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

[Congressional Record: May 19, 2003 (House)]
[Page H4240-H4246]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:cr19my03-102]                         



 
                MATTERS NOT YET FINISHED, ISSUES UNDONE

  The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Cole). Under the Speaker's announced 
policy of January 7, 2003, the gentlewoman from Texas (Ms. Jackson-Lee) 
is recognized for 60 minutes.
  Ms. JACKSON-LEE of Texas. Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to have been 
able to celebrate with the gentleman from California (Mr. Honda) the 
importance of Asian American and Asian Pacific Month.
  I would like to add some additional points that I think are very 
important on this matter, and just add my thoughts regarding the 
information that we have shared this evening.
  I would like to call this special order, Mr. Speaker, ``Matters Not 
Yet Finished, Issues Undone.''

[ ... ] 
 
  I would join him in the resolution that he has filed today in 
celebration of Haitians, Haitian-Americans to acknowledge that there 
are 1.2 million Haitian-Americans in this country, 700,000 in the 
Florida area, and to also celebrate and commemorate with them Flag Day, 
May 18, and to salute the kind of friendship that Haiti has had with 
the United States and apologize to them for not keeping that friendship 
at the level it should be.

                              {time}  2230

  Frankly, I believe that we have done a disservice to our Haitian 
friends by not giving them parity as it relates to immigration laws and 
allowing them to have, because of the oppressive nature and the 
unfortunate economy in Haiti and over the years the oppressive nature 
of the government, we are now trying to work with the present 
government. I am not suggesting that the government is not trying, but 
I am saying that the Haitians live in abject poverty and there is a 
great need to respond to their immigration needs as they seek 
opportunity. Some of them are, if you will, in jeopardy of losing their 
lives because of the political viewpoint they take.
  I would suggest that we look closely at the legislation many of us 
have offered over the sessions, and that is to allow Haitians who flee 
because of political oppression and also abject poverty, where there is 
no opportunity whatsoever for them to survive, I would suggest that we 
look closely at providing them the kind of status that the Cubans 
receive when they are able to reach the shores of the United States of 
America.
  This will of course upset many, but we have always had a disjointed 
immigration policy in the United States, and I think we do ourselves a 
disservice by not understanding that we are not gaining by having an 
immigration policy.
  I have heard my good friend on the floor of the House day after day 
after day, month after month after month. I do not disagree with those 
who believe that we have to find a way to stem the tide of illegal 
immigration. I certainly agree with that. I also agree that we must 
secure our borders, and it certainly would be hypocritical for me to be 
on the Select Committee on Homeland Security and not provide the 
resources of increased border patrol agents, of high technology, with 
the kind of radioactive equipment that can detect illegal goods and 
persons coming across the border. But we have to recognize as well that 
we are surrounded by nations whose economy is in shambles, and people 
look to the United States with great hope and inspiration. And, 
unfortunately, sometimes they have gotten a one-way ticket to death.
  So as I mention the Haitians I think it is important to note that 
that country is in shambles. We are working with it. I hope the 
President of the country will be able to restore democracy and 
governmental procedures and law and order and the economy. That is not 
the case now, and so people seek opportunity. They do not come here 
just to do us harm. And as they do not come here to do us harm, I think 
it is important then that we find a sensible way to have the right kind 
of immigration policy, and some of the policies that my colleagues want 
to project, it just makes simply no sense.
  You will absolutely never close the borders of the United States in 
totality. Why? Because the United States benefits economically from 
trade with Canada and trade with its friends in the southern 
hemisphere.
  Today we were told that the largest amount of trade comes in through 
Canada. So you are not going to be able to just absolutely close our 
borders with no punitive measures coming towards you. It is just 
absolutely not going to happen. So what do we do?
  Well, I have filed legislation called Earned Access to Legalization, 
a bill that saw one million petitioners in the last Congress petition 
so that we could find an intelligent, reasonable, compassionate, 
humanitarian way to deal with individuals who are already here. And 
these are undocumented aliens who are working, owning homes, paying 
taxes, maybe even have bank accounts but are still under what we call 
the radar screen because we are not allowing them to access 
legalization. Their children are not legal. Their extended family is 
not legal. What sense does that make, Mr. Speaker, when we could have 
these individuals documented or give them access to legalization?
  My legislation does not say to bestow citizenship automatically 
without any other procedures in place. It does not say give them 
citizenship if they have a criminal record. What it says, Mr. Speaker, 
that if you have continuously been in the United States from 3 to 5 
years we will allow you to access the process of becoming a citizen. We 
will pull the sheets off of those who are hiding. We will let the 
sunshine come down on those hard-working immigrants who are paying 
taxes and simply want to make good.
  I want to pay tribute to a constituent of mine who owns the 
restaurant Hugo. He was highlighted in the Houston Chronicle. He came 
across the border illegally but yet today owns one of the fastest-
growing restaurants, the most attractive restaurant. He did not come to 
do harm. He pulled himself up by the bootstraps.
  I am sure this is not going to be a welcoming sound to those who may 
be listening. Hugo tried five times to come to the United States, and 
others who helped bring him did as well. And they came illegally, no, 
not to do harm but because they were living in abject poverty, but 
because their family needed the resources, because they were given the 
impression that there was a golden rainbow in the United States of 
America.

