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

[Congressional Record: October 28, 2003 (House)]
[Page H9893-H9898]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:cr28oc03-100]                         



 
                   BASIC PILOT EXTENSION ACT OF 2003

  Mr. SENSENBRENNER. Madam Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and 
pass the bill (H.R. 2359) to extend the basic pilot program for 
employment eligibility verification, and for other purposes, as 
amended.
  The Clerk read as follows:

                               H.R. 2359

       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 
     2003''.

     SEC. 2. EXTENSION OF PROGRAMS.

       (a) In General.--Section 401(b) of the Illegal Immigration 
     Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (8 U.S.C. 
     1324a note) is amended by striking ``6-year period'' and 
     inserting ``11-year period''.
       (b) Effective Date.--The amendment made by subsection (a) 
     shall take effect on the date of the enactment of this Act.

     SEC. 3. USE OF EMPLOYMENT ELIGIBILITY CONFIRMATION SYSTEM FOR 
                   STATUS INQUIRIES BY GOVERNMENT AGENCIES.

       (a) In General.--Section 642(c) of the Illegal Immigration 
     Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (8 U.S.C. 
     1373(c)) is amended by adding at the end the following:

     ``An inquiry described in the preceding sentence may be 
     submitted and responded to using the confirmation system 
     established under section 404.''.
       (b) Conforming Amendment.--Section 404(h) of the Illegal 
     Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 
     (8 U.S.C. 1324a note) is amended by adding at the end the 
     following:
       ``(3) Status inquiries by government agencies.--
     Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, the 
     confirmation system may be used to submit, and to respond to, 
     inquiries described in section 642(c). In the case of such an 
     inquiry, citizenship or immigration status information may be 
     provided in addition to the identity and employment 
     eligibility information provided under subsections (b) and 
     (c).''.

     SEC. 4. OPERATION OF BASIC PILOT PROGRAM IN ALL STATES.

       (a) In General.--Section 401(c)(1) of the Illegal 
     Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsiblity Act of 1996 (8 
     U.S.C. 1324a note) is amended by striking ``in, at'' and all 
     that follows through the semicolon at the end and inserting 
     ``in all States;''.
       (b) Conforming Amendments.--Section 402(c) of the Illegal 
     Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsiblity Act of 1996 (8 
     U.S.C. 1324a note) is amended--
       (1) in paragraph (2)(B), by striking ``electing--'' and all 
     that follows through ``(ii) the citizen'' and inserting 
     ``electing the citizen''; and
       (2) by striking paragraph (3) and redesignating paragraph 
     (4) as paragraph (3).

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


                             General Leave

  Mr. SENSENBRENNER. Madam Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all 
Members may have 5 legislative days within which to revise and extend 
their remarks and to include extraneous material on H.R. 2359, the bill 
currently under consideration.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the 
gentleman from Wisconsin?
  There was no objection.
  Mr. SENSENBRENNER. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may 
consume.
  Madam Speaker, the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 made it 
unlawful for employers to knowingly hire or employ illegal aliens and 
required employers to check the identity and work eligibility documents 
of all new employees. Unfortunately, illegal aliens have used the easy 
and cheap availability of counterfeit documents to make a mockery of 
IRCA. Today's document-based verification system just does not work, 
and it frustrates employers who do not want to hire illegal aliens, but 
have no choice other than to accept documents that have a high 
likelihood of being counterfeit.
  In 1996, Congress created a pilot program to help employers verify 
worker eligibility. Under this program, the employers who elect to 
participate in the pilot program may submit Social Security numbers and 
alien identification numbers of newly hired employees to be checked 
against Social Security Administration and INS records. This weeds out 
bogus numbers provided by illegal aliens and thus helps to ensure that 
new hires are genuinely eligible to work.
  The pilot program has been a great success over its 6 years of 
operation. A recent study conducted by the Institute for Survey 
Research at Temple University, in conjunction with Westat, found that 
96 percent of participating employers believe the pilot to be an 
effective and reliable tool for employment verification; 94 percent 
believed it to be more reliable than the IRCA- required document check; 
and 83 percent believed that participating in the pilot reduced 
uncertainty regarding work authorization. The study recommended the 
continuation of the pilot.
  Several participating employers indicated in a recent letter to the 
gentleman from Indiana (Mr. Hostettler), the chairman of the 
Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security, and Claims of the 
Committee on the Judiciary, that ``the pilot is the best tool employers 
have to make sure they are not hiring unauthorized aliens. Employers 
have embraced the tools granted by Congress and Congress should grant a 
continuation of the pilot employment verification program.''
  H.R. 2359, introduced by the gentleman from California (Mr. Calvert), 
would extend the pilot program for an additional 5 years. It would also 
allow volunteer employers throughout the Nation to participate in the 
pilot. Currently, the Department of Homeland Security is required to 
operate the pilot in at least five of the seven States with the highest 
estimated number of illegal aliens. There is no reason why employers 
elsewhere in the Nation should not be allowed to participate and reap 
the same rewards as the current participants.
  The study of the pilot found that now is not the time to require all 
businesses in the United States to participate. However, all this bill 
does is to open the pilot program to additional volunteer employers. 
The study explicitly found that ``the Social Security Administration 
and INS are currently capable of handling'' a nationwide voluntary 
program. That is all H.R. 2359 does. The study did indicate that the 
pilot could be improved.
  However, as chairman of the Subcommittee on Immigration, Border 
Security, and Claims will elaborate, in the years since the time the 
study reviewed the pilot, the INS and the Department of Homeland 
Security have been successfully making these improvements. At the 
request of the Department of Homeland Security, H.R. 2359 would also 
provide that inquires by Federal, State, and local government agencies 
seeking to verify or ascertain the citizen or immigration status of any 
individual for any purpose authorized by law may be made using the 
mechanism of the pilot program.

