Dozens of U.S. House members who sponsored the nationwide instant background check system for gun buyers in 1993 or backed the expansion of that system in 2002, have shown no support for a similar database intended to identify illegal aliens trying to find work in the U.S.
At least one member who supported the gun control measure is challenging the proposal to crack down on illegal immigrants.
“A database this large is likely to contain many errors,” said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) during a May 12 hearing on the Illegal Immigration Enforcement and Social Security Protection Act (H.R. 98). “Any one of [the errors] could render someone unemployable and possibly much worse until they can get their file straightened out.”
But in 2002, Jackson Lee argued for the “Our Lady of Peace Act,” (H.R. 4757), an expansion of the National Instant Check System (NICS) for handgun purchases.
“I strongly support this legislation,” Jackson Lee said during the Oct. 15, 2002 consideration of the Our Lady of Peace Act. “A major problem with the instant check system has been the incomplete records of state and local governments.”
The legislation to expand NICS would have provided “incentives for states to provide more complete records to the federal government. This will result in faster and smarter background checks,” she argued.
Jackson Lee was not in Congress in 1993 when the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act—the law that eventually gave way to the NICS tracking system—was passed. But 83 of the 155 House members who did co-sponsor the Brady bill 12 years ago are still serving in the House, and only one—House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.)—is a co-sponsor of the Illegal Immigration Enforcement and Social Security Protection Act.
Erich Pratt, communications director for Gun Owners of America (GOA), said opposition to the attempts to identify illegal immigrants, amounts to “hypocrisy,” considering those same members’ support for the gun control measure.
“Evidently for this gaggle of congressional gun-haters, the Constitution only applies to illegal aliens, not American citizens,” Pratt said. “It seems that some people are ‘more equal’ than others.”
Rep. David Drier (R-Calif.) introduced the Illegal Immigration Enforcement and Social Security Protection Act (H.R. 98) in January 2005 to achieve that end.
The new legislation requires that once a federal Employment Eligibility Database (EED) is implemented, no person may be hired by any employer in the U.S. unless they have presented their Social Security or Alien Registration card to the prospective employer and that employer has verified the applicant’s legal right to work in the U.S. with the database.
Martin believes such a nationwide, mandatory system would produce multiple benefits.
“If we had the verification system, foreigners would quickly realize that it is not worthwhile trying to come to the United States illegally,” Martin predicted, “and the resources of the Border Patrol would be much more effective in controlling the borders.”