House Immigration Bill Hearing Delayed Amid Government Shutdown, Criticism

In the second week of the government shutdown, the House Homeland Security Committee’s Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security was planning to begin a markup of an immigration bill on Wednesday morning at 9 AM. The bill, offered by subcommittee chairwoman Rep. Candice Miller (R-MI), is H.R. 3141, entitled the “Biometric Exit Improvement Act of 2013.”

The scheduled markup was postponed amid criticism on Tuesday.

The subcommittee’s website, which included the announcement of the bill’s scheduled markup amid the government shutdown, describes Miller’s bill as one that would “require the Secretary of Homeland Security to establish a biometric exit data system, and for other purposes.”

The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), an anti-amnesty watchdog group, criticized the bill in a recent posting on its website. The group said the legislation “does nothing more than require — and actually undermine — current law.”

“Congress already requires that a biometric entry-exit system be in place at all land, sea, and air ports of entry. (See 8 U.S.C. 1365b),” FAIR wrote. “Indeed, Congress first created the entry-exit system was in 1996, and added a biometric requirement to it in 2001. (See Illegal Immigration Reform and Responsibility Act; see also USA PATRIOT Act)." 

"Nonetheless, Rep. Miller's bill simply gives Homeland Security years to implement what Congress originally required more than a decade ago," the group explained. "For instance, H.R. 3141 gives the Secretary of Homeland Security six months just to submit to Congress a plan to establish a biometric exit data system that complies with preexisting law (8 U.S.C. 1365b), something that should already be in place.”

FAIR added that the bill “then gives the Secretary two years from enactment to establish a biometric exit system at the 10 busiest U.S. international airports and seaports, and does not require full implementation at all air and sea ports until five years following enactment.”

In addition, FAIR writes that the Miller bill actually also “undermines current law” because it only requires “partial implementation of the biometric exit program at land ports of entry,” rather than everywhere as current law provides.

“Indeed, the bill requires the Secretary only have a fully operational biometric exit program for pedestrian-only land ports of entry, while merely putting into place a pilot program for vehicular outbound traffic,” FAIR wrote. “As such, by creating a distinction between pedestrian and non-pedestrian land traffic, H.R. 3141 eliminates a requirement that all land ports of entry contain a biometric exit component.”

The concern is that House GOP leadership could use Miller’s bill as one of many to cobble together to get to a conference committee with the Senate’s “Gang of Eight” bill. House Judiciary Committee chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Budget Committee chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), and Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) have not ruled out the possibility of attempting to “fix” the Senate bill via a conference committee. 

A GOP congressional aide told Breitbart News that “until Goodlatte, Ryan and Cantor swear off conference, every single American should assume that the Schumer-Rubio bill [the Gang of Eight bill] will be merged with the House bills and sent to the President’s desk.”


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