SECURING AMERICA'S BORDERS ACT
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Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, a short while ago, Senators KYL and CORNYN offered an amendment. They claim that the committee bill would allow criminals to become permanent residents under the committee bill, and this is not correct.
The committee bill requires all applicants to undergo criminal and security background checks, and all applicants must also show that they have not committed any crimes that make them ineligible under our immigration laws.
As many Senators know, Congress passed sweeping changes to our immigration laws, and just about any crime makes one ineligible for a green card. This includes aggravated felonies, crimes of violence, drug crimes, crimes of moral turpitude, money laundering, murder, rape, sexual abuse of a minor, drug trafficking, possession of explosives, theft offenses, child pornography, forgery, counterfeiting, bribery, perjury, and many others.
Anyone who has committed any of these crimes cannot--cannot--and will not get a green card under the committee bill.
What the amendment does, though, is undermine the earned citizenship program in the bill. Millions of Mexicans, Central Americans, Irish, and nationals from other countries would be prevented from applying for legal status not because of criminal crimes but status violations. The goal of comprehensive immigration reform is to encourage illegal workers to come out of the shadows, be screened, and be given work permits, and if they are on the track to eventually being eligible for citizenship, they have to earn it. This is not an amnesty program. No one is forgiven. Anyone who wants to get on this path has to pay a fine, demonstrate that they have a work record, also demonstrate that they paid their taxes, and then get to the end of the line of those who want to come to the United States, and for 11 years meet those responsibilities.
That is one part of this legislation. This amendment that is offered would end the possibility for earned legalization. That would be the effect if this amendment is accepted.
If the proponents of the amendment are interested or concerned just about crimes, other crimes being added to the list, we are ready to talk with them, and we will try and engage them in a conversation and see if that is their purpose. If their purpose is to undermine a key element of the proposal, that would be unacceptable, and we will have the opportunity to express our views with a vote in the Senate.
I suggest the absence of a quorum.