AP photo by Mark Avery|
A weeklong series of raids targeting five counties in the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area resulted in the arrest of 338 illegal immigrants at their homes, while another 423 were taken into Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody at county jails, said Virginia Kice, ICE spokeswoman. Alabama Republican members of Congress are critical of Bush’s immigration stance.
Borders, amnesty, worker screening
Alabama Republicans in Congress say president’s ideas not enough to solve immigration problems
By M.J. Ellington
Warmed-over ideas. Worrisome. That’s how Alabama’s two Republican senators and Morgan County’s Republican U.S. House member described President Bush’s State of the Union proposals on immigration.
They said Bush’s speech to Congress failed to provide effective proposals on at least three key concerns of Alabama voters: border control, amnesty for people in the country illegally and workplace screening.
The lawmakers said it is now up to a bipartisan Congress to whittle at the problems by finding solutions that will work.
U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Mobile, began last week with the Senate approving 94-0 his amendment to the minimum wage bill dealing with one aspect of the workplace issue.
Companies that have government contracts will lose them for 12 years if they have illegal aliens on the payroll. Companies using the Basic Pilot Program — a government-provided automated electronic verification system — to verify legal status would be protected from the ban. Companies that do not have government contracts but hire illegal aliens now will be barred from government contracts for 10 years.
U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville, said border security more than any other immigration-related issue is a priority among Alabamians.
“I respect the president, but I answer to the people I represent,” said Aderholt. “The message I’m getting is that while he does a good job on many things, this is not one of them. Most people in Alabama feel the need to secure the borders. We can’t handle other parts of the immigration issue until we secure the borders.”
More border resources
He wants Congress to give more resources to the border patrol, whether it is people, equipment or fences. He believes fencing may be the answer along some parts of the border, but not necessarily appropriate in others.
Aderholt said he approves some type of temporary visa for workers from other countries, but he does not want amnesty that removes all penalties for people who entered the country illegally. He said he will not support the president on that issue.
“We live in an area where there are lots of Mexican workers and it is sometimes hard to know if a worker is legal or illegal,” Aderholt said.
He wants a better way for employers to check worker credentials.
Aderholt said he voted against amnesty in the last session of Congress and would do so again.
Sessions believes immigration was the weakest part of Bush’s State of the Union speech and he called the president’s comments troubling.
“It is a given that we have to fix the border, and it is a given that we have to fix the workplace,” Sessions said. “If we do not fix the border, then we cannot fix the workplace.”
He pushed a bill to fence the border through Congress in 2006, but the expense of the measure and changes in Congress may make funding difficult.
Sessions said he wanted to hear more detail from the president about his immigration proposals. He criticized Bush’s apparent support for an immigration bill much like one in 2006 that passed the Senate but failed in the House.
“Overall it was weak,” Sessions said of Bush’s remarks.
Even with a Congress that is majority Democrat and a bill supported more by Democrats than Republicans in 2006, Sessions said he does not believe the president’s State of the Union immigration proposals will pass.
AP photo by Mark Avery|
Adan Garcia, 20, left, from San Luis-Santa Barbara, Honduras, is interviewed by an Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer after a raid in Santa Ana, Calif., on Jan. 17. Alabama Republicans in Congress said Bush’s State of the Union speech to Congress failed to provide effective proposals on at least three key immigration concerns of Alabama voters: border control, amnesty for people in the country illegally and workplace screening.
“We do not need a bill to support a broken system,” Sessions said.
The president’s remarks on amnesty, guest workers and lack of a plan for border control and workplace screening bothered Sessions, who said he wanted more proposals on how to change what is wrong with the current policies.
“He said he was against amnesty, but what does that mean? He did not say,” Sessions observed.
Among other issues, Sessions questioned Bush’s workplace immigration policies, contending that the country can develop a worker validation program and screening methods that weed out people who are here illegally, and encourage immigration by people with skills the country needs. He faults current policies that he said make it easy for unskilled workers to come here, but difficult for skilled workers to enter the country legally.
Sessions wants immigration policy changes that include a “legitimate temporary worker program,” employer responsibilities for screening, and a scoring system that sets priorities for workers with job skills the country needs.
Guest worker IDcard
He believes a temporary guest worker identification card with a biometric identifier such as a fingerprint would help employers determine rapidly whether the worker is in the country legally. He also likes Canada’s point system that scores the skills of people from other countries interested in working there.
While Sessions did not find much to like about Bush’s immigration policy comments, he concedes that Congress has not dealt with the immigration issue effectively either.
“It is an important issue to the American people, but they have correctly concluded that Congress has not taken it very seriously,” Sessions said.
U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, said Bush’s speech “touched on many worthy ideas,” but he differs with the president’s immigration ideas, especially those on amnesty.
He called the State of the Union ideas on immigration “no different from what he proposed in previous Congresses.”
Shelby is particularly critical of Bush’s ideas on amnesty.
“I will not support any legislation that turns a blind eye and rewards illegal immigrants for breaking the law,” Shelby said.
The lawmaker said amnesty only makes people who are in the country bolder and others more willing to enter the country illegally in the future.
“The American people deserve better,” Shelby said.
Immigration excerpt of President Bush’s State of the Union address
“Extending hope and opportunity in our country requires an immigration system worthy of America — with laws that are fair and borders that are secure. When laws and borders are routinely violated, this harms the interests of our country. To secure our border, we are doubling the size of the Border Patrol — and funding new infrastructure and technology.
“Yet even with all these steps, we cannot fully secure the border unless we take pressure off the border — and that requires a temporary worker program. We should establish a legal and orderly path for foreign workers to enter our country to work on a temporary basis. As a result, they won’t have to try to sneak in — and that will leave border agents free to chase down drug smugglers, and criminals and terrorists. We will enforce our immigration laws at the worksite, and give employers the tools to verify the legal status of their workers — so there is no excuse left for violating the law. We need to uphold the great tradition of the melting pot that welcomes and assimilates new arrivals. And we need to resolve the status of the illegal immigrants who are already in our country — without animosity and without amnesty.
“Convictions run deep in this Capitol when it comes to immigration. Let us have a serious, civil and conclusive debate — so that you can pass, and I can sign, comprehensive immigration reform into law.”
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