REAL ID ACT OF 2005 -- (House of Representatives - February 10, 2005)
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Mr. HOLT. Mr. Chairman, I rise in opposition to H.R. 418, the REAL ID Act. This legislation was crafted under the guise of protecting our borders and improving homeland security. However, it would make it more difficult for victims of persecution to obtain asylum impose expensive mandates on the States, and authorize the Secretary of Homeland Security to waive any and all laws to construct barriers at our international borders-none of which will make this country any safer from terrorists. This legislation would also effectively undo the important immigration and security reforms passed by the 108th Congress, putting us at greater risk for future attacks.
The 9/11 Commission's immigration-related recommendations focused on targeting terrorist travel through reliable identification systems and effective, integrated information sharing. Instead, this legislation seeks to change immigration laws broadly and in ways unrelated to essential intelligence reform.
This legislation would expand the authority for expedited alien removal without further hearing or review, impose stringent restrictions on asylum seekers hoping to be given an interview with an asylum officer, and require unreasonable standards of proof for aliens seeking asylum. None of the 9/11 hijackers sought or were granted asylum; rather, they were granted legal visas to enter the United States using fraudulent documents overseas. Furthermore, current law explicitly bars terrorists or members of terrorist organizations from gaining asylum, and asylum-seekers already undergo thorough background checks through the FBI, CIA, Department of Homeland Security, and Department of State databases. The onerous restrictions offered by H.R. 418 would keep highly-vulnerable victims of heinous crimes from escaping their persecutors, and they do not address the real vulnerabilities in our immigration system.
A report released this week by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom underscores the dangerous impact these so-called reforms would have on our asylum process. According to the commission, the current expedited removal process in the U.S. places victims of persecution at great risk for further trauma, while the severity of conditions and deprivation imposed on asylum seekers was "shocking." Rather than address this serious situation in the ways recommended by the commission, today this Congress would force even more innocent asylum seekers into expedited removal or send them back to their persecutors without an opportunity to appeal their case to an immigration judge.
H.R. 418 would also impose statutory requirements for State-issued driver's licenses and repeal the important identification security measures enacted by the bipartisan Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act. Rather than permit local, State, and Federal officials to work together to create minimum security standards for driver's licenses and identification cards as authorized by Congress last year, H.R. 418 would mandate statutory standards for States and require them to share personal information on all licensed drivers in a massive national database.
H.R. 418 would dismantle the carefully crafted immigration and security reforms enacted by Congress last year in the Intelligence Reform bill. That law will toughen our border security by adding 10,000 new border patrol agents over the next 5 years, strengthening visa application requirements, and adding 4,000 new immigration and customs investigators. It fortifies identification security while allowing the State officials charged with making those changes to be a part of the process.
Mr. Chairman, this law implemented key 9/11 Commission recommendations without jeopardizing our legal immigration system or the ability of legitimate asylum seekers to escape persecution. Our country was founded on the principle of immigration, and we must not close our doors to those who lawfully seek to share in the freedom and democracy that Americans have always held dear. The Congress must do everything in its power to protect our citizens and our borders. H.R. 418, however, does not achieve those important goals, and I urge my colleagues to oppose this legislation.
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