COMPREHENSIVE IMMIGRATION REFORM ACT OF 2006 -- (Senate - May 25, 2006)
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Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, I was here in 1986. I understand the 1986 act very well. I listened to my friend from Texas describe the provisions we have for earned legalization, saying effectively it is the same as offered in 1986. Of course, it is not because in 1986 that was a real amnesty. We have had that debate for 10 days. We can have it again today.
What we are talking about in this program is recognizing the people who have violated the law are able to work and earn their way into a position where eventually they can apply for citizenship if they pay a penalty, if they demonstrate they have paid their back taxes, have had no trouble with the law, and they are prepared to learn English. After the last person in line legitimately is able to gain entry into the United States, they can adjust their status.
The 1986 failure is entirely different than what we have now. We had a proliferation of fraudulent documents. That is the history. We understand that. We had Republican and Democrat administrations that refused to enforce the 1986 laws. That is history. We can complain about 1986, but 1986 is not 2006. What we did in 1986 is not 2006.
We can talk about how some of the terrorists got into the United States. Most of the September 11 terrorists got into the United States through Saudi Arabia. The reason they got in is because the CIA didn't talk to the FBI or the Immigration Service. The majority of those who came here and were part of September 11 were known by the CIA, and they never shared that information with the Immigration Service or the FBI. They did not need fraudulent documents. We needed the FBI and CIA to work together.
Having said that, hopefully we have a better relationship between the Central Intelligence Agency and the FBI now than we had then. However, that is the past. We have to learn from the past.
I listened to the Senator say what we need is tamper-proof documents. If we do not have tamper-proof documents, this system is not going to work. Tamper-proof documents is what we are committed to, to try and deal with the fraud.
People can come to the Senate and talk about the fraud in our immigration system, which is true. What we are trying to do with this legislation is remedy that. I don't know what the alternative is from the Senator from Texas. I know what his concerns are, but I don't know what his remedy is. We are talking about tamper-proof documents. We are talking about tamper-proof documents for guest workers. We are talking about tamper-proof documents so laws can be enforced against employers who are going to fire undocumented individuals who do not have the tamper-proof documents. We are talking about tamper-proof documents for those individuals who want to play by the rules and go by earned legalization.
The language in this legislation is very clear. That is, if you lie on your application, you lose all your rights, and you are subject to deportation. However, if you commit an innocent mistake on your application, that can be considered and not be used as a vehicle for deportation. That is the principal difference. I don't think that is unreasonable.
The Senator believes if we do not change what we have in our law to what he wants, if we accept his amendment, people will not be discouraged from coming forth. Of course they will be discouraged from coming forth. People come forth and they, in good faith, make an application. They find out that application somehow is defective. Whether it is willful, knowing, or they lied about it, they are subject to deportation. If it is an innocent mistake, we don't want them deported. If this is subject to the Cornyn amendment, why are they going to come forward and share information if they know if they share information confidentially they will be deported? We are undermining an essential aspect of this legislation--bringing people out of the shadows.
Of the millions of people who are here, we have people who have come here because they want to work hard, they want to provide for their families, they want to be part of the American dream. They are prepared to learn English. They are prepared to pay their taxes. They are prepared to pay their penalty. They want a sense of pride. They practice their faith. They want to be able to come in and be able to adjust their status so they can be legalized to have the respect of their children, their family, and their community. That is what the great majority of the people want. That is what we are trying to do.
If we follow the Cornyn amendment, people come in good faith, someone fly-specs that particular application and says: No, it is a question whether this is criminal intent--boom, you are gone; you are deported. We will have a very difficult time.
We have crafted this legislation so those who are going to lie on that application, those who are involved in criminal activity are subject to deportation--no ifs, ands or buts. But we also understand in this complicated world there will be innocent mistakes made, and we do not want to subject those people to deportation. That is not what this is about.
It seems to me honest people who submit a good-faith application to earn legalization should not be citing their own deportation orders; otherwise, why should anyone apply? That effectively is what the Cornyn amendment does. It effectively undermines the whole purpose and scope and thrust of the legislation.
