Wednesday, May 11, 2005

FAIR VICTORY: U.S. Senate Approves REAL ID

Yesterday, the U.S. Senate unanimously approved (100-0) the conference agreement on the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act. As mentioned, the conference agreement contains Rep. Sensenbrenner's (R-WI) REAL ID Act, as well as additional funding offered by Sen. Byrd (D-WV) for border and interior enforcement.

Now that H.R. 1268 has cleared both bodies of Congress, it heads to the president's desk for his signature. We expect he will sign the bill within the week.


BAN ON DRIVER'S LICENSES FOR ILLEGAL ALIENS: Under the REAL ID provisions, all states must require proof of lawful presence in the U.S. if their driver's licenses are to be accepted as a form of identification to a federal official. Boarding a commercial airplane and entering a federal building or a nuclear power plant are among the official federal purposes. Some concessions were made allowing states to issue "driving certificates" that do not meet the national requirements, but they would not be valid for official purposes. The terms of these cards would be a maximum of one year. While we oppose the issuance of these driving certificates, they will make it easy for state and local law enforcement to identify and detain illegal aliens during the course of their normal activities.

MORE DRIVER'S LICENSE SECURITY: Temporary driver's licenses issued to foreign visitors by a state must expire when the visitor's visa expires, with a maximum term of one year. Had this been in place prior to 9/11, the illegal aliens among the terrorist hijackers who overstayed their visas would not have had valid driver's licenses.

EXPEDITES COMPLETION OF U.S./MEXICO BORDER FENCE: Provides the Secretary of Homeland Security authority, subject to federal judicial review of Constitutional questions, to waive laws hampering the completion of border fences and roads for national security purposes. This will expedite completion of the border fence along the dangerous San Diego/Tijuana border.

INADMISSIBLITY AND DEPORTATION OF TERRORISTS: Ensures all terrorism-related grounds of inadmissibility to the U.S. are grounds for deportation from the U.S.

ASYLUM REFORMS: The REAL ID provisions will help weed out fraudulent asylum applications by allowing immigration judges to determine witness credibility in asylum cases.

LIMITS DEPORTATION-DELAYING APPEALS: Provides reforms to ensure the prompt removal from the U.S. of terrorists, criminal aliens, and illegal aliens after proper judicial review. Aliens order deported will no longer be able to abuse the appeals process to remain in the country.

INCREASES ENFORCEMENT AGENTS AND DETENTION SPACE: The final bill includes funding for 500 additional border patrol agents, 50 immigration and customs inspectors, 168 enforcement agents and detention officers, and 1,950 detention beds. (This funding was added by Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) during Senate floor consideration.)

Cheap labor proponents and open-border advocates fought vigorously to make this bill a vehicle for amnesty, foreign worker increases, and other immigration liberalizing provisions. They were far from successful. With your help, we defeated Sen. Craig's massive AgJOBS amnesty/guestworker bill. Some concessions were made during negotiations and the following foreign worker increases were accepted...

H-2B SEASONAL GUESTWORKER INCREASE: The Mikulski amendment was included in the final bill, exempting H-2B seasonal guestworkers who have worked in the U.S. in the past from the 65,000 annual cap.

FOREIGN NURSE INCREASE: An additional 50,000 foreign nurses will be permitted.

INCREASE FOR AUSTRALIAN WORKERS: About 10,500 Australian guestworkers will be allowed to enter the country annually under terms similar to the H-1B high-tech visa category.
Despite these modest concessions, this is still a HUGE VICTORY for the immigration reform movement!
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