                              {time}  1800

  Under current law, DHS must already respond to these agencies' 
request. The bill merely allows DHS to utilize the pilot program in 
responding. And, the pilot program contains no new databases. It merely 
relies on current Social Security Administration and Department of 
Homeland Security records system.
  I urge my colleagues to support this bill. This legislation will 
provide willing employers throughout the Nation the tools they need to 
hire a legal workforce and comply with the law.
  Madam Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. HINOJOSA. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may 
consume.
  Madam Speaker, I rise in strong opposition to H.R. 2359, the Basic 
Pilot Extension Act of 2003. While proponents of this bill claim it is 
a simple extension of the basic pilot program for employment 
eligibility verification, this bill actually comes dangerously close to 
threatening the privacy of U.S. citizens and noncitizens alike.
  H.R. 2359 would permit any government agency to use the basic pilot 
confirmation system to check the immigration or citizenship status of 
U.S. citizens and immigrants who come within their purview. This would 
include those who seek drivers' licenses, it would include professional 
licenses, or any person who is subject to an inquiry of a Federal, 
State, or local government agency.
  My own home State of Texas is one of the sites for the current pilot 
program. Although the program was set

[[Page H9894]]

up with the best of intentions, a recent independent study conducted 
for the U.S. Department of Justice concluded that the basic pilot 
program is not ready for larger scale implementation at this time. The 
study identified problems such as inaccurate and outdated immigration 
databases. It brought out the civil rights violations by employers and 
insufficient privacy protections.
  Although the program is not supposed to be used as a prescreening 
mechanism before employment is offered, many employers are basing 
hiring decisions on these checks. As a result, eligible workers are 
being denied employment opportunities because an outdated database says 
they are not eligible to work. The study concluded that these problems 
could become insurmountable if the program were to be expanded 
dramatically in scope.
  Despite the findings of this study, this bill would expand a flawed 
program to every State of the Union. I can only conclude that this 
legislation is a veiled attempt to put in place the mechanism for 
eventual adoption of a controversial national identification program. 
The expansion of the pilot program would effectively create a single 
database, with no privacy protections, that would make it much easier 
for the government to track its own citizens.
  Madam Speaker, it leads me to believe that such a vast invasion of a 
citizen's privacy must be carefully examined and debated by Congress. 
However, this broad expansion of government power has been attached to 
a seemingly benign program extension circumventing any committee 
hearings or subcommittee markup.
  We all agree that we need to find ways to ensure employers hire 
workers that are legally authorized to work in the United States; 
however, the Basic Pilot Extension Act does nothing to take us closer 
to this goal. Instead, this legislation expands a currently imperfect 
program and creates a new and controversial identification database 
that could threaten the privacy of all U.S. citizens and immigrants. I 
urge my colleagues to oppose H.R. 2359.
  Madam Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. SENSENBRENNER. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may 
consume.
  Madam Speaker, Halloween is coming up, and I am afraid that the 
argument used by the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Hinojosa) is designed to 
scare people into doing something that this bill does not do. First of 
all, the bill creates no new databases. The basic pilot program relies 
on both the Social Security Administration and INS database, and there 
is nothing added to these databases by this bill whatsoever.
  Secondly, the bill does expand this voluntary program nationwide so 
that employers in other States may volunteer to participate in the 
verification of employment eligibility. Because the problem of illegal 
aliens taking jobs away from Americans is a problem that exists in more 
than the 45 States that are not covered by this program, there is 
nothing wrong with giving these employers the opportunity to volunteer 
to participate in the program.
  Thirdly, the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Hinojosa) seems to argue 
against this legislation in that it will allow government agencies to 
be able to find out the employment and Social Security status and 
immigration status of people whose names are in an existing database.
  The only change in the law is to allow the other government agencies 
to utilize the pilot program database, which contains information that 
is already available to the other government agencies through existing 
law. I think if anybody is to be scared by this bill, it is people who 
are trafficking in illegal and counterfeit documents which will be the 
sole source of employment verification should this bill go down and the 
pilot program be allowed to expire.
  Madam Speaker, I yield such time as he may consume to the gentleman 
from Indiana (Mr. Hostettler).
  Mr. HOSTETTLER. Madam Speaker, I want to emphasize two points about 
the Basic Pilot Extension Act of 2003. First, employers participating 
in the pilot program find it of immense help in the day-to-day 
operations of their businesses.
