United States. Congress. House. Committee on the J.

Foreign visitors who violate the terms of their visas by remaining in the United States indefinitely : hearing before the Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims of the Committee on the Judiciary, House of Representatives, One Hundred Fourth Congress, first session, February 24, 1995 online

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today about visa overstayers. You will hear that roughly half of the nation's illegal
alien problem results from visitors who entered legafly, but who do not leave when
their time is up. Let me tell you in three simple words why that is: they get jobs.

We believe that employer sanctions can work, but only with a reliable system for
verifying authorization to work. Employers want to ooey the law, but they are
caught now between a rock and a ham place. The current system is based on docu-
ments. An employer must either accept those documents, knowing that they might
be forged, ana thus live with the vulnerability to employer sanctions for hiring
someone presenting false identification. Or, an employer may choose to ask particu-
lar workers for more documentation, which is discrimination.

The Commission has recommended a test of what we regard as the most promis-
ing option: electronic validation using a computerized registry based on the social
security number. We are pleased with the prompt, bipartisan support that this high-
ly visible recommendation has received, and we looK forward to real results from
pilot projects before our Final Report in 1997.

Third in our recommendations for a comprehensive strategy is making eligibility
for public benefits consistent with our immigration policy. Decisions about eligibility
should support our immigration objectives. Accordingly, the Commission rec-
ommends against eligibility for illegal aliens except in most unusual circumstances.

The Commission recognizes that even with a narrowly construed eligibility for
services, illegal immigration presents states and localities with fiscal impacts. Incar-
ceration of criminal aliens, education and emergency health care all pose financial
dilemmas. The Commission agrees that the federal government should help allevi-
ate these costs. The best way to do so is to reduce illegal immigration. In addition,
we believe that some financial reimbursement of costs to states and localities is jus-
tified, contingent on accurate data, appropriate cooperation of states and localities
with enforcement of immigration laws, and a plan to ensure that funding will be
reduced as levels of illegal immigration are rediiced. We recommend immediate re-
imbursement of criminal justice costs, because these conditions can now be met, but
we urge further study oi the costs of health care and education before impact aid
is provided.

In contrast to our recommendations on illegal aliens, the Commission recommends
that legal permanent residents should continue to be eligible for the safety net pro-
grams available to U.S. citizens. We recommend against any broad, categorical de-
nial of eligibility for public benefits based on alienage for those who obey our laws.

This is not to say tnat the Commission would have legal permanent residents be-
come public charges. We believe that the public charge provisions should be
strengthened to permit deportation of immigrants who make sustained use of public
assistance during their first five years after entry. We also recommend that the affi-
davit of support be legally binding on sponsors. Let's put responsibility where it
should rest— with those who petition for the admission of immigrants and who owe
an obligation to the taxpayers of this country to ensure that their charges do not
become public charges.

Let me add one more point about benefits eligibility since it is a topic under con-
sideration by this Congress. I believe strongly that it is in the national interest for
immigrants to become citizens for the right reasons, not the wrong ones. We want



8

immigrants to be motivated to naturalize in order to vote, to be fiilly participating
members of our polity — to become Americans. We don't want to motivate law-abid-
ing aliens to naturalize just so that they can get food stamps, health care, job train-
ing or their homes tested for lead. Citizenship and naturalization should be more
central to the process of immigration. There are many barriers to naturalizing in
law and practice, and they should be removed. But it is a debasement of the concept
of citizenship to make it the route to welfare.

Fourth, deportation is crucial. Credibility in immigration policy can be summed
up in one sentence: Those who should get in, get in; those wno should be kept out,
are kept out; and those who should not be here will be required to leave. The top
priorities for detention and removal, of course, are criminal aliens. But for the sys-
tem to be credible, people actually have to be deported at the end of the process.
The Commission will have additional recommendations on this crucial matter later
this year.

Fifth, emergency management. Migration emergencies such as we have seen re-
cently with Haiti and Cuba do recur, and we must be prepared for them. Again, we
will have detailed recommendations on migration emergencies.

Sixth, reliable data. The current debate over the economic impact of iounigration
is marked by shaky statistics, flawed assumptions, and an amazing range of con-
tradictory conclusions from what ought to be commonly-accepted methods. Rather
than attempt to choose sides in this discussion, the Commission has asked the Na-
tional Academy of Sciences to establish an expert panel that will analyze the meth-
ods used for evaluating inmiigration impacts and come to its own conclusions about
the available data. We will share their interim results with you as we receive them.

Seventh, much as we support enhanced enforcement by this country, we must face
the fact that unilateral action on the part of the United States will never be enough
to stop illegal immigration. Immigrants come here illegally from source countries
where conditions prevail that encourage or even compel tnem to leave. Attacking the
causes of illegal migration is essential and will require international cooperation.

That is our seven-point strategy for dealing with illegal immigration in a com-
prehensive, systematic way. The Commission made sdl of these recommendations
unanimously, by consensus. We are nine Commissioners, Republicans and Demo-
crats, a diverse group. We might have been expected to simply throw up our hands
at the difTiculty of the task Congress mandated for us. But we put aside rhetoric.
We determined that we would look for answers, and not excuses. And our work is
not done.

I must leave here shortly, Mr. Chairman, to return to my colleagues just around
the comer, who are engaged in the second day of consultations on employment and
family-based immigration. The Commission is well along in its consideration of the
national interest in legal immigration, of the qualities that we seek in immigrants,
of the limits. We have a short-term and a long-term agenda. By June, the Cornmis-
sion will issue reconunendations on inmiediate actions that should be taken with re-
gard to permanent and temporary legal immigration to the United States. At the
same time, we are engaged in a systematic examination of what our immigration
policy should be in the 21st century. The results of that analysis will be included
in our final report to Congress in 1997.

Our first report represented a hard-won, bipartisan consensus on emotionally-
tough, intellectually-complex and politically


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Online LibraryUnited States. Congress. House. Committee on the JForeign visitors who violate the terms of their visas by remaining in the United States indefinitely : hearing before the Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims of the Committee on the Judiciary, House of Representatives, One Hundred Fourth Congress, first session, February 24, 1995 → online text (page 2 of 7)