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Immigration Law Enforcement Act of 2006

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Location: Washington, DC


IMMIGRATION LAW ENFORCEMENT ACT OF 2006 -- (House of Representatives - September 21, 2006)

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Mr. BERMAN. Mr. Speaker, I thank my ranking member for yielding.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind the body of what we have here. We have a bill with three sections, the first of which, in the chairman's own words, reinforms the authority of the local governments to do something that he apparently believes and we all accept that they would have the authority to do anyway.

I call that one the let's use the Iraq model for dealing with the issue of illegal immigration; subcontract large functions of it, but unlike in Iraq where we overpay the subcontractors, here tell the local law enforcement people we are giving up at the Federal level trying to deal with this problem, we are not going to give you a penny for more jail cells or a penny for more resources, we are not going to give you a single dime to do anything about it, but we are here to tell you if you want to, you have the authority to arrest and detain people who are in this country illegally without regard to whatever acts they may have committed.

The second section of the bill is alien smuggling. It has a bunch of findings, it has a sense of Congress, and then says we authorize, but no funding, 20 more people to do something about alien smuggling.

And the third one is designed to deal with catch and release, the practice whereby non-Mexicans who are caught in this country in the past have been released rather than returned immediately to the country they came from because Mexico is not the country that they are from.

According to the Director of the Department of Homeland Security, we are currently detaining all El Salvadorans, or virtually all, because we now have enough beds, and we have enough to significantly reduce the total number of non-Mexicans. Catch and release is over. This bill won't make it. It is over. No one should be under the illusion that we are doing anything about the program catch and release by this bill because that program has ended.

What this bill in the larger context is, it is another one-House bill. Let me quote from the September 21 Washington Post. ``With little more than a week left before the September 29 start of the Congress's scheduled recess, GOP leaders are considering appending some or all of the bills to must-pass spending measures before they leave town. But Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman THAD COCHRAN (R-MS) appeared to close off that avenue last night, saying he will not add any legislative language onto the spending bills that could slow their progress in the final days before the coming recess.''

Another one-House bill. And then what will happen, a week from now we will recess, and the Republicans and the majority hope that the American people will be conned into thinking they have done something about one of the most serious national crises we have, and that is the crisis of inability to enforce our borders. There are 12 million people in this country using false identifiers, the absence of any employer verification system.

But in reality, none of that will have happened. The Republican Congress will have recessed for the elections with the mere hope that maybe when we come back with the lame duck, or maybe if you reelect us next year, we will get serious about this problem.

There is nothing in this bill or other bills that are being sent over to a House that will not take them up and not consider them that will make this crisis better.

And what do we have to do to do something serious? Back in June or July or in the beginning of September, a motion to go to conference on the two larger bills that the Senate and the House passed. This won't work. This bill is nothing. It doesn't do anything for anybody. It won't become law.

So you can have the meaningless gesture act that this bill represents. You can pass some of these other bills that are being brought up at the last minute to go into that vacuum on the other side; but one day I would like to understand how the majority explains the fact that they were not willing to make a motion to go to conference to reconcile the differences between the two bills, because in 1 week we will have done nothing to implement an employer verification system. We will have done nothing about 12 million people who are here under false identifiers, some portion of whom might be actual threats to our own national security. We will have done nothing to provide the meaningful, comprehensive approach, which is the only way to deal with the problem of illegal immigration in this country.

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Mr. BERMAN. Mr. Speaker, I will be very brief.

There is only one response to my friend the chairman. If the issue is about papers and the only reason we haven't gone to conference committee is because the papers haven't been delivered, I do have Senator Frist's phone number, and I am happy to provide it. I cannot conceive that it is a matter of paperwork and process that is keeping us from going to conference committee on one of the most serious domestic issues this country has faced.

Secondly, in response to the following speaker, the reason we cannot quite unite to do something here, apparently, is because we are not going to unite on a fool's errand. Everyone on your side of the aisle, from the gentleman from Colorado (Mr. Tancredo) to the chairman to others, has acknowledged over and over again we are not going to deport 12 million people. You are not going to have local law enforcement pick up the task for you of deporting 12 million people.

A meaningful response is border security, because there are people there who are national security issues and there are people who are aiming to hurt us who want to cross this border illegally, and dealing with 12 million people who are operating under false identifiers, some of whom are bad people, and finding some system to either isolate and narrow that group or have them come forward, and most important of all, to get an employer verification system in place. None of these bills does anything about it. We are going to leave here in a week doing nothing about it. I don't understand how you are going to explain to your constituents and the people who are understandably upset about this issue that this Congress has addressed a very serious, urgent issue in a serious and coherent fashion. We haven't.

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