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August 1995, Volume 2, Number 8

House Subcommittee Approves Immigration Reform

On July 20, the House Judiciary's Immigration and Claims Subcommittee approved by voice vote the Immigration in the National Interest Act of 1995, HR 1915, sponsored by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), and co-sponsored by 59 representatives. The measure will be considered by the full House Judiciary Committee in September.

The measure deals with both legal and illegal immigration. It would reduce legal immigration by eliminating current slots reserved for the adult brothers and sisters of US citizens.

The bill seeks to reduce illegal immigration by doubling the number of INS investigators, doubling the Border Patrol within the next five years, and stiffening penalties for illegal use of counterfeit government documents. Under the bill, states would be reimbursed for the costs of jailing illegal immigrants, including those in county jails, and providing emergency health care for illegal aliens. The bill does not include a border crossing fee.

The House Appropriations Committee attached an amendment to an omnibus appropriations bill that would eliminate funding for inland immigration checkpoints near San Clemente and Temecula and move the INS agents who currently operate them to the border. The change would be effective Oct. 1, 1995, when FY 1996 begins. There are 35 active INS checkpoints in the US.

The Border Patrol believes that the checkpoints are effective and asked for full funding to keep them open all the time. More than 150,000 aliens were apprehended at the checkpoints during the past three years. According to some reports, 62 percent of all illegal entrants use smugglers to cross the US-Mexican border, and then pay up to $300 in additional fees to be smuggled past the active checkpoints.

At the end of June 1995, Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-CA) presented a list of 100 proposals to House Speaker Newt Gingrich with the promise that, if they were adopted, illegal immigration would be drastically reduced. The 54-member House Task Force recommended that children born to illegal aliens in the US no longer become US citizens automatically, and that hospitals wishing to be reimbursed by the federal government notify the INS before releasing suspected illegal alien patients.

Critics of these proposals worry that it could lead to the creation of a permanent underclass of sub-citizens--immigrants who live in the US, but are denied public schooling and government benefits.

Gallegly's task force also recommended that illegal aliens apprehended in the US be fined $250 the first time caught, forfeit their assets the second time, and face time in jail for a third apprehension. The INS currently fingerprints and photographs the 2,000 illegal aliens apprehended every day in San Diego and, with an estimated 20 percent or 400 repeater offenders, implementing this proposal would soon require far more than the 500-bed detention facility currently available. Gallegly recommended the use of closed military bases to hold aliens.

Joan Lowry, "Pushing to limit US birthright," San Francisco Examiner, July 23, 1995. Michael Granberry and Sebastian Rotella, "House Panel Puts Checkpoint Closer to Closure," Los Angeles Times, July 20, 1995. Marcus Stern, "Immigration reform clears key House committee, San Diego Union-Tribune, July 21, 1995. Faye Fiore, "Congressman's Proposal Mirrors Prop. 187," Los Angeles Times, July 19, 1995.