News Releases

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Isakson Introduces Comprehensive Immigration Legislation to Secure America's Borders
No Guest Worker Plan Until Department of Homeland Security Certifies Border Security Measures Are Fully Funded, Operational

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) today introduced legislation to require that the first step of comprehensive immigration reform be to secure the U.S. borders. His legislation also spells out in detail the increased manpower, equipment and technology necessary to stop the flood of illegal immigrants into our country.

"There is no way you can reform legal immigration unless you first stop the porous borders and the flow of illegal immigrants," Isakson said on the Senate floor. "I come to the floor of the Senate today to introduce a major immigration reform bill that I think is the bridge from where we are to where we must go. I stand ready to work with any senator on comprehensive immigration reform as long as securing the borders is the foundation of that reform."

Isakson's legislation would prohibit implementation of its guest worker program until the Department of Homeland Security certifies to the President and to the Congress that the border security provisions in the immigration legislation are fully funded and operational.

Those border security provisions that must be in place before a guest worker program can begin are spelled out in Isakson's bill and they include five main items:

  • Manpower - authorizing 14,000 new full-time Border Patrol Agents as well as 2,500 new Port of Entry Inspectors and 250 new Deputy U.S. Marshals.
  • Detention beds - authorizing detention facilities with an additional 20,000 detention beds to end the practice of "catch and release."
  • Barriers - authorize additional barriers such as fences, roads or underground sensors where appropriate.
  • Unmanned Aerial Vehicles -- authorize more than $450 million to acquire and maintain a squadron of unmanned aerial vehicles with high-tech sensors and satellite communication to allow coverage on the border by an unmanned vehicle 24 hours a day.
  • Biometric ID - establish a biometric secure identification card program so employers can verify an immigrants' status.
"The reason we have this problem is we have the greatest nation on the face of this Earth. You don't find anybody trying to break out of the United States of America. They're all trying to break in," Isakson said. "And they are for a very special reason: the promise of hope and opportunity and jobs. But we must make the only way to come to America be the legal way to come to America."

Once the border security provisions included in the bill are implemented, Isakson's legislation would give individuals who are here in the country illegally one year to come forward and identify themselves. These individuals would be required to clear the terrorist watch list and a criminal background investigation as well as proving that they or the head of their household are employed. These individuals would then receive a two-year temporary work permit, renewable as long as they remain law-abiding, remain employed and complete within those first two years an approved assimilation program that includes English and civics lessons.

Isakson's legislation would not offer any special pathway to citizenship for these individuals. They would have to pursue citizenship through the same rules and procedures that are already in place for any other immigrant.

"We've had in this country for two centuries a pathway to citizenship, and it's known as legal immigration. It's absolutely essential that we restore the confidence of the American people, and we send the message to those that yearn to come to this country that there's one way to get here and that one way is the legal route," Isakson said

Isakson believes it is critical to secure the borders before implementing a new guest worker program because otherwise the United States will face a repeat of 1986, when amnesty was granted to 3 million illegal immigrants without enhancing border security first. The result, Isakson said, was that millions more immigrants have flooded into the United States illegally and now are straining our schools, our hospitals and our local jails.

In July 2006, Isakson was the first member of Congress to propose using emergency supplemental funds to secure the border when he spoke on the Senate floor calling on the President to send a request for the funding to Congress.

In May 2006, during debate in the Senate on immigration reform, Isakson introduced a similar trigger amendment that would have prohibited the implementation of any program granting legal status to those who have entered the country illegally until the Secretary of Homeland Security had certified to the President and to the Congress that the border security provisions in the immigration legislation were funded and operational. The Senate defeated the amendment on May 16 by a vote of 40 yeas to 55 nays, but Isakson believes he has gained even more support for his border security trigger in the months since.

Click here to view a copy of the bill.