U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) today said he is cosponsoring bipartisan legislation to curb illegal immigration by providing law enforcement officials the tools they need to tighten the country’s borders and by expanding programs that help employers verify work eligibility.
“Other than the war on terror, there is nothing more important than fixing our broken immigration system,” Alexander said. “We need to regain the public’s confidence, and to do that we must first secure our borders. The SAVE Act does the right thing by both increasing our law enforcement’s ability to enforce existing laws and by expanding the current electronic employee verification system to ensure that those being hired are supposed to be here.”
Alexander said he is backing the Secure America through Verification and Enforcement (SAVE) Act, sponsored by U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR). The SAVE Act increases border security, improves the existing voluntary employer verification system while making it mandatory, and strengthens state and local law enforcement efforts to reduce illegal immigration. Alexander also is cosponsoring an identical measure introduced by U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R-LA).
The SAVE Act would reduce illegal immigration by:
• Adding 8,000 Border patrol agents during five years and increasing aerial and satellite surveillance of the border.
• Improving the E-Verify employment verification program and requiring it for all employees.
o E-Verify (formerly known as the Basic Pilot/Employment Eligibility Verification Program) is an Internet-based system operated by the Department of Homeland Security in partnership with the Social Security Administration that allows participating employers to electronically verify the employment eligibility of their newly hired employees.
o E-Verify is currently voluntary, but would become mandatory under the SAVE Act. Mandatory participation would be phased-in over four years, starting with the federal government, federal contractors and employers with more than 250 employees.
o Closes loopholes and requires information sharing among different agencies to detect people using stolen Social Security numbers.
• Enabling state and local law enforcement officials to more effectively enforce existing federal laws by providing additional staff, training and infrastructure.
o Adds more agents and training to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
o Increases the number of Federal District Court Judges to speed up deportation of illegal immigrants.
o Permits border governors to request additional agents during a security emergency.
This legislation is identical to a bill introduced in the House of Representatives by U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler (D-NC), which has 138 bipartisan cosponsors in the House.
Alexander voted against the Senate immigration bills in both 2006 and 2007 because they didn’t do enough to secure the border. During the Senate immigration debate last year, he proposed an amendment that would have prevented other immigration reform provisions from being implemented unless three out of four governors on the U.S. - Mexico border certify the border is secure.
# # #