Jim's Column

Securing Our Borders and Nations

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Washington, DC, September 22, 2006 | Raj Bharwani ((202) 225-5101) | comments
 I read a story in a Wisconsin paper earlier this month about a citizen of Ecuador who had been living in the US illegally since at least 1995. The reason for him being the subject of that article is that he was charged in March with helping other illegal immigrants procure valid Wisconsin driver’s licenses. Unfortunately, shortly after posting bail, he disappeared, creating an even bigger problem. It’s anyone’s guess how many IDs he created for himself, and since he’s successfully lived in this country illegally for 11 years, I’d say he’s learned a few things about staying below the radar screen.

This is one example in our state of a problem that exists throughout the country. Not all illegal immigrants enter the US to make a better life for themselves - there are many who have more sinister motives. A 2005 Government Accounting Office (GAO) study of approximately 55,000 illegal alien criminals found:

  • They were arrested for nearly 700,000 criminal offenses, averaging 13 offenses per alien;
  • About 24 percent were drug offenses;
  • About 15 percent were property-related offenses such as burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and property damage;
  • About 12 percent were for murder, robbery, assault, and sexually related crimes.
These are some of the reasons why the House of Representatives passed three major pieces of legislation on September 21 to help increase border security and crack down on illegal immigration. They are: HR 6094, the Community Protection Act, HR 6095, the Immigration Law Enforcement Act, and HR 4830, the Border Tunnel Prevention Act. I authored two of the bills, and supported all of them when they passed the House.

Under current law, in situations where dangerous illegal aliens cannot be deported, the Department of Homeland Security is unable to detain them beyond 6 months. Consequently, they are almost all released into society. HR 6094 changes this policy and allows for such aliens to be kept behind bars for longer than 6 months, instead of being set free into our communities to disappear and potentially continue their criminal lifestyle.

HR 6095 reaffirms the inherent authority of state and local law enforcement to voluntarily investigate, apprehend, and transfer to federal custody, illegal aliens. Despite some confusion, this authority has always existed - if a sheriff or police in a jurisdiction believes their community would be safer with their officers assisting in enforcing immigration law against illegal immigrants, they can. There is no requirement on their part. This confusion for law enforcement needs to end, and HR 6095 assists with that.

The Border Tunnel Prevention Act enacts criminal penalties of up to 20 years imprisonment for individuals who knowingly construct or finance the construction of an unauthorized tunnel across our border. This bill will also put people who allow the construction of such a tunnel on their property behind bars for up to 10 years.

These bills are critical for the safety of our country. In passing them, Congress is taking an important step to ensure that our nation and our borders are secure, so that we can at least minimize, if not eliminate, the crimes committed by illegal immigrants.
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