Six years after 9-11, and after nearly a year of wrangling over President Bush’s disastrous plan for “comprehensive immigration reform” the federal government still hasn’t done what most Americans want: secure our borders from the continuing flood of illegal aliens. Americans are frustrated and distrustful.
Yesterday, the reason for frustration was illustrated — again — by the leak of an unreleased Government Accountability Office report that more than 21,000 illegal immigrants crossed the border last year due to security slips at legal border crossing ports.
But — also yesterday — a bi-partisan coalition of congressmen introduced a three-part plan to end illegal immigration the same day a source with access to the latest unreleased GAO report leaked to CNN
The Secure America with Verification and Enforcement (SAVE) Act targets employers with stiff penalties for hiring illegal aliens, secures the northern and southern border by adding 8,000 new border patrol agents and increases interior enforcement by allowing for additional federal district court judges and providing more resources for law enforcement officers.
The Act is spearheaded Immigration Reform Caucus Chairman Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.), who said many components of the SAVE Act were already existing programs employers could tap into immediately. He said Congress must “give the American people what they want” and stop “those who are purposely profiteering from exploitation of illegal immigration.”
Rep. Heath Schuler, a freshman “Blue Dog” Democrat, is another principal sponsor of the new bill. Schuler voted against the immigration reform bill earlier this year and has worked for months to rally a bi-partisan panel of congressmen to support his proposal to enforce existing immigration laws and restore sovereignty to American lands.
At a press conference yesterday in the Capitol, Schuler stood among 16 House colleagues all strongly supporting the new bill. Most spoke, emphasizing that their bipartisan unity on the immigration issue severely contrasted with Senate attempts at bipartisanship, which lead to a failed amnesty bill.
“We must not fail to address these major concerns simply because of our inability to agree on every aspect of the massive immigration issue,” said Schuler, adding that the American people expect leadership to act on this matter soon.
More than 80 Republican and Democrat co-sponsors have attached their names to the bill and Schuler said he hopes it gets to the House floor for a vote. The bill emphasizes an e-verification program, which requires federal agencies, contractors and employers to verify the eligibility of all employees within one to four years, depending on the size of the company. In the process, identity fraud wrought through fake social security numbers and stolen credit cards would be downsized significantly.
The Act generally alleviates the burden of enforcing immigration laws from businesses and places it where it belongs: in the Department of Homeland Security, which will collect the information, verify it and enable businesses to use the database . According to Schuler, more than 26,000 businesses are voluntarily and actively involved in e-resources programs already.
Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D-Ind.), a former law enforcement officer, recalled catching illegal immigrants on the job and being told federal authorities would not retrieve them. He said often there were not enough resources to get the job done and Congress must give law enforcement the necessary tools now.
Congressmen from America’s border states represented the most volatile areas in the fight against illegal immigration. Texas Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D) said the Act would allow the law to “do the right thing” and Wisconsin Rep. Steve Kagan (D) said he constantly hears constituents lamenting, “I want my country back.”
Security against foreign enemies who might cross the border at an unmanned location was an important factor in the planning of this bill. Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) recalled a member of Hezbollah who had crossed the border in the trunk of a car and that a speeding ticket was found in the car of one of the 9/11 hijackers. Had border security and law enforcement been implemented properly, these incidents might never have occurred. This bill aims to solve the implementation problem with the added border patrol agents, including a double count of those on the northern border, which is often disregarded.
Rep. Nancy Boyda (D-Kan.) told the story of friends whose only daughter was killed by an illegal alien in a drunk driving accident. That immigrant still resides in America and was charged with only a misdemeanor.
Members addressed the issue of allowing illegal immigrant’s drivers licenses, contending that such an action would give individuals access to financial transactions and other activities requiring only an official ID. Issuing licenses — like New York State will do — creates a new gap in detecting illegal aliens’ residence in the US. This new bill does not solve that problem. At least yet. It will, like most legislation, be amended as it moves through the congress.
With 44 Democrats and 41 Republicans spanning membership in the Congressional Black Caucus, the Hispanic Caucus, Immigration Caucus, the Republican Study Committee and the Blue Dog Coalition, sponsors said they expect the bill to move forward.