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Hearing of the Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security and International Law Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee.


Location: Washington, DC


REP. ELTON GALLEGLY (R-CA): Thank you very much, Madam Chairman. Ray, I listened with great interest to your testimony. Clearly, we all understand we're a nation of laws. We're a nation of immigrants. In fact, most people in this room can't go back more than two or three, maybe four generations at the most, and find that their roots come from foreign soil.

But I found it interesting that you preface your remarks and you were very proud, or appeared to be very proud of the fact that your grandparents, to quote Ray LaHood, "Played by the rules." Now Ray, the folks you're talking about here today, did not play by the rules.

We have millions of people waiting in line some 8, 10, 12 years. Our office does more work processing immigration cases than all the rest of the cases combined that we do in our district office. We have folks that play by the rules for many years. What kind of a message does it send to those that have waited in line, like your grandparents, and played by the rules?

What message does it send to them? Why should we play the rules if someone has violated the law long enough that they have to get a fine of $2500 and touch back? Do they have to touch back for ten years, eight years, six years, or for 20 minutes? What kind of a message does that send, Ray?

REP. LAHOOD: Well, Mr. Gallegly, I'll say this. I think what the STRIVE Act allows for and the reason I'm supporting it is for people to play by the rules, to create a set of rules that allows people to admit illegality, to pay a fine, to touch back for whatever period of time.

And at that point, there is a system whereby they can say, "Hey, I violated the rules. I'm going to pay my fine. I'm going to play by the rules now." That's what the STRIVE Act does, Elton.

REP. GALLEGLY: Pardon me, Ray, though that --

REP. LAHOOD: It gives people an opportunity to play by the rules.

REP. GALLEGLY: That doesn't answer the question.

REP. LAHOOD: Part of the answer to the question is many of the people, as Congressman Flake said, came here illegally. They've overstayed their time now, and --

REP. GALLEGLY (?): And they're illegal.

REP. LAHOOD: That's exactly right. And we want to give them an opportunity because they're contributing to America, to the fiber of America, to the employment, to the economy of America. Look at -- if you take 12 -- if you send all these people back, what's it going to do to America? Part of the American economy is going to collapse, particularly the agricultural economy, the meat packing economy, the service economy, because there aren't going to be enough Americans to do these jobs.

MR. : Congressman, I think the issue is what are the rules?

REP. GALLEGLY (?): Reclaiming my --

MR. : What are the rules (that we're setting down ?).

REP. GALLEGLY (?): Reclaiming my time. We're a nation of laws, and clearly you're changing the rules, but you're changing the rules for people that weren't playing by the rules to say that you now can play by the rules, and it does send the wrong message. Let me get back to my good friend Jeff from Arizona. Jeff says we don't -- and, in fact, Luis says it would take 80 years to remove those that are illegally in the country today through due process, and we don't even know who they are.

I have a novel concept. Maybe I'm out in the woods, and maybe you can steer me straight, Jeff. We know that there's over 10 million people in this country. Social Security service has the name, phone number, and probably shoe size of over 10 million people that are working with an invalid Social Security number. What would be wrong with sending a letter to that employer saying clarify the Social Security number? Make sure it's valid so they're working legally, or you are going to be responsible for terminating that employee. If that employee doesn't have a job and has no other means of supporting -- most of these folks didn't come to the country illegally because of our beaches. They came because of economic opportunity, just like we have tens of millions waiting in line right now to come to this country legally for those opportunities.

Explain to me -- what would be wrong with that concept of enforcing the law, or perhaps give us your definition of the Rule of Law.

REP. FLAKE: Well, that to a certain extent is being done right now, and part of the issue is employers now only have a couple of programs to rely on. One is Basic Pilot. Basic Pilot does a decent job of telling the employer if a Social Security number is valid, but it can't tell the employer with great accuracy if it's being used 500 times. And so the employer has to wait for the federal government to go back and forth.

And as Congressman Gutierrez said, right now given the resources we have out there, it would take years and years and years, maybe not 60 years. Maybe we double it. Maybe 40 years. What is acceptable? And why is that any less of an amnesty for those who are here illegally now than a process by which they have to come forward, pay a fine, register in the program, go to the back of the line, go back to their home country, register, have six years of work, and then qualify for a green card? I just -- I don't see --

REP. GALLEGLY (?): Thank you very much, Madam Chairman.

Don't quite put me to the maybe list yet. I yield back.

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