Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006--Continued

By:  Lindsey Graham
Date: May 16, 2006
Location: Washington, DC



Mr. GRAHAM. Mr. President, for the record, I would like to compliment our staff because most of the hard work in this place goes on in some back room with our staff people trying to work through the problems of the bill. They have done a great job for Senators Kyl, Cornyn, and McCain. I am proud of what my staff has done, and particularly Senator Kennedy's staff. We have all gotten good staff support on this issue.

Very clearly, succinctly, to the point, if you are a criminal, if you have committed a felony, if you have committed a crime or three misdemeanors, you don't get a second shot. Off you go. That, to me, is important.

Under the bill, we are trying to give people a pathway to citizenship that would be earned and that would add value to our country. Senators Kyl and Cornyn have made this a better bill because the one thing we should all be able to agree on here is you are not adding value to the country when you openly admit people who are criminals, who are mean and hateful, and who keep breaking the law.

There is another group of people who are subject to deportation on the civil side. I think it is very fair that in a limited class of cases, we will allow people on the civil side subject to deportation a chance to make their case anew in terms of being eligible for a future guest worker program that may become our Nation's law based on the base bill.

Who are these people? If you are in a civil deportation hearing and you can demonstrate that you never received the order to leave, then we are going to give you a second shot. It is hard to comply with something you don't know about. That happens on occasion.

Second, we are going to allow you, on the civil side receiving a deportation order, to make an argument about how it would affect your family and take the human condition into consideration.

There is a unique group of people who come to this country--not by illegally crossing the border and overstaying their visa--who are one step ahead of a death squad in some foreign land. It could be Haiti or other places, it could be Cuba, with an oppressive Communist regime, and the only way they can get out of that country to come here is it make up a story that would keep them from being killed. What we are saying is, if you come into our country through an inspection system and you have to save your family from an oppressive government or ahead of a death squad, we will let you tell us about that. We will sit down and figure out if it makes sense to make you part of this program.

There are not that many people, but we don't want to leave anybody behind that has a meritorious case to be made on the civil side. If you are a criminal, forget it. You have had your chance, and you have blown it. This, to me, makes the bill better, whether it is the underlying bill or not.

This is a concept that is uniquely American.

If you believe in playing by the rules, as Americans do, and you hurt people, you are not going to get a second shot at hurting people again in our country. If you got caught up in a legal system that sometimes is complicated and you have a meritorious argument to be made and you have never hurt anyone, we are going to listen to what you have to say.

I am proud to be part of it. Senator Kennedy has been very helpful. I hope we can get close to 100 votes. This is something that should bring us together. Senators Kyl and Cornyn demonstrated the best of this body, reaching out, even though Members may not agree with the base bill, to try to find a way to make this part of the bill better.