Congressman Lou Barletta, PA-11, today introduced two pieces of legislation to address illegal immigration. The first bill establishes for the first time that a visa overstay is a felony criminal offense as opposed to a civil offense. It also enacts a biometric exit program at all ports of exit. The other bill requires the Comptroller General to provide a comprehensive report on the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. The legislation is awaiting bill numbers.
"In the wake of the Senate passage of an illegal immigration bill, I am reminded that we have immigration laws for two reasons: to protect our national security and to protect American jobs. The Senate bill violates both principles," Rep. Barletta said. "We must make sure our visa program is repaired, and we need a full accounting of what went wrong when amnesty was granted in 1986."
Visa Overstay Enforcement Act of 2013
The "Visa Overstay Enforcement Act of 2013" addresses those who do not make a good faith effort to leave the United States by the expiration date of their visas. Upon a first offense, the bill creates a felony punishable by a $10,000 fine and one year in jail. The illegal immigrant may not be legally admitted to the U.S. for five years from the date of conviction and may not apply for a visa for ten years from the date of conviction. A second offense also would be a felony, punishable by fine of $15,000 and up to 5 years in jail. The illegal immigrant would be banned from entering the United States for life.
"Some 40-percent of the illegal immigrants present in this country came here legally only to have their visa expire -- and then never left," Barletta said. "That's why I've always said, if your state is home to an international airport, then you effectively live in a border state."
The second facet of the bill requires the Secretary of Homeland Security to submit a plan to Congress detailing a biometric exit program involving the taking of fingerprints of those leaving the country at all land, sea and air ports. The plan must be submitted within 90 days after the date of the enactment of this bill. Plans for pilot programs for land borders must be provided in the first 30 days following enactment, two along the Canadian border and four along the Mexican border. The biometric exit program must be implemented at all airports within one year after enactment and at all land and sea ports within two years.
"Most of the talk about this issue has been focused on the Southern border, but that won't solve our immigration problem alone," Barletta said. "If we fix our broken visa system, we can take care of nearly half of our illegal immigration concerns."
1986 Amnesty Transparency Act
A second piece of legislation requires -- within one year of enactment -- the Comptroller General of the United States to submit to the House and Senate Homeland Security Committees and the Judiciary Committees a comprehensive report on the implementation of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 that includes information such as the effect on the employment and wages of legal workers, number of individuals denied employment, how visa overstays were addressed and the cost to social programs.
"We know that one of the bombers in the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center was granted amnesty under the 1986 program after he had been originally admitted on an agricultural visa," Barletta said. "We now know that the only thing he planted was a bomb."
"We need to know what effect the 1986 amnesty program had on the American worker, and whether the effects still linger today," Barletta said. "Were wages depressed, or jobs taken from legal workers because so many received amnesty?"
Barletta used an example to point out that the real losers in this debate are legal immigrants who have followed the rules.
"Under the ObamaCare employer mandate, any company with 50 or more employees must provide health insurance to their employees or pay a fine of $3,000 per employee. But illegal immigrants granted amnesty under the Senate bill are exempt from ObamaCare," Barletta said. "So I ask you, what is the incentive to hire a legal American worker who would come with a healthcare price tag, over an illegal worker who would not?"