  What are we going to do? Turn off all the televisions of those in the 
world who believe we live in a world of democracy, in a Nation that is 
rich and prosperous, and that the people have an opportunity to work? I 
do not believe that we are going to be able to

[[Page H4244]]

dispel the myth or the real story that we live in grandeur here in the 
United States, so we must find a way of balance.
  Hugo should be celebrated for the fact that he did pull himself up by 
his bootstraps, and here he is providing and contributing to the 
economy of the United States, providing jobs to hard-working 
immigrants, people with legal status and working throughout the 
community to be someone who we are very proud of.
  That is what we need to do in providing a balance with our 
immigration policy: Document those who are here and find a way to 
provide an economic engine in the countries that are to our southern 
border in order to ensure that people who live there have the right 
kind of economy, that they can live in their country in dignity.
  President Vicente Fox had raised this discussion with President Bush, 
of course. It has been dropped like a hot potato, unfortunately. The 
tragedy of 9/11, of which we do not give any disrespect to, it is an 
enormous tragedy, and we are still working to overcome the pain of 
those families. We must now address again this question of immigration. 
We realize that the individuals who perpetrated that horrific tragedy, 
most of them came in on illegal visas. That is not immigration. That is 
a visitor's visa. And so we must tighten the requirements.
  But we must be fair as well as it relates to countries around the 
world and not penalize one group of countries versus another, but we 
must ensure that we restrict and put in place the right kind of 
procedures dealing with those who are seeking visas.
  As I visited Doha, Qatar I was able to sit in, in India I was able to 
sit in on the visa procedures in our embassies, and I must say I see a 
new and different approach, and certainly there are those who are 
turned away.
  As I look at that process I want to turn back to the process of 
illegal immigrants or aliens and I want to say, Mr. Speaker, by putting 
our heads in the sand we will not have a cogent immigration policy that 
addresses the question of the individuals who want to come here and 
seek an opportunity. Might I say to you, Mr. Speaker, that we utilize 
these individuals.
  In fact, there are many Members of Congress, and I know our committee 
will be holding a hearing, the Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims 
will be holding a hearing dealing with the guest worker program. We 
actually create vehicles for individuals to come in temporarily and 
work for industries that could not do without them.
  So why are we trying to come to the floor of the House and bash 
immigrants when we know full well that this economy is churned by those 
who have come to work? What we must ensure, however, is that we do not 
eliminate the work opportunities for the many Americans who are 
unemployed, but we have got to get a handle around our immigration 
policy and make it have some sense.
  For that reason, let me also bring up and raise and suggest that this 
past weekend Texas experienced an enormous tragedy again, Mr. Speaker, 
tied into the immigration issue. Individuals crossing the border, no 
matter what tragedies they have heard of before, what obstacles they 
have to overcome, what frightening experiences they have, they are 
still coming because they view the United States as a place of 
opportunity.
  Well, there are ways of addressing this question; and tragically this 
weekend we saw this past week the deaths of 19 individuals being 
smuggled into the United States, including a father and son who had 
just been abandoned by the son's mother and were coming to the United 
States for a new opportunity, for a fresh look at life, and that 5-
year-old boy died in that heated and horrible and horrific truck in the 
trailer part of the truck where people literally smothered to death, 
where there was no air. A more vicious death one could not expect.
  Mr. Speaker, I think it impacted the Houston area more than we could 
ever imagine. Memorials were held this past Sunday because so many of 
those individuals had relatives that lived in the Houston area. My 
sympathy goes out to them. For those who look in mockery saying that 
this did not have to happen if they had not done it in the first place, 
you can continue to stick your head in the sand, but I can tell you 
this will continue to happen. But we must stamp out the illegal aspect 
