Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Dreier introduces 2 immigration reform bills

Pasadena Star-News - News

Dreier presents legislation on touchy re-election issue

By Brenda Gazzar , Staff Writer

Rep. David Dreier, who survived re-election last fall amid accusations he is soft on illegal immigration, introduced two immigration reform bills Tuesday to bolster the security of Social Security cards and to ease the immigration case backlog in federal courts.

The bills, introduced on the first day of the 109th Congress, are "a response to a need for real immigration reform and border security, and a response to what we've heard from our constituents, which is that we need, as (Dreier) says ... common sense, practical solutions to these problems,' said Jo Maney, the press secretary for the Glendora Republican .

The first bill would require the Social Security Administration to issue Social Security cards with photos on them, as well as an electronic identification strip for employers to verify the legal status of prospective employees through a national database.

"The idea is to bring Social Security cards into the 21st century so they are far more difficult to duplicate fraudulently,' Maney said.

The bill, called the Illegal Immigration Enforcement and Social Security Protection Act of 2005, also increases penalties for employers who hire illegal aliens from a maximum of $10,000 to $50,000. It also makes the hiring of a known illegal worker a federal offense punishable by up to five years in prison per count instead of a total of five years.

The bill would also add 10,000 new Homeland Security personnel to ensure employer compliance.

Also called the Bonner Plan, the bill is supported by the nationwide Border Patrol union.

"This will reduce the volume of illegal traffic at the borders dramatically, allowing the Border Patrol to have a halfway decent shot to catch criminals and terrorists coming across our borders,' said T.J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council.

But some say the Bonner Plan does not go far enough.

Andy Ramirez, executive director of Friends of the Border Patrol, said he believes the penalties should be stiffer for employers who hire illegal aliens.

"It should be $50,000 per illegal alien,' Ramirez said.

The second bill introduced by Dreier, the Citizens and Legal Immigrants (CALI) Act, aims to address the backlog of immigration cases by reinstating the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit as the sole venue for challenges to alien-removal orders, Maney said.

Legislation passed in 1996 and a subsequent Supreme Court decision have opened the door for aliens to take their cases to other venues.

On Tuesday, some Latino activists criticized Dreier's legislation as pandering to political forces.

"In very simple and open language ... he allowed himself to be used as a pawn by these powerful nativist forces that have been pressuring him,' said Armando Navarro, a professor of ethnic studies at UC Riverside.

Dreier was targeted as a political sacrifice by talk show hosts John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou from KFI-AM'S "The John and Ken Show' before the November election for his record on illegal immigration.

Staff Writer Jason Newell contributed to this report. Brenda Gazzar can be reached at (909) 483-9355 or by e-mail at .

So, did Dreier get the message from his constituents? Or is he getting it from his colleagues, like Elton Gallegly? Or from Los Angeles Talk Radio hosts John and Ken?

I suppose it makes no difference as long as he gets the message that illegal immigration is a problem in Southern California and that the President's Amnesty Plan is not the solution.

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