[Congressional Record: November 6, 2001 (House)]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. KENNEDY of Minnesota). Under the
Speaker's announced policy of January 3, 2001, the gentleman from
Colorado (Mr. Tancredo) is recognized for 60 minutes as the designee of
the majority leader.
Mr. TANCREDO. Mr. Speaker, I rise tonight on an issue that is similar
to that which has been discussed on this floor for the last hour or so,
and that is national security. It was focused almost entirely, the last
hour, that is, on airline or airport security.
It is an incredibly important issue. No one denies the fact that what
is happening around the country in our airports in terms of security
has got to be improved, and that there is a great deal of concern about
how that should be accomplished, whether it is the federalization of
screeners at airports or not.
That seems to be the major sticking point, and it is an interesting
one, certainly. It is not a very relevant point, however. I am afraid
it is only a rhetorical point. It provides the minority party the
opportunity to come to the floor of the House and suggest that the
majority party is responsible for a lack of action that would lead to
airline and airport security because we have not passed their brand of
Now, that is predictable; it is understandable. That is the way this
It is interesting to note that little, if anything, can be
accomplished in terms of true overall airport security and certainly,
very little can be accomplished in terms of national security by simply
doing what is suggested needs to be done over the objections of the
majority party; and that is to federalize the screeners that look
through that little box as stuff passes through the x-ray machine as
one tries to reach one's flight.
That is really what this is all about. Should those people, the
screeners, be Federal employees? Somehow, we are led to believe that in
doing that one thing, just by making that one person, because remember,
Mr. Speaker, regardless of the fact that those folks who were up here
for the last hour kept talking about federalizing the system, we are
not talking about federalizing the system.
The system includes airplane pilots and airplane attendants and
baggage handlers and food handlers and mechanics and people who sell
the tickets at the airport and people who pick up bags when people come
to the baggage check-in area. That is the system. That is the airport
system. No one, absolutely no one that I know of up to this point in
time, has suggested federalizing that whole process, eliminating the
private entrepreneurial activity that goes on in airports all over this
country, eliminating airlines taking over instead of the variety of
airlines that we have.
Federalizing the system would mean one airline run by the Federal
Government. It would mean all pilots, all airline attendants, everybody
I mentioned earlier would be part of this, quote, ``Federal system.''
That is what federalizing the system means.
Now, they use that phrase, ``federalizing the system,'' but they are
not really talking about that. They are talking about federalizing one
tiny little part, making Federal employees of the people who look
through that screen to determine what is going past the x-ray machine.
And they are suggesting that somehow, somehow by magic, as if by magic,
doing that, making those people who peer through that screen Federal
employees, we will all be safer.
Now, there is a cachet to the whole concept of federalization. I
understand it. It is a knee-jerk reaction. The other body had that
reaction when they passed the original bill. It was a knee-jerk
reaction. Some of those Members of the other body closer to the second
half of knee-jerk were on television explaining why that needed to be
done and suggesting that there is some enormous advantage to be gained
as a result of making all of the folks who screen your baggage and look
through that little machine Federal employees. But no one has ever said
Not once, not even in the 1 hour previous to this debate that I am
having tonight, this discussion, did I hear anybody say that if we
federalize these screeners, we will all be safer because. Because why?
They will be what? Better trained? Well, fine. Does that mean that only
a Federal employee can be trained?
Well, I do not think so. I do not think anybody believes that that is
the case. Then why would it be better just to make them Federal
Mr. Speaker, I do not know how many times my colleagues take
advantage of that particular mode of transportation, airplanes.
I do it twice a week. My family periodically joins me out here. My
sons, my daughters-in-law, my grandchildren all fly on airplanes quite
They are the dearest things in my life, and to suggest, as our
Members did in the previous hour, that if we vote against the
federalization of airport security workers, of these baggage screeners,
we are really surrendering to these money interests who evidently have
put a lot of money into all these campaigns, and that is what has
corrupted the system, they have suggested that the gentleman or I would
in fact vote for a piece of legislation because somebody put money into
my campaign, even though I thought that we would be less secure as a
result of it.
