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< Back to current issue of Immigration Daily < Back to current issue of Immigrant's Weekly

[Congressional Record: December 11, 2001 (House)]
[Page H9187-H9189]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:cr11de01-74]                         
 
                   BASIC PILOT EXTENSION ACT OF 2001

  Mr. SENSENBRENNER. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and pass 
the bill (H.R. 3030) to extend the ``Basic Pilot'' employment 
verification system, and for other purposes, as amended.
  The Clerk read as follows:

                               H.R. 3030

       Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of 
     the United States of America in Congress assembled,

     SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

       This Act may be cited as the ``Basic Pilot Extension Act of 
     2001''.

     SEC. 2. EXTENSION OF PROGRAMS.

       Section 401(b) of the Illegal Immigration Reform and 
     Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (8 U.S.C. 1324a note) is 
     amended by striking ``4-year period'' and inserting ``6-year 
     period''.

     SEC. 3. EFFECTIVE DATE.

       The amendment made by this Act shall take effect on the 
     date of the enactment of this Act.

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to the rule, the gentleman from 
Wisconsin (Mr. Sensenbrenner) and the gentlewoman from Texas (Ms. 
Jackson-Lee) each will control 20 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. 
Sensenbrenner).

                             General Leave

  Mr. SENSENBRENNER. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all 
Members may have 5 legislative days within which to revise and extend 
their remarks and include extraneous material on H.R. 3030.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the 
gentleman from Wisconsin?
  There was no objection.
  Mr. SENSENBRENNER. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may 
consume.
  Mr. Speaker, the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 made it 
unlawful for employers to knowingly hire or employ aliens not eligible 
to work and required employers to check the identity and work 
eligibility documents of all new employees. Under this Act, if the 
documents provided by an employee reasonably appear on their face to be 
genuine, the employer has met its document review obligations.
  The easy availability of counterfeit documents has made a mockery of 
the Immigration Reform and Control Act.

                              {time}  2145

  Fake documents are produced by the millions and can be obtained 
cheaply.
  Congress responded to this dilemma in the Illegal Immigration Reform 
and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 by instituting employment 
eligibility confirmation pilot programs for volunteer employers that 
were to last for 4 years.
  Under the basic pilot, the Social Security numbers and alien 
identification numbers of new hires are checked against Social Security 
Administration and Immigration and Naturalization Service records in 
order to weed out documents containing counterfeit numbers and real 
numbers used by multiple individuals. Operation of the pilot program 
commenced in November of 1997 and expires this month.
  The 1996 Act required that the INS provide a report to Congress on 
the operation of the pilot programs within 3 months after the end of 
the third and fourth year in which the programs are in effect. The 
reports were to, one, assess the benefits of the pilot programs to 
employers and the degree to which they assist in the enforcement of the 
rules regarding the employment of aliens; and, two, to include 
recommendations on whether or not the pilot program should be continued 
or modified.
  The INS has not complied. That is no surprise. The agency provided 
Congress with no report after the third year of operation of the basic 
pilot program, despite being mandated to do so by law, and there is no 
assurance that one will be provided within the time limits specified by 
law after the fourth year of operation. The INS' failure to obey the 
law and to provide the reports as required by law is unfortunately a 
frequent failing of this agency. It can only be hoped that once the 
immigration functions of the Justice Department are restructured and 
the INS is abolished will such negligence and/or malfeasance be a thing 
of the past.
  In any event, Congress must now decide upon the reauthorization of 
the basic pilot program in the absence of the agency reports, required 
by law, on the program. We have received word from industry 
implementing the basic pilot program that it has been a great success 
and that industry representatives favor a 2-year extension of the 
program.
  The committee has received no adverse comment regarding the basic 
pilot program. In light of the continuing relevance of the original 
goals of the basic pilot program, and the evidence of its successful 
operation, we all should support a 2-year extension. H.R. 3030, 
introduced by our colleague, the gentleman from Iowa (Mr. Latham), 
provides that extension.
  I can only hope that when we are again called upon to consider the 
merits of this pilot program we will have in hand an evaluation of the 
program's operation from the Justice Department. The INS is supposed to 
enforce

