Clearing up the myths on the immigration reform bill

Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO), gives it a try:

It has been said that if you tell a lie 1,000 times in politics, it becomes truth. Before we reach that threshold, there are two myths that must be dispelled about the House’s bipartisan immigration reform bill:

• The first myth is that the House bill would make criminals out of priests who run homeless shelters and soup kitchens.

The bill would not substantially change decades of law with respect to religious organizations. From 1986 until this year, no organization was allowed to conceal, harbor or shield an alien from law enforcement “in reckless disregard of the fact” that the alien is in this country illegally. During those two decades, no church was shut down for providing basic social services to illegal aliens. Regardless, I think congressional leaders would be open to language that reaffirms current practice and clarifies the bill’s intent.

But beyond soup and shelter, why should religious organizations be exempt from a law against actively concealing illegal aliens from law enforcement? It’s no secret that there are terrorist front organizations in the USA, and that these front organizations most often claim to be relief charities or religious groups. Just one example is the Holy Land Foundation, whose headquarters was only miles from our nation’s capital and which was shut down for supporting Hamas and other terrorist-related organizations.

• A second myth is that House Republicans want to make illegal presence in the USA a felony.

The truth is Democrats voted for the felony provision, and a majority of Republicans (including me) voted against it.

Right now, illegal presence in the USA is not a crime; it is a civil infraction. The House Judiciary Committee voted to make it a felony but then was counseled that millions of new felons could clog our courts.

Chairman James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., wrote an amendment to his own bill asking that the penalty be reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor; 191 Democrats and a few Republicans voted to keep the felony penalty in the hope that it would be a poison pill to defeat the measure. After his amendment lost, Sensenbrenner promised, “When this bill gets to (House-Senate) conference, those penalties will be made workable. You can count on that.”

The truth? The House bill would construct a security fence along our southern border, require federal and local law enforcement to cooperate on immigration matters, and mandate that employers use an instant check system to verify their employees’ legal status. Unlike the Senate bill, our version would offer no amnesty and would not add foreign workers to our already overwhelmed background-check system.

Polls released last week show that nearly two-thirds of Americans oppose amnesty, and that 90% say illegal immigration is a serious problem. The House’s approach is supported by most Americans. Now, we wait for the Senate to follow.

In the meantime, the controversy over the flying of the Mexican flags in place of US flags rages on.

(Cross-posted at Blogs For Bush)

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