  Second, despite some of what we have heard today already, the pilot 
is working extraordinarily well and will only get better in the future. 
The report commissioned by the INS to evaluate the program found that 
``an overwhelming majority of employers participating found the basic 
pilot program to be an effective and reliable tool for employment 
verification.''
  Participating employers appreciate the pilot because it reduces 
uncertainty. The pilot ensures that their operations will not be 
disrupted by the mass dismissal of employees after the Department of 
Homeland Security or the Social Security Administration questions the 
status of their employees. The pilot ensures that they will not be put 
in a position of hiring illegal aliens, investing hundreds or thousands 
of hours in training them, and then losing the benefits of this 
investment years down the road when they are forced to dismiss illegal 
aliens who were employees.
  As Paul Weyrich has said in support of this bill, ``If we are really 
serious about enforcing the immigration laws we have on the books, then 
we must provide the means for employers to quickly determine the 
validity of the documents with which they are presented. The way the 
pilot program works is simple and reflects plain common sense.''
  The report indicated that the pilot program could be improved in a 
few areas. Some employers had taken adverse actions against new 
employees tentatively found ineligible to work, and INS databases had 
to be improved, especially in the context of adding data for persons 
recently issued a work authorization document and for new immigrants 
and refugees. However, remember that the report evaluated operations of 
the pilot in the 1990s. Since that time, INS and now the Department of 
Homeland Security have been actively making any needed improvements. 
DHS believes there has been ``an overwhelming improvement in the 
timeliness of data entry, particularly in response to the events of 
September 11.''
  In fact, DHS now requires that all new data regarding an immigrant be 
entered into the system within 3 days and all new information regarding 
temporary visitors be entered within 14 days. As to employer 
responsibilities, ``greater emphasis on pilot procedures has been added 
to training materials, and safeguards have been added to pilot software 
to increase compliance with required procedures. For instance, 
employers will be required to certify that they have talked with their 
employees and advised them of their rights if they cannot immediately 
be confirmed.''
  Finally, DHS reports that the soon to be implemented Internet-based 
version of the pilot will greatly reduce or eliminate any remaining 
problems.
  In only about 4 percent of total cases did new hires contact the 
Social Security Administration or INS to resolve problems with their 
work authorization status. Of those employees who did contact the 
government, 99 percent were found to be work-authorized. Thus, 
employees who carried out their obligations under the verification 
system, as it is today, were almost always found to be work-authorized. 
It is not the verification system's fault when a new hire is 
tentatively found ineligible to work, and then that new hire fails to 
contact the Social Security Administration or the Department of 
Homeland Security. It most likely means the employee does it because he 
or she knows they are ineligible.
  Madam Speaker, all this bill does is give willing employers 
nationwide the voluntary opportunity to benefit from the pilot program 
just the way participating employers have been benefiting for the last 
6 years. I urge my colleagues to vote for H.R. 2359.
  Mr. HINOJOSA. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may 
consume.
  Madam Speaker, the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. Sensenbrenner) just 
said that this bill does not create a new database, and I disagree with 
the gentleman. I disagree with the gentleman, and for the first time 
since I have been in Congress do I agree with the organizations called 
Americans for Tax Reform and the American Conservative Union.
  In their report to H.R. 2359, they say that the Basic Pilot Extension 
Act of 2003, that the undersigned organizations write to ask Members to 
vote

[[Page H9895]]

against H.R. 2359 because this bill puts in place the mechanism for 
eventual adoption of a national identification system.
  They say, perhaps more importantly, section 3 of this proposed bill 
establishes the precursor of a national identification system by 
amalgamating data of citizens and immigrants into what is effectively a 
single database that would be used for multiple purposes.
  It is quite interesting if it is not going to do what the gentleman 
says, why they do not just put it through the regular process and let 
the committees debate it and discuss it and vote on it in committee 
instead of attaching it to another bill. All of this to say that it is 
alarming to see what is being done here by a group that is 
circumventing the process that has worked here for years and years in 
the House of Representatives.
  Madam Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. SENSENBRENNER. Madam Speaker, I yield 3 minutes to the gentleman 
from California (Mr. Calvert).
  Mr. CALVERT. Madam Speaker, I rise in support of H.R. 2359, the Basic 
Pilot Extension Act of 2003. The basic pilot employment verification 
system is the only system offered to employers to verify employment 
eligibility for new employees.
  In 1994, I spoke with a Border Patrol agent who identified a key need 
in the enforcement of immigration laws: Employers need a simple and 
reliable tool to verify the worker status of new employees.

