The Senate immigration bill now being resurrected is long on promises and short on actual reforms. Outside of providing amnesty to an estimated 12 million aliens living in the United States illegally, the bill contains little substance. No guarantee for control of our borders. Insufficient fraudulent document protections. No real protections against alien gangs and criminals. And no fixes for our broken visa system. In other words, it is a huge step in the wrong direction, a bill that would reward 12 million lawbreakers and only serve to weaken the security of our nation.
To counter this misguided bill, Representative Lamar Smith and I have introduced a workable alternative: the Secure Borders FIRST Act of 2007. Our approach, “Security First,” is based on common-sense principles: no amnesty; mandating operational control of all our borders; actually enforcing our current immigration and worksite laws; mandatory detention of illegal immigrations apprehended along the border; reforming our broken visa system to better enforce our immigration laws and ensure our farmers have the workforce they need; and establishing English as our national language.
While proponents of the Senate bill claim that their proposal includes substantive, new border-security measures, this is untrue. For example, the much-hyped “triggers” in the Senate bill — 370 miles of border fencing and 18,000 Border Patrol agents — don’t even match what is already provided for under current law — 700 miles of fencing as required by the Secure Fence Act of 2006, and 23,000 Border Patrol Agents by 2010 as provided by the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Protection Act of 2004. Furthermore, under the Senate language, all it takes is a simple application, a 24-hour wait, and any illegal immigrant could enjoy many of the same rights as an average American through the “Z visa” program, whether or not the “mandatory” background check is completed.
Our bill, on the other hand, takes concrete steps to secure our borders and put an end to illegal immigration. Our approach mandates that DHS gain operational control of all our borders within the next six years, authorizes additional border-security personnel, requires expedited removal for any illegal aliens apprehended within 100 miles of the border and two weeks of entry, and makes alien street gang members deportable and inadmissible. The bill also includes strong worksite-enforcement provisions and improves security for birth certificates to minimize fraud.
Another key aspect of our bill is reforming the current H-2A visa program regarding temporary agricultural workers. Unlike the Senate approach, applicants to this program would have to be properly documented residents of a foreign country. In order to ensure they do not overstay, the workers would not be allowed to bring family members with them, and a portion of their wages would be held in escrow until they return to their home country. This is in stark contrast to a Senate bill that creates a massive new temporary-worker bureaucracy without taking any steps to reform our current visa system.
The American people understand that, first and foremost, we have to put an end to illegal immigration and gain control of our borders. That is exactly what the King-Smith bill will do. And if Congress is serious about border security, it is time to stop the Senate amnesty bill and take action on the King-Smith legislation.
— The Honorable Peter T. King is a Republican congressman from New York.