National Immigration Forum

Practical Solutions for Immigrants and America


Sensenbrenner Immigration Legislation: More Of The Same Failed Policies

December 06, 2005

Washington DC - Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, introduced a much anticipated piece of immigration-related legislation today, which the House Judiciary Committee will mark-up on Thursday.  It combines a border security bill marked-up in the Homeland Security Committee late last month with enforcement-only immigration measures.  The following is a statement by Angela Kelley, Deputy Director of the National Immigration Forum, a pro-immigrant advocacy organization in Washington.

Twenty years of short-sighted, enforcement-only legislation has created the mess we have now, and the Chairman's bill is just more of the same.  While it may play well on talk radio, a myopic enforcement-only bill makes a bad situation worse and demonstrates a breathtaking misunderstanding of the immigration issue. 

The legislation, if allowed to pass, will drive immigrants further underground and push more immigration into the black market of smugglers and criminals.  Trying to drive out 7 million undocumented immigrant workers without fixing the immigration system would seriously disrupt the economy with no corresponding increase in security or legality.  Extreme provisions buried in the bill go beyond targeting immigrants here illegally to targeting legal immigrants, citizens, and those applying for citizenship, taking away basic rights like a day in court and a meaningful defense. 

In giving a Christmas present to the anti-immigrant hardliners in his party, Chairman Sensenbrenner is giving a lump of coal to the country and to realistic prospects for gaining control of the border.

What we need is a system that allows people to come to this country in an orderly, controlled manner; with a visa and permission rather than a smuggler and a fake document.  The Sensenbrenner approach falls way short.  The bill does nothing to realistically address the 11 million immigrants living here illegally.  It ignores the 500,000 or so immigrants coming next year.  It won't change the reality of an economy producing more jobs than native-born workers to fill them.  And it won't make us an iota safer or gain us the control over immigration we so desperately lack.

The serious debate on immigration reform and border security will have to wait until early next year in the Senate, when measures that go beyond lopsided enforcement-only to workable "enforcement-plus" solutions are considered.


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