COMPREHENSIVE IMMIGRATION REFORM ACT OF 2006
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Mr. SANTORUM. Mr. President, the Senate is scheduled to vote today on a comprehensive immigration reform bill. With thousands of illegal immigrants rushing across our borders every day, straining every sector of our society, congressional attention to this issue is appropriate and overdue. Unfortunately, S. 2611 is not the right way to reform our immigration system.
As the son of an Italian immigrant who came to the United States in 1930, I understand the important and valuable contributions immigrants have made and continue to make to our country. I have great respect for those who have legally come to our Nation seeking a better life for their families, just as my grandfather and father did.
However, as the Senate comes to a vote on S. 2611, I firmly believe that the rule of law and our safety and security must be given by importance. Who is traveling across our borders and why they are doing so is as important as any issue we currently face. It is a complicated issue, with far-reaching implications that will impact our national security, our economy, and our culture.
Securing our borders is and must be our first priority. It is a basic responsibility of a sovereign nation. An immigration policy that does not control who is entering our Nation is not an immigration policy at all. The best way we can do this is by strengthening and supporting our Border Patrol, both through greater numbers and technological advancements. To this end, I cosponsored and voted for a successful amendment that authorizes the Department of Homeland Security to construct 370 miles of triple-layer fence and 500 miles of vehicle barriers at strategic locations along our southern border.
I also cosponsored the Ensign amendment which provides reimbursement for the temporary use of the National Guard to secure the southern border of the United States. With the approval of the Secretary of Defense, the Governor of any State may order the use of the National Guard for not more than 21 days in a year to provide ``command, control and continuity of support'' such as ground and airborne reconnaissance, logistical, tactical, and administrative support, communications services, and emergency medical services. I was pleased to see both of these amendments pass as they are solid first steps towards border security.
But the reason I voted against cloture and why I simply cannot vote for this bill is that it gives amnesty to the immigrants who came to this country illegally. I believe those who have entered this country illegally must return to their native land and move through the legal process just like everyone else. The idea that those who have been here illegally for an arbitrary number of years--a number that is, frankly, undeterminable as their time here is by nature undocumented--should be able to stay in America simply by paying back taxes is an insult to all those who have waited, patiently and lawfully, for their chance to come here and pursue the American dream.
There were many opportunities to fix this throughout Senate debate, but I am afraid many of my colleagues have not truly heard the call of their constituents to oppose amnesty. I was disappointed that 58 of my colleagues rejected a reasonable amendment offered by Senators Kyl and Cornyn to ensure that the temporary worker program was actually temporary and not a shortcut to legalization or citizenship. I also voted against the Feinstein amendment earlier this week which would have given all illegal immigrants in the United States a path to citizenship without having to leave the country.
I cannot support an amnesty proposal now because amnesty has failed in the past. In 1986, Congress attempted to address this same issue, though on a much smaller scale. Estimates of the size of the illegal-immigrant population in the United States in 1986 placed the total number close to 1 million; today we are dealing with around 12 million. If providing amnesty to 1 million illegal immigrants yielded 12 million over the course of 20 years, with how many additional millions will we be burdened in 2026 by offering amnesty now?
But this is not the only way S. 2611 rewards illegal immigrants. I cosponsored an amendment offered by Senator John Ensign that would ensure illegal immigrants have a valid Social Security number before they can accumulate credit to qualify for Social Security. This amendment was intended to reduce document fraud, prevent identity theft, and preserve the integrity of the Social Security system by ensuring that persons who receive an adjustment of status under this bill are not able to receive Social Security benefits as a result of unlawful activity. In other words, this prevents illegal immigrants from getting Social Security benefits based on their illegal work history, often with an invalid number. Unfortunately, a majority of my colleagues voted to kill this amendment. By doing so, the Senate has rewarded illegal immigrants by putting our current elderly beneficiaries, who paid into the Social Security system for decades in order to collect the benefits they receive today, further at risk in an already stretched system.
I would like to speak briefly on an amendment offered by Senator Sessions that would prohibit aliens unlawfully present in the United States with a green card from the H-2C visa program from claiming the earned income tax credit, EITC, when filing annual tax returns. This amendment has good intentions, but I reluctantly must oppose it. The cost of EITC for the illegal-turned-legal population is steep. However, this amendment goes further than I am comfortable with by treating these resident aliens different from others. In my mind, a better option is another amendment offered by Senator Ensign that would limit illegal aliens from any kind of tax refund or an EITC claim on back taxes for the time that they were here illegally. I believe this amendment strikes the right balance.
America is a nation of immigrants, a nation that derives much of our strength from those who come here to live the american dream. But the immigrants who have contributed so much to the character of our Nation came here legally. We devalue their sacrifices and hardships if we fail to ask the same of today's immigrants. This bill does not do that. It rewards illegal behavior, threatens our social welfare system, devalues the legal immigration process, and provides amnesty to illegal immigrants. I will vote against S. 2611, and I urge my colleagues to do the same.