[[Page H9188]]

the law. The Justice Department is the agency in the executive branch 
to ensure that the law is being enforced; and unfortunately, the law is 
not being complied with, and the reports we asked for in 1996 by law 
have not been submitted by the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
  I urge my colleagues to support H.R. 3030; and let me say that I hope 
at the end of 2 years the immigration service will read laws passed by 
Congress and signed by the President so that once again the Congress is 
not put in this embarrassing situation of legislating without required 
reports.
  Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
  Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I 
may consume.
  I rise with great enthusiasm on supporting the extension with respect 
to H.R. 3030, a bill to extend the basic pilot employment verification 
system. I would imagine if we were to take a survey of all of the legal 
immigrants in the United States, we would find a minuscule proportion 
engaged in any illegal and/or terroristic activities. However, since 
September 11, a new page has been turned as relates to immigration laws 
and those who are immigrants.
  Congress created the program that we speak of tonight as part of the 
Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigration Responsibility Act of 1996 
to help employers comply with laws that bar them from knowingly hiring 
ineligible workers. I would venture to say that most Americans would 
agree that it is important to assure that as employers are hiring, that 
they have the necessary information to hire those who are here in the 
United States legally.
  At the same time, I believe that under the leadership of our new 
Commissioner Ziglar that we will also begin to be able to confront 
issues of terrorism and those who would promote it, would come into 
this country illegally, and separate that from the necessity of 
improving our immigration laws overall and addressing those individuals 
that want to access immigration legally with dignity.
  I am supporting this legislation, but I hope as well this House and 
the other body will be able to move forward to address a number of 
issues that have been put on the table. As a co-chair of the Democratic 
Task Force on Immigration, I hope we will be able to look at the issue 
of family reunification, earned access to legalization, increase our 
review of border safety and protection, look at the enhanced temporary 
worker program; and yes, I think it is important to end unfair 
discrimination against legal immigrants.
  As my colleagues know, in this instance, this particular pilot bill, 
the Congress is exploring new ways and methods and techniques to assure 
the security and integrity of the way in which we admit and track 
aliens who apply for nonimmigrant visas. We do live in dangerous times, 
as I have already noted.
  This bill is extending a pilot program that will improve and ensure 
integrity in the employment verification process. I believe that this 
is a process that no one disagrees with. Those who want to access 
legalization, those who want to support family reunification, and 
certainly those legal immigrants who are seeking employment, they have 
their documentation and they have no problem with the employers 
verifying that documentation.
  This bill introduced by the gentleman from Iowa (Mr. Latham) extends 
the basic pilot employment verification point under expedited 
procedures. The basic employment verification system is a program that 
many companies use to ensure that new companies are legal. This program 
is a voluntary electronic employment verification system which allows 
employers to verify I-9 documents. Companies with facilities in any of 
the pilot States may use the verification program throughout all of 
their facilities, including States outside the program. That is a very 
important aspect of this particular legislation.
  Approximately 2,000 employers are presently using the basic pilot 
program, which creates a very valid data processing system that allows 
accuracy in access to determine if the individual that they want to 
hire, the person that is presenting themselves as a legal immigrant, 
has the documentation and does have the required legal documentation.
  In title IV of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant 
