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The Bush administration plans to respond to critics of its immigration policy and proposals with new initiatives that will be announced today at a joint press conference by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez.
The 25 initiatives, which make no mention of the border fence emphasized by critics, include adding more border personnel, funding additional detention beds, requiring most arrivals at ports-of-entry to use passports and training more state and local law-enforcement officers to identify and detain immigration offenders.
The plan would have provided a path to legal status for the estimated 12-20 million illegal aliens now in the U.S. Opponents called the provision amnesty, because it allowed illegals to acquire a “probationary” visa after only a quick, 24-hour background check. The White House contended the carefully crafted compromise would focus first on enforcement, allowing for more Border Patrol agents, more cameras and other technologies.
According to an advanced copy obtained by WND, the initiatives include the following:
Administrative Immigration Reforms
1. The Administration will add more border personnel and infrastructure, going beyond previously announced targets to adopt the metrics proposed by Senator Gregg during the immigration debate earlier this year.
2. By funding additional detention beds, the Administration will maintain the policy of “catch and return” for illegal aliens apprehended at the border.
3. The Departments of State and Homeland Security will expand the list of international gangs whose members are automatically denied admission to the U.S.
4. The Administration will implement an exit requirement at airports and seaports by the end of 2008, and will launch a pilot land-border exit system for guest workers.
5. By the end of 2008, the Administration will require most arrivals at our ports-of-entry to use passports or similarly secure documents.
6. Beginning this fall, the Secretary of Homeland Security will deliver regular “State of the Border” reports.
7. The Administration will train growing numbers of state and local law-enforcement officers to identify and detain immigration offenders whom they encounter in the course of daily law enforcement.
8. By this fall, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will have quintupled the number of enforcement teams devoted to removing fugitive aliens (from 15 to 75 in less than three years).
9. The Justice Department has initiated regulatory action to close a loophole that permits illegal immigrants who accept “voluntary departure” to nevertheless keep litigating their case.
10. On the day of this announcement, the Department of Homeland Security will issue a “No-Match” regulation which clarifies the responsibilities of employers who receive notice that employees’ names and corresponding Social Security numbers do not match the records at the Social Security Administration.
11. There are now 29 categories of documents that employers must accept to establish identity and work eligibility among their workers. The Department of Homeland Security will reduce that number and weed out the most insecure.
12. The Department of Homeland Security will raise the civil fines imposed on employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants by approximately 25 percent.
13. The Administration will continue its aggressive expansion of criminal investigations against employers who knowingly hire large numbers of illegal aliens.
14. The Administration will issue rules requiring all Federal contractors and vendors to use EVerify, the Federal electronic employment verification system that ensures employees are eligible to work in the U.S.
15. The Administration will offer assistance to help states make greater use of E-Verify.
16. The Administration will seek voluntary state partners willing to share their Department of
Motor Vehicles photos and records with E-Verify, a change that will help employers detect illegal immigrants using fraudulent driver’s licenses.
17. The Administration will bolster E-Verify by expanding the data sources the system can check.
STREAMLINING CURRENT GUEST-WORKER PROGRAMS
18. The Department of Labor will reform the H-2A ag-worker program so farmers can readily hire legal temporary workers, while protecting their rights.
19. The Department of Labor will issue regulations streamlining the H-2B program for non-ag seasonal workers.
20. The Department of Homeland Security will extend, from one year to three, the length of the NAFTA-created TN visa for professional workers from Canada and Mexico, removing the administrative hassle of annual renewals for these talented workers.
FIXING EXISTING IMMIGRATION
21. The Administration will reduce processing times for immigration background checks by adding agents and converting paper documentation into electronic forms.
22. The Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration will study and report on the technical and recordkeeping reforms necessary to deny credit in our Social Security system for illegal work.
23. The Office of Citizenship will unveil in September a revised naturalization test that emphasizes fundamentals of American democracy, and the rights and responsibilities of citizens.
24. The Office of Citizenship will introduce a Web-based electronic training program and convene eight regional training conferences for volunteers and adult educators who lead immigrants through the naturalization process.
25. The Department of Education will develop a free, Web-based model to help immigrants learn English.