarks - December 22, 2005)
HON. STEVE ISRAEL
OF NEW YORK
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 16, 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. ISRAEL. Mr. Chairman, I am disappointed that I must rise today in opposition to H.R. 4437, the Border Protection, Antiterrorism and Illegal Immigration Control Act. I am enormously concerned with our Nation's lack of border security and the dysfunctional nature of our current immigration system. Our Nation's immigration laws are disrespected both by those who cross our borders illegally and by the businesses that hire those illegal immigrants. Unfortunately, the legislation we are considering today does little to realistically solve these problems. I'm saddened to say that it is based not on policy, but on politics.
I support important amendments to this bill that will help secure our borders and cut down on illegal immigration. For instance, I support the amendment offered by Representative HUNTER of California requiring the construction of reinforced fencing, along with lights, cameras and sensors, along high priority areas of the U.S.-Mexican border. Additionally, I support the amendment offered by Representative NORWOOD of Georgia that authorizes and empowers local law enforcement officials to help enforce immigration laws.
However, this legislation addresses only half the problem our Nation currently faces. Nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants currently live within our borders. That's 11 million people living in the shadows whom we know next to nothing about. This legislation criminalizes these 11 million people, pushing them further into the shadows, and does not consider the impact this will have on our legal system. For instance, this bill does not address the number of pro-bono, taxpayer funded attorneys these immigrants will need to fight their criminal charges in court nor does it address the hundreds of new prisons that would need to be built in order to house 11 million new criminal aliens.
Ultimately, I support a comprehensive immigration policy that is good for families, national security and the economy. Comprehensive immigration legislation introduced by Senator JOHN MCCAIN of Arizona would substantially secure our Nation's borders. Beyond that, it would fine those immigrants already here illegally and punish employers that hire illegal immigrants. However, it would also give the 11 million undocumented immigrants in our country, along with others who are not yet in the U.S. but who hope to one day live and work here legally, a chance to earn legal status. After paying a fine, proving they have been employed in the United States and undergoing a background check, immigrants living here illegally prior to the enactment of the bill would be eligible to apply for a new, non-immigrant visa, and after six years given an option to apply for permanent residency. Additionally, an essential worker visa category, with market-based caps, would be established for new immigrants. These immigrants would be given the option to apply for permanent citizenship after four years.
The McCain bill punishes illegal immigrants for breaking the law but also acknowledges that we cannot act as though we have solved our immigration problem by ignoring the 11 million illegal immigrants already living in our country. As my votes on the Hunter and Norwood amendments prove, I support strong enforcement of our immigration laws and measures to make our borders more secure. But I believe that the only way to fix our broken immigration system is to ensure that, beyond enforcement, we take a realistic approach and acknowledge the immigrants currently living within our borders and those that will likely wish to come in the future.