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Revisiting Immigration Legislation

Immigration legislation is coming back to Congress piece by piece. This approach is becoming a political headache that could have some unintended consequences for Houston. Jodi Breisler reports from Washington.


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Congress is considering a number of individual measures on immigration. Currently the most controversial would require employers to check new hires’ identities using an existing government database. Woodlands Republican Kevin Brady cites recent press reports to say physical identification cards aren’t cutting it.

“They could put all the Houston police department full time on this thing and they couldn’t put a dent in it. On the Houston streets today you can buy a package of a fake driver’s license, fake social security card, and fake green card per package price of $350.”

Brady says the solution is a nationwide electronic employment verification system. One that would be enforced by the Social Security Administration. However, pilot programs indicate that on a nationwide basis millions of workers could be flagged incorrectly. Former Connecticut Congresswoman Barbara Kennelly says they’d be pouring into already overtaxed Social Security offices.

“I cannot say strongly enough what a serious disservice would be done to the American seniors and others if Social Security were required to carry the burden of this enormous, costly, unrelated immigration workload.”

Proponents of electronic verification promise more money, but others doubt the resources would be forthcoming or adequate. Democrat Sheila Jackson Lee says this is troubling for a system that already has problems.

“Social Security Administration and office have had a number of difficulties particularly in the Houston region, certainly one of them happens to be backlogs.”

The backlog is particularly bad for people trying to get disability benefits. At the Houston Bissonnet office, the average wait for a disability hearing is 528 days.
But Jackson Lee says the current crackdown on employers is not good for Houston either.

“The idea of raiding Shipley’s Do-nuts in Houston, Texas and getting individuals who may or may not be documented, but because of their last name, does not answer the question of huge industries that have large numbers of undocumented individuals, but because of their power, they are not raided.”

Jackson Lee says this cannot be solved without comprehensive reform. The individual measures are getting hearings where Congress members are dissecting each bill. They’re asking tough questions about how the new rules would play out in the real world. More hearings are planned after the Memorial Day Break.

From Capitol News Connection in Washington, I’m Jodi Breisler- Houston Public Radio News.

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