Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Last week, President Bush marked the end of his 5-day tour of Latin America by visiting Mexico to meet newly-elected President Felipe Calderón. President Bush wasted no time vowing his continued commitment to comprehensive immigration reform. In a well-attended arrival ceremony, Bush said, "Mr. President [Calderón], my pledge to you and your government - but, more importantly, the people of Mexico - is I will work as hard as I possibly can to pass comprehensive immigration reform."
During the visit, President Calderón, a vocal opponent of America's border security measures (including the construction of fencing), argued that the only way to stem illegal immigration and ensure regional security was to raise the standard of living in Mexico. "I am sure there is nothing better for the security and prosperity of our region than the prosperity of Mexico," he said. According to the Washington Post, aides to the Mexican President indicated that he is convinced that to achieve immigration reform, he must demonstrate to Congress that Mexico is willing to address the causes of illegal immigration, especially the country's weak job market and low standard of living.
Calderón also conveyed to President Bush that the illegal migration of Mexicans to the United States was a pain felt by both countries. "Mexicans lose in each migrant the best of our people: young people, working people, audacious people, strong people," he said. "This is why we want to generate jobs for Mexicans here in Mexico, because that is the only way to truly solve the immigration issue." While it is still uncertain whether Congress will pass an immigration reform bill this year, it is clear that both leaders have a large political stake in the outcome of the debate.

Congresswoman Blackburn Introduces Legislation to Curb Bank of America Practices
During the first week of March, Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) introduced the 'Photo Identification Security Act' (H.R. 1314) in the House of Representatives. The bill is aimed at closing the current loophole allowing financial institutions - like Bank of America - to grant illegal aliens lines of credit. If passed, the bill would require customers to show either a passport or a photo identification issued by the U.S. government to receive any services from the Federal Government or financial institutions. Acceptable forms of identification would include a passport, a U.S. Center for Immigration Services (USCIS) photo identification card (granted to legal immigrants), or a combination of a social security card accompanied by a government-issued photo ID.
This legislation would help eliminate the ability of banks to grant illegal aliens lines of credit because banks would no longer be able to use a multitude of foreign documents—often unreliable forms of ID—to open accounts for customers. H.R. 1314 currently has 33 co-sponsors. To see if your Representative has co-sponsored this legislation, click here.

Congressman Goodlatte Moves to Eliminate Visa Lottery
On March 9th, Representatives Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Stephanie Herseth (D-SD), introduced legislation to eliminate the visa lottery (H.R 1430). The visa lottery program, originally adopted in 1986, was intended to increase immigration from underrepresented countries. Experience has shown, however, that the effect of the program is merely discrimination between various "adversely affected" countries. For example, when the lottery was first created, it set aside a portion of the 55,000 immigrant visas for immigrants from Ireland, Canada and the United Kingdom, many of whom were illegally residing in the United States and had no other basis for obtaining a visa. Those countries were determined to be "adversely affected" because they had already reached their cap on permanent resident visas.
To obtain a permanent resident visa through the visa lottery, employment or familial connections are not required, applicants, nor is there a base-line level of skills required—just the equivalent of a high school diploma. In addition, the program may be used to grant permanent resident status to aliens illegally in the U.S., a great injustice to those who wait years in their home countries for a family or employment-based visa.
In 2005, similar legislation authored by Congressman Goodlatte (H.R. 1219) was amended onto H.R. 4437 and passed the House. This year, H.R. 1430 was referred to the Judiciary Committee and awaits a hearing. The bill currently has 32 co-sponsors. To see if your Representative has co-sponsored this legislation, click here.

ICE Conducts Raid at Massachusetts Clothing Manufacturing Plant
During the last two weeks, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents have conducted more raids targeting employers of illegal aliens. The most recent raid was a sweep of Michael Bianco, Inc. (MBI), a clothing manufacturer that has held $90 million in Defense Department contracts. According to the Associated Press, 361 workers at MBI's Massachusetts plant were rounded up during the operation and flown to detention centers in Texas to be interviewed by federal officials. "Unlawful employment is a powerful magnet driving illegal immigration," said Homeland Security Assistant Secretary Julie Myers to the Washington Times. "Egregious hiring practices, widespread use of fraudulent documents and blatant disregard for the rule of law made this case a priority for ICE."
According to ICE spokesman Marc Raimondi, aliens determined to be in the country illegally will be administratively charged and placed in removal proceedings. In addition, prosecutors have charged owner Francesco Insolia and several other MBI executives with conspiring to encourage or induce illegal aliens to reside in the U.S. and conspiring to hire illegal aliens.
According to reports, illegal aliens working in the plant suffered deplorable working conditions, including an unsanitary environment and limited restroom breaks for workers. Nevertheless, ICE has come under fire from advocacy groups and some Members of Congress for what they consider the breaking up of families. Speaking to the Massachusetts Standard-Times, Representative William Delahunt (D-MA) called the raid a "debacle". The Washington Post, however, explained how the raids highlight the dilemma illegal aliens face: "They come to the United States to provide a better life for their families, but that illegal act can mean they risk the family being torn apart if they are caught."
Delahunt announced that the House Subcommittee on Immigration will be examining how ICE conducted its sweep of the MBI plant. ICE spokeswoman Paula Grenier welcomed the opportunity to brief Members on the extent to which ICE went to ensure children received proper care.

Recent Floor Statements
Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) commented on Prosecution Of Border Patrol Agents (March 15, 2007)
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) commented on Immigration Reform (March 15, 2007)
Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) commented on Improving America's Security Act (March 14, 2007)
Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-CA) commented on Illegal Immigration (March 14, 2007)
Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) commented on "Who Gets The Worker?" (March 14, 2007)
Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) commented on Improving America's Security Act Of 2007--Continued (March 13, 2007)
ACTING PRESIDENT commented on Improving America's Security Act Of 2007 (March 13, 2007)
Sen. Craig Thomas (R-WY) commented on Homeland Security (March 13, 2007)
Rep. Steve King (R-IA) commented on Illegal Immigration (March 12, 2007)
Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) commented on Former U.S. Border Patrol Agents Ramos And Compean (March 12, 2007)

Press Release
Hazleton's Immigration Ordinance Will Prevail at Trial, Says FAIR (March 12, 2007)