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Public Statements

Providing For Consideration of H.R. 418, Real ID Act of 2005

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


PROVIDING FOR CONSIDERATION OF H.R. 418, REAL ID ACT OF 2005 -- (House of Representatives - February 09, 2005)

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Mr. BERMAN. Mr. Speaker, I thank very much my friend from Florida for yielding me this time.

Mr. Speaker, my opposition to H.R. 418 is for two reasons, one that is broader in the context of the problems we face, and one is specific to asylum. I am just going to address the former on the issue of debating essentially an unobjectionable rule that simply allows for general debate and urge opposition on that ground alone.

The placement of the bill on this agenda at this particular time is a manifestation of the triumph of ideology over common sense, and it is a response to spasms of anger rather than a reflection of sober analysis. Contrary to the arguments of the Republicans, including my friend, the chairman of the committee, including the majority leader of this House, the issues of immigration reform, border security, national security, and public safety are inextricably linked. But we hear not one word or hint of any intention on the part of the majority in this House, in contrast with both the President and the leadership in the Senate, of ever dealing with the fundamental issue.

Our immigration system is broken. The results of that breakdown endanger American security. Between 8 and 14 million people are in this country without legal status. They live in our shadows. They utilize false documents. Their true identity is unknown. For the most part, they work and pay taxes. And, except for their illegal status, they observe our laws.

They provide the overwhelming proportion of the workforce in critical industries. They are located throughout the country and they are subject to all kinds of exploitation, but for a variety of reasons, they have no intention of leaving this country. A few among them, without doubt, a few among them mean harm to Americans and are plotting terrorist acts. The status quo is simply intolerable.

But where the proponents of this bill are so wrong, so self-defeating, is in thinking that piecemeal fixes like this have anything to do with protecting Americans against those who are plotting to harm us. Only a comprehensive approach that deals with issues like defense, like a nonforgeable identifier, a nonforgeable Social Security card, effective enforcement, and coming to terms with the status of the 8 to 14 million people who are working and linked to working and have committed no other crimes, getting them out of the shadows so we can know who they are, we can fingerprint them and match them to watch lists. That is the only way to deal with the problem.

Look at our situation. The majority leader says ``This bill is a border security bill. It is a Homeland Security bill. Immigration reform is a completely different subject.''
The chairman of our committee, the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. Sensenbrenner), says ``It is to everybody's best interest to separate out the security questions from the immigration questions.'' But you cannot. President Bush knows that. He realizes that these gentlemen are wrong, that this analysis is wrong, that this piecemeal approach is not going to do the job; and he has repeatedly called for a comprehensive reform of our immigration system because ``The current system results in diverting homeland security resources to chasing people who are here because they want to put food on their table. They take resources away from catching criminals and terrorists.'' That is the President.

Senator Cornyn, the new chairman of the Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims, no liberal he, realizes that the strategy of the gentleman from Wisconsin is a mistake. He said it pretty specifically, ``I don't believe we can deal with border security and homeland security without dealing with immigration reform.''

Aside from the asylum provisions, I do not have any heartburn about these, of course, in a world where we have fixed the system so it does not have 8 to 14 million people here out of status, illegally, undocumented, and people who should not get driver's licenses. But this will not solve the problem. There will be people who are not going to be here legally, who will have driver's licenses after this bill passes, and there will be people with false IDs after this bill passes; and you will not have dealt with the fundamental issue.

For that reason, more than any other, although the fundamental change of the asylum system that is going to keep people fleeing persecution from finding their historic asylum in this country, without dealing anything with terrorists who are already eligible for asylum, is another reason to oppose this bill, and I urge opposition on it.

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Mr. BERMAN. Mr. Speaker, what I would have asked the gentleman from Georgia (Mr. Gingrey), had he been willing to yield some time, was to show me where in the 9/11 Report it makes any reference to making any of the changes in the asylum law that are being proposed by the majority here in this bill. There is no reference to that whatsoever, because the 9/11 Commission knew that terrorists and threats to national security cannot get asylum.

Instead, the majority, because it does not agree with the Commission on Religious Freedom, because it does not accept fundamental traditions of people who have a well-founded fear of persecution based on their political attitudes or their ethnicity or their religion or their gender, they do not want to make sure they are able to get asylum, they dump a whole bunch of things that have nothing to do with terrorism in here, not recommended by the 9/11 Commission Report, and then try to claim we are simply fulfilling the 9/11 Commission recommendations.

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