U.S. Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) today introduced two amendments to the immigration reform bill that would strengthen employment verification systems and provide an accurate account of the bill's true costs.
"This bill needs improvements," Johanns said. "My amendments, along with those I am cosponsoring, attempt to address my concerns and those I hear over and over from Nebraskans. We have to start with securing our border followed by strengthening our current employment verification system or else we'll find ourselves debating this same issue all over again in just a few years. We also have to be honest about the true cost of this legislation.
"I've been concerned with the way the amendment process is playing out and if this bill is not drastically improved before a final vote, it will not be worthy of support."
Johanns' first amendment would strengthen identity verification tools for employers. Currently the photo e-verify system is incomplete because most states do not upload drivers licenses and identification card photos for matching purposes. This amendment allows employers to ask background questions to verify the identity of new employees.
His second amendment would require the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to provide an annual updated cost analysis of the legislation. The Gang of Eight's immigration bill is drafted so immigrants who came here illegally must wait 13 years before they are eligible for citizenship and associated benefits, such as Medicare or Medicaid. CBO currently only provides the cost of legislation during its first ten years, before the most costly provisions of the legislation are implemented. This amendment would require a price update every year into 2034 and would automatically adjust the fees in the bill if CBO determines the legislation increases the debt.
In addition to these amendments, Johanns cosponsored amendments to:
* Delay the granting of temporary legal status to any illegal immigrants until the governors of the states along the southern border approve the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Comprehensive Southern Border Security Strategy and certify that the strategy has been substantially implemented;
* Ensure that only fees collected from illegal immigrants -- not tax dollars -- would be used to cover the cost of providing them with temporary legal status;
* Require illegal immigrants 16 and older to read, write, and speak English in order to receive temporary legal status;
* Prohibit DHS from adjusting the citizenship status of any illegal immigrant until the US-VISIT System, which is a biometric border entry and exit system first required by Congress in 1996, has been fully implemented at all land, sea, and air ports of entry, and Congress passes a joint resolution stating that this entry and exit system has been fully implemented; and
* Require the completion of 350 miles of reinforced, double-layered fencing required in the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, before illegal immigrants can begin the process of obtaining temporary legal status. It would also require the completion of 700 miles of this fencing before that status can be transferred from temporary to permanent resident status. This amendment was defeated earlier this week.
Johanns' previously cosponsored an amendment with U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) to increase numerous aspects of border security and introduced an amendment with U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark) that would encourage the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to recruit highly-skilled military members and veterans to serve in border security positions.