                              {time}  1815

  In response, I introduced a bill to create the basic pilot program to 
do just that, operate in six of the most problematic States on a 
voluntary basis. The basic pilot program has proven to be an 
overwhelming success.
  The basic pilot program is the best tool available for employers to 
comply with immigration laws which prohibit hiring undocumented 
immigrants. Recently, a contract cleaning service for Wal-Mart was 
raided by the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement and over 
250 employees were arrested. If Wal-Mart's cleaning service contractors 
had used the basic pilot program and verified the I-9 documents 
provided by their workers, this could have been avoided. We must 
provide companies the option of using this employment verification 
program and assist them in complying with Federal immigration law. 
Without this system, employers have no means of verifying legal work 
status for immigrants, causing many employers to discriminate against 
legal workers. This program gives employers the confidence to hire 
legal immigrants, reducing discrimination in the workplace.
  Additionally, H.R. 2359 allows employers from any State to 
voluntarily use this program. Many of my colleagues expressed concerns 
that this will expand the program too far, too fast. The reality is 
that the current program States are home to 80 percent of illegal 
immigrants, which means the impact on the system will be relatively 
small. After 7 successful years, it is time to give all employers the 
option of verifying their workforce and avoiding entanglements with 
Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
  As a former restaurant owner, I tried to do the right thing. When I 
filed those forms, that I-9, and put two identifications in the back of 
that form, I hoped that they were legal. But many times you cannot tell 
the difference. The only chance that an employer has today to try to do 
the right thing is verifying the legitimacy of that Social Security 
number against the name of the potential employee that is coming in for 
employment. This is the only way they can do it, Madam Speaker. If we 
take this away, there will be no other options for employers.
  I thank the gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. Sensenbrenner) and the 
gentleman from Indiana (Mr. Hostettler) for their work on this 
important bill. I hope that we keep this program intact in this 
country. We need it desperately as employers.
  Mr. HINOJOSA. Madam Speaker, I am pleased to yield 5 minutes to the 
gentleman from California (Mr. Berman), ranking member of the 
Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet, and Intellectual Property.
  Mr. BERMAN. Madam Speaker, I rise in opposition to H.R. 2359. I think 
it is important to point out a few facts. First of all, the people on 
this side of the aisle would be speaking in favor of this bill if it 
were simply to extend the sunset date on this pilot program to allow 
the pilot program to continue to work out the weaknesses and 
deficiencies that the INS study found in the program.
  But this program does far more than that. This program goes from a 
pilot program in 5 States to a nationwide program. While my friend from 
California, the sponsor of the bill, may be correct, although I am not 
quite sure how he knows where 80 percent of the illegal immigrants are 
located, but let us assume that for a second the fact is 80 percent of 
the employers are not located in those 5 States. This is a massive 
expansion of the pilot program.
  In 1996, we created the pilot program. In the law in 1996 we told the 
INS to get people to study how the program was working. The INS went 
and did that. They commissioned two different groups, organizations, to 
study the program and what was happening with those employers who were 
voluntarily participating. The study came back. What did the study say? 
The study said, based on the evaluation findings, the basic pilot 
program should not be expanded to a mandatory program, and this does 
not do that, or a large-scale program. I would suggest that opening it 
up to every employer in America on a voluntary basis constitutes that 
kind of large-scale expansion which the study commissioned by the INS 
and required by the Congress said we should not do.
  Why did they say that? They talked about the problems and the 
deficiencies in this program. It would have been nice if the 
Immigration Subcommittee of Judiciary had had a hearing on this bill 
where the authors of the study could have come forward and answered 
questions and developed it; but we had no hearing, we had no markup, 
the bill was taken directly to a markup in the full committee and put 
on the floor, not with a rule to allow amendments to address specific 
deficiencies in the operation of this pilot program, not with a rule 
that allowed any kind of amendments, but on suspension where no 
amendments can be made.
  What the study found about the program, I think, is very important. 
The program was hindered by inaccuracies, inaccuracies and outdated 
information in the INS databases. The program did not consistently 
provide timely immigration status data which delayed the confirmation 
of a worker's employment authorization in one-third of the cases. The 
employer has decided to hire somebody. He participates in this program. 
He asks Social Security and INS to verify that person. In one-third of 
the cases he does not get an answer and then does not hire that person 
but goes to another person. A person who was fully authorized to work, 
who was in this country legally, is denied a job because of 
inaccuracies and a slow-to-respond operation from the INS and the 
Social Security Administration.
  A sizable number of workers who were not confirmed, who were 
rejected, it turned out were work authorized, but there was something 
wrong in the processing of their papers. There was a mistake in the 
database. When they went out and checked who these people were, it 
turned out well over 42 percent of the sample that they used were work-
authorized, but were told by the people operating the pilot program 
that they were not. Forty-two percent of that sample did not get a job. 
In some cases, the employer did not follow the rules and the guidelines 
of the pilot program. In other words, the program was riddled with 
deficiencies.
  Theoretically, I have to say, if we could get an accurate, quick 
employee identification system where employers could know they were 
getting accurate information and workers who were authorized to work in 
this country, who were here legally, who had a right to work could get 
the right answer, then I would say let us talk about expansion and let 
us pursue that by continuing this program. But I urge this body to 
reject an effort to expand this nationwide to add not simply employers 
but State, local and Federal Government agencies to the list of people 
who will be using a program when that program by the INS's own study 
was riddled with deficiencies and weaknesses which

