Is the 2005 Sensenbrenner-King Border Protection, Anti-terrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act a good piece of legislation?
General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
[Editor’s Note: The 2005 Sensenbrenner-King Border Protection, Anti-terrorism, and Illegal Immigrant Control Act passed in the House of Representatives (239-182) on Dec. 16, 2005 but died in the Senate.]
The Washington Post, in a chart retrieved on June 1, 2007 from its Immigration Debate section, entitled "Immigration Bills Compared, Highlights of the House and Senate and Border Security Measures," offered the following:
"[H.R.4437] requires building double-layer fencing along 700 miles of the 2,000-mile border between Mexico and the United States. Requires mandatory detention for all non-Mexican illegal immigrants arrested at ports of entry or at land and sea borders. Establishes mandatory sentences for smuggling illegal immigrants and for re-entering the United States illegally after deportation. Makes it a felony to assist, encourage, direct or induce a person to enter or attempt to enter or remain in the United States illegally. Beginning in six years, all employers would have to use a database to verify the Social Security numbers of all employees. Increases the maximum fine for employers of illegal workers from the current $10,000 to $40,000 per violation; establishes prison sentences of up to 30 years for repeat offenders. Makes illegal presence in the country a felony and increases penalties for first-time illegal entry to the United States. Makes a drunken driving conviction a deportable offense."
Is the 2005 Sensenbrenner-King Border Protection, Anti-terrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act a good piece of legislation?
James Sensenbrenner, JD, U.S. Representative (R - WI) and sponsor of H.R. 4437, in a Mar. 27, 2006 U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary press release entitled "Sensenbrenner Statement on Border Security and Immigration Reform," offered the following remarks:
"I am disappointed by the erroneous accusations lodged against the strong House-passed border security bill aimed at preventing illegal immigration that I sponsored. The House bill - at the request of border-area U.S. Attorneys who fight alien smuggling gangs every day - provides new tools for prosecutors to fight these smuggling rings, not the humanitarian and church groups alleged by illegal alien supporters. Targeting alien smuggling gangs is the intent - and the effect - of the House bill. I would hope everyone would embrace a good-faith effort to combat alien smuggling gangs rather than engage in fear-mongering that clergy and good Samaritans will be thrown in jail. That's absolutely false - and beneath the level of dialogue this important issue deserves. I remain optimistic the problem of alien smuggling gangs will be addressed to everyone's satisfaction as debate continues.
The House bill would make unlawful presence a crime instead of a civil immigration offense, as it is currently. Due largely to overwhelming Democratic support, the House bill makes unlawful presence a felony, after rejecting my amendment to lower unlawful presence to a misdemeanor. While I was disappointed in this cynical maneuver taken by my Democratic colleagues, I remain committed to making unlawful presence a misdemeanor and producing a strong bill that will prevent illegal immigration and bolster control of our borders in an effective and compassionate way."
George W. Bush, MBA, President of the United States, through the Executive Office of the President - Office of Management and Budget, in a Dec. 15, 2005 "Statement of Administration Policy," pronounced:
"The Administration strongly supports House passage of H.R. 4437... The Administration is committed to securing the border to prevent illegal crossings, improving our ability to apprehend illegal immigrants, and ensuring that those who are caught are returned to their home countries as soon as possible. H.R. 4437 authorizes additional resources for these efforts. The Administration appreciates that the bill supports the Administration’s goal to end the decades-old practice of 'catch and release' in which illegal aliens from countries other than Mexico are assigned court dates for immigration hearings and then never show up...
This bill contains much-needed provisions to ensure that lawsuits and red tape do not stand in the way of securing our borders and protecting the American people...
The Administration strongly urges the House to pass this important legislation... The Administration remains committed to comprehensive immigration reform, including a temporary worker program that avoids amnesty, and believes this bill is a positive step toward that goal."
John Fonte, PhD, Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute, in a Sep. 1, 2006 hearing before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary entitled "Is the Reid-Kennedy Bill a Repeat of the Failed Amnesty of 1986?" stated:
"Supporters of Reid-Kennedy claim the bill [Senate Bill 2611] strengthens enforcement. It actually weakens enforcement. This enforcement argument (including both border security and employer sanctions) is a major reason to choose House 4437 over Senate 2611... The supporters of Reid-Kennedy apparently do not believe that local police should have the authority to check a future Mohammed Atta's immigration status. House bill 4437 is serious about establishing border security barriers and, most importantly, contains a crucial provision on employment verification."
Todd Russell Platts, JD, U.S. Representative (R-PA), in a Winter 2006 newsletter from his website's "Newsroom" section entitled "Congressional Update," wrote:
"This legislation seeks to secure our nation’s borders and prevent illegal immigration through a number of means. With millions of illegal aliens presently in the United States and countless more entering every day, timely enactment of H.R. 4437 into law is vital to protecting our nation and ensuring the integrity of our laws... There is a right way and a wrong way to enter our country. Even as America remains a beacon of hope for legal immigrants and true asylum-seekers, there must be accountability for those who violate the law, whether illegal aliens or those businesses who knowingly hire them. The present lack of enforcement of our immigration laws is unfair to both the American people and those immigrants who come here lawfully. I voted with the majority of my colleagues in passing H.R. 4437, which is now pending in the Senate."
