- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Full text of interview with Rep. James Sensenbrenner Jr.

Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., the House point man on immigration, yesterday said that a guest-worker program like the one proposed by President Bush is amnesty and that he cannot accept it in a final immigration bill.

“A guest-worker program that applies to illegal aliens already here is an amnesty,” the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee said in an interview with The Washington Times.

As the chief House negotiator in any House-Senate conference committee on immigration, he said voters will not accept a plan that amounts to amnesty, and said Mr. Bush’s proposal would simply push the problem down the road.

“It seems to me that if you give these people the temporary cards, and the president talked a little bit about that yesterday out in Kansas, whether they are three-year cards or six-year cards or any other term, how do you get them to go back home when they expire?” he said. “We end up simply postponing the decision on what to do about illegal aliens until the end of the validity of these cards.”

He also said when Congress and the White House agreed in December 2004 to increase the U.S. Border Patrol by 2,000 agents a year, then two months later the president only funded 210 positions, it “was embarrassing both to the administration and those of us who fought for increased assets for border protection in the intelligence bill and then were let down.”

The Wisconsin Republican was a driving force behind last year’s House immigration-enforcement bill, which calls for nearly 700 miles of border fence, requires employers to verify employees’ Social Security numbers and allows border county sheriffs to enforce immigration laws.

He said he would prefer that Congress make sure border and interior enforcement is in place before a guest-worker program begins to operate.

“The guest-worker provision won’t work without interior enforcement and verification of Social Security numbers. It’s as simple as that,” he said.

He also said the U.S. Chamber of Commerce “should be ashamed of themselves” for sponsoring meetings with Luis Ernesto Derbez, Mexico’s secretary of foreign affairs, in Chicago in December, after which the minister criticized the House bill.

“What they are doing is saying that it’s OK to use fake Social Security numbers. I don’t think that anybody who is in business ought to be condoning the use of false documentation,” Mr. Sensenbrenner said. “If they continue promoting speeches by Mexican government officials then maybe they ought to register as an agent of a foreign government under the law.”

Randy Johnson, the chamber’s vice president for labor and immigration issues, said the chamber “does not condone, and never has condoned, the use of fake Social Security numbers, and we recognize that improved worksite verification is necessary as part of any reform package.”

But he said verification has to be phased in and “shown to work.” He said the bill sponsored by Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, also has verification.

He also said the chamber did not invite Mr. Derbez to attack Mr. Sensenbrenner, and said the chamber works with Mr. Sensenbrenner on many issues.

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