[[Page H9896]]

delayed responses, which kept people who are here legally from getting 
jobs or rights they would otherwise get, or be entitled to get simply 
because of inaccuracies in the database. This is not the kind of a 
program to expand at this time.
  I urge a ``no'' vote.
  Mr. HINOJOSA. Madam Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may 
consume. I agree with much of what the gentleman from California 
pointed out.
  I want to summarize my comments and say that this bill provides for 
the extension and expansion of a program to verify if employees are 
legally authorized to work in the U.S. But we have Representatives on 
both sides of the aisle who oppose this bill because it expands this 
current pilot program to all 50 States, when today the pilot program is 
currently covering only six States. That includes California, Texas, 
Florida, New York, Illinois, and Nebraska. They are the ones who have 
these pilot programs. This legislation would allow all the States then 
to have access to what is existent right now in the database.
  Again, I urge my colleagues to vote ``no'' on H.R. 2359.
  Madam Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.
  Mr. SENSENBRENNER. Madam Speaker, I yield myself the balance of my 
time.
  Madam Speaker, I think we ought to put this legislation into its 
proper perspective. First, yes, this bill expands the pilot program 
voluntarily to the 44 States where employers cannot get this 
information. But it is a voluntary program, and only those employers 
who choose to participate will participate. No employer will be forced 
to participate under this piece of legislation either in the 44 new 
States that are opened up or in the six existing States.
  Secondly, there is nothing in this bill that expands the database or 
which is the precursor for a national identification card. Nothing 
whatsoever. I personally am strongly opposed to a national ID card and 
will not support any legislation that establishes a national ID card 
either through the front door or through the back door.
  Thirdly, this legislation allows State and local governments to use 
the basic pilot program to access information that they can get from 
the Department of Homeland Security or the Social Security 
Administration through other means. It just makes it easier when a 
State and local government needs to get this information for them to 
get it. If we do not include this change in the law, then a private 
sector employer will be able to get the information in a much easier 
manner than our State and local governments. That does not make any 
sense at all.
  Finally, let us look at what will happen if this bill is voted down. 
The basic pilot program will expire next month in the six States that 
have been using it for the last 6 years. That means that when it 
expires, those employers that have been using the basic pilot program 
for verification of the legal employment status of those people that 
they wish to hire will be forced to go back to paper documents. There 
are a lot of counterfeit paper documents out there. You can get them on 
the Internet, and you can get them on the street corner. But now in the 
State of California, an illegal alien can get a driver's license, which 
is one of the documents that is acceptable for employment verification 
status under the Immigration Reform Act of 1986. Thus, even a 
legitimate California driver's license would not verify the employment 
status of someone who presents that document, whether that person be a 
U.S. citizen, a permanent resident alien who has employment status, or 
an illegal alien who obtained a legal California driver's license as a 
result of the law that was signed by Governor Davis just a few weeks 
ago.
  If this bill is voted down, we would go back to the bad old system of 
using documents as the exclusive way of establishing an applicant for a 
job's legal ability to be able to get that job under our immigration 
law. That would be a terrible tragedy.
  I urge an ``aye'' vote.
  Mr. UDALL of Colorado. Madam Speaker, I cannot vote for this bill in 
the manner in which it has been brought to the floor.
  The Basic Pilot program was intended to streamline the process of 
identifying employees eligible for work in the United States. Though 
the Basic Pilot program has been successful for many employers in the 
six participating States, there are enough serious questions about its 
workings that I do not believe it is ready to be implemented in all 
fifty States.
  The bill will open up the database used in this program to all 
government agencies, including local and state governments. This is far 
more than a simple extension. There are no privacy protections for 
individuals in this bill. The database can be used for a plethora of 
reasons, not limited to the verification for employment by local, 
State, and federal governments across the country. This will open the 
door to abuse.
  The database has proven to have out of date information specifically 
in regard to visa status. Before this program is used nationwide it is 
imperative that the system be purged of these inaccuracies. This poses 
threats that both hinder a person's legal ability to work, as well as 
allow ineligible individuals to obtain employment.
  The program itself is not the issue at hand. The intentions of the 
Basic Pilot program are good for employers, employees and our economy 
in general. It modernizes and speeds the ability of Americans to start 
working. However, these intentions are fruitless if the program is not 
effective or efficient. Before we open this program up to the rest of 
the country we must ensure that it is free of the kinks that have come 
up since its beginning. Then and only then, should this system be 
available for employers throughout the country.
  This bill clearly goes beyond a simple extension. It is 
controversial. The Basic Pilot Extension Act deserves hearings, 
debates, and amendments to be offered. Thus, I must vote against 
suspending the rule and passing this bill and I urge my colleagues to 
do the same so that H.R. 2359 can be considered under normal 
procedures.
  Ms. LINDA T. SANCHEZ of California. Madam Speaker, I rise in 
opposition to The Basic Pilot Extension Act of 2003 (H.R. 2359) and 
urge all of my colleagues to vote against this bill.
  The Basic Pilot Program is a new, more reliable way for employers to 
verify that employees are legally eligible to work in the United 
States. I support the Basic Pilot Program and I support an extension of 
the program for an additional five years.
  However, I oppose the Basic Pilot Extension Act because this bill 
goes well beyond just extending the program for an additional five 
years.
  This bill makes the Basic Pilot Program a national employee 
verification system available in all 50 states. Currently, the Basic 
Pilot Program is being tested in only 6 states so that flaws in the 
program can be addressed. Those flaws were detailed in a report by the 
Institute for Survey Research at Temple University. The report 
concluded that the Basic Pilot Program is not ready for larger-scale 
implementation at this time, and that the Program should remain 
available in only 6 states until the many problems with the program are 
addressed.
  The problems described in the report include inaccurate and outdated 
information in the INS databases used to verify employment eligibility. 
The report also describes problems with the reliability of the training 
and system software, hardware, and telephone systems used in the Basic 
Pilot Program. The report also described how employees had their 
privacy violated, were not fully informed of their rights under the 
Basic Pilot Program, and that employers failed to submit forms in the 
required time deadlines.
  Despite these problems and despite the explicit recommendation of the 
Institute for Survey Research for needed improvements, this bill 
expands the Basic Pilot nationwide and includes provisions that go well 
beyond merely verifying employment eligibility.
  This bill adds a new provision that allows federal, state, or local 
governments, not employers, to use the pilot program to access the 
databases to obtain citizenship and immigration status information on 
anyone for any reason they wish. This includes both citizens and non-
citizens, and unlike other regulations that control the use of federal 
databases, there are no limitations that protect the employees against 
discrimination, privacy violations, or other misuse. This new provision 
is very close to the establishment of a national register of all 
immigrants or a national identification card program.
  Madam Speaker, the Basic Pilot Extension Act should be opposed for 
all of the reasons I have described. Another serious concern is that 
the Judiciary Committee did not hold any hearings on the changes to the 
information sharing provisions of this bill, and the Subcommittee on 
Immigration did not consider this bill at all. The Basic Pilot 
Extension Act of 2003 will threaten the privacy of all Americans and is 
riddled with flaws. I urge all of my colleagues to oppose this bill.
  Mr. REYES. Madam Speaker, I rise today in opposition to H.R. 2359, 
the Basic Pilot Extension Act. The existing Basic Pilot Verification

