March 18, 2005

Commentary:

“REAL ID ACT”: Nothing to do With IRAQ or National Security

By Congresswoman Linda Sánchez (D-CA)

As the proud daughter of immigrants, I am pleased to be serving my country as a Member of Congress. It is a great honor to be giving back to America, a country that has given so much to my family. Like millions of immigrants, my parents came here in search of the American Dream for their children - to secure for them a quality education and a promising future.

That’s why I’m outraged that the Republican Party has launched an unrelenting anti-immigrant agenda. The truth of the matter is that Republicans are using national security as a shield to punish law-abiding, hard-working, and tax-paying immigrants. There are 8 million undocumented workers in this country, who are cleaning our offices, washing our dishes, and picking our fruits and vegetables. These are jobs Americans don’t even want. Without these immigrants our economy would falter.

The most recent affront by the Republican Leadership was the inclusion of the so-called “Real ID” Act in the funding bill for the war in Iraq. Let’s get something straight — those who claim that taking away driver’s licenses from immigrants will enhance national security are wrong. Remember, all 19 of the September 11th hijackers entered this country with legal immigration documents. Legislation prohibiting undocumented immigrants from obtaining drivers’ licenses would not have stopped a single 9-11 hijacker. If we truly want to make this country safer, President Bush should pay for adequate border patrol and port security as promised.

For example, a crane operator at the Port of Los Angeles recently discovered 32 Chinese stowaways in a container just unloaded from a Panamanian freighter. The State of California already prohibits undocumented immigrants from getting drivers’ licenses, but that did not discourage these stowaways from trying to sneak into California and the United States. The people at our ports and borders are our first- and best- line of defense.

That’s why the Intelligence Reform law based on the 9-11 Commission recommendations calls for 10,000 new border guards, 40,000 new detention beds to hold people awaiting deportation, and 4,000 new immigration inspectors. Yet the President’s 2006 Budget does not include funding for any of these security improvements other than a shockingly limited 210 new border patrol agents. If we are going to get serious about border security, we need more resources and more people on the border, and at our ports.

It’s a sad day when Republicans use the pretext of national security to attack immigrants who pose no real threat to our safety. America is a country built by immigrants, and we should remain a country that is open and welcoming to those seeking freedom. The U.S. has always been a beacon of hope and we must continue to guard the light of liberty for those who are oppressed or displaced.

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