Senate Judiciary Committee Approves Comprehensive Immigration Reform
U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today said the Senate Judiciary Committee has completed its work on comprehensive immigration reform. The vote in committee was 12-6 with Graham voting in support.
The Committee had completed work on the sections of the bill toughening protection of the border making it tougher for illegal immigrants to enter the United States. Today, the committee worked on how to handle the estimated eleven million illegal immigrants currently in the United States.
"The Senate's first step in comprehensive immigration reform was to physically tighten protection of the southern border," said Graham. "In committee, we have created a virtual fence along parts of our southern border which relies on cameras, motion detectors and other technological devices to keep people from entering the United States illegally. While many issues surrounding immigration reform are contentious, there is broad agreement among Republicans and Democrats that maintaining the status quo along the southern border is simply unacceptable."
Graham expressed support for a real fence where practical. It would be similar to the San Diego Border Fence, a state-of-the-art nearly impenetrable barrier which made illegal entry into our nation much more difficult. The San Diego area was once a haven for illegal crossings but the Border Fence nearly stopped the flood of border crossings from Mexico into the area. Unfortunately, there is not enough support in the Senate Judiciary Committee for construction of a Border Fence.
"Today we moved on to the next phase of immigration reform and that's what to do with the estimated eleven million immigrants who are already in the United States," said Graham. "We have to come to grips with the fact that we have eleven million undocumented people in the country right now. The idea of telling them to go home and come back later is unrealistic. It would also cost $40 billion a year to deport all illegal immigrants currently in the United States."
"The guest worker program which passed the committee would allow immigrants to come out of the shadows, undergo a comprehensive background check, pay a fine, pay their back taxes, and then work in the United States," said Graham. "It's a process which will make our nation more secure by helping kick out the bad apples, allowing those who wish to work to continue doing so and benefit our national economy."
The process for an immigrant who entered the country illegally to continue working includes an assortment of fines, background checks, employment verification, and education in civics and English.
"Amnesty grants immigrants immediate citizenship and that's why I oppose amnesty," said Graham. "Anyone trying to become a citizen under the guest-worker program must meet very strict criteria over an eleven year period. Ronald Reagan, one of our greatest presidents, tried amnesty and it failed. We should not repeat that mistake."
To receive a work visa, illegal immigrants would be forced to:
1) Register with the government or face deportation.
2) Pay a $1,000 fine.
3) Undergo an extensive and comprehensive background check to ensure they do not have a criminal record or pose a danger to society.
4) Show proof of employment.
5) Continue to remain employed while in the United States. Lack of employment longer than 45 days results in deportation.
After six years of work in the United States, they could apply for a second five year extension. Immigrants would be forced to:
6) Pay another $1,000 fine.
7) Undergo a second comprehensive background check to ensure they do not have a criminal record or pose a danger to society.
8) Pay any back taxes.
9) Attend a class on American civics.
10) Learn to speak English.
11) Upon completion of these requirements, they would go to the back of the line to apply for permanent resident alien status.
12) After another five years (a total of 11 years after first registering) they would be eligible to apply to become an American citizen.
Graham noted that while President Bush has not endorsed a specific guest worker plan, the proposal passed by the committee today is similar to what the President has discussed.
"In some ways, we're hypocritical as a nation," said Graham. "We want the benefit of the labor, but we haven't come to grips with how they should be allowed into the country. There are many industries in South Carolina and across the country which are dependent upon this workforce."
Immigration Reform and a Guest Worker Program
Is this amnesty?
No. An amnesty proposal would grant illegal immigrants an automatic pardon and put on the fast-track to citizenship. On the contrary, this reform penalizes them for coming to the United States illegally.
The bill requires undocumented workers to come forward and register with the government. They will be required to pay a substantial fine- a total of $2,000 - to participate in the temporary worker program. They will have to meet a prospective work requirement - six more years on the job - before they can apply for a permanent visa. Only those who can prove that they are learning English and who have gone through rigorous criminal background checks and security screenings will be permitted to apply. No one will be granted automatic permanent resident status, nor will they permitted to "jump the line" ahead of those who are waiting to enter through a legal process. In fact, they will be sent to the back of the line.
Why do we need a guest worker program?
Our broken immigration system doesn't work. The current immigration system provides so few legal channels for foreign workers that it all but guarantees an illegal flow. Businesses can't find the labor they need forcing entire industries to operate on the wrong side of the law. Millions of foreign workers live in the country illegally today. It's a nightmare for them, an affront to the rule of law and an unacceptable security risk for all Americans.
Will a guest worker proposal enhance our national security?
A guest worker program enhances security within the United States by encouraging millions of currently undocumented workers to come forward and register with the government. Registering will help shrink and eventually eliminate the undocumented population. This will help dry up the smuggling trade and put document forgers out of business. In the process it also deprives would-be terrorists of the illegal support system they could exploit in immigrant communities.
Don't temporary or guest workers undercut American workers by taking their jobs?
No. As study after study of the labor market shows, American workers don't generally compete with immigrants - they don't generally want the low-paying, low-skilled jobs that immigrant workers come to fill. Our native-born work force is getting older and our birth rates are falling. As a nation we are more and more educated. In 1960, half of all American men dropped out of high school and went into the unskilled labor force. Today only 10 percent of the native-born drop out. And few American families now raise their children to be busboys or to work out in the fields.
Furthermore, the comprehensive immigration reform before the Senate Judiciary Committee includes a variety of measures designed to protect U.S. workers.
The legislation mandates that employers who are considering hiring an immigrant worker must first try to hire a U.S. worker, advertising all available jobs for two weeks on an electronic job registry. That registry will be accessible on the web to an interested U.S. worker, and the Department of Labor will circulate it to public employment services across the country. After three years - and every three years after that - employers will also be required to re-advertise the jobs held by temporary workers, guaranteeing that immigrants are not displacing Americans who are qualified and available to fill the same jobs.
Finally, employers will be prohibited from hiring foreigners to replace striking workers or those who have been recently fired.
Won't a guest worker program lead to more illegal immigration?
No. The goal of the bill is to replace the current illegal flow with legal workers by giving the foreign workers our economy needs a safe, orderly, legal way to enter the country. Once every available job is filled by an authorized worker, and it is impossible - as it will be under this program - to get work without a valid visa, there will be much less incentive for other migrants to cross the border illegally. Far fewer employers will need to resort to illegal workers, and those who do - the truly unscrupulous, exploitative minority - can be targeted with enforcement and tough new penalties.