[[Page H9897]]

Program assists employers in verifying the authenticity of new 
employee's eligibility information. The program operates in six States, 
including my state of Texas. Authorization for the program expires next 
month.
  The bill before us today would go a great deal further than extending 
the pilot program in its current form. It would expand the program to 
all 50 states, despite the fact that a recent Immigration and 
Naturalization Service-funded report concluded that the Basic Pilot 
Program is not ready for nationwide implementation. The report cited 
concerns about invasions of privacy and factual inaccuracies. We need 
to address these problems before we extend the program to the rest of 
the United States.
  Also, the bill expands the program beyond the area of employment, 
allowing any government agency to use the system to verify the 
immigration status of any individual for any purpose authorized by law. 
Expanding the program in this way would only magnify privacy concerns 
with the current Basic Pilot Program.
  Finally, it is unfortunate that this bill is being brought before the 
House under suspension of the rules. Legislation of this magnitude 
requires far more than careful consideration that we have been afforded 
the time to have here today.
  Madam Speaker, for all of these reasons, I urge my colleagues to vote 
no on H.R. 2359, the Basic Pilot Extension Act.
  Mr. BACA. Madam Speaker, I rise in opposition of H.R. 2359, the Basic 
Pilot Extension Act. H.R. 2359 will create a new and controversial 
identification database that will threaten the privacy of all 
Americans.
  The program allows employers to verify the legal status of newly 
hired employees by using immigration databases. Although well 
intentioned, the program is severely flawed. Over 40 percent of the 
employees denied by this program, were authorized to work. We need a 
program that works, not one that unjustly denies families the ability 
to put food on the table.
  Some employers that have used this program as a screening tool, have 
not allowed workers to contest incorrect information, and have even 
refused to let employees know of their rights under the program.
  Madam Speaker, the information being reported by this database is 
flawed and it is a result of the inaccurate and outdated information 
contained in the databases of the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration 
Services. We cannot continue to support a program that denies workers 
the ability to earn a living just because a computer in Washington, 
D.C. has bad information. But, the most troubling part of this bill is 
that it allows any local or state government to look up the immigration 
status of any American citizen or immigrant for virtually any reason.
  It is clear that H.R. 2359 will place all workers, and especially 
minority and immigrant workers, at risk of discrimination, mistreatment 
and labor rights violations. Immigration experts, civil rights 
advocates, and even a Congressionally mandated study of the program all 
say that--the Basic Pilot should not expand nationwide.
  Madam Speaker, I urge my colleagues to oppose this legislation.
  Mr. SHERMAN. Madam Speaker, today H.R. 2359, the Basic Pilot 
Extension Act, was brought to this floor on the suspension calendar. 
The suspension calendar should be used to pass bills which are not 
controversial. Given the issues involved with this legislation, the 
leadership should not have brought this bill to the floor as a 
``suspension.'' This is but the most recent example of abuse of the 
suspension calendar during the 108th Congress.
  Ms. WOOLSEY. Madam Speaker, I rise in opposition to the H.R. 2359, 
The Basic Pilot Extension Act, because this program has not 
demonstrated a record strong enough to be extended across the country. 
I know first hand that this pilot program has not lived up to its 
expectations because my home state of California is one of the test 
areas.
  Madam Speaker, as you know, many employers in the counties I 
represent, Marin and Sonoma counties, just over the Golden Gate Bridge 
from S.F, depend on immigrant workers to staff their vineyards, dairies 
and businesses. I certainly support providing employers the tools they 
need to hire only those workers authorized to work in the United 
States. While the intent of this pilot program was a good one, it has 
not lived up to its promises. Now it is plagued with problems including 
new hires being denied by the program when they were actually 
authorized to work and employers abusing the program to engage in 
prohibited employment practices. These anti-worker practices include 
pre-employment screening, denying eligible workers jobs or the 
opportunity to contest inaccuracies in the database. Creating more 
loopholes for bad employers to conduct unfair labor practices was not 
the intent of this pilot project.
  Madam Speaker, until these and other abuses are fixed, we should not 
be quick to expand the program. That's why I am asking my colleagues to 
