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Immigration in Congress - 109th Congress Highlight

The House Passes Rep. Sensenbrenner’s Bill Restrictive Immigration Bill - No Temporary Worker Provisions Included

Representative Sensenbrenner’s devastating bill, H.R. 4437, the Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005, passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 239-182. The split was Republicans 203-12, Democrats 36-164 and Independents 0-1. To see the exact breakdown, please click here. The bill, as passed, will now await Senate action on what we expect to be a more comprehensive bill. Once the Senate passes legislation, the two bills will go to a conference committee to work out the differences. The Senate is expected to take up immigration legislation when it reconvenes in January.

H.R. 4437 would criminalize unlawful presence; increase penalties for a variety of immigration-related crimes; expand expedited removal; broaden the definition of alien smuggling to include churches, employers, family members, and immigrant advocates; expand the definition of aggravated felony; create new grounds of deportability and inadmissibility; increase mandatory detention; militarize the border; place limitations on eligibility for naturalization; create a mandatory program under which all employers would have to verify employees' work eligibility with the federal government; and, as amended, it would require the construction of security fencing, including lights and cameras, along certain ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexico border.

In addition, there were several other amendments that were considered on the floor of the House. Some of these amendments include:

  • an amendment to eliminate the diversity visa lottery
  • a manager's amendment that, among other things, makes misuse of passports or travel documents an aggravated felony even if committed by a refugee or a victim of domestic violence or trafficking
  • an amendment giving state and local law enforcement officials the "inherent authority" to enforce civil immigration laws
  • an amendment withholding grant funds from state and local governments that maintain a policy of protecting the confidentiality of immigrants
  • an amendment vesting USCIS with law enforcement powers over certain investigations, and allowing the Office of Security and Investigations to engage in data-mining of DHS databases
  • an amendment further increasing penalties for document fraud, crimes of violence and drug trafficking offenses

On a more positive note, Representative Westmoreland 's (R-GA) amendment was adopted. The amendment provides some protection for employers by:

  1. Setting caps on the monetary penalties set forth in Title VII of the bill for hiring or employing unauthorized aliens of $7,500 for first time offenses, $15,000 for second offenses, and $40,000 for all subsequent offenses;
  2. Providing an exemption from penalty for initial good faith violations; and
  3. Providing a safe harbor for contractors if their subcontractor employs an unauthorized alien (provided the contractor did not know the employee was an unauthorized alien).

H.R. 4437 is unrealistic and unduly harsh on immigrants. It is our hope that the Senate will come up with a more comprehensive and reasoned piece of legislation in January, and that there will be thoughtful debate during a conference between the two Chambers where practical measures that address the real issues plaguing our broken immigration system will be proposed.

In the meantime, please send a letter to your Representative, either thanking him or her for voting against H.R. 4437, or expressing your disappointment for his or her vote in support of the measure. To contact your Representative, click here.