First of all, Mr. Speaker, I put every single person who donates 5
cents to my campaign on our Web site. Anybody can go to it any time
they want. That is more than the FCC requires. They require that we
disclose periodically anybody that has given us over $200. We put
everybody there. Everybody who gives us any money, we list them. We
I challenge anyone to go to our Web site, my Web site, and find any
contribution from Argenbright or any of these other organizations that
we are talking about, security organizations.
I will tell the Members something else: if I were in charge right now
of airline security, airport security at DIA, I would think very, very
strongly of firing Argenbright. From everything I have heard, they are
not doing a very good job. That may be the case. But I suggest, Mr.
Speaker, it is easier to fire Argenbright security than it is to fire
even one Federal employee.
I suggest something else: if the same circumstance would happen in
the future as happened yesterday or the day before in Chicago when
someone went through the security process; now as I understand it, here
is what happened: somebody came through the security process, and they
were detected as carrying something that needed to be identified; and
those screeners found this gentleman carrying two knives, and they took
them away from him.
What they did not do at that point in time was search his baggage.
That happened some point later in the process when he was trying to
board the plane and they found these other knives.
Okay. Now let us assume something was wrong in this whole thing, that
they should have searched his bags earlier; undeniably true. But
remember, they found, these incompetent private employees found the two
knives initially and took them away. That is what they were supposed to
do at that point.
Maybe there was some problem with what should have happened next, and
as a result of that, some people may very well be fired as a result of
not doing what was right and following procedure. I do not know exactly
what the procedure was; but if there was something wrong, they could be
fired, and I would suggest that they should be fired. We are not
talking about an unimportant activity here; we are talking about the
safety of the flying public. So I think the standards should be very
high. If somebody did not meet that standard, they should be dismissed.
Think for a moment, Mr. Speaker, what would have happened if the
exact same scenario that I just laid out had occurred, but the
employees there had been Federal employees.
Does anybody think for a moment, by the way, that if we federalize
the screeners, that this similar type of situation would not happen? Is
that what I am being told by the other body, by the other body and
including the other
Members who spoke earlier, that if we federalize the screeners by
making them Federal employees, somehow what I have just described, this
process that happened in Chicago, would not happen?
Of course, why? Just making them Federal employees would make them,
what, more astute, more intent on making sure that the procedures were
followed? No. It is a problem, of course, of training and of standards.
We know that. And it is silly to assume that just simply having Federal
employees there would have changed the outcome.
But what would have changed, Mr. Speaker, is the possibility of the
kind of action taken against the employees, because if they were
Federal employees, regardless of what we try to write into a law about
our ability to fire a Federal employee, about our ability to transfer a
Federal employee, about our ability to stop a strike or a work slowdown
of a Federal employee, all those things have been challenged in court;
and time and time again they have been thrown out.
So it is just enough to put that into a piece of legislation, and to
suggest that that is the way in which we would build a firewall between
irresponsible action on the part of the union and the safety of the
flying public is a ruse. It cannot happen. We cannot write laws
to force people or to make it illegal for people to go on work
slowdowns and strikes and to actually be fired if they are Federal
employees if they do something wrong.
Mr. Speaker, I spent 12 years as the regional director of the U.S.
Department of Education. I assure the Members that the ability to
actually dismiss someone for incompetence as a Federal employee is
darned near impossible. It would take, sincerely, it would take years;
and it would take hundreds of thousands of dollars to get rid of just
one, let alone several people who we found to be incompetent.
So I wonder, with that being laid out there, I just wonder, Mr.
Speaker, what would be the outcome if these were Federal employees who
had not followed the regulations correctly, as perhaps this happened in
Chicago? We can at least fire the ones in Chicago. We will never be
able to fire the Federal employees who would go through that same
process and unfortunately make the same mistakes.
Now, somehow people, again, as I say, would feel better. They would
go, oh, gee, that is all right. I feel better. I am more secure if
these guys are Federal employees that are looking through that screen.
That is not it. If Argenbright, which has been referred to oftentimes
in the last hour as the major contractor for security, if they are not
doing it right, fire Argenbright. Fire Argenbright tomorrow. Bring
someone else on who can do a better job. If whoever is responsible for
hiring and firing Argenbright does not do their job, then hold them
accountable politically. That is the process that I believe would make
us more secure.
I fly, as I say, every week, Mr. Speaker, twice a week to my family.
