The Secure Our Borders First Act of 2015, which will be debated in the House starting this week, is a marked improvement over lawmakers' previous efforts on immigration, and it gives supporters of an enforcement-based approach most of what they want, says one of the bill's key backers.
"Is this a perfect bill? No, not at all," Rep. Lou Barletta, Pennsylvania Republican and Homeland Security Committee member, told "MidPoint" host Ed Berliner on Newsmax TV
Tuesday. "But I am satisfied that it is a lot better than it was."
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"It puts a lot more resources on the border," Barletta said, adding that H.R. 399 also holds U.S. Customs and Border Protection, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, "accountable for operational control in making sure that we secure the border."
Accountability is so critical, said Barletta, that the bill establishes an independent commission to judge whether the federal government is meeting to border-security benchmarks specified by the law — meaning the DHS secretary, who answers to the White House, will not be the legal arbiter of whether U.S. borders are rightly and objectively considered secure.
"He or she will not be making that determination," said Barletta. "That was a big sticking point for me."
Barletta, who gained national attention as a Pennsylvania mayor promoting a zero-tolerance approach to doing business with illegal immigrants, said that he is pressing for the House bill to also fund
bio-metric technology for more accurate tracking of people here on expired visas.
"Over 40 percent of the people that are here illegally in America didn't cross the border illegally," said Barletta. "They come on a visa, the visa expires and they never go home. We have no way of tracking them."
But he praised the bill for containing "a lot of the language" needed to fund more security measures, and not just for the southern U.S. frontier — site of last year's overwhelming surge of migrants fleeing Central America — but for the Canadian border as well as American air and sea ports.
The Secure Our Borders First Act contrasts sharply with the immigration policies that President Barack Obama is likely to champion on Tuesday night in his State of the Union
address to Congress, said Barletta.
"He somehow mixes illegal immigration with legal immigration," said Barletta, "and wants to paint a picture that if we don't give amnesty to the people that are here illegally, that somehow you're against immigrants."
While the president will defend his executive order allowing millions of people here illegally to begin receiving visas and work permits, Barletta argued that for lawful migrants, "there's nothing more harmful … than to allow 5 million more people to come here and compete for their jobs, or depress the wages of the American worker.
"I would like to hear the president say that he's going to stand up for the American worker, and not for the illegal immigrant," said Barletta.
He also said the president's expected economic proposal
— a massive tax hike on the rich to help the middle class — "may play well politically but it's simply bad policy."
"Raising taxes on a segment of the population that we're counting on to create jobs is simply a bad idea," said Barletta. "Anyone who has been in business would understand that."
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