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Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, first of all, under title III, there are only 4 documents, not 20 documents. Title III, 4 documents: the passports, REAL ID, the green cards, and employment authorization documents. They are basically biometric documents, 4 documents in title III, not 20.
Second, the Senator from Texas is describing the conditions we had in 1986, not in this legislation. There is the encouragement of cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI when we have document fraud or when there is fraud. We make that extremely clear. That was not clear, as the Senator appropriately pointed out, in 1986. There was not that kind of cooperation. There was some but not nearly what there should be. We are all for that.
The confidentiality clause in the underlying bill does not protect the criminals. On the contrary, the bill requires DHS and State to disclose all information furnished by legalization applicants to law enforcement entities conducting criminal activity and national security investigations.
We learned from what we called IRKA, the 1986 act, and we have that in the legislation. On page 38 of the legislation:
Other documents.--Not later than October 26, 2007, every document, other than an interim document, issued by the Secretary of Homeland Security, which may be used as evidence of an alien's status as an immigrant, nonimmigrant, parolee, asylee, or refugee, shall be machine-readable and tamper-resistant, and shall incorporate a biometric identifier to allow the Secretary of Homeland Security to verify electronically the identity and status of the alien.
We have spent time on it. I am a strong believer that is what we need. This legislation is not going to work unless we have an effective system, unique, special. Other countries have this; we ought to be able to do it, many of the countries in the Far East, also Brazil, South America, and other countries. We can and should do it. We will do it. We have developed the language to do it.
We are for prime documents that have been accepted and recommended. We worked with the Department of Homeland Security on what documents they are for. We have insisted on cooperation between the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department in any area of criminality.
We are all for at least what I understand the Senator has said. We are glad to clarify that. We believe we have attended to that.
There is no question in 1986 that was not the case. We were rife with fraudulent documents, failure to enforce the law against employers, separation between the INS at that time and the FBI. We did not have the Department of Homeland Security. All of that we have learned from. We have addressed the principal issues and questions the good Senator has outlined.
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Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, just along those lines, I think our colleagues ought to be alerted we can anticipate a vote fairly shortly.
Mr. President, just in response to my friend from Texas, he is familiar with the fact that we passed the Border Security Act in 2002. The idea was to understand everybody coming into this country, to know where they were, and when they were leaving. We have not completed that kind of circle, but we have made dramatic progress. As of now, every green card, every work permit, every visa is machine readable and biometric--every single one that we have working today. So this is a dramatic shift in terms of dealing with the issue of fraud, which has been talked about here.
Now, in order for immigration reform--we have talked with security officials who have all told us it is in our interest, in our national security interest, to bring people out of the shadows. They have all indicated that. We have so many individuals here whose names we do not know. We do not know their locations. They are living in a shadowy world that can more often than not--or at least sometimes can--be connected with crime. And many of these people, obviously, want a different life and a different future.
To be able to make that progress and isolate those individuals who pose a threat to us, our security officials who came before our committee said that a real confidentiality clause is necessary--absolutely necessary--for the earned legalization to succeed, in order to have immigration reform. Current undocumented immigrants will have to be persuaded it is safe to come forward to an agency they have come to mistrust, and they will need to feel comfortable the information they provide on their applications about their histories, their employers, and their families will not be used against them or their loved ones.
Churches, community agencies, and attorneys who will be helping people apply will also need confidence they are not exposing their clients to immigration enforcement by encouraging them to apply for legalization.
I believe the change in the Cornyn amendment would make the confidentiality clause worthless. Hundreds of thousands of immigrants who qualify for earned legalization will likely be dissuaded from participating, undermining the effectiveness of our entire reform effort. And hundreds of thousands of immigrants would be encouraged to remain in the shadows rather than risk coming forward under these conditions.
The confidentiality clause in the underlying bill does not protect criminals. On the contrary, the bill requires DHS and State to disclose all information--it is at the bottom of page 362 of the bill--unlike the provisions the Senator referred to in the Violence Against Women provisions. The penalties for the disclosure of information, and the exceptions: The Attorney General may provide, in the discretion of the Attorney General, the disclosure of information to law enforcement officials to be used solely for law enforcement purposes.