join me in opposing this legislation, so that we can that the basic 
pilot program is friendly to workers as well as employers before 
expanding the program.
  Mr. BEREUTER. Madam Speaker, this Member rises in strong support of 
H.R. 2359, the Basic Pilot Extension Act of 2003. This Member, who is a 
co-sponsor of the measure, would like to thank the distinguished 
gentleman from California (Mr. Calvert) for introducing the measure and 
the distinguished gentleman from Wisconsin (Mr. Sensenbrenner), the 
Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, for his efforts in bringing H.R. 
2359 to the Floor.
  Under H.R. 2359, the Basic Pilot Program, which is an employment 
verification program, would be extended through 2008 and, indeed, would 
expand access to the program for the entire U.S.
  Madam Speaker, the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986 
correctly prohibited employers from knowingly hiring illegal aliens or 
people with non-immigrant visas. Unfortunately, at that time, Congress 
did not give employers the corresponding tools with which to comply 
with this Act.
  For example, due to concerns regarding discrimination, employers are 
limited in the questions they may ask of potential employees to verify 
if those individuals are authorized to work in the U.S. If the 
employment verification documents that potential employees produce 
appear to be legitimate, then employers must accept the documents as 
legitimate without further inquiry of the potential employee.
  During Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) enforcement 
raids, certain employers were found to have hired large numbers of 
illegal aliens, either knowingly or unintentionally, and subsequently 
they were subject to penalties. As technology has progressed to allow 
for the cheap and quick production of legitimate-looking fraudulent 
documents, the inability of employers to distinguish between valid 
documents and fraudulent documents has significantly increased. It 
became clear that businesses dedicated to complying with the IRCA 
needed new tools to assist with the endeavor.
  When the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act 
(IIRIRA) of 1996 was enacted, it authorized the creation of three 
employment verification tools, including the Basic Pilot Program. 
Initially, employers in California, Florida, Texas, Illinois, Florida, 
New York, and Iowa could voluntarily use the Basic Pilot Program to 
compare the information received from potential employees with 
Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) databases to determine if 
potential employees could be employed legally in the U.S.
  Madam Speaker, throughout the 1990's, many legal immigrants and 
illegal aliens moved to Nebraska seeking jobs in the meatpacking 
industry. Subsequently, this Member began to receive contacts from 
businesses in his district concerned about their capacity to comply 
with the IRCA. Therefore, on November 30, 1999, this Member joined his 
House and Senate colleagues in the Nebraska Congressional Delegation in 
a letter to then-INS Commissioner Doris Meissner requesting the 
extension of the Basic Pilot Program to Nebraska. This Member continues 
to firmly believe that providing Nebraska businesses with the tools to 
hire a legal workforce is an important component in maintaining a 
stable economy in the state and in meeting needs to effectively enforce 
immigration laws in this country's interior. On March 19, 1999, the 
U.S. Department of Justice granted Nebraska businesses access to the 
Basic Pilot Program. Currently, about eight Nebraska businesses 
actively utilize the program.
  Madam Speaker, for Congress to allow the Basic Pilot Program to lapse 
following the horrific and unspeakable terrorist attacks of September 
11, 2001, would demonstrate true negligence. More than ever, the U.S. 
must fully enforce its immigration laws to protect its citizens from 
future attacks. In its capacity to identify document fraud and illegal 
aliens, the Basic Pilot Program can indeed play a role in the fight 
against terrorism.
  In conclusion, this Member encourages his colleagues to vote for H.R. 
2359.
  Mr. OSBORNE. Madam Speaker, I am pleased to be an original cosponsor 
of H.R. 2359, the Basic Pilot Extension Act of 2003, which passed the 
House Judiciary Committee on September 24, 2003. The Basic Pilot 
Verification Program is a voluntary program that employers use in 
conjunction with the Bureau of Immigration and Citizenship Services 
(BCIS) and the Social Security Administration (SSA) to confirm 
employment eligibility in my home State of Nebraska, among others. This 
pilot, which started in November 1997, involves verification checks of 
the SSA and the BCIS databases of all newly hired employees regardless 
of citizenship. Unfortunately, the Basic Pilot program is scheduled to 
terminate on November 30 of this year.
  The agricultural economy of Nebraska's Third District relies heavily 
on immigrant labor. Employers across my district have told me

