The U.S. immigration system is broken. There are an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants currently residing in the U.S. It is vital that Congress take action to secure our borders and stop illegal immigration. The status quo is unacceptable and I share many of your frustrations with this issue.
First, I am wholeheartedly against amnesty. I believe it is inherently unfair to give legal status to those whose first actions were to break our laws. Below are some of the bills I support to deter illegal immigration, increase interior enforcement and keep our border secure:
* Public Law 109-367 - The Secure Fence Act. Mandates the Department of Homeland Security to build 700 miles of fence on the southern border.
* H.R. 563 - Support Border Patrol agents. Provides a congressional pardon to Border Patrol agents Compean and Ramos.
* H.R. 1940 - Citizenship Reform. Denies citizenship to an individual born in the U.S. if both parents are illegal immigrants or do not reside in the U.S legally.
* H.R. 769 - English Only. Declares English the official language of the United States.
* H.R. 4088 - The SAVE Act. Fortifies border protection, requires mandatory employment verification, and increases interior enforcement.
* H.R. 1314 - No Credit Cards for Illegals. Requires the federal government and financial institutions to accept only secure forms of identification.
* H.R. 736. No Social Security for illegal immigrants.
* H.R. 4176 - No drivers' licenses for illegal immigrants.
I also created the Basic Pilot Program, now known as E-Verify, in 1996 which allows employers to check the veracity of identification documents presented for employment. E-Verify involves verification checks of the Social Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security databases of all newly hired employees, regardless of citizenship. The Basic Pilot Program has been used by 55,000 employers nationwide. A bill I introduced in January 2007, the Employment Eligibility Verification System, H.R. 19 would make E-Verify mandatory for all employers over seven years. Highlights of the bill include:
· The authorization for the current system expires in 2008, H.R. 19 would extend it indefinitely.
· H.R. 19 would authorize all necessary funding for EEVS.
· H.R. 19 would require employers to use the program, based on a phased-in timeline. The timeline would require the largest companies to be compliant within one year of enactment. The smallest companies would have seven years to become compliant.
Until we cut off the magnet of jobs through employment verification, we will never truly have control of the problem.
Where's the Fence?
In 2005, House Republicans, with my support, passed The Secure Fence Act (PL 109-367) which authorized 700 miles of border fence to be built along the southwest border by 2009. Unfortunately, the FY2008 Omnibus spending bill signed into law December 26, 2007, (P.L 110-161) stripped vital aspects of The Secure Fence Act:
o The Department of Homeland Security is now required to consult with local governments, Indian tribes, property owners, and the secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture "to minimize the impact on the environment, culture, commerce, and quality of life" in the area fence is to be built.
o The bill also requires DHS to build at least 700 miles of "reinforced fencing" along the approximately 1,933-mile southern border where it "would be most practical and effective," 370 miles of which must be completed by the end of 2008. The bill strikes provisions of The Secure Fence Act authorizing 700 miles of fencing in five specific areas along the Mexican border.
o In another potential barrier to building the fence, the omnibus withholds $650 million of the $1.2 billion for border fencing, infrastructure and technology until Appropriators approve a DHS spending plan due 90 days from the bill's enactment. Among 15 requirements, the report must include an analysis of each 15-mile segment of the fence, with cost and alternatives.
I find it unconscionable that the fence language was stripped and that congressional authority has been turned over the Department of Homeland Security. The overwhelming tide of illegal immigration has both security and economic ramifications and Congress must secure our borders. Rest assured I will continue to fight for funding for the fence and to re-establish the requirements mandated under The Secure Fence Act.
The Virtual Fence
I was extremely frustrated by the recent testimony of Richard M. Stana of the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) who told Congress that the first 28 mile stretch of virtual fence in Arizona is non-operable and over-budget.
Once again the Department of Homeland Security refuses to acknowledge the will of Congress, as stated in the Secure Fence Act of 2006, that we must have physical fencing and barriers along our southern border. The 14 miles of double-layer fencing in San Diego demonstrates the effectiveness of an actual fence and DHS should stop wasting taxpayer money for an unproven system.
GAO reported that DHS has spent $20 million on the failed virtual fence and much of the equipment will have to be replaced at taxpayers' additional expense. The first phase of the virtual fence, a 100-mile section ending in El Paso, was supposed to be deployed at the end of 2008 but is now expected to take another three years.
According to the Washington Post:
"The pilot virtual fence included nine mobile towers, radar, cameras, and vehicles retrofitted with laptops and satellite phones or handheld devices. They were to be linked to a near-real-time, maplike projection of the frontier that agents could use to track targets and direct law enforcement resources. GAO investigators said that Boeing's software could not process large amounts of sensor data. The resulting delays made it hard for operators in a Tucson command center 65 miles to the north to lock cameras on targets. Radar systems were also triggered inadvertently by rain and other environmental factors. Cameras had trouble resolving images at five kilometers when they were expected to work at twice that distance, Stana said.
He added that the system was developed with "minimal input" from Border Patrol agents, resulting in an unworkable "demonstration project" instead of a operating pilot system. He blamed the DHS for acting too hastily in trying to deliver a working pilot by last June.
The effort produced "a product that did not fully meet user needs, and the project's design will not be used as the basis for future . . . development," Stana testified, adding that the DHS plans to replace most of the components." (Washington Post, 2/28/08).
American taxpayers, who overwhelmingly support the border fence, should not have their hard-earned money wasted on untested virtual fencing when we have an alternative that delivers results: the physical two-layer fence.