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Getting Serious About Immigration Reform

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Getting Serious About Immigration Reform
January 28, 2005

Illegal immigration penalizes those legal immigrants and citizens who play by the rules. A recent study found that there are over five million, and possibly as many as ten million, illegal aliens currently living in the United States. This population grows by over 350,000 each year. Clearly, this situation has reached crisis proportions and cannot be allowed to continue.

The fight against illegal immigration starts at our nation's borders. Simply strengthening the Border Patrol, however, is not enough to stop illegal immigration. For years, weak enforcement and confusing provisions in immigration law have allowed illegal aliens to stay in the country for years without punishment. Deportation cases often lasted for years-even decades in some instances.

Many illegal aliens, however, do not come to our country by illegally crossing our borders. As studies have shown, between forty and fifty percent of the illegal aliens in the U.S. came on legal temporary visas but never returned home. Any comprehensive immigration reform laws must ensure that we fight against illegal immigration in all its forms, by including stiff and meaningful penalties against individuals who illegally overstay the terms of their temporary visas.
Furthermore, terrorists have taken advantage of flaws in our immigration system. To address this serious threat, I was pleased this week to become an original cosponsor of legislation containing vital homeland security provisions that were dropped from the 9/11 legislation conference report the House passed last December.

These common-sense provisions are aimed at preventing another 9/11-type attack by plugging holes in our homeland security efforts. Congress must address these weaknesses very soon because we know America's enemies diligently probe our vulnerabilities to carry out their deadly intentions.

This legislation includes strong security standards for keeping those illegally in the country from getting drivers' licenses, including a requirement that applicants have proof of lawful presence in the U.S. Also, the bill requires that temporary drivers' licenses expire when an alien's visa expires.

In addition, this legislation would tighten the asylum system abused by terrorists by allowing immigration judges to determine witness credibility in asylum cases, and by keeping terrorists out of the U.S. by ensuring all terrorism-related grounds for keeping people out of the country are also grounds for deporting them when they are discovered already in the country.

Legal immigration has blessed our nation with talent, diversity, and a commitment to freedom and the rule of law. Illegal immigration flaunts that law and mocks our system of justice. It costs our taxpayers billions of dollars every year, while taking jobs from law-abiding citizens and legal residents.

As a member of the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Claims, and as a member of the House Bipartisan Task Force on Immigration Reform, I will continue to push for serious immigration reform, an important issue of national security.

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