Our legislation says:
The Secretary of Homeland Security and the Secretary of State shall provide the information furnished pursuant to an application filed under [the] paragraph ..... and any other information derived from such furnished information, to a duly recognized law enforcement entity in connection with a criminal investigation or prosecution or a national security investigation or prosecution. .....
Mr. President, I do not think you can do better than that. We are even stronger on this issue. I have mentioned the other reasons for it. I agree with the Senator from Texas. We have to put in place a very effective biometric system. We have a real downpayment for it. We want to strengthen that. But we are making very dramatic and significant progress, and we will continue to do so.
We have indicated, in this most strenuous way, why we have drafted these provisions the way they have been drafted. We think they best serve the interests of the innocent and the prosecution of the guilty.
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Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, I am glad the Senator from Texas invited our colleagues to listen carefully. I hope they will listen carefully to what I am reading from the underlying bill. No matter how many times the Senator from Texas says he doesn't believe there will be reporting, prosecution, and cooperation between the agencies, I suggest that any of our colleagues who are in question read page 362 of the bill:
Required disclosures--The Secretary of Homeland Security and the Secretary of State shall--
Not may, shall--
provide the information furnished to an application filed under the paragraph (1) or (2) of subsection (a), and any other information derived from such furnished information, to a duly recognized law enforcement entity in connection with a criminal investigation or prosecution or a national security investigation or prosecution, in each instance about an individual suspect or group of suspects, when such information is requested in writing by an entity.
I can't make it any clearer than that, with all respect. That was not the way it was done previously. That is the way it is now. It has been mentioned, let's have the Violence Against Women Act legislation. I have that in my hand. For our colleagues to understand, it says:
The Attorney General may provide, in the discretion of the Attorney General, for the disclosure of information to law enforcement officials.
We say ``shall provide.'' The Violence Against Women Act says ``may provide.'' We have a much stronger provision.
We are not defending actions of the past. We are talking about learning from the past. We have. Tamper-proof documents, we are strongly committed to that, and fair and effective enforcement at the employer level and, when we discover criminal activity--lying, deceit--on these applications, prosecution. But let's not wrap the innocent into that package as well.
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Mr. BINGAMAN. Mr. President, I was seeking recognition to ask the Senator from Arizona--he says this is unfair to low-income, low-skilled workers because we are putting a cap of 650,000 on this employment base. His proposal, the McCain-Kennedy bill, limited it. It had a cap of 290,000. I am proposing more than twice the admissions under the employment-based system than his proposal had. I don't understand why mine is unfair to anybody whereas his 290,000 was appropriate. He was proposing 290,000 as a limit on the number of people who could transition to legal permanent status, and that is when the guest worker program was being proposed at 400,000 per year. We have now reduced the guest worker program to 200,000 per year, and I am saying legal permanent residents should not exceed 650,000 per year under the employment-based system, in addition to the family preference, in addition to all the other ways that you can become a legal permanent resident. So I don't think this is that unfair. It is more than twice what he and Senator Kennedy proposed and more than four times the current law.
But it does impose some cap. I understand there are people, particularly inside the beltway, who do not want any cap. A lot of the immigrant groups have indicated very clearly they are opposed to any cap, any limit in this category. Of course, the Chamber of Commerce is opposed to any limit in this category. They would prefer to be able to bring in anybody without limit. I think that is not a responsible course, and for that reason I have offered this amendment.
I reserve my time.
Mr. KENNEDY. The answer is very simple, I say to the Senator. We had one figure when we came out of committee and then we had the Martinez legislation which forced individuals to go on back. We want to make sure the people who have been working here from 2 to 5 years would be able to go back and then come back in employment. So we increase that.
I will just continue----
Several Senators addressed the Chair.
Mr. KENNEDY. I just want to make another point. Here is the legislation, the immigration act. It points out where the priorities for the green cards are. If the Senator offered that amendment and had a fair distribution of the green cards, I would support him. But he does not. Under this he gives the priority to workers, aliens with extraordinary ability. That is No. 1. Outstanding professors and researchers, they will get their green cards; certain multinational executives and managers, they are going to get their green cards; aliens who are members of professions, they are going to get their green cards; skilled workers and professionals, they will get their green cards. But the people we have talked about, to try to make this kind of balance, the ones who have been coming across the border, the ones for whom we are trying to get a legal system so they can come through as guest workers, under this they are the ones who will be left out.
