Immigration is a challenging issue that demands urgent federal action. We must ensure that we remain a welcome and open country to visitors and legal immigrants while ensuring that our borders are secure and immigration laws are fully enforced.
I am opposed to amnesty and voted against the 1986 House immigration bill for that reason. Indeed, the massive influx of illegal immigrants over the last two decades has shown that amnesty is not the solution and may, in fact, make the problem worse. I believe that we must secure our borders and address the perverse incentives for illegal immigration before considering broader immigration reform.
I am a cosponsor of the bipartisan Secure America through Verification and Enforcement (SAVE) Act, H.R. 4088, to increase the number of Border Patrol agents by 8,000 and create a pilot program to increase aerial surveillance, satellite and equipment sharing between the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Defense. More recently, I have joined nearly 200 of my colleagues in signing a discharge petition on the bill to bring it before the full House for consideration.
Further, it would expand the existing Employment Eligibility Verification (E-Verify) program by requiring that all employers enroll within four years. This would ensure that all workers hired have a valid work permit. This expanded program would begin with the federal government, federal contractors, and employers with over 250 employees. Smaller businesses would begin using the system in a graduated manner.
The bill also would close existing loopholes that allow illegal immigrants to use the same Social Security number and would require information-sharing between the Department of Homeland Security, the Social Security Administration and the IRS. Lastly, it would expedite the deportation of illegal aliens by expanding detention capacity and increasing the number of Federal District Court judges.
Ensuring a Legal Workforce
I was pleased to support the important bipartisan reauthorization of the "E-Verify" program for an additional five years, and voted for a similar amendment in the Appropriations Committee in July 2008. The E-Verify program was scheduled to expire on November 1, 2008.
While not perfect, E-Verify is an important tool for employers to ensure that their workforce is legal. I firmly believe that employment verification is a critical component in preventing illegal immigration and was pleased that the president recently announced that all federal contractors will be required to use E-Verify.
Supporting Local Law Enforcement
During the fiscal year 2009 consideration of the Homeland Security appropriations bill, I strongly supported an amendment to boost funding for the program known as "287(g)" that authorizes funding to train local law enforcement to process immigration detainers. This amendment would have increased funding by $12 million to train more local law enforcement to screen for and detain illegal aliens.
During the debate on the 287(g) amendment, I spoke on the success that our local law enforcement in Herndon, Manassas, Prince William, and Loudoun counties have had in participating in the program. I believe that such leadership and engagement at the local level is an integral component of immigration enforcement. Despite our best efforts, each amendment was defeated by the majority.
Additionally, I joined many of my colleagues on a bipartisan letter to Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey in support of local law enforcement efforts to identify illegal aliens who have been arrested.
I am very concerned that recent appropriations legislation would weaken existing agreements between Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and local law enforcement. I remain strongly opposed to efforts to weaken these agreements.