I would never do anything, I would never cast a vote for anything that
I did not believe would improve the security for my own family, and
So to suggest that our opposition to this particular proposal is
based on, on what, payments I had gotten, or other Members have gotten,
for voting the way we vote? As I say, go look. We were moving close
there to taking down the gentleman's words when he suggested such a
The other countries, we can look around the world and think about the
other countries that have tried this. Yes, I know that they brought
this up saying, well, the other countries have done this, but they are
not like America. They do not have a political system that allows us or
allows their politicians to be bought off. That is what they were
I do not know about the Speaker, but I think that kind of statement
is irresponsible. I think the suggestion of the Members on the other
side that it is only our system of government that prevents us from
federalizing airport security, and that is essentially what they said.
Go back and read their words. They said that other countries do not
have a system that allows the corruption of politics to occur as a
result of the money that private companies put into this.
As I say, I had never heard of Argenbright Security in my life until
this discussion over airport security began some month or two ago. They
have certainly never contributed to my campaign; and I will tell the
Members what, if they had given me 5 cents or $5,000, which I suppose
is the most they could give; no, they are a corporation, perhaps they
cannot give a dime.
I do not know what the actual legal status of their arrangement is,
but the reality is they have never given us any money. If they are a
corporation, of course they never have been able to give any Member of
this body any money.
So to suggest that our support for a private company being held to
high standards, federally established standards, is somehow injudicious
or an aspect of corruption, then I suggest that we take a very close
look at those people who are making these charges and ask ourselves,
for what purpose would they be coming to this floor with those kinds of
There are many countries, many countries, such as the Netherlands,
Japan, Belgium, France, Great Britain. These are excerpts from articles
from the Washington Post with regard to countries who have at one point
in time either employed or used federalization as a way to handle the
airline security and moved away from it, or never started it to begin
The Netherlands: ``As an armed member of the Dutch Royal Police
looked on, the guard, an employee of a private contractor who had
undergone a year of training through the Royal Police Academy, began
questioning the couple.''
These are examples of what we can have, where we can have Federal
oversight and private actual implementation of the process.
Japan. At Japan's Narita International Airport, the airlines hire
separate companies to screen checked baggage, but combine to hire one
contractor, one contractor to X-ray carry-on bags.
Belgium. Sixty government inspectors work at the Brussels airport to
oversee about 400 employees of private companies; 60 inspectors oversee
400 employees of private companies.
Securitas, an arm of the Swedish Securis group, AB.
So there are alternatives to this Argenbright outfit, evidently.
France. In France, airports do the hiring of security contractors and
must draw from a list of companies approved by the Interior Ministry.
Fine. No problem.
Great Britain. Britain allows its airport to either hire a contractor
or to perform the work themselves. Fine. Our bill, the bill that they
so readily castigated over here, does exactly that. It allows the
President to make whatever choice he wants in terms of how we will
handle this issue, federalization or private or some combination
But it is the height of hypocrisy to come to this floor and suggest
that the only way this can be done, because, of course, we are the only
Nation that would be in this position of having private security firms
overseen by the Federal Government, actually be responsible for the
security of our airport; to castigate us for that and not share with
the American public the truth of the matter, that there are many
governments that do. And this is not a definitive list of those
countries that have tried federalization of airport security and moved
away from it; there are many others.
I suggest that we all should look carefully at this issue, and we
should refrain from suggesting on the floor of this House or in any
other medium that if a person votes for or against the bills that were
on this floor not too long ago with regard to airline security, that we
are doing so for any reason other than what we believe in our hearts to
be the best thing for this Nation, and certainly for our own personal
security, if nothing else, and for the security of our families who fly
all of the time.
Now, Mr. Speaker, let me get to the second point of my discussion
this evening. It will probably not be a surprise that that point is
going to revolve around the issue of immigration and immigration
I find it fascinating that we spend many hours on debate, in debate
on this floor on the issue of, in this case,
airline security, and whether or not to actually make that individual
who looks through that little box a Federal employee.
This has just been so, so difficult for us to handle, such a major
issue, such an incredibly important change in the procedure in America,
that it deserves the hours that have been spent here in debate.
