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Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


COMPREHENSIVE IMMIGRATION REFORM ACT OF 2006--CONTINUED -- (Senate - May 24, 2006)

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Mr. DeMINT. Mr. President, this immigration debate has proved divisive on many levels, but I believe there can be a shining beacon of agreement. In all of this back and forth, one group has been voiceless: the infants and young children longing for a loving home who don't care about or understand borders.

In 2004, I introduced the Intercountry Adoption Reform Act, known simply as ICARE, in the House of Representatives. I am pleased to rise today to join my colleague, the Senior Senator from Louisiana, who is introducing ICARE in this Congress as an amendment to the Immigration Reform Act.

Adoption represents the very best of the generous American spirit. In 2004 alone, Americans opened their homes through adoption to over 23,000 orphaned children from overseas. We must ask, how many more children would be with a loving family today if the maze of government regulation was not so complex?

The ICARE amendment takes two important steps to break down the roadblocks these children face on their journey to find a permanent family. First, and most importantly, it affirms that foreign adopted children of American citizens should be treated in many respects like we treat children born abroad to an American citizen. Under existing law, these children are treated as immigrants, having to apply for, and be granted, immigrant visas to enter the U.S.--a process that we all know to be cumbersome, time-consuming, and expensive. Had they been born abroad to American citizens, they could simply travel back to the U.S. with a passport and enter as citizens. This amendment eliminates this discrepancy and injects common sense into the way our law views these children.

Second, this amendment streamlines the existing foreign adoption functions of the Federal Government. Rather than having to navigate through three Federal agencies the Departments of State, Health and Human Services and Homeland Security--adoptive parents would instead have to deal with only one: a consolidated office of intercountry adoptions located within the State Department. I believe this is an essential step to cut through the layers of redtape that currently bind adoptive parents trying to give the gift of a family to a child from overseas.

Mr. President, our laws simply must do a better job of accommodating the unique circumstances surrounding intercountry adoption, and I believe that is exactly what this ICARE amendment will do. That is why, today, I ask my colleagues to join the Senior Senator from Louisiana and myself in affirming our commitment to protect these children and provide them with a loving home.

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Mr. DeMINT. Mr. President, I rise to speak in support of the point of order and my colleagues' efforts to point out that this immigration bill is ill conceived and, I am afraid, misrepresented and oversold.

I would like to say up front that I appreciate all of my colleagues' attempts to solve a big problem for our country. Illegal immigration is a huge problem which we must address. But, unfortunately, as this bill has moved along, I am afraid it has gotten worse instead of better. I am afraid that we are failing to look out 10, 15, 20 years to see the financial tsunami, the category 5 fiscal crisis we have as nation, and we are adding costs without thinking about it.

I am afraid the supporters of this legislation would have us believe that it is a rather harmless effort to incorporate illegal immigrants into our culture and that this bill will not have a detrimental impact on our society and, more importantly, on the Federal Government's finances. The truth is this bill would add billions of dollars of debt. And tomorrow, our children and grandchildren will have to pay for our irresponsibility today.

Let me point out a few examples.

This legislation would allow an unprecedented wave of immigrants, and we cannot possibly assimilate that many immigrants in that period of time. The Heritage Foundation estimates that the number of legal immigrants entering this country under this legislation would be 66 million over the next 20 years. And this doesn't include the continued stream of illegal immigrants who are projected despite what we say we are doing to the border. This bill also does not prohibit tax credits for illegal work done during illegal periods that these immigrants were here. We are going to force them to do their tax returns, and some will pay taxes. But most, we suspect, will actually qualify for an earned income tax credit worth perhaps thousands of dollars. One projection is that illegal immigrants--the average in the United States since 1986--could qualify for up to $88,000 in earned income tax credits. We must not force our fellow citizens and taxpayers to pay their bill.

In addition to this bad policy, it would also allow immigrants to get Social Security benefits for the work they performed while in this country illegally. The Senate rejected efforts to prevent Social Security benefits from being awarded to immigrants for the time they worked illegally in this country. We need to realize that they will be working with stolen Social Security numbers, which often causes chaos in the lives of Americans who have had their identities stolen. We cannot reward this behavior with Social Security checks.

The bill would also provide some immigrant workers with greater job protection than American workers. The bill supposedly would protect U.S. workers by ensuring that new immigrants would not take away jobs. However, the bill's definition of ``U.S. worker'' includes temporary foreign guest workers, so the protection is meaningless. Foreign guest farm workers, admitted under this bill, cannot be ``terminated from employment by any employer ..... except for just case.'' In contrast American agriculture workers can be fired for any reason. Hence, there is really no protection for Americans, who could be terminated for almost any reason, while providing more protection for those who are here under temporary work visas.

In addition, this legislation straps States and local governments with additional unfunded burdens that could cost $16 billion over the next ten years, while providing no relief. This is perhaps the biggest hidden cost in all of this legislation.

The tremendous expenses from these illegal workers, who are here, whether it be health care or education or the many things they have to provide can not be easily paid for.

I can tell that I am running out of time, but I think it is important to note.

The Congressional Budget Office's projections are that this bill will cost our country $54 billion in mandatory spending over 10 years and $63.8 billion in discretionary spending over the next 10 years. However, the bill will only raise $66 billion in revenue. Put simply this bill will give us $51 billion more debt in 10 years and, I am afraid, even more debt over a 20-year period. We cannot increase our debt so significantly.

I rise in support of this budget point of order, and I thank my colleague for raising it.

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