|For Immediate Release
May 22, 2013
Contact: Kathryn Rexrode or Jessica Collins, (202) 225-3951
Statement of Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte
Full Committee Hearing
“S. 744 and the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986: Lessons Learned or Mistakes Repeated?”
Chairman Goodlatte: I would like to start off by commending all my colleagues in both the House and Senate who have worked together in a bipartisan manner to address the difficult, but crucial, issue of immigration reform.
As I expect that immigration reform legislation will follow regular order, it is important that this Committee carefully examine the proposals that have been offered.
Thus, we will turn today to S. 744, the omnibus immigration reform being considered by the Senate. The drafters of S.744 promise to “ensure that this is a successful permanent reform to our immigration system that will not need to be revisited.” The drafters seek an end to the problem of illegal immigration for once and for all. While this is a laudable and necessary goal, their bill falls far short of achieving it.
In order to effectively deal with the problem of illegal immigration and ensure that future generations do not have to deal with legalizing millions more people, we need to take a look at our past mistakes. We need to ensure that we do not repeat them.
President Reagan signed the Immigration Reform and Control Act, or IRCA, into law on November 6, 1986. The bill provided for three main reforms: legalizing the millions of immigrants already in the country, increasing border enforcement, and instituting penalties for employers who hired unauthorized workers in order to stop the flow of new unlawful immigrants. These reforms were based on the realization that if Congress simply passed a legalization program, we would simply be encouraging future illegal immigration.
The Select Commission on Immigration had warned just a few years earlier that “without more effective enforcement, legalization could serve as a stimulus to further illegal entry.” Unfortunately, IRCA’s enforcement measures never materialized and the Commission’s fears were realized.
Border security barely improved. Employer penalties weren’t enforced. Now, 26 years later, all of us who want to fix our broken immigration system are haunted by the legacy of IRCA’s failure. And we have serious concerns that S. 744 repeats IRCA’s mistakes.
Many advocacy groups who are ardent supporters of S. 744 are on record stating that they do not want legalization to be dependent on border security and enforcement “triggers”.
Indeed, whether or not it contains triggers, the Senate bill is unlikely to secure the border. It requires DHS to simply submit a border security plan to initiate the legalization of 11 million unlawful immigrants. Without securing the border, and with a simple submission of a plan, unlawful immigrants become eligible for registered provisional immigrant status. The legalization of unlawful immigrants continues to advance with just a certification that the border security strategy is “substantially deployed and substantially operational in the sole discretion of the Secretary.” Note that the strategy does not have to be complete or be even more than a fantasy.
In addition, S. 744 ostensibly mandates employer use of E-Verify. Now, this is a necessary element of any real immigration reform if we want to end the jobs magnet for future illegal immigration. However, S. 744 doesn’t fully implement E-Verify for up to seven years. In addition, it actually forces employers to employ, pay, and train unlawful immigrants for years should they pursue never-ending baseless appeals of their E-Verify non-verifications.
Further, whatever enforcement provisions are in S. 744 are subject to implementation by the current Administration, which fails to enforce the laws already on the books. DHS is releasing thousands of illegal and criminal immigrant detainees while providing ever-changing numbers to Congress regarding the same. DHS is forbidding ICE officers from enforcing the laws they are bound to uphold. A federal judge has already ruled DHS’s actions likely in violation of federal law. DHS is placing whole classes of unlawful immigrants in enforcement free zones. DHS claims to be removing more aliens than any other administration, but has to generate bogus numbers in order to do so.
Ultimately, the American people have little trust that where the Administration has not enforced the law in the past, it will do so in the future. That is why real immigration reform needs to have mechanisms to ensure that the President cannot simply turn off the switch on immigration enforcement. The Senate bill contains no such mechanisms.
The last time Congress passed a major immigration reform bill, its goal was to start with a clean slate and then stop the flow of illegal migrants across the border. But in the years after the bill passed, illegal immigration surged. So the question remains, are we learning lessons from the past or repeating the same mistakes? While I commend the Senate for their continuing efforts to tackle the extremely difficult task of reforming our broken system, I must observe that S. 744 repeats many of the mistakes of the past. I look forward to continuing to work in the House to find solutions to reform our broken immigration system, including establishing effective mechanisms to make certain that our laws are indeed enforced going forward.