I find it amazing that we have chosen to spend that much time in the
debate over whether or not one tiny part of the entire airline system,
just the lady or man who looks through that little screen, should be a
Federal employee, that we find that to be the most important thing to
talk about when it comes to our Nation's security; and we spend little
if any time dealing with what I consider to be a far, far more
important issue, and that is this: Would it not be better, would it not
be better to spend at least as much time in the determination of who
gets into this country in the first place, keeping track of them once
they get here; trying to keep people who want to do us ill, want to do
us ill, is it not better to do that than to even worry about what
happens to them as they go through airport security, once they are
here, once they are in the Nation?
How is it that we can ignore the fact that there are millions of
people in this country illegally, that there are millions of people who
have overstayed their visas, millions of people who violate our laws
all the time, and we are so worried here?
I heard reference after reference to the fact that some of these
private companies hire ``noncitizens'' to do the security at the
airport, to look through that screen.
This has been said with aghast, taken aback, to use the Casa Blanca
line. They are shocked, shocked to find that noncitizens are being
employed at the airports. Hello, noncitizens, and not just noncitizens
but illegal aliens in the United States are being employed in every
aspect of American life; and no one seems to care about that, and no
one seems to care about the fact that hundreds of thousands, in fact,
millions of people cross our borders every single year, without going
through the system, without going to apply for a visa, without coming
through a border checkpoint so that someone could determine who they
are and where they are going and why. Millions of people come across
our borders where there is no checkpoint and where no visa is required.
They sneak into the country.
It is true that certainly a huge, vast percentage of the people who
do that are not coming here to do harm to the United States. They are
coming here for their own personal benefit, and it is understandable.
It is also true that some of them may not have the best interests of
the United States at heart. It is true that some of them who come
across illegally may, in fact, be coming here to do us harm.
Mr. Speaker, 19 people, all of them noncitizens of this country, on
September 11, 19 people, as we all know too well, hijacked airplanes,
crashed them into buildings or were prevented from doing so by the
heroic efforts of certain efforts of the crew and/or passengers, I
should say, on one of those flights.
Who were they? Who are these people? Who were these people? All, of
course, unable to tell their own story because they are dead. But who
were they and how did they get here?
My staff asked the INS shortly after September 11 for a list of those
people and for their immigration status. We got nothing back; and
finally, the only thing that they told us to look at was a press
release from the FBI that listed all 19 people and had three of them
identified with a particular status, and all of them were visa holders.
One of those they had identified had overstayed their visa. It turns
out that 13 were here on visa status of one form or another, one
category or another, some of those here illegally because they had
overstayed their visas or were not doing what the visa had said they
were supposed to be doing here.
Six of them, Mr. Speaker, up to this point in time, as to this time
right now, November 6, we have not the slightest idea how they got here
or who they are. We may know their names, but we do not know what their
status was. We do not know how they entered the United States of
America, six of them. The INS finally had to admit it. It is one of
those shrug-your-shoulders, I-do-not-know, I-am-not-sure, I-do-not-
Let me suggest that they did not come through the regular process.
Let me suggest that they did not apply for a visa in Saudi Arabia. We
would know that. Let me suggest they did not come through one of the
border checkpoints and use their name. We know that. We would know
Let me suggest they got here some other way. How could that be? How
could it be that somebody could come into the United States and we
would not know it? Of course, that is how millions of people come into
this country. They swim across rivers. They take canoes across rivers
in the north. It is a little colder. They walk across into the deserts
of the South or into the mountains in the north, but they come by the
We have absolutely no plans today to defend against that. Nothing
will change. Nothing has changed. We are approaching the 2-month mark
since the tragedy in New York and Pennsylvania; and yet I have seen not
one significant piece of legislation on this floor or even in the
developmental stages that would reform the process, reform the
immigration system so that we could begin to think that our borders are
being secured. Nothing.
We are certainly concerned about whether or not the person that looks
through that little device at the airport is a Federal employee. Give
me a break, Mr. Speaker. Where in the world are our priorities here? Do
we honest to God think that if we only federalize the screeners that we
will be safe in America? That something as horrendous, if not even more
so than the September 11 event, would not occur? Do we really believe
that? Of course not. Of course not.
It is political rhetoric, my friends. It is partisanship rearing its
ugly head on this floor. Incredible as that may sound, that appears to
me to be what is happening here; and it is a reluctance on the part of
this body, certain Members of this body certainly, to advance the
concept of immigration reform because of the fear of two things: one,
the political backlash that will occur among certain ethnic groups.
