Graves advocates bill to fight illegal immigration

By Ken Newton/St. Joseph News-Press, Mo.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008 7:56 AM CDT

A bill with 147 co-sponsors and ample support from both parties usually has no trouble making it to the floor of the U.S. House. With immigration policy, convention seldom applies.

But Rep. Sam Graves hopes a procedural move called a discharge petition will force an up-or-down vote on legislation he believes will help forestall the wave of people coming into the United States illegally.
The Northwest Missouri Republican, who signed on to the Secure America through Verification and Enforcement Act the day it was introduced last November, said Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi opposes the bill because it contains no amnesty component.

A discharge petition, Mr. Graves said, would compel a vote he insisted would succeed.

"If it does come up, it will pass quickly," the lawmaker told a group at Ag Processing Inc. in St. Joseph on Tuesday.

The so-called SAVE Act, introduced by Rep. Heath Shuler, a North Carolina Democrat, would increase the number of border control agents by 8,000 in the next five years, along with adding nearly 1,300 other immigration officials. It would expedite removal of illegal immigrants, add infrastructure for southern border oversight and boost enforcement on employer verification processes.

Mr. Graves said employers need user-friendly systems in order to check a job applicant's employment eligibility. Further, he lamented the federal government's inter-agency failings in locating false documentation and identity theft.

"There's no reason we can't have some of these agencies talking to each other," he said. "If that Social Security number's paying taxes in two places, there's a problem there."

Patt Lilly, chief administrative officer of Triumph Foods, told the congressman his company uses the E-Verify system on a daily basis but still runs headlong into bogus documents and the threat of discrimination lawsuits.

The key, he said, is being able to verify a job applicant's information. If the employer has the right tools, "the business community can police itself because, frankly, there's too much downside not to," Mr. Lilly said.

Of the legislation's cosponsors, at least 48 are Democrats. For a discharge petition to force a vote, it requires the signature of 218 House members. As of last Wednesday, 163 had signed the petition, a half-dozen of them Democrats.

Ken Newton can be reached


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