WASHINGTON — Rep. Elton Gallegly, the chairman of a new congressional task force on immigration reform, selected 17 colleagues Tuesday--including Rep. Anthony C. Beilenson--to join him in strengthening the nation's immigration laws.
The Congressional Task Force on Immigration Reform will be "a no-nonsense, no-frills, straightforward attempt to address a problem that has been ignored for too long," said Gallegly, who was chosen in December by House Speaker Newt Gingrich to head the effort.
The task force will hold an organizational meeting next week and will attempt to draft legislation for consideration by the House later this year.
Gallegly, a Republican from Simi Valley, intends to hold two or three hearings in border states in the coming months and work with Gov. Pete Wilson and other officials concerned about the issue. The task force will focus on controlling the border, ending incentives that draw illegal immigrants to the country and devising strategies for returning illegal immigrants to their homes, Gallegly said.
Although they have differed on some specifics, both Gallegly and Beilenson--a Democrat who represents parts of Thousand Oaks--have been grappling with illegal immigration. The two lawmakers have agreed on many approaches, including a controversial constitutional amendment that would deny citizenship to U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants.
The bipartisan task force includes six Democrats and 12 Republicans--lawmakers who Gallegly said "are seriously concerned about addressing illegal immigration, not sugarcoating it."
Promising a no-nonsense approach to the issue, Gallegly said there will inevitably be those who oppose the task force's work. But he rejected the notion that cracking down on illegal immigration was a racial issue.
"Americans come in all colors," he said. "We will make no apologies for putting Americans first, whether they are white, yellow, black or brown. . . . This is not an issue of color. I'm talking about someone who comes here illegally from Canada, Ireland or Mexico."