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House Tackles Wide-Ranging Immigration Reform Bill

Wed., March 20, 1996

On the day President Clinton called for hiring 700 more Border Patrol guards and 150 new immigration inspectors, the House waded into a wide-ranging bill to cut back both legal and illegal immigration.

“Both are broken and both should be fixed,” said Rep. Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee’s immigration panel.

“To wait any longer would put us on the wrong side of the strong feelings of the American people, on the wrong side of common sense, and on the wrong side of our responsibility as legislators,” said the Texas Republican.

The 400-page bill - co-sponsored by 128 lawmakers, most of them Republicans - would add 5,000 Border Patrol agents over five years; crack down on alien smugglers, document forgers and illegal aliens who overstay temporary visas; and reduce annual legal immigration from 800,000 to about 560,000.

It also would favor spouses and minor children when admitting relatives, limit illegal aliens’ access to social services, bar members of foreign terrorist organizations and set up an 800-number for employers to check whether job hunters are eligible to work in the United States.

The White House budget office said Tuesday that Clinton might veto the bill if growers succeed in adding an amendment that would allow an additional 250,000 laborers into the country as temporary workers.

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