Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006--Continued

By:  Lindsey Graham
Date: May 24, 2006
Location: Washington, DC


COMPREHENSIVE IMMIGRATION REFORM ACT OF 2006--CONTINUED

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Mr. GRAHAM. I thank Senator Kennedy for yielding. I will try to add a little bit different perspective.

Senator Kennedy is right. If you look at the chart with the numbers, the revenues taken in at a point in time from the immigrant legislation exceed the outlays, and that is what CBO says. My good friend Senator Coburn and others dispute that. I think CBO is something you use when you agree with them and something you run away from when they disagree with you. Their methodology is probably flawed when I agree with them and it is probably flawed when I disagree with them.

What I am trying to bring to the table about the economic impact of this debate is that there are more people involved than just the Federal Government. It does seem as if, from a Federal Government perspective, it is probably good business to get people to pay taxes and get them legalized versus having them undocumented. That is one of the economic conditions we are dealing with, is how do you sign up people, who are here to work, in a regularized fashion so we will know who they are and they will contribute to social programs, not just take away, and they will not have to live in fear, and they can help through their tax contributions.

It is true some of them withdraw services from programs set up for people who are on economic hard times, but generally speaking, I would argue the 11 million people we are talking about assimilating and the future flow people we are talking about coming here work very hard. We all have impressions of this group. My impression of the undocumented workforce we are talking about is it is not a group of people sitting around wanting something for nothing. They are doing five and six jobs a day, working very hard, and economically there has to be room in America for somebody like that. If there is no room in America for somebody who is willing to do the hardest job in America from sunup until sundown, then America has changed.

We have 4.7 percent unemployment nationally. I am a Republican. I am going to take credit for it, along with my President, and share it with my Democratic colleagues. Whatever we are doing or failing to do, one thing I can tell you for sure: the economy is as good as it is ever going to get in your lifetime--4.7 percent unemployment. The GDP growth is over 4 percent. There is wage growth over 4 percent and an 11,000 stock market.

One thing for sure is that the 11 million undocumented workers have assimilated into our economy and are not a drain because it is humming. That is just a fact. We can't issue a press release on Monday taking credit for the good economy and talk about a workforce that has been here for years and say it is going to kill the economy because it has not yet, nor will it ever.

Our biggest problem in America from an employer point of view is how do you sign people up, knowing who is legal and who isn't. Let's fix it. Because you really don't know. What do employers tell me more than anything else? I need workers, particularly in the construction business, tourism business, agricultural business. I advertise within the native population, and I can't get enough workers. Our bill requires proof that an American has not been put out of a job, a native American citizen hasn't been put out of a job because of someone coming out of this pool of undocumented workers.

The truth is, colleagues, we need these workers.

A few years ago, Japan crossed a demographic line of having more older people than younger people. We are getting there. It is going to be impossible, because of the demographic changes in our country, to fill all of the jobs we need to keep this economy humming without assimilating more people. How do you do that?

That is what this bill is about. The economics of assimilating hard-working people, who believe in hard work, who want to play by the rules, raise families, and join the military, is a net positive. You will never convince economists that the people we are talking about are a drain on our society. They have jobs that do not pay a lot right now, but they have a heart and a mindset that makes America a wonderful place to live. Just watch them go and watch them grow. Some of the children of this illegal immigrant, undocumented workforce are now in college, in military academies, and fighting our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, just like every other group that came to America. You start on the bottom, and people around you don't really appreciate you at first, but you eventually work your way up. That is going to happen here.

The budget impact of assimilating this undocumented workforce into our economy needs to be looked at in terms of dynamic scoring. That is what Senator Kennedy is calling for--dynamic scoring--because that is what he is basically saying.

You need to look at all the things they do and not just at the services they take. You need to look at the economic needs of our economy for workers. We are short of workers. Let us not drive away people who are willing to work. Let us punish people who broke our laws but punish them proportionate to the crime.

There are several avenues in the bill as to how you can come to America and work, but there is one thing in common for every approach to solving the illegal immigration problem. Here is what is in common: You have to work to stay. We are not letting people come here and just sit on the corner and suck us dry. In the underlying legislation, if you are out of work for over 45 days, you are ineligible for the program. You have to learn English, as part of this bill. You just can't come here and not assimilate. You have to take a civics class. You have to hold a job. You cannot break the law, and you have to assimilate into our society. An economic benefit will be gained if we allow that to happen. A social benefit will be gained if we allow that to happen. The cost of doing nothing is catastrophic.

And how do you score it? How do you score the cost of having a border that is a joke? How do you score the cost of having a legal system nobody knows how to apply? How could you score the cost of having millions of people living around you who are scared to death?

What I hope my colleagues will look at when it comes to the budget is not only what the Congressional Budget Office says but the reality of where we are as a nation. We need good, honest, hard-working people, decent people who will get up early and stay late to keep this economy humming. And they are here among us. Make them pay a just and fair debt for getting here by cutting ahead of the line, but do not ruin our economy in the process.

I hope that when we look at the economic condition that this bill will create in America for our budget and our society, we will look at it in a dynamic way, in a realistic way, and come to grips with the idea that in 2006, America has assimilated these 11 million people who are working very hard. What do we do with them now? They are here. How do we control those who want to come after them?

I am all for employing people on our conditions--not theirs--of regularizing, legalizing, making people pay a debt, pay fines, pay back taxes and future taxes, pay your way the best you can. But I am very confident that the net benefit to our country and our society by assimilating a needed workforce in a humane fashion is a budget winner and a winner for our society as a whole.

I gladly will vote against this budget point of order because while you look at the dynamics of the economic condition of our country and the value the immigrant workforce has now and in the future, it is a plus for our country. And doing nothing is the consequence of this bill falling or failing. What will be the cost for the next generation of politicians to do something we can't do among ourselves now? It will be more, it will be harder.

Let us do it now. Let us get it right the best we can and realize that America needs honest, hard-working, decent people now more than ever. They are among us, and let us figure out a win-win.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. GRAHAM. Mr. President, what I have to say is not worth arguing about, but I appreciate the opportunity to say it.

My good friend from North Dakota and I have worked together on protecting the American workforce from unfair pressure. The American workforce is under assault from unfair trade practices. The truth is that America needs all the decent, hard-working people she can lay her hands on.

In my State, the tourism industry, the construction industry, and the agricultural industry are very dependent on the new blood of migrant workers. And we have a system where people come in and can't be documented. There is no control. To sunset the temporary worker program would create havoc for our economy. From South Carolina throughout this land, these 11 million have assimilated into our workforce. They are doing a darned good job. They are important to our economy.

Unemployment is 4.7 percent. It will never get any lower. Wage growth is over 4 percent. Gross domestic product growth is at 4.5 percent, and the stock market is at 11,000.

The truth is, we have already assimilated these workers, and they are adding value to our country and our economy. The demographics in this country are relevant and won't change. Japan is faced with this. They have a culture that is closed to outside influences, and there are more older people in Japan than younger people. We are about to get there.

We need new people now like we did in the 19th and 20th centuries--good, honest, hard-working people--to keep our economy humming.

If you sunset this provision of the bill, you are bringing sunset to a problem that is overdue to be solved. Let's not let the sun go down on the problem of immigration any longer.

I know what the Senator is trying to do. I respect it, but this would kill this bill.

We should have done this many sunsets ago. We have been derelict in our duty to control immigration, and we are about there. We need those workers.

I yield.

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