There is a fear that if we were to try and clamp down on our borders,
especially Mexican nationals who come to the United States, stay here
for a long enough period of time, either vote illegally themselves or
through gaining legal status or their children who are born here as
American citizens and who then vote, would somehow make one of our
parties pay the price for being hard on immigration.
There is that fear. There is a recognition of the fact that most of
the people, massive numbers of immigrants coming across the border
eventually grow into, as they become eligible to vote and some of them,
of course, unfortunately, voting even if they are not eligible to do
so, but will vote primarily for one party, in this case the Democratic
So the Democratic Party is reluctant to talk about this issue,
although they are very happy to talk about whether or not screeners
should be Federal employees, spend hours on it. But they will not talk
about illegal immigrants coming across the border and the threat that
porous borders poses to this Nation. Again, I say it is not the vast
majority of people coming across those borders illegally that pose a
threat to the health of the Nation or the stability of the Nation in a
very immediate sense, although they may pose that in the long run. But
the fact is that unless we secure our borders against all of those
people who are trying to come here illegally, we cannot hope to prevent
Even if we did, I understand fully well, Mr. Speaker, that even if we
did do everything I am suggesting, put troops on the border, if not
active military put on National Guard troops to secure our borders, use
technology to monitor the borders, use every aspect of military and
police work available to us to make sure our borders are secure,
overnights and patrols and electronic monitoring, if we did all of
that, we cannot be absolutely positive that nothing else would ever
happen as a result of somebody sneaking into the country.
But let me ask, Mr. Speaker, let me ask the American public, should
any less? Should we not do everything we can to make sure that those
borders are secure simply because we cannot make sure they are
Mr. Speaker, I have said on more than one occasion that, God forbid,
if something else happens similar to the occurrence of September 11,
and we find that they are perpetrated by people who came into the
United States illegally, or even came here legally with a visa status
that we gave them but did not monitor, and they perpetrate another
event of a similar nature, I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that we are not just
going to be held to be irresponsible as a Congress, but we are going to
be held to be culpable. And I recognize that this is a very strong
statement, but I cannot for the life of me figure out why it is not
We sit here, Mr. Speaker, with the ability to put in place a system
that would be far more efficient than presently exists. We are the only
people, this Congress is the only thing that can act. We cannot expect
States to actually do the work of immigration reform for us. We have to
do it. We are the only ones with that authority and with that
But why is it that we have refused to do so? As I said, there is a
political price to pay, that is for sure. And we understand that there
is a political benefit to pandering to illegal aliens. There is also on
our side of the aisle a reluctance to deal with this issue because of
economic implications. The fact is that many, many of our jobs are
being taken, many jobs in this country are being taken by illegal
immigrants or by people who are here legally but are willing to work
for less than an American citizen would work for. That is true. And,
therefore, we have pressure on our side, on the Republican side, the
people who have business interests, to avoid doing anything that might
impede the flow of low-cost employees, low-wage, low-skilled people; or
in some cases like H1B, which I will talk about in a minute, high-
skilled people but still lower paid.
Let me go into that for a moment, Mr. Speaker. H1B is a visa category
that allows people to come into the United States, about 160,000 a
year, by the way. And they can stay here for up to 6 years to work in
jobs that, quote, ``no one else will take.'' Jobs like computer
programmer at some of the most prestigious companies in America in
terms of technology. These really rotten jobs that no one else will
take, computer programmer, analyst.
We were told by the mavens of industry that in this particular arena,
technology, that we could not hire enough people. They could not hire
enough people, qualified people, here in the United States. So we had
to grant H1B visa status to 165,000, at least, every single year. Let
them stay for 6 years. So we now accumulated several million, 4 or 5
million people here in the United States on that status, H1B visa
Now, unless it has escaped us, Mr. Speaker, and I do not believe it
has, there has been a change in the economy over the last year.
Starting with the last quarter of the Clinton administration, the
economy has begun a slow but steady decent into what is now undeniably
a recession. Yesterday, I believe it was, unemployment figures came
out; and the figures were frighteningly high, higher than they have
been in well over a decade. Especially frightening in the area of high-
tech jobs where hundreds of thousands of people have been laid off.
Mr. Speaker, in America today there are factually millions of people
looking for work, people who can operate in this capacity as a computer
programmer or whatever and people with various other skills who are
looking for work.