The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), in a website section entitled "H.R. 4437- Sensenbrenner/King Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005," retrieved on June 1, 2007, presented the following:
"As introduced, the bill [H.R. 4437] offered some meaningful provisions, and FAIR was assured by the Judiciary Committee the legislation would be strengthened by amendments on the floor... During the two day debate over H.R. 4437, significant provisions were adopted by the House. As the legislation passed out of this chamber, it included eliminating the diversity lottery, which FAIR and its supporters have long championed, building a multi-layered, non-contiguous fence along almost 700 miles of our southwest border reaffirmation of state and local law enforcement's existing inherent authority to assist in enforcing immigration law.
Congratulations and thanks to the members of Congress for making this bill a strong step toward securing our borders and providing good measures for interior enforcement. While there is much more to do to create comprehensive immigration reform..., Chairman [James] Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Chairman [Peter] King (R-NY)'s bill is a good beginning."
John Boehner, U.S. Representative (R-OH), in a Dec. 17, 2005 Republican National Hispanic Assembly website article entitled "Boehner Votes 'No' on Immigration Bill Due to Excessive Government Mandates on Private Sector," explained:
"Well-intentioned but fatally flawed... We can’t strengthen our nation’s borders by strangling our nation’s economy. This bill has many strong points and I wanted badly to vote for it, but the massive employer mandates included in the bill ultimately made that impossible... After September 11th, tolerating violations of our immigration policies is no longer an option, but under the guise of securing our borders, this bill gives the federal government authority to sign-off on every hiring decision in the country.
Federal bureaucrats will have Americans’ personal information at the touch of a button. This has ‘Big Brother’ written all over it. The vast majority of America’s several million employers are law abiding and should not be burdened with another cumbersome federal mandate. Forcing them each to REVERIFY the work authorization of ALL previously hired employees is impractical, unfair, and does little to combat the illegal immigration HR 4437 intends to address."
Mike Turner, MBA, JD, U.S. Representative (R-OH), in a Feb. 22, 2006 The Times-Gazette article entitled "House Bill Falls Short on Immigration Reform," offered:
"Recently, I voted against the Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005 (H.R. 4437). In principle, I am in favor of the goals and objectives of the legislation, but could not, in good conscience, vote for this bill because of the end result it would have produced... My concern with the legislation is that it makes all illegal immigrants felons. The extreme punishments in the bill mandate that those who assist illegal aliens are also felons. It would also become a felony to offer even humanitarian support to illegal immigrants. This would include Americans that do as much as show a little kindness such as offer a glass of water, give a little food, or even a ride. Currently, illegal immigrants are committing a civil offense.
Hence, all manner of people would become criminally liable and subject to fines, property forfeiture and imprisonment – the landscaper who gives a co-worker a ride to a job; the legal resident who takes in an undocumented relative; a Catholic Charities shelter providing beds and meals to anyone who walks through the door. Catholic Charities are just one of many faith-based and other charitable organizations that oppose the measure. I believe that we can craft a better bill; legislation that strengthens immigration enforcement without creating a new group of 'good samaritan felons."
Russ Feingold, JD, U.S. Senator (D-WI), in a July 26, 2005 Testimony Before the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary entitled "Comprehensive Immigration Reform," stated:
"I would to like to comment briefly about another proposal introduced by Senators Cornyn and Kyl [H.R. Bill 4437]. While I appreciate their efforts, I have serious concerns about their proposal. In order to be successful, we need an approach that will encourage undocumented workers who are already here to come out of the shadows, that will provide American employers a stable workforce, that ensures that immigrant workers are treated fairly, and that promotes family reunification. The Cornyn-Kyl proposal, though well-intentioned, falls short in these areas."
The Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA), a student organization, in a Dec. 13, 2005 website section entitled "H.R. 4437: Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005," stated:
"The bill [H.R. 4437] includes many horrendous provisions that criminalize immigrants, deny due process rights, and harm U.S. businesses, communities, and families. Among its many provisions, H.R. 4437 would make it more difficult for legal immigrants to become U.S. citizens. Disrupt American communities and put all Americans at risk by broadening the definition of smuggling to include anyone who aids or transports an undocumented immigrant. Make everyone who comes to the U.S. to work subject not only to deportation but also imprisonment. Disrupt the U.S. economy by creating an overly broad and retroactive employment verification system without creating legal channels for needed workers to work lawfully. H.R. 4437 does nothing to resolve our nation’s immigration problems. Please take action today to stop this bill from passing."
The Texas Catholic Conference, the "Official Public Policy Voice of the Catholic Bishops of Texas," in a Jan. 23, 2006 press release entitled "Pastoral Statement by the Catholic Bishops of Texas on Immigration Reform Legislation (H.R. 4437)," manifested:
"We are strongly opposed to legislation which was recently passed by the United States House of Representatives, H.R. 4437 the so called Border Protection Antiterrorism, Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005. This extremely punitive and shameful legislation will not solve the problems facing our nation regarding security along the U.S.-Mexican Border. We are greatly dismayed that many Texas Representatives voted for this bill. We urge the members of the United States Senate especially our two senators, Senator John Cornyn and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison to reject this legislation if it is considered when the Congress reconvenes.
Of special concern to us is the fact that pastoral and social ministers who care for persons who come to them regardless of legal status are put at risk for criminal prosecution. The legislation would make felons out of rabbis, ministers, doctors, nurses, priests, deacons, religious, and social ministers who provide pastoral care or basic human needs to those who come to them for assistance, if they are undocumented.
This legislation will do nothing to secure a more stable border which we support. In fact it will drive further underground those who are coming to our country seeking a better way of life and thus put them at greater risk for exploitation by the unscrupulous."