Fair ought to be fair. We have tried to work with the Senator from New Mexico to get a fair distribution so people will be treated fairly, and we have not gotten it. This is why we have this dilemma.
If you wanted to try to work with us to try to get a fair distribution--but that has not been the case. We tried to do that. As a result, the point the Senator from Arizona makes has credit.
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Mr. KENNEDY. The problem is that there is a limitation with the cap. Under the existing legislation the children and the wives were not counted. You are counting them now. The way the law works is going to be the squeeze. That is the effect. If the Senator wanted to--we tried to work this out. The Senator can say we are not changing anything, but, yes, we are changing it. We are changing it because you are moving numbers around. People will be able to come into this country. There will be a job out there, a person will be able to apply for it and come in here, but they can't get the green card because we only have a certain number of green cards. So that person will not be able to get the green card. So they will never be able to make an application for permanent residency. That is the effect of it.
If the Senator wanted to work with us--which we indicated we were going to--and put in that kind of cap and work this around so we could still maintain that aspect in the legislation, we were glad to do it. But once you have that limitation which is in effect now--is in effect now--this skews this whole process in terms of green card and normalization to the highest skilled individual and says to those people we have been trying to deal with--there is pressure on the border. We spend an enormous amount of time with guest workers saying: You are going to be treated with respect, no Braceros. You are going to work hard for 4 years, and there is going to be a green card out there, and you can work 5 more years, work hard, play by the rules, pay your taxes, and get citizenship.
Can the Senator give us assurance that under his proposal someone who comes as a guest worker and works 4 years is going to be able to get the green card and go for citizenship?
Mr. BINGAMAN. Mr. President, I am glad to respond. I can't give assurance of that. But I can say they are much more likely to get the green card under my proposal than they were under McCain-Kennedy. McCain-Kennedy contemplated 400,000 guest workers every year coming in and said the total number of green cards we are going to issue to these people is 290,000, including family.
What I am saying is, we should increase that to 650,000, including family, since we have half as many guest workers coming in each year under the bill that we have agreed to on the Senate floor.
I think my proposal, frankly, is much more generous in giving green cards to people who have come here legally than was McCain-Kennedy. It is more than twice as generous. It is more than four times as generous as current law. But I am saying we ought to have some cap. We should not just leave it uncapped entirely.
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Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, just so that our colleagues and friends understand exactly what we have done over the course of the development of this legislation, we have increased dramatically opportunities for high-skilled people to come here to the United States, probably two or three times, and the best estimate is about 600,000. That has been increased dramatically.
Under the basic immigration law, the people who get the first crack at the green card--what is the green card? The green card is the path towards citizenship. That really is key in terms of their future and their family's future.
Under existing law, of all the green cards that are going to be available, 70 percent of those are going to go to the high skills and only 30 percent to what I call the low skills.
We have recognized in the development of the legislation the pressure that is on the border, people coming across the border illegally, the pressure that is on companies that need the unskilled individuals to work in American industry for jobs that virtually no Americans will take. So we set up the process. They have to go out and ask. Americans have to advertise for those jobs and indicate what the pay will be. If they can't get it, they are able to bring in a foreign worker.
In this legislation, since we have found that farm workers have been so exploited over the period of the past we have given the assurance that we are going to have a tamper-proof card. They will able to come here and be able to be treated with respect, with decent wages and decent working conditions.
We have put into effect a program which will enable enforcement in the legislation for employers. We know that there are demands for these low-skill workers. That is what we have done. That is the pressure at the border--for people who want to come here and be part of the American dream and provide for their family.
We said to the lower-skilled individuals that we are going to treat you the same as the higher-skilled individuals because we believe in equity and fairness. We value the work of lower-skilled persons. We value the work of minimum-wage workers as we do the presidents of universities. That is an essential part of our country and our system. They provide indispensable work.