I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that it is time for us in this body to
revisit the whole idea, the whole issue of H-1B, and I have, in fact,
introduced a bill to abolish H-1B visas. I think, Mr. Speaker, we do
not need them anymore. I do not think we needed them when we passed
them. I think we did it as a favor to some large corporations in the
United States because they could get people to come to the United
States and work for less than they could hire an American worker to do
the same job.
And I say that with the recognition that there are people in the
United States who I know today are unemployed and unemployed because an
H-1B visa holder took his or her job, took a job that those people
would be qualified for and would be doing except, of course, they asked
for more money.
Now, this kind of thing, to my friends on our side who are
Libertarians and who feel as though we should not really care about the
issue of high wages for American employees, that it is all a function
of markets and we should just simply erase the borders, let people come
and go freely, that is all fine. It is an idealistic concept. But the
idea of open borders, I think by now has been totally and completely
discredited, for obvious reasons. Look where we are. Look what has
happened to us. Look what happened on September 11.
The idea that American citizens who need and want jobs should be kept
from those jobs because there are H-1B visa holders here is, I think,
unconscionable. But it is where we are.
And let me tell my colleagues what has happened, Mr. Speaker. It is
true because there have been many layoffs in industry, the high-tech
industry especially, that some of these H-1B holders are out of work or
were out of work. Now, the law says, by the way, that if they are no
longer employed by the company that hired them to bring them over here
as an H-1B visa holder, they must go home. That is the law.
The INS has said essentially that we are going to look the other way.
They say, do not worry about it. When H-1B holders call them and say,
what am I going to do, I am out of work, am I going to have to go home?
They say, well, we are in the process of writing regulations, so we
will let you know. Other people have been told they have a couple of
months to look for another job; take another job away from an American
citizen because, after all, you are here. We would not want you to be
disadvantaged. We would not want you to have to leave the country.
The INS is no longer an organization that looks out for the best
interests of the United States. The INS is an organization that has
turned into a bunch of social workers. Immigration social workers. That
is how they think of themselves, Mr. Speaker. They are not concerned
about the health of this Nation, about the impact of massive
immigration on the overall course of the Nation, and certainly not
concerned about the fact that American workers are being displaced by
H-1B visa holders.
Why do we still have H-1B visa holders in light of the fact that
there has been a significant turndown in the economy? For one reason,
Mr. Speaker, because this body is afraid to take that up. There are
powerful interests who want the H-1B visa status to be expanded,
certainly maintained, because they get many workers here at a lower
price than they can hire American workers for. That is the story. I
wish it were not true, but it is true.
And it is actually totally understandable, I suppose, if you are an
employer whose eye is only on the bottom line and could not care less
about the United States of America. And, believe me, what we now call
multinational corporations, that is a good, good descriptor. They are
multinational. They could not care less about America. Their interests
are bottom line, and so should they be.
Maybe we can argue their interests should be just that, bottom line.
But I argue that our interests in this body should be for the people in
the United States who are citizens of this country, who are looking for
jobs and are competing with people who have been brought into the
country, albeit good people.
I do not suggest for a moment because someone is here as an H-1B visa
holder that they are a bad individual. That is absolutely not true and
irrelevant. They are fine people looking to better their own lives. I
understand it. I empathize with them. But my job is not to make sure
that every single unemployed person in the world is given the
opportunity to take an American job. That is not what I consider to be
my responsibility as a Member of this body.
Yet my bill for the elimination of H-1B status will not be heard, I
will predict. We will not even get a hearing, Mr. Speaker. My bill to
put a moratorium on the deliverance of visas will not be heard, I fear.
My request, as the
chairman of the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus, to have a bill
that would actually reform the INS by abolishing that responsibility
that they take so casually, that is for enforcement, abolishing that
and creating a brand-new agency that includes some of the
responsibilities that are now given to the INS, Customs, Treasury,
Coast Guard, and others for border security and internal security.
We would abolish those agencies, or those parts of agencies that are
now given that responsibility, an overlapping and confusing and
conflicting responsibility, and create a new agency under Governor
Ridge, under the Homeland Defense Agency. We could call it the National
Border Security Agency, or whatever we want; but let us make sure that
it has only one responsibility, not to on the one hand hand out green
cards and help individuals get legal status in the United States, help
them figure out a way to get here and achieve their life's dreams as an
immigrant, but has as its only responsibility to make sure that people
we do not want in this country cannot get into this country, and to
make sure that those people who are here illegally are deported.
