Text of Sen. Orrin Hatch introducing immigration bill

Published: Thursday, Sept. 30 2010 10:00 a.m. MDT

In an effort to address this problem, my bill would provide our State Department consular officers the necessary legal authority to deny members of known gangs from coming into our country. It's not acceptable to allow these thugs to slip through the cracks.

After 9/11, many areas of our immigration system came under scrutiny. One of the top recommendations for reform to our system is to create an exit procedure for foreign visitors to the United States. Departure information is vital for determining whether foreign visitors are departing the U.S., maintaining their visa status, and evaluating future visa eligibility for these visitors. Not to mention, the ability to track departures goes to the heart of keeping America safe.

Without such exit procedures, however, the task of determining whether an alien has overstayed their visa in the United States is nearly impossible. Since 2004, the Department of Homeland Security has been testing exit programs and departure controls at U.S. airports for visa holders leaving the United States. As recently as July 2009, another pilot program was concluded by the Department of Homeland Security. To date, we still haven't seen any implementation of exit procedures for our country's visitors, nor have we seen any final conclusions made by the Department. It has been over six years since the first pilot program concluded. It is time to act.

Thus, my bill would require the Secretary of Homeland Security to create a mandatory exit procedure for foreign visitors to the United States. This should have been done years ago.

Additionally, the proposed legislation would eliminate the fraud-laden visa lottery, known as the Diversity Visa program. At present, applicants of the visa lottery program are open to being defrauded by so-called service providers who offer to assist them in obtaining Diversity Visa status. Unlike other immigrant visa categories, this is one of the few visas that allows people to immigrate to the United States without having any connection to the country. In other words, the applicants may not have any family, employment, or even provide an economic tie to the United States. And because of limited availability of verification, the program presents serious national security concerns.

Let me be clear: If anyone is a proponent of a diverse nation, one that enjoys the influence of many cultures, it is me. But what we have right now in the visa lottery program does not accomplish the intended goal.

After careful consultation with State Department officials, I have been advised that the Diversity Visa program needs serious reform, and some have even called for complete elimination of the program. In light of this guidance, I propose to sunset the Diversity Visa program, unless the State Department recommends to Congress how best to combat fraud and eliminate abuse currently in the program.

One of the most heated issues that is continually raised by my constituents, and many across the country, is the impact that illegal aliens are having upon our welfare programs. It came to my attention that Los Angeles County, California, actually tracks this information. Much to my amazement, L.A. County confirms that in 2009 alone, they distributed over $2.4 billion in federal-state welfare and food stamp programs. Of that amount, $569 million was issued to households that include illegal aliens. Let me reiterate: the illegal alien population in L.A. County received over a half-billion dollars of welfare benefits in one year alone.

In order to have an honest discussion about the drain illegal aliens are having upon our welfare systems, we must be armed with state-specific information to understand the extent of this problem.

Thus, my bill would require the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in consultation with the Department of Homeland Security and any other appropriate Federal agency, to submit an annual report to Congress outlining the total dollar amount of Federal welfare benefits received by households of illegal aliens for each state and the District of Columbia. The annual report would also include the overall dollar amount each state spends on Federal welfare benefits. Without having this information, we will continue to dismiss the serious economic ramifications to our country's prosperity. We cannot afford to perpetuate this problem any longer.

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