WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta said Tuesday that more stringent controls are needed for the immigration system, and he cited what he called a clear example of how the system can break down.
He said one of the bombers in the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center was granted amnesty under a 1986 program after he had been originally admitted on an agricultural visa.
“We now know that the only thing he planted was a bomb,” Barletta said.
The Hazleton Republican has introduced two pieces of legislation addressing illegal immigration dealing with visa overstays, bio-metric exit requirements and a study of the 1986 amnesty program.
According to the website search security.techtarget.com, “bio-metric verification is any means by which a person can be uniquely identified by evaluating one or more distinguishing biological traits. Unique identifiers include fingerprints, hand geometry, earlobe geometry, retina and iris patterns, voice waves, DNA, and signatures.”
The proposed bills — the Visa Overstay Enforcement Act of 2013 and the 1986 Amnesty Transparency Act — are awaiting bill numbers.
Overstaying to be felony
Barletta, 57, said the first bill establishes a visa overstay is a felony criminal offense as opposed to a civil offense. It also enacts a bio-metric exit program at all ports of exit. The second bill requires the Comptroller General to provide a comprehensive report on the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986.
“We have immigration laws for two reasons: to protect our national security and to protect American jobs,” Barletta said. “The Senate bill violates both principles. We must make sure our visa program is repaired, and we need a full accounting of what went wrong when amnesty was granted in 1986.”
Barletta said the Visa Overstay Enforcement Act of 2013 would:
• Increase the fine and sentencing for those who do not make a good-faith effort to leave the U.S. by the expiration date of their visas.
• Make a first offense a felony punishable by a $10,000 fine and one year in jail; and the illegal immigrant may not be legally admitted to the U.S. for five years from the date of conviction and may not apply for a visa for 10 years from the date of conviction.
• Make a second offense a felony as well, punishable by fine of $15,000 and up to five years in jail; the illegal immigrant would be banned from entering the U.S. States for life.
“Some 40 percent of the illegal immigrants present in this country came here legally only to have their visa expire and then never leave,” Barletta said. “That’s why I’ve always said, if your state is home to an international airport, then you effectively live in a border state.”
Within 30 days after enactment, Barletta said, plans for pilot programs for land borders must be provided — two along the Canadian border and four along the Mexican border. He said the bio-metric exit program must be implemented at all airports within one year after enactment and at all land and sea ports within two years.
Amnesty linked to jobs?
Barletta said he wants to know what effect the 1986 amnesty program had on American workers and whether the effects still linger today.
“Were wages depressed, or jobs taken from legal workers because so many received amnesty?” he asked.
Barletta used an example to point out that the real losers in this debate are legal immigrants who have followed the rules.
He said under the federal health care act employer mandate, any company with 50 or more employees must provide health insurance to their employees or pay a fine of $3,000 per employee. However, Barletta said, illegal immigrants granted amnesty under the Senate bill are exempt from the health care law.
“What is the incentive to hire a legal American worker who would come with a health-care price tag over an illegal worker who would not?” he asked.