We said to them, Look, you come to the United States as a temporary worker; you work hard for 4 years. Then you have the opportunity to get a green card; 5 years later, if you pay your taxes and behave yourself, you can earn your citizenship. But they have to be able to earn the green card.
With the numbers that have been increased over the course of the debate on McCain-Kennedy, the effect of this is going to eliminate the possibility also of those low-income people to be able to obtain a green card over the time that they are here in the 6-year period.
That is effectively capping what you do. We tried to work out with the Senator from New Mexico a way to kind of deal with this disparity so we could have a fair distribution. We haven't been able to do that. But what we have done effectively is a dramatic alteration and change in this bill. At the end of the day there will not be the opportunity nor will we be able to represent the
guest workers when they come to the United States. After 6 years, you have no alternative but to return home.
I know that is not the intention of the Senator from New Mexico. But that is the effect of his amendment on this legislation.
As I said to the Senator from New Mexico, we tried over the course of yesterday to say, OK, I understand the appeal of trying to get a definitive number of people, including children. It always involves some give-and-take. Some families have larger numbers of children than others, and we have always tried to be responsive to these family needs. We were trying to work out a process so that would not happen.
The Senator from New Mexico points out that there is a difference in the underlying bill. Our underlying bill was changed both in the Judiciary Committee and on the floor. One of the principal reasons it changed on the floor is because we took the Martinez-Hagel amendment that said we are going to treat people who are here 5 years differently than we are going to treat the people that are here longer. Those who are going to be here only for 2 years are going to be deported. But they will know there is a guest worker program out there. If they want to go out and become a part of a guest worker program, they can find ways to be able to do it, play by the rules and be able to probably find a way to come back in and do it legally.
Those who are here between 2 and 5 years are going to have to be certain of the other requirements. They will have to go back to the port of entry and come back in--and they are treated differently.
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Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, I will just take a few minutes. I know the Senator from South Carolina wants a few minutes. And then we will be prepared to move ahead.
Mr. President, as has been pointed out during this debate, all of the men and women who would become legal residents of the United States under the terms of this legislation are required to pay income tax, like every other worker in America.
What the Sessions amendment would do, is really quite extraordinary and grossly unfair. It would arbitrarily deny those immigrants who have become legal residents one of the tax benefits available to every taxpayer under the Internal Revenue Code. That provision is the earned-income tax credit, a provision designed to reduce the tax burden on low-income families with children.
It is fundamentally wrong to subject immigrant workers to a different, harsher Tax Code than the one that applies to everyone else in the country. An immigrant worker should pay exactly the same income tax that every other worker earning the same pay and supporting the same size family pays--no less, no more. We should not be designing a special punitive Tax Code for immigrants that makes them pay more than everyone else. Yet that is exactly what the Sessions amendment seeks to do.
The Sessions amendment would result in highly inconsistent treatment of legal immigrant residents and would drastically increase the amount of tax that many of these families had to pay. They would be subject to income and payroll taxes in the same manner as other workers, but would be denied the use of a key element of the Tax Code that is intended to offset the relatively heavy tax burdens that low-income working families, especially those with children, otherwise would face.
Most of the EITC is simply a tax credit for the payment of other taxes, especially regressive payroll taxes. The EITC was specifically designed to offset the payroll tax burden on low-income working parents. The Treasury Department has estimated that a large majority of the EITC merely compensates for a portion of the Federal income, payroll, and excise taxes paid by the low-income tax filers who qualify to receive it.
The earned-income tax credit is not welfare; it is an earned benefit in the Tax Code that is available to all tax paying, low-income working families with children.
Immigrant families who are legal residents are subject to the same tax as other workers in America. They have the same tax burdens, the same tax benefit as everyone else under current law. The Sessions amendment would change that, depriving legal immigrant families of one of the primary tax benefits for low-income families with children in the Tax Code. To do so would be terribly unjust. I urge my colleagues to reject the amendment.
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Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, I yield myself 3 minutes.
Mr. President, the CBO and Joint Tax Committee estimates show that the increase in refundable credits resulting from S. 2611 would be more than offset by the income and payroll taxes new filers would pay. The net effect of the increased costs and revenues would be a gain of more than $30 billion between 2007 and 2016. So their estimate is that the new legal residents would pay over $62 billion in income and payroll taxes, while the costs of refundable tax credit, the EITC, and the child tax credit would only be $29 billion.
