Border Security a Top Priority
by Congressman Steve Chabot

January 16, 2006

Ending illegal immigration should be a top priority for our nation. Our porous borders cost American taxpayers billions of dollars every year and pose a real security threat. Not knowing exactly who is coming across our borders, their nationality and what they may be bringing with them is a recipe for disaster.

Recently, the House passed legislation to strengthen border security, crack down on illegal immigration and protect against terrorism. The Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005 passed the House at the end of last year. As with most large, far-reaching pieces of legislation passed by Congress, it is not a perfect bill. It does, however, take significant steps that should improve a dangerous situation on our borders.

Importantly, the legislation will strengthen U.S. border protection by ending the Acatch and release@ practice. Currently, many illegal aliens are released on bond pending an immigration hearing. Most never attend the hearing and remain in the country illegally. This bill will end this practice by requiring the mandatory detention of persons entering the country illegally and forcing authorities to hold them in custody until their removal from the country.

The Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act also authorizes the construction of physical barriers, including 700 miles of border fencing along key areas where illegal crossings are frequent. The use of sophisticated technology, including cameras, sensors, radar, satellites and Unmanned Arial Vehicles will be incorporated to monitor the borders. The legislation also authorizes 1,000 new port of entry inspectors and the training of 1,500 new K-9 units to patrol our borders.

In addition, the bill makes illegal immigration a felony offense and increases penalties for alien smuggling, and illegal aliens attempting to reenter the country. Aliens who could represent potential security risks would have additional limits placed on their ability to become citizens and members of alien street gangs would be inadmissable to the U.S. while those already in the country could be more easily deported.

Unfortunately, the bill does have some significant flaws that could negatively impact American citizens. Specifically, the legislation would require every current American worker to have his or her citizenship status confirmed by the federal government.

Under this plan, employers would be required to check a new federal database containing citizenship, immigration and employment information on American citizens and legal immigrants. The federal government would then verify that every current employee and every new hire is eligible to work in the United States.

This type of massive federal program leads to significant concerns over both privacy rights and errors that could cause American citizens to lose their jobs. In a recent pilot project that predominantly checked the status of job applicants and involved just 3,600 employers, a 1.4 percent error rate occurred in the verification process. When the same error rate is applied to the 140 million current employees in this country, almost 2 million legal residents could be wrongly denied work by the federal government. Of course, because the new federal program will cover all current employees a much higher error rate is almost certain to occur.

I am currently working with other members of Congress to pursue changes to these provisions that will reduce the potential negative impact on American workers.

Most would agree that our country’s immigration policies are outdated and inadequate – especially in the face of terrorists who will do anything to kill American citizens. In order to better protect our borders and stem the flow of illegal immigrants, real reform is needed. During the coming months, I am hopeful that we can work in a bipartisan manner to enact meaningful legislation that will secure our borders and keep our nation safe.

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