[[Page H9898]]

that they want to comply with the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 
1986, which made it unlawful for employers to knowlingly hire or employ 
aliens not eligible to work, and required employers to verify documents 
of new workers. However, a simply visual check of these documents by 
employers will not tell them if these are in fact counterfeit 
documents, and that this potential new hire is in fact an illegal 
alien.
  I have heard from many business people in the Third District about 
their need for the Basic Pilot program. Employers need the appropriate 
tools to ensure that they are indeed hiring eligible workers. By 
checking the new hire's documents against the BCIS and SSA databases, 
the Basic Pilot program allows employers to feel more confident about 
their new hire.
  H.R. 2359 will extend the Basic Pilot program for employers in 
Nebraska and all other states for five years. I thank my colleague, 
Representative Calvert, for introducing this much needed extension, and 
I urge all my colleagues to support H.R. 2359.
  Mr. SMITH of Texas. Madam Speaker, the Basic Pilot Program was 
originally authorized in the 1996 Immigration Act. It allows employers 
in six states to verify the validity of the Social Security numbers of 
new hires. H.R. 2359 reauthorizes this program, and expands it to allow 
employers in all fifty states to voluntarily participate in the Basic 
Pilot Program.
  The program offers employers the opportunity to ensure that the 
individuals they hire are eligible to work in the United States. 
Illegal immigrants drive down wages and take jobs from American 
workers. Recent studies show immigration has depressed the wages of 
American workers by more than $2,500 per year. Our education systems 
spend millions of dollars educating illegal immigrant children. And 
hospitals spend millions of dollars providing health care to illegal 
aliens.
  Ninety percent of the American people believe that we should reduce 
illegal immigration. Seventy-nine percent of individuals polled 
recently agree that the Federal government should require employers to 
verify the work status of potential employees.
  The main attraction for the 10 to 20 million illegal aliens who have 
crossed our borders is work. If we want to stop illegal immigration--
and its negative impacts--we must reduce the availability of jobs for 
illegal aliens. This pilot program combats illegal immigration because 
it allows employers to make sure they are hiring someone who is 
eligible to work in the United States.
  Everyone who is concerned about lost jobs and unemployment should 
support the expansion of the Basic Pilot Program. If we are serious 
about saving jobs for citizens and legal immigrants, we should pass 
H.R. 2359.
  Mr. SENSENBRENNER. Madam Speaker, I yield back the balance of my 
time.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mrs. Biggert). 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. 2359, as amended.
  The question was taken.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. In the opinion of the Chair, two-thirds of 
those present have voted in the affirmative.
  Mr. HINOJOSA. Madam Speaker, on that I demand the yeas and nays.
  The yeas and nays were ordered.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to clause 8 of rule XX and the 
Chair's prior announcement, further proceedings on this motion will be 
postponed.

                          ____________________





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