KENNEDY, SALAZAR DISCUSS IMMIGRATION BILL WITH LEADING HISPANIC CHRISTIAN BROADCASTERS
Today, Senators Kennedy and Salazar joined the Reverend Luis Cortes, President of Esperanza USA, in a policy briefing with dozens of Hispanic Evangelical broadcasters, journalists, and newspaper owners. They discussed the immigration reform bill on the floor of the United States Senate this week and shared their views that the price of inaction is too high. Esperanza is the largest Hispanic Evangelical organization in the country, consisting of a network of over 10,000 Hispanic congregations, faith and community based agencies.
Below is Senator Kennedy's statement, as prepared for delivery.
"This bill presents the best chance will have in years to secure our borders and bring millions of people out of the shadows and into the sunshine of America. We must act, and act now.
Opportunities like this don't arise often, and we have to take advantage of this one - the price of inaction is too high. Too many people dying in the desert; too many employers abusing the system and hurting American workers; too many years of broken borders. If we don't take this on now it will be years before we can again.
Comprehensive immigration reform is a moral imperative. Although we pride ourselves on being a nation of immigrants, we have repeatedly failed to welcome the stranger in our midst. We defy our history and our heritage when millions of immigrants are relegated to second class citizenship, exploited in the workplace, or forced to live in constant fear of deportation. How we solve these problems is a test of our own humanity.
The elements of our system are inextricably intertwined, and we can't fix one without fixing the others. By legalizing the current undocumented population, we will be able to focus our enforcement efforts on people who pose a real threat to our national security. By creating a temporary worker program that fulfills the needs of America's businesses, we can begin to stem the flow of illegal immigration. The bill also creates a robust employment verification system that increases penalties against employers who continue to hire undocumented workers.
Family reunification will remain the cornerstone of legal immigration under the bill. For the next 8 years, family-based immigration will total 1.1 million legal immigrants, which is approximately 80% of all legal immigration. After we have reduced the existing backlogs, more than half of our future immigration will be based on family ties. If you are a U.S. citizen or a legal immigrant, you can bring your spouse, your minor children, and your parents here to join you.
The remaining visas will be allocated based on a point system that factors in preferences for both high and low-skilled workers, as well as extended family ties. About 20% will be reserved for refugees who desperately need safe haven in our country.
Although this bill is not perfect, it fulfills our core goals - border security, interior enforcement, effective employment verification, a temporary worker program with strong labor protections, a commitment to family-based immigration, and an earned legalization program. I hope that you and your congregations will support the bill as the process moves forward.