Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007--Motion to Proceed

Floor Speech

By:  Lindsey Graham
Date: May 21, 2007
Location: Washington, DC

COMPREHENSIVE IMMIGRATION REFORM ACT OF 2007--MOTION TO PROCEED -- (Senate - May 21, 2007)

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Mr. GRAHAM. Madam President, I thank Senator Kennedy and Senator Martinez.

I am in the fifth year of my first term, and we are finally dealing with an issue I think the country would love to have dealt with years ago. We are on the verge of doing something big and important. There are many reasons why you never do the big things and the hard things. That is why they stay unresolved.

The country is running out of time on this particular issue to think of reasons why we won't solve this problem. Before 9/11, I would argue illegal immigration was a social and economic problem. After 9/11, I would argue it is a national security problem. We have millions of people in our country roaming around and we do not know who they are or what they are up to. The good news is most of them are here, unfortunately illegally, to work and to try to make something of themselves and add value to our country.

It is clear from Fort Dix, NJ--and maybe other things to come--some people are here illegally who are up to no good. They want to hurt us. The hijackers on 9/11--all of them came here. Most of them overstayed their visas. They did not come across the border. They had four or five fake drivers licences. It should be a wake-up call to this country we have people in our midst and we do not know who they are and there is no way to find out who they are.

One thing every Member of the Senate, I hope, will agree upon is that if you wanted to, you could get a Social Security card made by midnight tonight somewhere that would pass for the real thing. When you drive by a construction site, and you see people working who are Hispanic or other folks you think are here from outside the country, I bet you every employer has documentation on file that appears to be legal. It is almost a nightmare for employers to comply with the current system.

People tell me, enforce the law. If you can enforce this law, you are doing better than anybody since 1986. There is a reason this has happened. Why do 12 million people come here? Because we do not have a way to bring people here legally so they can work in a legal status. There are not enough Americans doing these jobs. Unemployment is below 5 percent. It is illogical to say this illegal workforce has driven Americans out of work. We are at historically low unemployment. We need workers. But what we need more than anything else is we need to be able to secure our border, control who comes, on our terms, and have verifiable information about what status you are in. Because if we do not do that, then what happened on 9/11 is more likely to happen again.

So there are many reasons to say no to this bill. There are many reasons to say no to someone else's proposal. But there is no good reason to not solve this problem. I do hope those who come down on the floor to amend this bill, to make it better, will lead us to a better solution. Those who come down on the floor with a goal of taking this bill down, I hope you feel some obligation to substitute it with something else that could pass.

Democracy is a wonderful thing. When I was at my State convention, a lady told me: I don't like compromise. I said: Well, don't run for office. Because this is all about compromising. Isn't it, Senator Kennedy? It is. What I like about my country is that Republicans, Democrats, and Independents historically have been able to do the hard things to make us a better nation.

I say to my friend from Florida, Senator Martinez, you have been a delight to work with.

Breaking the law is something that has occurred in large proportion when it comes to immigration. The reason people have been breaking the law to this extent is the rest of us have not been that excited about enforcing it. I think the rest of us have sort of looked the other way and allowed the illegal immigration problem to grow because we have not asked the hard questions about: Where are all these people coming from? And what are they doing?

There are lots of people, to their credit, who have been very upset about this issue for a very long time. I think many people in this country have gotten the benefit of this illegal workforce in terms of the labor and have sort of turned their eye, and now everybody is looking at it anew.

To those who have been shouting from the rooftops that the immigration system is broken, you have done us a great service. To those who believe illegal immigration is a national security threat, an economic threat, and a social threat, you have done us a great service. But you are not going to do us a great service if you only shout about the problem. I want you to do more than tell me it is broken and it needs to be fixed. I want you to do more than just say: Lindsey Graham and Ken Salazar have it wrong. I want you to do what we have done. That is the only thing I ask of any of my colleagues: Sit down with a Democrat and Republican and try to fix it--and good luck because it is hard.

You are right to come here and amend this bill and change it, and to take the floor and tell us why we have it wrong. I will listen. If we can fix it, we will. But do more than just tell me where I am wrong. Do more than just tell the American public we have to do something about this illegal immigration problem. Do more than just shout "amnesty.'' If you think saying "amnesty'' absolves you from having to participate in this debate, you are wrong. This debate is about the future of the United States when it comes to our national security, our employment needs, our ability to compete with the world for the labor force that exists. At the heart of this debate, it is about who we are as a people.

Now, tomorrow, I am going to read a report issued by the Government about immigrants. Some of it is very tough. Let me give you a preview:

As a class, the new immigrants are largely unskilled laborers coming from countries where the highest wage is small compared to the lowest wage in the United States. They bring little money into the country and they send or take a considerable part of their earnings out. More than 35 percent are illiterate as compared with less than 3 percent of the old immigrant class.

The new immigration movement is very large. There are few if any indications of its natural abatement. The new immigration coming in in such large numbers has provoked a widespread feeling of apprehension to its effect on the economic and social welfare of the country. They usually live in cooperative groups and crowd together. Consequently, they have been able to save a greater part of their earnings, much of which is sent or carried abroad. Moreover, there is a strong tendency on the part of the unaccompanied men to return to their native countries after a few years of labor here.

These groups have little or no contact with American life, learn little of American institutions, and aside from the wages earned, profit little by their stay in the country.

Unquestionably, the hordes of immigrants that are coming here have a good deal to do with crimes against women and children. You will notice these particular crimes are done by fellows who can't talk the English language.

Now, this is a Government report about the effect of immigrants, the new immigrants, on our country. These quotes were taken in 1910 from the Dillingham Report, and one of the Senators on that commission was from South Carolina. It went on, and I will talk more about it, to talk about how these immigrants are ruining America. They live among themselves. They have disease. They won't learn our language. They commit crimes. They are a burden on society, and we need to do something about it. The report was begun in 1910, it was finally issued in 1913. The people they were talking about became the ``greatest generation.''

Madam President, I yield the floor.