Few public policy issues are more important to southern Californians than illegal immigration. I'm sure I don't have to tell you that illegal aliens have a huge impact on our state and local economies, taxes, public health services, and public school system. I thought you might be interested in knowing what we've been doing in Congress to directly address this problem.

According to the federal Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), 125,000 illegal aliens come to California each year. The 1.7 million illegals living in California represent approximately 43 percent of all illegal aliens in the United States. While California state and local taxes paid by illegal aliens amount to approximately $900 million annually, public services consumed by this group in the form of education, health care, incarceration, etc., cost California taxpayers at least $3.4 billion every year. And this number is growing proportionally with the arrival of new illegals each day.

This must stop. Our personal compassion and understanding may be limitless, but our financial resources are not. Nor is our democratic system of government endlessly pliant to absorb the social impact caused by the growing influx of illegal aliens.

The most sweeping piece of congressional legislation to address this problem, H.R. 2202, passed the House on March 21, 1996 by a vote of 333-87. Prior to final passage of this bill the House voted to remove a majority of the provisions related to legal immigration. I voted against this amendment, as I believed there were important reforms in H.R. 2202 pertaining to legal immigration that the House needed to address. Nonetheless, this bill, which I supported, addresses several important matters. Specifically, HR 2202 will:

_ Increase a woefully understaffed border patrol by 1,000 agents each year for five years, or a total of 5,000 new border patrol agents;

_ Create new multiple fences along our heavily trafficked 14-mile stretch of border between San Diego and Tijuana;

_ Impose civil penalties on immigrants who do not leave America on time;

_ Allow for the deportation of aliens if, within seven years of arrival, they receive 12 months of welfare benefits;

_ Provide new rules for expedited removal of aliens without a hearing before an immigration judge;

_ Strengthen the enforcement of employer sanctions by increasing the number of INS employer sanctions investigators by 500, with added agents in areas of high concentration such as southern California;

_ Ensure that criminal alien assistance funds under the 1994 Crime Bill go directly to counties and cities, as well as states;

_ Authorize states to deny illegal alien children the right to attend public schools;

_ Prohibit illegal aliens from receiving federal benefits and restrict benefits for legal aliens;

_ Prohibit illegals from ever being eligible for legal alien status;

_ Require employers who replace U.S. workers with temporary foreign workers to pay the new employee at least 110 percent of the U.S. workers wages, thus eliminating the incentive to provide jobs to low-wage alien workers.

In addition to these reforms, both the House and the Senate have agreed to consider future legislation regarding legal immigration reform.

A House and Senate conference committee will soon meet to produce a final version of illegal immigration reform. I look forward to voting for final passage of this bill to ensure the federal government and state and local law enforcement have the tools necessary to secure our borders.

Please know that I will remain committed to achieving a fair immigration policy that is worthy of our nation's heritage, but at the same time protects our citizens from the social and financial burdens of unchecked illegal immigration.

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