Pence Plan Would Send Illegal Immigrants Home
LYNN NEARY, host:
Members of a House subcommittee hold hearings today in Laredo, Texas to discuss the need for overhauling immigration. Here in Washington, the Senate, the House of Representatives, and the White House, are struggling to find a plan everyone can agree on.
Indiana Republican Congressman Mike Pence is offering the newest idea. Congressman Pence's plan has gotten the attention of President Bush. The Congressman joined us on the line from his home in Indiana and laid out his proposal for us.
Representative MIKE PENCE (Republican, Indiana): My proposal is - I refer to as a no-amnesty immigration reform proposal. It puts border security first for two years, at the end of which the secretary of Homeland Security must certify to the Congress and the White House that the border security measures have been substantially completed. And at that time, we would initiate a new series of what I call Ellis Island centers outside the United States of America that could process the 10-12 million illegal immigrants in this country by asking them to leave the country and apply for the legal right to be here under a two-year work visa.
NEARY: First of all, is it really possible to get 11 to 12 million illegal immigrants to self-deport?
Rep. PENCE: I believe it is. The proposal that I'm advancing includes all of the tough employer sanctions and fines that were included in the House-passed bill from last December, and I believe that when we put those tough fines in place after two years and after six years, and we give an opportunity for people who are in this country illegally to make a quick trip home to get right with the law, that both the carrot of the opportunity to take a one-week trip home and get a new worker visa, and the stick of the new employer sanctions, will work to bring millions of people under the color of the law.
NEARY: You said it would take one week. That seems fantastic to me that it would only take one week.
Rep. PENCE: Well, it would be one week from the time that an illegal immigrant arrived on the doorstep of an Ellis Island center. We would contract these centers out to American firms that do this for a living and they would have to certify that from the time an applicant arrived on their doorstep for a background check, a health screening, and to confirm employment, that they could process them and make a recommendation for a new guest-worker visa within three to five days.
NEARY: Now, as I understand it, after six years, these guest workers, who are now legal, would have the right to apply for citizenship. Is that correct?
Rep. PENCE: That's right, but it would not be an automatic path to citizenship. Under the Senate legislation, as I understand it, Lynn, once a person enrolls in the guest-worker program, they are set on an inextricable path to become an American citizen. I can't support that. I don't create an automatic path to citizenship, but I don't create any barriers to people in this program applying like anybody else to join the American family.
NEARY: And since this program could last for six years, since someone could be in this country legally under this proposal for six years as a guest worker, it's possible that children might be born. What about the children of guest workers?
Rep. PENCE: Well, I think it's a very real issue and I'd like people on these guest-worker visas to be able to have their families with them, but I think it would be prudent for us to look at - although it's not in my proposal yet -addressing the issue of birthright citizenship in this guest-worker visa.
It seems to me that this new guest-worker visa would be a great place for us to revisit the issue of birthright citizenship, to ask if people want to come to our country as guest workers and bring their families, to ask that their families, including future-born children, would also have the status of being guests.
Now, I assume that would be tested in the courts, but it would be a very good place for us, I think, to have that national debate and discussion.
NEARY: Republican Congressman Mike Pence from Indiana.
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