- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 23, 2004

The Republican chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee has introduced sweeping new legislation that would enhance border security and implement new technology to make it more difficult to obtain and use fraudulent Social Security cards.

Drafted at the suggestion of a veteran Border Patrol agent, Rep. David Dreier of California said the Illegal Immigrant Enforcement and Social Security Protection Act of 2004 would increase the number of Border Patrol agents and add tough enforcement penalties to existing federal law that already bars U.S. businesses from hiring illegal aliens.

“We know why most people illegally cross our borders — the draw of our strong economy and the promise for a better life,” Mr. Dreier said. “This legislation gets to the root of that problem by adding tougher enforcement penalties to current law … and implementing new technology within the Social Security system that will make identity fraud far more difficult to perpetrate.

“The explosion in counterfeit identity documents and employers who are unable or unwilling to establish the authenticity of documents presented by job applicants severely undermines our national security,” he said.

The proposed bill has the support of Rep. Silvestre Reyes, Texas Democrat, who formerly was the chief of the Border Patrol’s El Paso and McAllen, Texas, sectors and T.J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council, whom Mr. Dreier said suggested the enhancement of identification technology for Social Security cards.

Mr. Dreier has referred to the bill as the “Bonner Plan,” describing it as “a critical step in bringing much-needed security measures to the process of hiring new workers.”

The 12-term congressman has been targeted in recent weeks by talk-show hosts over his voting record on immigration. Last week, hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside his California office as the hosts of a Los Angeles talk show criticized him for being weak on illegal immigration.

Under the proposal, the Social Security Administration would be required to issue cards with a photo of the cardholder, as well as an encrypted electronic identification strip unique to that person. The technology would allow employers to access a new employment eligibility database at the Department of Homeland Security for information on the applicant’s true identity and legal status.

Additionally, the proposal includes a $50,000 penalty for employers who knowingly hire illegal aliens who do not pass the scrutiny of the employment eligibility database — an increase from the current $10,000 fine. It also makes the hiring of a known illegal worker a federal offense punishable by up to five years in prison per count.

U.S. citizens and legal immigrants would be required to furnish the card only when seeking new employment in the United States. They would not be required to carry the card at all times and the proposal contains specific language saying the Social Security cards would not be used as national identification cards.

The bill also would authorize $50 million to hire 700 new Border Patrol agents and $100 million to Homeland Security to enforce compliance by employers and prosecute violators.

Mr. Bonner, a 26-year Border Patrol veteran who represents all 11,000 of the agency’s nonsupervisory agents, said the proposal would allow the Border Patrol “to concentrate its scarce resources on its primary mission of stopping terrorists, weapons of mass destruction and criminals from entering the United States.”

Mr. Dreier, during a floor speech this week, noted that the proposal was not a message to “the rest of the world that we intend to limit opportunities for the American dream to be fulfilled,” but a statement that foreign nationals seeking to come to the United States must do so legally.

“We must make clear that there will be no economic opportunity for anyone who enters this country illegally,” he said.

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