The Judiciary Committee passed two separate bills introduced by Congressman Bob Goodlatte.
The bipartisan Security and Fairness Enhancement (SAFE) for America Act, H.R. 704, would eliminate the controversial visa lottery program from the Immigration and Nationality Act, thereby helping to ensure our nation's security while making the administration of our immigration laws more consistent and fair.
Each year there is a national immigration "lottery" by which 50,000 aliens become legal permanent residents of the U.S. purely at random.
"The visa lottery system poses a national security threat. Under the program, each successful applicant is chosen at random and given the status of permanent resident based on pure luck," Goodlatte said. "Usually, immigrant visas are issued to foreign nationals who have an existing connection with a family member lawfully residing in the United States or with a U.S. employer. These types of relationships help to ensure that immigrants entering the country have a stake in our nation's continued success, and have needed skills to contribute to our nation's economy. However, under the visa lottery program, visas are awarded to immigrants at random without meeting such criteria."
The visa lottery actually discriminates against law-abiding citizens of a number of countries including Mexico, the Philippines, Canada, India and the United Kingdom who wait years for visas but are prohibited from participation in the visa lottery and then watch as others bypass them by winning instant green cards under the lottery.
"The visa lottery program represents what is wrong with our country's immigration system and is a national security threat," Goodlatte continued. "The nature of the lottery is such that we have no control over who applies for admission to our country. This flawed policy is just foolish in the age in which we live. Those in the world who wish us harm can easily engage in this statistical gamble with nothing to lose. Our immigration policy should be based primarily on our national needs; security and economics and not in part on an arbitrary system, lacking sufficient checks."
The House Judiciary Committee also passed H.R. 2552, the Identity Theft Improvement Act, legislation introduced by Congressman Goodlatte. This bipartisan legislation will strengthen the federal criminal laws punishing identity theft.
"Identity theft is a serious and growing threat," said Congressman Goodlatte. "The Federal Trade Commission estimates that as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year. The ramifications of identity theft can be financially disastrous for citizens and can be extremely difficult to resolve. We must crack down hard on these criminals."
The United States has many federal statutes targeting identity theft. However, some of these laws were weakened by a recent Supreme Court case, where the Court ruled that some types of identity theft are only crimes if the criminal knew the documents were those of another actual person.
The context of that case was that an illegal alien had given an employer counterfeit social security and alien registration cards containing his name but the identification numbers of other individuals. He was charged with two immigration offenses as well as aggravated identity theft. The Supreme Court overturned the conviction on the aggravated identity theft count explaining that the language of the relevant statutes required prosecutors to prove not only that the defendant used identity documents that were not his own, but also that the defendant knew the identity documents were those of another actual person.
Goodlatte continued, "Identity theft occurs when someone intentionally and unlawfully uses identity documents that are not his own. Our federal statutes should reflect this reality. My legislation will provide the clarification needed to help prosecutors put identity thieves behind bars and will help safeguard American citizens from identity-related crimes."
The SAFE for America Act and the Identity Theft Improvement Act have been referred to the full House of Representatives for further consideration.