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Public Statements

Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006 - Part 2 -

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Location: Washington, DC


COMPREHENSIVE IMMIGRATION REFORM ACT OF 2006 -- (Senate - May 18, 2006)

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Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, as I understand the amendment, on page 350, you strike lines 8 through the rest of the page; am I correct?

Mr. VITTER. I don't have that in front of me. If you could read me the lines.

Mr. KENNEDY. Well, this is on the intent of Congress, the basic kind of understanding, the intent of Congress be interpreted in a manner that recognizes the difficulties encountered by the alien in obtaining evidence. As I understand, you strike that. And then you strike the burden of proof provisions through the top of 351, once the burden is met, the burden shall shift to the Secretary of Homeland Security. So those provisions are dropped. The essence of your amendment is to tighten up verification in terms of the applicant.

Mr. VITTER. The Senator is correct.

Mr. KENNEDY. And that is effectively the purpose of the amendment. In your description and in the language, you talk about bank records, business records, sworn affidavits from nonrelatives who have direct knowledge of the alien's work, including name, address, phone number of the affiant, the nature and duration of relationship. You also talk about remittance records and that the burden is on the alien applying for the adjustment, the burden of proving by a preponderance of evidence that he has satisfied the employment requirements.

Mr. VITTER. The Senator is correct on all of that.

Mr. KENNEDY. I am going to urge that we accept that amendment. We want to make sure, those of us who support this proposal, that we are going to reach those people who are defined in the legislation. And we want to make sure that it is accurate.

We are not interested in people gaming the system or in the identity theft problems and other kinds of challenges and false documents. We have made a very strong effort because if we have that and we lack the verification of information and lack the verification in terms of the individual and we are going to have continued forgery of documents, this is going to be a disaster. But we have given strong emphasis in terms of legality and veracity, and we are going to have the biometric identification cards. We are going to try to do this correctly and by the book, so to speak.

The Senator has redrafted provisions we had in the legislation to ensure the applicant is going to provide the best information and that the best information has to be reliable and dependable in order to be able to participate in the system. I think it is useful and valuable. At the appropriate time, I will urge our colleagues to accept the amendment.

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Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, I will take 1 minute.

Patriotism doesn't belong to a political party or any individual. The Salazar language is very clear. English is the common unifying language of the United States. It helps provide unity for the American people, preserving and enhancing the role of the English language. It couldn't be clearer.

Let us not distort and misrepresent the amendment that is before us.

I ask unanimous consent that it be in order to ask for the yeas and nays on the Salazar amendment and the Inhofe amendment.

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Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, Senator Clinton has a very sensible and responsible amendment. The way the funds are allocated, there will be approximately more than $1 billion that would be available under her amendment that will be allocated to these needs which she has outlined. It seems to me that is the way to go.

On the other side, Senator Cornyn is going to raise, for these workers, immigrant workers who are working hard, playing by the rules--he is just going to jack up the amounts they are going to have to pay by another $750.

The sky is the limit. Why not $2,000, $3,000, $4,000? I mean, the fact is, they are already going to be paying the $2,000. This is going to add at least $750; $100 per child additional. So you are giving additional kinds of burdens on the worker, those who are in line to become citizens. I think the Clinton proposal is far superior and more fair.

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Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, I will take 11 minutes and yield the remaining time to the Senator from Nebraska.

The hour is late. We have had a very good debate over the course of the day. Now we are faced with an amendment that, even though it comes at the late hours of the day, is very basic and fundamental to the success of the whole piece of legislation. Just as important or even more important is the spirit of this particular amendment and what it is meant to achieve and what it is not meant to achieve.

Under the current immigration law, if you have a H-1B, that means you have a visa and you are highly skilled. The concept behind the H-1B is you are highly skilled, and because you are able to have a particular niche, the result of your service means you are going to have 8 or 10 or 15 more Americans working. So there is a limited number of the H-1Bs.