Now, that is the true and real responsibility of a Federal
Government. It is especially our responsibility now. It does not mean
we slam the door shut to every single immigrant. We will hear that, I
know; that what we are trying to do is deny our heritage as immigrants,
as a nation of immigrants. Poppycock. It is irrelevant to talk about
the fact that we are all here as immigrants.
Yes, well, so what? What has that got to do with September 11 and
what we should do from that day forward? It is irrelevant. It does not
matter. Because if we continually look to the past in that respect to
try to determine what we do in the future, why do we not simply abandon
the border? How much of a death wish do we have?
It is not the fact that we cannot grow our own terrorists. It has
happened. But it is the fact that right now the most significant threat
we face to this country does not come from a homegrown terrorist; it
comes from an immigrant, people who are here either legally or
illegally, who are not U.S. citizens, and are here to destroy this
Now, how do we stop that? Do we just say that only those people whom
we deem to be potential terrorists are going to be given a hard time
trying to get a visa? Well, that is what we have proposed.
That is the huge immigration reform proposal we have had so far, that
we are going to make it much more difficult, Mr. Speaker, for anybody
to come into this country on a student visa; and we are going to
actually try to make sure if they do come in on a student visa, they go
Well, I feel so much better. That, combined with making sure that
that person that is peering through that little box a Federal employee
will make me sleep so much easier at night. Idiotic. Almost
incomprehensible. But here we are. Here we are.
By the way, when I talk about my suggestion for a bill that would
move us in the direction of a brand-new agency, it will not be heard. I
am sure it will not find its way into legislative format. I am more
than willing to draft a bill, Mr. Speaker, but if history is any guide,
I am going to bet that I would not be very successful in getting that
bill heard in the committee of reference, the Committee on the
Judiciary, chaired by the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. Sensenbrenner),
or any other place in this process.
I suggest that there is a problem that needs to be addressed of far
greater significance than who pays the salary of the person who looks
through the screening device at the airport when we talk about the
security of the Nation. Far more serious. Far more serious. The defense
of the Nation begins with the defense of our borders.
I find it fascinating, almost, again, incomprehensible that time and
again I have to come to this floor and plead with my colleagues to do
something significant about immigration reform, to do something that
would in fact improve the security of the Nation; that in fact would
help us all sleep a little easier.
I ask my colleagues to think about the fact that as we stand here
tonight on the floor of the House, not one thing has happened to
improve the security of our borders, although a great deal of attention
is paid to trying to get on an airplane in America. And whether it is
improved or not, I do not know. I certainly go through a lot more
security every single week than I ever did before.
But nothing has really happened to change the fact that if a person
wanted to come into this Nation and avoid being detected, he or she
could easily do so. All it would take is the willingness to expend a
little energy to get around the border security checkpoint. That is all
We talk about tightening the visa requirements. I am all for it. But
I ask, Mr. Speaker, for us to apply just a tiny bit of logic to this
whole process, this whole question, to this controversy.
Let us assume for a moment that we have someone, a member of the al-
Qaeda, or any one of the other various groups that want to do us harm,
and that person is in, let us say Saudi Arabia today, or Pakistan or
the UAE, or any country that requires a visa. And by the way, we do not
require every country to actually approve visas for people coming into
the United States.
But let us say that person is coming from one of those countries, and
they go to the consulate to try to get a visa and they find out the
requirements are a little more difficult: that there is actually a form
they have to fill out, maybe even a fingerprint they have to give,
maybe even some other form of identification that actually will be
shared with other agencies; and that information from the CIA and other
groups will all be stored in one place, and we will be able to
determine whether this person trying to come into the United States is
connected with a terrorist organization; and therefore we will say to
them, no, sir, you cannot come in, we will not give you a visa.
