“The Border Integrity and Immigration Reform Act is a bill that is tough on border security and tough on employers who hire illegal aliens, but recognizes the need for a guest worker program that operates without amnesty and without growing into a huge new government bureaucracy.”
-Rep. Mike Pence
The following is an Executive Summary of the Pence Plan: No Amnesty Immigration Reform. The summary is based on excerpts from remarks that U.S. Congressman Mike Pence delivered at The Heritage Foundation on Tuesday May 23, 2006, entitled “Renewing the American Dream: The Real Rational Middle Ground on Immigration Reform.” The entire speech may be read at: http://www.mikepence.house.gov/News/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=44113.
The Four-Step Solution: No Amnesty Immigration Reform
I see the solution as a four-step process:
1. Secure our border.
2. Make the decision, once and for all, to deny amnesty to people whose first act in the United States was a violation of the law.
3. Put in place a guest worker program, without amnesty, that will efficiently provide American employers with willing guest workers who come to America legally.
4. Enforce tough employer sanctions that ensure a full partnership between American business and the American government in the enforcement of our laws on immigration and guest workers.
Step One: Secure the border
A nation without borders is not a nation, and across this country Americans are anxious about the security of our border. In 2005, Customs and Border Patrol stopped 1,189,114 people from illegally crossing the border. Of that number, approximately 165,000 were from countries other than Mexico
We can control our borders. To that end, the House of Representatives got off to a great start in December 2005 by passing H.R. 4437, the Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005. The Judiciary Committee and the Homeland Security Committee put together a strong bill that will secure our borders. The Pence Plan includes H.R. 4437 in its entirety with only minor changes.
The House-passed bill adds port of entry inspectors, ends catch and release, puts to use American technology such as unmanned aerial vehicles and requires the building of a security fence across approximately 700 miles of our Southern border.
My bill mandates that the border be secured before the guest worker program can begin. It does so by requiring that the Secretary of Homeland Security certify to the President and Congress that operational control over the border has been substantially achieved prior to the implementation of the temporary guest worker program described in Step Three.
Step Two: Say no to amnesty in any form
My bill offers a no amnesty solution to the problem of twelve million illegal aliens living in our country. Some argue that there is no amnesty if these twelve million illegal aliens are required to pay a fine or back taxes. I disagree. That is what the Senate passed. I believe no bill is better than a bad bill that grants amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants.
Amnesty is not the answer. It only will worsen the problem because it will cause more people to come here illegally with the hope of someday having their status adjusted. Amnesty is allowing people whose first act in America was an illegal act to get right with the law without leaving the country. Allowing twelve million illegal aliens to stay in our country instead of leaving and coming back legally is amnesty, no matter if fines or back taxes are paid, or how it is otherwise dressed-up or spun by its proponents. The only way to deal with these twelve million people is to insist that they leave the country and come back legally if they have a job awaiting them.
Step Three: Enact a no amnesty guest worker program using private-sector firms
Therefore, the solution is to set up a system that will encourage illegal aliens to self-deport and come back legally as guest workers. Private worker placement agencies that we could call “Ellis Island Centers” will be licensed by the federal government to match willing guest workers with jobs in America that employers cannot fill with American workers.
U.S. employers will engage the private agencies and request guest workers. In a matter of days, the private agencies will match guest workers with jobs, perform health screenings, fingerprinting, provide the appropriate information to the FBI and Homeland Security so that a background check can be performed and provide the guest worker with a visa granted by the State Department. The visa will be issued only outside of the United States.
The process that I just described to you will only take a matter of one week, or less. That is the beauty of the program. Speed is so important. No employer in America wants to lose employees for an extended amount of time. No worker who is earning money to feed and clothe a family can afford to be off the job for long.
But, an employer faced with a looming requirement to verify the legality of its employees and stiff fines for employing illegal aliens will be willing to use a quick system to obtain legal employees. And, an illegal alien currently employed in America will be willing to take a quick trip across the border to come back outside of the shadows and into a job where he does not fear a raid by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Imagine for a moment asking millions of people to line up at the U.S. Consulate in Mexico City to obtain a visa to come to America and work as a guest worker. It would be a disaster. Now, imagine private companies competing against each other to process guest worker applicants and match the applicants with open jobs. Imagine the application of American business ingenuity to this process. That, my friends, is why this program will work.
Limited number of guest worker visas
The number of guest workers will be limited. After the program is up and running, there will be a period of three years when the market and the needs of U.S. employers will set the limit on the number of guest workers. Not letting the market and the needs of employers govern the number of guest workers initially will prevent illegal aliens from being willing to self-deport. After three years of the program, a reasonable limit on the number of W Visas will be determined by the Department of Labor based on employment statistics, employer needs and other research. After the three-year window has closed, this limit will be strictly enforced.
Limited time to be a guest worker in America
There also will be a limit on the amount of time a guest worker can spend in America. Guest workers will be allowed to renew their W Visas, but only for a period of up to six years. At that point, the guest should decide whether to return home or enter the separate process of seeking citizenship. We cannot have people coming to America as permanent guest workers. That is why having a six-year limit is important. It keeps the meaning of the word “guest” in guest worker.
English proficiency required for first renewal
In order to receive their first renewal, guest workers will be required to study English and pass an English proficiency class. If America is willing to invite you to come and work, I believe that after two years of working here, the guest worker should be willing and able to speak basic English. They also will be required to pass an updated background check. We are not going to allow criminals to come and work in America.
Secure identification cards
The W Visas themselves will be issued in the form of secure wallet-sized cards, similar to the cards described and endorsed by the President. Employers will swipe them to verify the guest worker’s eligibility. Border patrol agents will swipe the cards to confirm the guest worker is allowed to enter the country. The card will contain information about the job the guest worker is coming to perform, and it will contain personal and biometric information so that the guest worker can be tracked. If a guest worker is fired, convicted of a crime, or just disappears, the card will be cancelled, preventing another employer from hiring the person.
U.S. employers must attempt to hire American workers
Before going to a placement agency with a job, U.S. employers must try to hire American workers. They will have to attest their efforts to the agency. Believe me, this is a tough requirement that will protect the American worker because people will be watching and checking-out employers.
Step Four: Strict employer enforcement
With a guest worker program in place, there is no reason why an employer ever should hire or continue to employ an illegal alien. Employers who choose to operate outside of the system, however, must face tough fines in order to be made to comply. That is what the enforcement system and the new fine structure will do.
The strict employer enforcement contained in the House-passed bill is contained in my bill. It sets forth a nationwide electronic employment verification system through which employers will verify the legality of each prospective and current employee. As a final incentive, my bill requires that in order to hire a guest worker, the employer must be a participant in the employment verification system
Conclusion: We can do this
I believe the Border Integrity and Immigration Reform Act is a solution that conservatives can embrace. I believe this legislation is a solution that those opposing amnesty can embrace. I believe this proposal offers a solution that those calling for humane treatment of the illegal aliens in our midst can embrace. And, I believe that this solution is one the American people can embrace. This is the real rational middle ground.