Under our current law, if your employer wants to petition for you, you can get a green card. If you are highly skilled, your employer can get the green card for you. But under the Cornyn amendment, if you are low skilled, you are out the window. One set of treatment for the very highly educated, highly skilled, who are working on the computers. But if you are cleaning a building in America, if you are working in menial jobs, if you are looking after children, if you have one of the lower paid jobs, you are out of luck.

Really a nice, fair standard. The Statue of Liberty is turned around tonight, listening to the argument of our friends over here. It is turned around. One standard for high skilled, and, boy, if you are doing the more menial work, which we know other Americans are not prepared to do, you are out. You are finished. You are gone. No chance at all. Work for 6 years and then maybe they will go out and leave the country or maybe they will stay. If they stay, they will be part of a subclass. Do you hear me? A subclass in the United States of America. That is what we are trying to avoid in the basic immigration bill.

We emphasize legality: legality in coming in as guest workers, the legal system; legality in terms of employment; you can only employ those who come in where there is not an American for the job.

But there is also opportunity. We respect those individuals who do menial jobs because after the 4 years that they are here, if there is not going to be an American to do the job, they can petition, and if they meet all the other requirements--they learn English, they obey the laws--they can be part of the American dream. Boy, if the Cornyn amendment applied to our immigration laws 150 years ago, no Irish needed apply, no Polish needed apply, no Italians needed apply, no Jews needed apply. But tonight we are saying no Hispanics, primarily, need apply because those are the ones--sure, it is 85 percent, the rest 5 percent or 6 percent Asian, the rest from Central America. But that is what the Senate tonight is confronted with. This undermines the whole purpose of the bill. It brings in illegality again. It says your employer hires this person, they work for 6 years, the employer might have trained him, given him decent skills and, bang, you are either part of the subclass or you are reporting to deport.

Those were wonderful words--report to deport. We will know who those individuals are--Homeland Security. As soon as that time is up, six times, they will get picked up and either pushed over and pushed out of the country or they will be in a permanent underclass.

This is probably a very nice amendment that goes over in some circles. But I tell you, if we are talking about fairness in this country, if you are talking about fairness in the immigration bill, you are talking about fairness in the standards, you are talking about the history and the tradition of this country about welcoming the poor and the unwashed in our country, you are changing that with the Cornyn amendment. Make no mistake about it. You are changing that.

I was around during the Bracero period, and the exploitation of humanity was extraordinary. We are returning to it if we accept the Cornyn amendment. We are saying: Because you do more menial jobs, your life, your worth, your being is not worth as much as somebody who is a highly skilled person. That is a wonderful statement for the United States of America to make.

You know what is going to happen? Those individuals are going to be exploited. If they are women, they are going to be abused. You are going to have sexual harassment and abuse for them. That is the record. Read the history of the Braceros. I went to the hearings. I attended the hearings all through the Southwest and into California; one of the most shameful periods in American history. We go back to it tonight with this amendment. That is what this amendment is all about. That is what this amendment is all about. It strikes a dagger at the heart of what this legislation is about: strict enforcement, strict accountability, strict legality if people are going to play by the rules and earn their way to be a part of the American dream.

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Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, I wish to thank the leaders and my colleague, Senator Specter. I think this has been a very good week in terms of talking and debating. I think we have seen some real debates on the floor of the Senate, some which we have not seen for a long period of time. I think the Members know a great deal more about what is in this legislation. They may like it or not, but I think the debate will be even better next week. I think we have made good progress. Sometimes it is useful to take a little time to go over these amendments, as someone who has been here for 12 hours. Sometimes we can have a better debate and discussion if we can go over them and know where we are going to be on Monday and then what the priorities are. The Republicans have had, as I remember, 20 sort of key issues. We have gotten through a fair amount of them. There is still a good group of those. I think they have laid out the issues, and I think we can use this time and be better prepared and have a better debate and a better outcome next week. I thank the leaders for all they have done, and I thank the Members on both sides.

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