Then will we go, oh, thank God, that stopped that. That person is now
probably going to go home and say, you know, Mr. bin Laden, I tried to
get into the United States but, hey, they would not give me a visa. So
I guess I just will not go any farther with this plan. I will just go
home and take my bomb with me. I do not think so. I do not think so,
Again, let us apply a little logic. If that person wants to come into
the United States, and let us assume we actually tighten up visa
requirements, then that person, of course, will come the way that
millions of others come every year. He will simply walk across the
border, the part of the border that is undefended, and come into the
United States, probably the same way that at least six of the nineteen
hijackers on September 11 came in. We do not know because, as I say,
the INS cannot tell us. They have not the slightest idea how they got
here. They shrug their shoulders. I do not know. Gee, we are just the
INS, do not expect us to keep track of people.
Here is an interesting statement that was reported in the Marietta
Daily Journal in Georgia. It is from Fred Alexander, who is the INS
Deputy District Director, speaking to a group of ``undocumented day
If I am driving without my driver's license, I am undocumented. But
if I am here illegally, I am an illegal alien. ``It's not a crime to be
in the United States illegally. It's a violation of civil law.''
Oh, I see. It is not a crime to be here illegally. That sentence
makes all of the sense in the world. No problem. I do not know if this
fellow is really that unable to understand the English language.
Perhaps he himself is not able to really communicate well in English,
although his name does not suggest it. It is not a crime to be in the
United States illegally; it is a violation of civil law. I do not know
what that means except this guy is trying to say do not worry about
being here illegally. The INS is here to help you. That is what he is
Members wonder why we are concerned about the INS and why we are
trying to push this body into truly reforming the INS. There will be
bills put into the hopper that will split the INS into two. That idea
is not good enough because of course, if we do not gain control over
the entire process, we will soon be left with this peculiar and at
least questionable method of border security where people actually look
at lines, and this happens, Mr. Speaker. People will actually view
which line is being monitored, and this is coming across the border
now, which line is being monitored by border patrol and which line is
being monitored by any other agency. Customs in this case in
particular, because of course Customs has certain regulations that they
have to follow and Border Patrol has others. Border Patrol does not
look in certain places where Customs will look. If you are trying to
smuggle drugs in, you will come in via one line; and if you are
smuggling people, you will come via the other. That happens. It is
incredible, but it is true. It is because we have this mish-mash of
Trying to actually change all that, reform the system, this is our
greatest opportunity, Mr. Speaker. This is the greatest opportunity we
have ever had to reform immigration; but I fear that the lethargy, the
inertia is so strong and the political obstacles to overcome are so
great. We fear the political ramifications of immigration control, both
Republicans and Democrats. Those ramifications are significant, but
none more so than the potential safety of the Nation.
We have asked, this is our e-mail address and if Americans want to
get in touch, we have encouraged them to write
Tom.Tancredo@mail.house.gov for more information about immigration
reform and for us to be in communication with people when there are
important bills coming up in the Congress that they should be aware of
and that we can request their help.
This is the only way that this will happen, the only way any of the
reforms will be accomplished is if there is a huge outcry, to both
Senate and Members of the House, to please, please do something more
than just give lip service to immigration reform. Please develop true
immigration reform proposals, put them in front of the President for
him to sign.
We are going to be looking at one issue coming soon, and that is the
extension of 245(i). The only thing we are going to do is perhaps
extend amnesty for literally millions of people who are here illegally.
That is going to be coming up on the House floor. Whether it is a part
of the Commerce, State, Justice appropriations bill or a freestanding
bill, that is what we are going to be asked to do, not throw out H-1Bs
or diversity visas which give 55,000 visas to special countries because
they do not send us enough people, many of those Middle Eastern
countries, not to reduce or eliminate the number of immigrants coming
into the country, not border security, not doing anything about truly
trying to significantly change and improve immigration at INS by
creating a new agency, entirely new agency. None of that.
What we are going to be asked to do is to extend, for the ability of
people to stay without going through the process of being reviewed in
their country of origin so we will not know whether or not they have a
criminal background or whether or not they are connected with any sort
of agency that will bring harm to the United States. That is what we
are going to be facing.
If people are willing to help us, we encourage them to go to that Web
site, Tom.Tancredo@mail.house.gov. We need the help of everyone on this
issue. It is the only way we will improve the whole procedure of
immigration. It is the only way we will reform immigration and the only
way we will be able to sleep easier at night, and that is what we are
seeking here. It is far more important in my mind and in the mind of
most people than who pays the salary, than the person who looks through
the screening device at the airport.
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