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January 27, 2005
Sensenbrenner Pushes Border Security

In response to the omission of border security from the Senate GOP's agenda, James Sensenbrenner has taken up the slack in the House. The Los Angeles Times reports that Sensenbrenner will force the White House to honor its pledge to him over the compromise in last year's intelligence reorganization by supporting border-security improvements in this session:

In a move that could put him at odds with President Bush, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee introduced legislation Wednesday that would effectively deny driver's licenses to undocumented immigrants, tighten requirements for political asylum and complete the border fence between California and Mexico.

Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.) said the measures would help secure the nation from attacks like those carried out by Al Qaeda on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. He unveiled his legislation shortly after Bush, at a White House news conference, reaffirmed that immigration reform was one of his legislative priorities this year.

The White House pressured Sensenbrenner to drop these issues from the intelligence bill last year as the Bush campaign did not want to get embarrassed by a failure to enact the 9/11 Commission reforms that had broad bipartisan support. In exchange, the GOP pledged to support the bill in 2005, and Sensenbrenner plans on ensuring they do.

Of course, that means that the same people who tried to tar Sensenbrenner as a raving xenophobe get a second shot at it. Already some have cast the bill as "anti-immigrant":

Sensenbrenner's bill drew immediate criticism from immigrant rights advocates, who said that its provisions were anti-immigrant.

"None of the provisions that are in the bill will make us safer," said Kevin Appleby, director of migration and refugee policy for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Denying licenses to undocumented immigrants will "make our roads less safe," Appleby said, because many will drive without a license or insurance.

Appleby said that tightening asylum criteria by requiring a person to prove that they were persecuted in their home country and allowing immigration judges to reject an application if it was determined that the applicant was not credible "could lead to the rejection of valid claims."

Unfortunately, there is a large difference between being anti-immigrant in general and specifically opposing illegal immigration. The LA Times uses the more politically-correct term of "undocumented immigrants", but the fact is that a driver's license conveys governmental approval of a person's residence in the US. Possession of government ID greatly reduces the chances that illegal alien's true status will be correctly deduced. The vast majority of them probably want nothing more than a job. However, the open sieve on the Rio Grande doesn't do anything to ensure that -- and it only took 19 people to kill 3,000 on 9/11, which is why the 9/11 Commission made border security such a high priority in its report.

Appleby calls the use of administrative judges for cases of claimed political asylum a "shotgun approach," a clever case of projection. In fact, right now the INS determines the validity of the cases based more or less on country of origin, and that's about it. Having a hearing in front of a judge at least gives the opportunity for an opposing point of view and specific evidence to be examined. Sensenbrenner's proposal corrects the current shotgun approach.

Besides, where do you think oppression occurs? Places like Cuba and China, of course, but also Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, Syria, and so on. Doesn't anyone think it might be a good idea to correctly identify asylum-seekers and check them out a bit first in our adversarial system to ensure we're not welcoming al-Qaeda operatives in our asylum program?

I'm not sure if I like everything about Sensenbrenner's proposals; I had my doubts last year on some of the specifics. What I want is better control on our borders and some rational debate about it. Sensenbrenner gives us the opportunity for that, while Appleby just gives us the same old PC demagoguery. The White House needs to ensure that the Senate doesn't just bury this at the bottom of its list of priorities.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 27, 2005 7:01 AM

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» Sensenbrenner picking up the slack on border security from Pajama Hadin
Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.) is picking up the slack for the GOP on border security. The White House pressured Sensenbrenner to drop these issues from the intelligence bill last year as the Bush campaign did not want to get embarrassed... [Read More]

Tracked on January 27, 2005 8:07 AM

» Congressman James Sensenbrenner Introduces Immigration Reform Legislation from Diggers Realm
Congressman James Sensenbrenner(R-WI) introduced legislation Wednesday that would deny illegal aliens drivers licenses, complete the fence along the border between California and Mexico and tighten requirements for requesting asylum so that it couldn't... [Read More]

Tracked on January 27, 2005 4:41 PM

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