Bono Votes For Immigration Reform

By:  Mary Bono Mack
Date: May 2, 2005
Location: Washington, DC

Bono Votes For Immigration Reform

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Congresswoman Mary Bono (CA- 45) praised the inclusion of vital border security measures in the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act which passed the U.S. House of Representatives today. The final measure includes supplemental funds for defense operations, the Global War on Terror and tsunami relief as well as provisions adopted from the REAL ID Act (H.R. 418) to increase border security.

"An essential part of strengthening our national security is ensuring that our borders are protected," said Congresswoman Bono. "The REAL ID Act included important provisions recommended by the 9/11 Commission to help secure our borders and more effectively combat terrorism. I am pleased that these measures were adopted into legislation that will be signed into law," added Bono.

The REAL ID Act contained border security provisions approved by the House in February of this year. These provisions were originally passed by the House last fall in the 9/11 Recommendations Implementations Act (H.R.10) but not included in the final version of the bill that was enacted in December of 2004. Congresswoman Bono, along with several of her colleagues, voted against H.R. 10 because the immigration provisions were not included in the final bill. Bono fought to ensure that the provisions were signed into law at the beginning of this year.

Highlights of the REAL ID Act (as adopted in the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act Conference Report) include:

Strong security standards for the issuance of drivers' licenses:

* Includes language that all states must require proof of lawful presence in the U.S. if their drivers' licenses are to be accepted as a form of identification to a federal official. The conference report clarifies that getting aboard a commercial airplane or entering a federal building or a nuclear power plant are among the official federal purposes.

* Clarifies that states can issue a second tier of drivers' licenses (approach taken by Tennessee and Utah) that would not be valid for official federal purposes and do not have to meet the issuance standards. The terms of these cards would be a maximum of one year and must clearly state that they are not valid for federal identification or federal purposes.

* Requires that a temporary driver's license issued to a foreign visitor by a state must expire when the visitor's visa expires, with a maximum term of one year.

Asylum Reform:

* Removes loopholes in the current asylum system to limit fraud. The Conference agreement strengthens judges' ability to determine whether asylum seekers are credible and to consider the totality of the circumstances and all relevant factors.

Completing the U.S./Mexico Border Fence Near San Diego:

* Provides the Secretary of Homeland Security the ability to waive laws necessary to complete border fences and roads to improve national security. Allows for a federal judicial review of the Secretary's actions, but only for constitutional claims such as takings of private property.

Strengthening Deportation Laws:

* Provides that all terrorist-related offenses will make aliens inadmissible and will be grounds for their deportation. The bill also provides that any alien knowingly contributing funds to a terrorist organization would also be deportable. The bill ensures prompt removal of terrorists and criminal aliens from the U.S. after proper judicial review.

Other highlights of the bill include:

* $635 million for increased border security and enforcement, including $176.2 million to hire, train, equip and support an additional 500 Border Patrol Agents and relieve current facility overcrowding.

* $75.9 billion for defense related expenditures for increased force protection of troops in the field.

* Increases the Death Benefit and Gratuity for the families of fallen soldiers (increases the maximum Servicemember Group Life Insurance benefits from $250,000 to $400,000, the onetime death gratuity for combat families is also increased from $12,000 to $100,000).

* $656 million is provided for tsunami disaster relief.

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