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In an alternative to comprehensive immigration reform being debated in the Senate, several House Republicans introduced a bill on Tuesday, June 19, that would concentrate solely on border security and work-site enforcement.

GOP leaders of the House immigration and homeland security committees propose to require that all 7 million U.S. employers sign up for the current government-run employee verification system, Basic Pilot.About 16,000 companies are currently using the Web-based mechanism to check applicant documents against government Social Security databases. Within two years of enactment of the House GOP legislation, employers would have to use Basic Pilot to verify new hires. All workers would have to be verified within six years.The sponsors of the bill argue that Congress should enforce immigration laws that are already on the books before moving on to broader measures. Their bill denies legalization for the approximately 12 million undocumented people currently in the United States.

“Let’s get back to the basics,” said Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa and a member of the House Judiciary Committee. “Let’s stop the bleeding at the border. Let’s shut off the jobs magnet.”

The Republicans asserted that the key to stopping illegal immigration is to break its link to employment.

The measure would allow the Department of Homeland Security to investigate when an employer submits a Social Security number more than once or when the same number is submitted by multiple employers.

Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas and ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, said that he and his colleagues are calling for the Bush administration to “enforce employer sanctions systematically, not just sporadically. It would be immigration reform just to enforce current laws.”

“It’s something we need to get to sooner or later in this country,” King said.

But what the GOP wants to do now is hold employers accountable for who they hire. Stopping illegal immigration has to go beyond the border, said Rep. Brian Bilbray, R-California.

“You have to do it in workplace enforcement,” he said. “You have to do it in the neighborhoods.”

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