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Senator Mel Martinez (R-FL) writes letter on immigration

Posted by Stephen on June 14, 2007

As you may know, on June 7, 2007, the Senate was unable to reach an agreement on the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act (S. 1348) and the Senate Majority Leader has set aside S. 1348, for the time being. Delaying comprehensive reform does a disservice to America. I remain committed to working together with my colleagues to produce a tough but fair and workable piece of legislation that President Bush can sign into law during this Congress.

To do this, we must secure the border first. The first section of S. 1348 mandates that border security and worksite-enforcement benchmarks must be met before other elements of the legislation are implemented. This legislation will direct the Department of Homeland Security to complete construction of hundreds of miles of additional double layered fencing and create 200 miles of vehicle barriers on our border with Mexico. The department will hire and train 18,000 border patrol agents. In addition, this bill provides for surveillance technologies to enhance our ability to monitor the border, such as, 70 ground based radar and camera towers on the southern border and 4 unmanned aerial vehicles. However, physically securing the border will not solve the entire problem. Employers will be required to verify the work eligibility of all employees using an employment eligibility verification system, while all workers will be required to present stronger and more verifiable identification documents. Tough new anti-fraud measures will be implemented and stiff penalties imposed on employers who break the law.

After the border has been certified secure by the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security and the employment verification system is in place, the remaining provisions of the bill will go into effect. To address the labor shortage in industries with a demonstrated need such as, the Florida Citrus and Hospitality Industries, a guest worker program will be implemented. The purpose of this program is to relieve pressure on the border and provide a lawful way to meet the needs of our economy. The proposal creates a temporary worker program to fill jobs Americans are not doing. To ensure this program is truly temporary, workers will be limited to three two-year terms, with at least a year spent outside the United States between each term. A small percentage of temporary workers will be allowed to bring immediate family members only if they have the financial ability to support them and they are covered by health insurance.

Additionally, this legislation does away with a relative- based immigration system or Chain Migration and establishes a new merit-based system to select future immigrants based on the skills and attributes they will bring to the United States. Under the merit-based system, future immigrants applying for permanent residency in the U.S. will be assigned points for skills, education, and other attributes that further our national interest including: ability to speak English; level of schooling, including added points for training in science, math, and technology; employment in a specialty or high-demand field; employer endorsement; and certain family ties to the U.S. This merit- based system will enhance and ensure American competitiveness for the future and put American immigration policies in line with other industrialized nations.

It is my firm belief that addressing border security and cracking down on unscrupulous employers while doing nothing to address those already living here illegally would amount to de facto amnesty for those 12 million. Further, it is in the United States national security interest to learn the identity of these individuals.

Illegal immigrants who come out of the shadows will be given probationary status. Once the border security and enforcement benchmarks are met, they must pass a background check, remain employed, maintain a clean criminal record, pay an initial fine, determined by the size of their household as well as a state impact fee, and receive a counterfeit-proof biometric card to apply for a work visa or “Z visa.”

Some years later, these Z visa holders will be eligible to apply for limited permanent residency, but only after paying an additional $4,000 fine; completing accelerated English requirements and demonstrating knowledge of American civics; going to the back of the line while the current green card backlog clears; returning to their home country to file their application; and demonstrating merit under the merit-based system.

It is important to note that a petitioner for or holder of a Z visa can be deported at any time if a disqualifying factor is identified during background checks, such factors include but are not limited to– a criminal conviction, gang affiliation or terrorist activity.

With my full support, this bill declares that English is the national language of the United States and calls on the United States Government to preserve and enhance it, as well as enacting accelerated English requirements for many immigrants.

Please know that I will keep your concerns in mind as the Senate debates S.1348. I am aware that Congress has failed to oversee the enforcement of immigration law in the past. I believe that S. 1348 provides the Executive Branch, American employers and people aspiring to work in America or become Americans with a clear and workable policy that is efficient and fair. This is an important national security, economic, and humanitarian challenge, and I know the American people are looking to Congress for action and oversight.

Mel Martinez-United States Senator

Views expressed expressed in open letters do not necessarily reflect those of management of Conservative Viewpoints.

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