Responsibility Act of 1996, Congress authorized the Immigration and 
Naturalization Service to conduct voluntary pilot programs that allow 
these participating employers to access by computer certain 
governmental databases for purposes of new employment verification. 
This program allows employers signing a memorandum of understanding 
with the INS to query an INS Social Security Administration database 
regarding the work authorization status of a new employment applicant 
instead of simply recording and retaining the number of documents that 
such applicants choose to submit.
  The basic pilot program provides greater ease of verification for 
employers and employees and greater deterrence of the use of fraudulent 
INS and SSA documents. We need a system like this system-wide in the 
INS in order to be able to address the differentiation between those 
who want to access legalization rightly and those who want to be in 
this country illegally.
  Industries, such as meat packing and food processing, have stated an 
interest in cooperating with the INS to maximize its ability to assure 
its interests in cooperating with the INS in order to make sure that 
their workforce is authorized. Many believe that while the program does 
not provide 100 percent deterrence of persons seeking unauthorized 
employment, it is far superior to the current practice of recording I-9 
forms, the number of documents physically presented by new employees.
  This gives something for the employers to rely upon. This puts the 
onus and responsibility on the INS to have a database on which they can 
rely. This moves immigration into the 21st century.
  I support this legislation because it is needed, because section 
401(b) of the 1996 Act states that the Attorney General shall terminate 
the pilot program at the end of the 4-year period beginning on the 
first day the pilot program is in effect. H.R. 3030 extends the life of 
the program by 2 years, from 4 years to 6 years, giving us, as the 
chairman indicated, additional data so that we can again respond to 
those who wish to access legalization and as well maintain legal 
documentation and be in this country as we would want them to be in a 
country that believes in the diversity as well as the responsibility of 
those who seek access to legalization in treating them fairly.
  This pilot program enhances the current I-9 form employment 
verification process by providing employers with greater assurances 
that they are not hiring unauthorized aliens and by establishing larger 
obstacles to aliens seeking to work illegally, but thereby rewarding 
those who seek to access the right documentation and to follow the laws 
of this Nation.
  Again, I hope that we will support this legislation. We are a country 
of immigrants and a country of laws.
  Mr. Speaker. I am gratified to be here today to vote on a bill that 
will improve the employment verification process. As you know, the 
Congress is exploring new ways, methods, and techniques to ensure the 
security and integrity of the way in which we admit and track aliens 
who apply for non-immigrant visas. We do live in dangerous times. This 
bill is extending a pilot program that would improve and ensure 
integrity in the employment verification process.
  This bill, introduced by Congressman Tom Latham, extends the Basic 
Pilot employment verification program under expedited procedures. The 
Basic employment verification system is a program that many companies 
use to ensure that new companies are legal. This program is a voluntary 
electronic employment verification system, which allow employers to 
verify I-9 documents. Companies with facilities in any of the ``pilot'' 
states may use the verification program throughout all of their 
facilities, including states outside the program. Approximately 2,000 
employers are presently using the Basic Pilot Program.
  In Title IV of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant 
Responsibility Act of 1996, Congress authorized the Immigration and 
Naturalization Service to conduct voluntary pilot programs that allow 
these participating employers to access by computer certain 
governmental databases for purposes of new employment verification. 
This program allows employers signing a memorandum of understanding 
(MOU) with the INS to query an INS-Social Security Administration (SSA) 
data