of what is going on.
  Mr. Speaker, I am authoring the Anti-Smuggling Prevention Act of 2003 
because I believe that the participants of this terrible and horrific 
crime believed that this was easy money. The truck driver, I believe, 
thought that this was an easy deal. He did not live in the State of 
Texas. I understand it was a possible cash payment of upwards of 
$5,000. He thought that there was going to be no problem, just driving 
some folk over the border and into certain areas up to Houston, Texas, 
but not knowing the dastardly deed that was about to occur. Certainly 
was not a physician, was not a medical professional, was not a 
scientist and did not bother to worry about whether there was air in 
the trailer.
  So who is now counting the dollars? The smuggling ring, and that is 
who we need to stamp out. I believe we need to enhance the penalties, 
not on the issue of death, because we already have penalties that are 
severe if death results. But we need to enhance the penalties just on 
the fact that you involved yourself in smuggling human beings. The fact 
that you are smuggling human beings is so horrific and tragedies can 
occur that you should realize that your jail time is going to be 
painful and long.
  I think also that we should reward informants who actually bring out 
information that will result in a conviction, and the informants should 
be given cash rewards.
  I also believe, Mr. Speaker, that we should look at on a humanitarian 
case-by-case situation for those individuals who are illegal aliens who 
are able to smash the smuggling ring, the big guys, the guys who are 
counting the dollars, they are money laundering, they are smuggling 
human beings, they are smuggling drugs, to smash those smuggling rings 
on a humanitarian basis. I believe it is important that those 
individuals be looked upon to be able to access legalization.
  It is important to note, Mr. Speaker, that this was an enormous 
tragedy in Houston, and I want to share just some of the description. 
This is taken from an article out of USA Today on May 19, 2003:
  ``Temperatures in Texas already reach into the 90s and 100s daily. 
That raises the risk enormously for those hiding in 18 wheelers and 
railcars which have replaced panel trucks and vans as a preferred way 
to smuggle larger groups.
  ``A trailer is not a mode of transportation for human being, says 
Xavier Rios, a supervisor agent for the Border Patrol in Harlingen. 
Neither is a train or car.''
  If I remind you, Mr. Speaker, that I mentioned Hugo who now owns a 
restaurant, that is how he first came to the United States, I believe, 
in a railcar.
  Until the week before the 9/11 attacks, President Bush and Mexican 
President Vicente Fox were working on a safer way for Mexicans to 
travel back and forth. I think this should be broadened to all 
immigrants because we are certainly going to face this over and over 
again.
  It is time for a change. I would commend my colleagues to look at the 
Earned Access to Legalization legislation. We can reform, if you will, 
our immigration policy. We need to understand that people are going to 
continue to come no matter how much we go to the floor of the House and 
preach otherwise and speak against the idea of immigration. The only 
way you are going to beat this is to have a rational immigration policy 
that keeps out the terrorists and the guys that want to do bad things 
and the criminals and others but allows a reasonable way to address the 
question of those who are simply begging to come to this country for 
greater opportunity.
  The advocates clearly note that this was a tragedy, and this article 
also says, It is like a big splash of cold water on people's faces when 
they see and hear that a 7-year-old died because he could not get 
enough air and all he wanted to do, says Angela Kelley of the National 
Immigration Forum, but all he wanted to do was to simply be with his 
father and to be able to come to the United States. The victims near 
Victoria reportedly range from a 5-year-old boy to a man in his 90s.

[[Page H4245]]

  So this is a question that should be addressed immediately, and I 
have asked the chairman of the Subcommittee on Immigration and Claims 
for us to have an immediate hearing so that we can address this larger 
question and also address the question of truckers who may think that 
this is easy money. I believe we have not done an effective job in 
getting to trucking companies and to truckers and to union halls about 
the tragedies that could occur.

[ End ]



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