Thus, the Federal Treasury would clearly benefit from these immigrant workers becoming legal residents by about $30 billion. So only legal residents are eligible for the EITC. Undocumented workers are not eligible for the EITC today and will not be under the terms of this legislation. However, when they become legal residents, under the process created by S. 2611, they will be eligible for the EITC going forward under the same terms of all other legal workers.
The Sessions amendment would deny these legal immigrant families with children the same rights to this tax credit as other low-income families with children, and it is wrong and unfair. I hope it will be defeated.
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Mr. KENNEDY. I yield myself 5 minutes.
Mr. President, the Ensign amendment does more than prohibit the immigrants from claiming the EITC when they file tax returns for the years in which they were undocumented. The amendment would prohibit immigrant workers from receiving refunds of their own money when more of their wages were withheld than they owe in taxes--do my colleagues understand? But under the Ensign amendment, when more is withheld than they owe, they cannot recover the money.
What could be more unfair? The IRS is holding their money. It was withheld from their wages and sent to the Government by their employer. So these immigrant workers have now filed tax returns, like millions of American workers each year. They have overpaid, and are entitled to refunds. The Ensign amendment would prohibit them from receiving these refunds. They cannot get their money back under the Ensign amendment. The Government arbitrarily decides to keep it.
Beyond that--listen to this, Mr. President--on page 2 ``or any other tax credit otherwise allowable under the Tax Code.'' What could that be? The child tax credit. This amendment also prohibits immigrant workers from receiving the child tax credit. The Tax Code permits families to take a $1,000 tax credit for each minor child. This is one of the most important provisions in the entire Internal Revenue Code for working families. It recognizes how expensive it is to raise children today, and it reduces a family's tax liability by $1,000 for each child. It allows these families to pay less income tax so that the money can be used to help them meet the child's basic needs. But the Ensign amendment says to immigrant families struggling on meager wages, trying to provide a better life for their children: You can't use the child tax credit to reduce your tax liability, even though every other family can. It does not matter that in many cases your children were born in the United States and are American citizens. Your children still cannot receive the benefit of the child tax credit because you were an undocumented worker.
As a result, an immigrant family with two youth children, maybe American citizens, will have to pay $2,000 more in taxes each year than any other family in America who has the same income, same number of dependent children.
That is an incredibly harsh penalty to impose on these families. The Ensign amendment would impose a special punitive Tax Code on immigrants who were once undocumented, making them pay higher taxes than anyone else with comparable incomes, denying them the basic right to a refund of their own money when the employer withholds more than they owe.
I urge my colleagues to look closely at this unjust amendment and reject it.
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Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, when Oscar Handlin, the eminent historian at Harvard, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1952 for his history of immigration ``The Uprooted,'' he said he had set out to write a history of immigrants in America, but ``discovered that the immigrants were America.''
With passage of this legislation, we reclaim that America. We lift once again the lamp beside the golden door.
This is the most far-reaching immigration reform in our history. It is a comprehensive and realistic attempt to solve the real-world problems that have festered for too long in our broken immigration system.
It strengthens our security and reflects our humanity. It is intended to keep out those who would harm us and welcome those who contribute to our country. It has the potential to build a stronger, better, fairer America for the 21st century.
It protects our security through stricter enforcement, tamper-proof immigration cards, and high-tech border controls.
It protects American jobs and wages by bringing immigrants out of the shadows and requiring employers to pay fair American wages.
And it enables decent men and women who work hard and play by the rules to earn the privilege of American citizenship.
That has been America's story. And it's a story we must live anew with each new generation if we hope to continue as a vibrant land of liberty, progress and opportunity--a land of people who want to do better, who love their families, embrace our Nation, and are proud to be American citizens.
Wisdom in immigration policy doesn't just happen. It is a choice between a future of progress as a nation of immigrants or a future defined by high walls and long fences.
Clearly, we still have much to do before this legislation becomes the new law of the land. Some believe that enforcement is the only path to take.