[[Page H9189]]

base regarding the work-authorization status of new employment 
applicants, instead of simply recording and retaining the numbers of 
documents that such applicants chose to submit. The Basic Pilot Program 
provides greater ease of verification for employers and employees and 
greater deterrence of the use of fraudulent INS and SSA documents.

  Industries such as meat packing and food processing have stated an 
interest in cooperating with the INS to maximize its ability to ensure 
its interest in cooperating with the INS to maximize its ability to 
ensure its workforce is authorized. Many believe that while the program 
does not provide 100 percent deterrence of persons seeking unauthorized 
employment, it is far superior to the current practice of recording in 
I-9 forms the numbers of documents physically presented by new 
employees.
  I support this legislation because it is needed because Section 
401(b) of the 1996 Act states that ``the . . . Attorney General shall 
terminate a pilot program at the end of the 4-year period beginning on 
the first day the pilot program is in effect.'' H.R. 3030 extends the 
life of the program by two years, from four years to six years. This 
pilot program enhances the current I-9 form employment verification 
process by providing employers with greater assurances that they are 
not hiring unauthorized aliens and by establishing larger obstacles to 
aliens seeking to work illegally. I support this legislation.
  Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. SENSENBRENNER. Mr. Speaker, I have no further speakers, and I am 
prepared to yield back if the gentlewoman from Texas (Ms. Jackson-Lee) 
does the same.
  Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I 
may consume.
  Let me just conclude by simply adding that I hope as we pass this 
legislation we will be able to as well bring to finalization 245(I) 
that helps with family unification; that we will realize that 
immigration issues are separated from those who would promote and do 
harm to the United States versus those who are hungry to be in a 
country that provides opportunity and democracy.
  I would hope that we would look to the issues of earned access to 
legalization as we look to border safety and protection, work of the 
enhanced temporary worker program and continue to work against unfair 
discrimination against legal immigrants as we look to put this country 
on sure footing, fighting the terrible terrorists, but as well 
recognizing the value of immigrants who have come to this country and 
contributed with hard work and sincere commitment to our values and our 
principles.
  I ask that my colleagues support H.R. 3030.
  Mr. LATHAM. Mr. Speaker, today I rise to commend the judiciary 
committee on a job well done and ask for the expedient passage of H.R. 
3030, a bill to extend the basic pilot employment verification program. 
This bill will reauthorize the recently expired program for an 
additional two years at minimal cost to the government.
  H.R. 3030 will further the aims of this body by encouraging greater 
cooperation between industry and the federal government--something I 
believe my colleagues on both sides of the aisle can support.
  This program, originally the brain-child of my good friend 
Representative Ken Calvert, allows eligible employers to use a joint 
Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS)--Social Security 
Administration (SSA) database to verify that prospective employees are 
employable under existing law. Furthermore, it has the desirable effect 
of providing greater ease of verification for employers and greater 
deterrence to those who would fraudulently use legal documents.
  Currently used by approximately 1,758 companies in the states of 
California, Florida, Illinois, Nebraska, New York, and Texas, as well 
as facilities owned by these companies in states not explicitly 
covered, this program has been beneficial to industries ranging from 
meat packing to direct mail.
  As we continue to debate INS reform, I believe it is incumbent upon 
us that we reauthorize programs that have been successful and recognize 
these programs as the model for such future efforts.
  Mr. CALVERT. Mr. Speaker, I stand today in strong support of this 
important legislation. In 1994, during my first term in Congress I 
introduced a bill to create a system now known as the Basic Pilot 
Program. Representing a district very close to the U.S./Mexico border, 
I heard from many INS agents dissatisfied with the tools they were 
given to track illegal immigrants and from employers who wanted a way 
to verify the employment eligibility of prospective employees. As we 
discussed the means to develop such a system, one idea that kept 
cropping up was a simple 1-800 telephone number that businesses could 
use to verify the Social Security numbers of people they had hired.
  In 1996, I was successful in getting the Basic Pilot Program included 
in the Immigration Reform Act and I am pleased that companies across 
the country are now using the toll free verification line. I applaud my 
friend from Iowa for moving to extend the program. Now, more than ever, 
it is clear that we need to provide tools that will help the INS track 
people in this country illegally.
  Even while this program continues, we will be working together to 
ensure that the INS meets the requirements of the 1996 law. I have 
asked INS to complete their report on the Basic Pilot Program and will 
work with the Service, the gentleman from Iowa and the Chairman of the 
Committee on ways to improve and expand the program to all fifty 
states.
  Again, I would like to thank the gentleman from Iowa for introducing 
this key legislation and would urge all my colleagues to vote for its 
passage.
  Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my 
time.
  Mr. SENSENBRENNER. Mr. Speaker, I also yield back the balance of my 
time.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Johnson of Illinois). The question is on 
the motion offered by the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. Sensenbrenner) 
that the House suspend the rules and pass the bill, H.R. 3030, as 
amended.
  The question was taken; and (two-thirds having voted in favor 
thereof) the rules were suspended and the bill, as amended, was passed.
  The title of the bill was amended so as to read: ``A bill to extend 
the basic pilot program for employment eligibility verification, and 
for other purposes.''.
  A motion to reconsider was laid on the table.

                          ____________________



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