Dec. 19, 2005 – Kicking off a hurried weekend of last-minute lawmaking, the House of Representatives Friday passed a controversial bill aimed at tightening the nationâ€™s immigration laws. The legislation runs the gamut on border-tightening measures and does not open the way for the guest-worker program called for by President Bush. It would also criminalize aid workers who assist undocumented immigrants.
Introduced by Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin) at the beginning of the month and placed on the calendar just one day before the floor vote, the measure would make all immigration-related crimes federal, bar undocumented immigrants from gaining legal status, grant some sheriffs immigration-enforcement power, increase fines for employing undocumented workers, and fund a 700-mile fence along the US-Mexico border.
The House voted 239-182 in favor of the bill.
Opposition to Sensenbrennerâ€™s bill spans much of the political spectrum, including civil rights organizations, immigration policy analysts, and many pro-business and conservative groups.
Yesterday, the Washington Post reported that religious humanitarian groups that save the lives of border-crossers navigating the southwestern badlands are concerned that their evangelical missionaries may be arrested for their work. Such prosecutions are uncommon under current law, though they do occur.
Last week, privacy rights advocacy group Electronic Privacy Informational Clearinghouse (EPIC) cautioned that Sensenbrennerâ€™s bill includes language requiring a study on both building a Homeland Security employment eligibility database and a Social Security card that can be scanned. Epic called the proposals steps toward creating a federal identification card.
The bill also gives companies a two-year voluntary-participation window to adjust to new federal requirements for checking the citizenship status of all employees, a measure opposed by many conservative and business interests, as well as civil libertarians of differing ideologies, reported Human Events, a magazine of the conservative establishment.
The US Senate is considering several immigration bills that may eventually be reconciled with the Sensenbrenner legislation.