I would urge them to remember that from the beginning to the present day, immigrants helped build our country, and made us strong.
They worked in our factories and toiled in our fields, and we are stronger for it.
They built the railroads that took America to the West. Even today, it is said that under every railroad tie, an Irishman is buried.
Immigrants have loved America and fought under our flag, and we are stronger for it.
And if we enact this bipartisan comprehensive reform, we will be stronger for it too.
As we close this debate, I commend our two leaders, Senator Frist and Senator Reid, for their skill in enabling this debate to take place. At a time of heated political division in Congress, the debate we have seen these past 2 weeks is unique in recent times. Senators of both parties have come together for the common good. This opportunity would not have been possible without our leaders, and I hope it is a precedent for other major issues in the weeks ahead.
I commend President Bush for putting this issue before the country and for helping Americans understand the need for comprehensive reform.
I commend the chairman and ranking member of our Judiciary Committee, Senator Specter and Senator Leahy, for their strong support throughout this process.
I thank those of our bipartisan group who stood together to make this legislation possible--Senator Graham, Senator Salazar, Senator Martinez, Senator Hagel, Senator Durbin, Senator Lieberman, Senator Brownback, Senator Obama, and Senator DeWine.
And most of all, I express my appreciation to my colleague, Senator McCain, who made all this possible from the start. He'd probably prefer I didn't say this, but he's been a profile in courage once again, and I commend him for his leadership.
I'm also grateful to the many staff members who helped to get us to this point. I'm grateful to Ron Weich and Serena Hoy of Senator Reid's staff; to Bruce Cohen, Tara Magner and Matt Virkstis of Senator Leahy's staff; to Joe Zogby of Senator Durbin's staff; to Jennifer Duck and Montserrat Miller of Senator Feinstein's staff; to Felicia Escobar of Senator Salazar's staff; to Tom Klouda and Alan Cohen of Senator Baucus' staff; to Kevin Landy of Senator Lieberman's staff; to Danny Sepulveda of Senator Obama's staff; and to Chris Schloesser of Senator Menendez' staff.
This was a truly bipartisan effort, and I'm grateful to staff from the other side of the aisle as well: Juria Jones, Joe Jacqot, and Michael O'Neill of Senator Specter's staff; to Clay Deatherage, Brian Walsh, and Nilda Pedrosa of Senator Martinez' staff; to Jill Konz and Steve Taylor of Senator Hagel's staff; to Matt Rimkunas of Senator Graham's staff; to Steve Robinson of Senator Grassley's staff; to Ajit Pai and Bryan Clark of Senator Brownback's staff; and to Brook Roberts of Senator Craig's staff.
And special thanks, of course, to Senator McCain's staff, with whom we've worked so closely over the past year--Ann Begeman and Brook Sikora. And I'd like to express my deep appreciation for Becky Jensen. Without her vision and determination, this bill would never have happened.
On my own staff, I'm very very grateful to the many who worked so long and hard as well to make this day possible--Jeffrey Teitz, James Flug, James Walsh, Laura Capps, Missy Rohrbach, Lauren McGarity, Guarav Laroia, Charlotte Burrows, Christine Leonard, and Michael Myers.
My special thanks go to two on my staff who worked so hard over so many months on this bill, Janice Kaguyutan and Marc Rosenblum.
Finally, and certainly not least, there's our hero of the hour--a remarkable person with extraordinary talent, skill and compassion. We've all come to rely on her knowledge and judgment in moving this bill forward--Esther Olavarria.
Some say the easy part of this debate is over, and now we face the hard part reconciling the Senate bill with the House bill. We'll do our best, and I'm optimistic we can resolve our differences again.
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Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, what we are saying is when immigrants are going to be legal immigrants, they are going to pay income tax, and under the Sessions amendment they are going to say you are going to pay your taxes, but you are not going to be able to take the earned-income tax credit. Your two children may be American citizens, but under the Sessions amendment, you will not be able to take the earned-income tax credit because you have not effectively became a citizen, even though you are legally here and paying taxes.
This is a special punitive tax provision that will be unique only to those individuals. It is wrong and it is unfair, and this amendment should be defeated.
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