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Sessions: Current House border bill a symbolic gesture, will not end immigration lawlessness

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) speaks on the floor of the United States Senate.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) speaks on the floor of the United States Senate.

Republicans won a historic midterm vote on the promise to take real action—not symbolic gestures—to end the immigration lawlessness. It is essential that any immigration measures moved by the Republican Congress actually do the job. Too often, Congress will pass anything on immigration except that which will actually work. Indeed, the repudiated Gang of Eight bill was touted as the “toughest border security [and] enforcement measures in U.S. history.”

Unfortunately, border legislation being marked-up on Wednesday in the House Homeland Security Committee again fails to include the measures necessary to fulfill its promises.

One of the most dramatic ways in which the President has undermined immigration enforcement is by ordering agents to release apprehended illegal border-crossers by the tens of thousands. Yet the pending legislation does nothing to end this endemic practice of catch-and-release, ensuring large amounts of illegal immigration will continue unabated.

The Chairman McCaul proposal does not include the following reforms needed to achieve a sound immigration system: it does not end catch-and-release; it does not require mandatory detention and return; it does not include worksite enforcement; it does not close dangerous asylum and national security loopholes; it does not cut-off access to federal welfare; and it does not require completion of the border fence. Surprisingly, it delays and weakens the longstanding unfulfilled statutory requirement for a biometric entry-exit visa tracking system.

If Congress learned anything from last year’s ongoing border disaster, it should be that border security cannot be achieved unless immigration agents are permitted to do their jobs and our laws are actually being enforced. A nation cannot control its borders if being caught violating those borders does not result in one’s swift return home.

As it stands now, Congress provides billions of dollars every year to the Department of Homeland Security for border security and immigration enforcement and yet DHS uses those resources to flout the laws Congress has passed, rather than to enforce them. Without ending catch-and-release, any additional funds for DHS will simply be used to facilitate the transfer of more illegal immigrants into U.S communities. Border security must be approached differently in a time when we have a President who makes up his own laws, and where illegal immigrants actually hope they will be apprehended so they can be released into an American city or town. We live in a new reality.

As such, it is essential that any border plan include some of the following measures, or that these measures be adopted first:

· Mandatory E-Verify

· Mandatory detention and repatriation for illegal entrants

· Expedited deportation for border-crossers

· Close asylum loopholes

· Bar access to welfare and tax credits

· Penalties for the Administration’s continued failure to implement the biometric entry-exit system as required by law

· Penalties for the Administration’s continued failure to build 700 miles of double-layer border fence

· Refusing visas to countries with high overstay rates or that will not repatriate their citizens

Americans have begged and pleaded for years for an end to the lawlessness. But the politicians have refused to listen. Time and again, proposals are offered with tough promises that the legislation does not fulfill. This time must be different. We cannot be satisfied with measures that create the appearance of doing something while changing little. We need reforms that actually work, protecting the jobs and communities of the American citizens we represent.

Jeff Sessions represents Alabama in the United States Senate.