“Congress’ penchant for kicking the immigration can down the road is unsustainable and unfair to American citizens, legal immigrants and everyone who respects our generous immigration system and hopes to make this country their home.”
WASHINGTON – Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, made the following statement at today’s immigration hearing.
Below are the remarks as prepared.
Ranking Member Doug Collins: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate the opportunity to discuss these important issues. Unfortunately, legislation to provide legal status to certain illegal immigrant populations isn’t a new topic — Congress has been here before.
Yet these discussions help us, as Members of Congress, not to repeat the mistakes made when such legislation was drafted. We must also ensure any legislation avoids mistakes previous administrations made when they implemented mass legalizations. It’s our responsibility to provide guidance to the administration about the Congressional intent behind our laws.
It’s my hope, on this issue, the intent of every Member of the House and Senate is to provide a legal status for some of the illegal immigrant population, and to not find ourselves back in this same position, having this same conversation, in five or 10 or 20 years.
The majority of the House Republican conference has voted to provide a legal status for some of the current illegal immigrant population — namely, recipients of the last administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
We supported such a legal status because the reality of deferred action has real consequences for people whose parents brought them here, people who didn’t make the conscious choice to violate the law.
We also supported legal status for DACA recipients because the bill gave us a path forward out of legal confusion and incorporated enforcement measures to reduce illegal immigration. Congress’ penchant for kicking the immigration can down the road is unsustainable and unfair to American citizens, legal immigrants and everyone who respects our generous immigration system and hopes to make this country their home.
The only way to protect against the legislative déjà vu that has, in the past, made promises that weren’t kept is to ensure the administration has the tools to secure our borders and enforce our laws. Right now, this isn’t the case.
As I noted at last week’s hearing, years of inconsistent enforcement and limited resources have fueled illegal immigration into the United States. For evidence of that, we need look no further than our southern border. Yesterday, CBP released data showing over 66,000 people were apprehended between the ports of entry last month. Family unit apprehensions are up more than 300 percent over the same time last year. And let’s not forget about the 70 groups of over 100 migrants entering illegally that Border Patrol has apprehended this fiscal year.
Mr. Chairman, we cannot discuss the illegal immigrant population without also recognizing those who enter legally and make a conscious decision to stay longer than their visas allow.
In recent history, an estimated 40 percent of all illegal immigrants have overstayed their visas. DHS has estimated just over 600,000 aliens overstayed their admission period during fiscal year 2017.
We must, therefore, balance interior enforcement and border security — we cannot neglect either priority. Day after day, parents give their children to smuggling cartels, employers have no reliable way of verifying an employee’s work eligibility documents and adults who drag children through dangerous border crossings are rewarded with release into America’s interior. The status quo isn’t practical. It’s not compassionate. And it’s absolutely not sustainable.
For this reason, any bill legalizing certain populations must include robust anti-fraud measures. Experts have determined up to two-thirds of the applications for the 1986 Special Agricultural Worker amnesty were fraudulent, because aliens submitted fake affidavits and documents from employers to “substantiate” their claim they had met the legislation’s requirements when they had not.
Unfortunately, most of the fraudulent applications were approved. So, why does that matter? Who suffers when we allow our immigration system to fail? Well, one of the terrorists who perpetrated the 1993 World Trade Center attack received Special Agricultural Worker status, despite the fact he was a taxi driver — not a farm worker — when he applied for that status.
Sadly, it’s very telling the only witnesses today who support anti-fraud measures and enforcement were invited by Republicans.
My Democrat colleagues know without including sufficient measures addressing fraud, enforcement and border security, any bill they move on the House floor will get few — if any — Republican votes. They know if they omit such common-sense measures, no bill they pass will earn consideration in the Senate. And they know if they refuse to include these crucial pieces, no bill they pass will see a presidential signature.
I implore my Democrat colleagues: give us a bill to legalize some of the illegal immigrant population, to secure our border and to enforce the law inside our country. Any bill granting mass legalization and shunning real enforcement measures will be opposed by Republicans for the political stunt it is.
Today, I look forward to hearing the ideas my Democrat colleagues have to stem the tide of illegal immigration because I have yet to encounter even one idea from the other side that would give us a longterm solution or restore integrity to America’s immigration system. When I ask what their plan is, the only chorus I hear is, “We have to pass the DREAM Act.”
That’s not a plan; it’s a talking point. That bill doesn’t even attempt to address illegal entry, fraud or visa abuse. If we don’t offer real solutions that consider legal status and enforce immigration law, we will undoubtedly repeat today’s discussion a few years from now —
and history will judge us for shirking our responsibility.
I hope today produces honest conversations about the consequences illegal immigration has for American citizens, those who aspire to become American citizens and people who suffer when others abuse our system. I look forward to the witnesses’ testimony and hope we can address these challenges in a bipartisan way.