National Immigration Forum

Practical Solutions for Immigrants and America


Advocates for Immigration Reform Decry House Legislation

December 17, 2005

Washington DCThe House of Representatives last night passed H.R. 4437, a sweeping package of punitive immigration restrictions sponsored by Reps. F. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Peter King (R-NY).  The following statement, by Angela Kelley, Deputy Director of the National Immigration Forum, was prepared before final passage of the bill.  A more detailed reaction to the legislation will be prepared next week. 

The House legislation is simultaneously underwhelming and overreaching.

It is underwhelming in that it does not contain the elements of reform that the White House, Senate, and many experts know are necessary to gain control over immigration, our nation’s borders, and our national security.  Only by combining rigorous enforcement with realistic and enforceable levels of legal immigration can we hope to gain operational control of our borders and restore the rule of law.  The House leadership would not even allow a vote on comprehensive immigration reform.

The legislation is simultaneously overreaching in that it contains stunning new measures to marginalize immigrants and drive them further underground into the black market.  It criminalizes all immigrants in the country illegally, jeopardizes anyone who comes in contact with them, and strips basic rights to a day in court.  It takes a dysfunctional immigration mess and turbo-charges it. 

The hardliners in the House got much of what they wanted for Christmas and the American people got a lump of coal.  The coalition of religious, labor, business, and ethnic groups that fought so hard to block the passage of this ill-conceived and hardly debated legislation will turn their attentions to the Senate.  In contrast to the drive-by legislating style of the House, the Senate is ripe for sober and sensible solutions.  The Senate offers the chance for a reasonable and deliberative debate on workable and bipartisan reform.


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