Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007

Floor Speech

By:  Lindsey Graham
Date: May 23, 2007
Location: Washington, DC

COMPREHENSIVE IMMIGRATION REFORM ACT OF 2007 -- (Senate - May 23, 2007)

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AMENDMENT NO. 1173

Mr. GRAHAM. I ask unanimous consent that the pending amendment be set aside, and I call up amendment 1173.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

The clerk will report.

The bill clerk read as follows:

The Senator from South Carolina [Mr. Graham], for himself, Mr. Chambliss, Mr. Isakson, Mr. McCain, Mr. Martinez, and Mr. Kyl, proposes an amendment numbered 1173 to amendment No. 1150.

Mr. GRAHAM. I ask unanimous consent that reading of the amendment be dispensed with.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

The amendment is as follows:
(Purpose: To provide for minimum sentences for aliens who reenter the United States after removal)

Strike subsections (a) through (c) of section 276 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as amended by section 207 of this Act, and insert the following:

``(a) Reentry After Removal.--Any alien who has been denied admission, excluded, deported, or removed, or who has departed the United States while an order of exclusion, deportation, or removal is outstanding, and subsequently enters, attempts to enter, crosses the border to, attempts to cross the border to, or is at any time found in the United States, shall be fined under title 18, United States Code, and imprisoned not less than 60 days and not more than 2 years.

``(b) Reentry of Criminal Offenders.--Notwithstanding the penalty provided in subsection (a), if an alien described in that subsection--

``(1) was convicted for 3 or more misdemeanors or a felony before such removal or departure, the alien shall be fined under title 18, United States Code, and imprisoned not less than 1 year and not more than 10 years;

``(2) was convicted for a felony before such removal or departure for which the alien was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of not less than 30 months, the alien shall be fined under such title, and imprisoned not less than 2 years and not more than 15 years;

``(3) was convicted for a felony before such removal or departure for which the alien was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of not less than 60 months, the alien shall be fined under such title, and imprisoned not less than 4 years and not more than 20 years;

``(4) was convicted for 3 felonies before such removal or departure, the alien shall be fined under such title, and imprisoned not less than 4 years and not more than 20 years; or

``(5) was convicted, before such removal or departure, for murder, rape, kidnaping, or a felony offense described in chapter 77 (relating to peonage and slavery) or 113B (relating to terrorism) of such title, the alien shall be fined under such title, and imprisoned not less than 5 years and not more than 20 years.

``(c) Reentry After Repeated Removal.--Any alien who has been denied admission, excluded, deported, or removed 3 or more times and thereafter enters, attempts to enter, crosses the border to, attempts to cross the border to, or is at any time found in the United States, shall be fined under title 18, United States Code, and imprisoned not less than 2 years and not more than 10 years.''.

Mr. GRAHAM. Mr. President, as we try to repair a broken immigration system and replace it with a new system that learns from the mistakes of the past, I believe it is time for this body and this country to get serious about enforcing border security violations. After 9/11, the immigration debate has taken on a different tone. After 9/11, it is no longer about economic and social problems associated with illegal immigration. It is about national security problems associated with illegal immigration. In the Fort Dix, NJ, case, there were allegations made that six people were conspiring to attack Fort Dix. Apparently, three of those people came in illegally as children or crossed the southern border, and three of the people charged with crimes overstayed their visas. So it is more than securing the border. That is a central concept to this bill.

Democrats and Republicans are rallying around the idea that the current system is broken in many ways. The borders are not secure. When it comes time to verify employment, fraud is rampant. The way you get a job now is to produce a Social Security card. I could take a Social Security card out of my wallet and have it faked by midnight. We are talking about replacing that kind of fraudulent system with tamperproof identification, which would be a great change in terms of understanding who is here and why they are here and employing people on our terms, not theirs.

In the future, after we begin to control our borders, Senator Isakson's amendment says you can't bring new people into the country in a permanent fashion until you meet border security triggers. The employment verification trigger is a great idea. Here is the question I have: After we do all this, after we spend all this money to secure our borders and replace fraudulent systems with tamperproof systems, what do we do to people who try to come across illegally in the future? What message do we send them and the world?

Here is the message: If you come across our border illegally in the future, you violate our border security, you are going to jail. No more catch you and send you back. My amendment would require a mandatory 60-day jail sentence for the first illegal reentry, up to a year but mandatory 60 days. If you come back again illegally, no less than 2 years. So everyone needs to know that America is changing its immigration laws, and we are going to be serious about enforcing them. If you break our laws, you do so at your own peril, and you will lose your freedom. That will help us dramatically make sure we don't repeat the mistakes of the past.

There is another group of people we need to deal with in terms of illegal reentry that is bone chilling. The amendment would create mandatory jail time for people who have been convicted of crimes in the United States, illegal immigrants who have committed violent offenses, nonviolent offenses, who have served jail time, that if you get deported--and you are required to be deported after you serve your sentence--and get caught coming back into this country, you are going to go to jail, not be deported again.

Let me give an example. Angel Resendiz is known as the railroad killer. Let me tell you the story of this criminal. In August 1976, he came across the border illegally. In September 1979, he was sentenced to a 20-year prison term for auto theft and assault in Miami, FL. He was paroled within 6 years and released into Mexico as a result of deportation. Over the next 10 years, he was apprehended and tried in Texas for falsely claiming citizenship. He did an 18-month prison term. He was arrested for possessing a concealed weapon in 1988 in New Orleans and received another 18-month prison term. Every time he was sentenced, he was deported and came right back to commit another crime. He got 30 months for attempting to defraud Social Security in St. Louis. He pled guilty to burglary charges in New Mexico that gained him an 18-month prison term, and he was paroled in 1992. He was apprehended in the Santa Fe rail yard for trespassing and carrying a firearm in 1995.

On June 2, 1999, he was apprehended by the Border Patrol for crossing illegally. Due to a computer glitch, they let him go. Every time he committed a crime and served a sentence, he was deported, only to come right back and commit another crime. Once we caught him, all we did was deport him. He wound up killing two people within 48 hours of being released by the Border Patrol. If this amendment had been in place for people such as this guy, once he was found back on our soil after he served his prison term for a violent crime, he would not have been deported.

He would have gotten a 20-year jail sentence with a mandatory minimum of 5 years.

So there are people who have been convicted of rape and murder within the United States who have illegally come across the border, committed a crime, served their time, been deported, who have come right back, committed another crime, and nothing happens.

If this amendment becomes law, once you have been convicted of a violent crime and deported, if you are found in our country, whether you are committing a crime, that is a crime in and of itself, and you are going to go to jail for up to 20 years, with a minimum of 5 years.

Now that, to me, is what has been missing when it comes to our legal system and illegal immigration. It is now time to tell the world--our own citizens and all those who wish to come here--there is a right way to do it and there is a wrong way to do it. If you do it the wrong way in the future, you are going to go to jail.

We need to change the system that would allow nothing to happen to somebody who had been in our country illegally, who was convicted of rape or murder, who served their sentence and had been deported, who illegally comes back into our country. If they cross the border again, if they cross the border in the future, after committing a violent crime, they are going back to jail for serious jail time to protect us against them.

Now, I hope every Member of the body will understand this will make our effort to reform illegal immigration meaningful. If America does not care about enforcing its laws in the future, those who want to violate it will not care either.

So now is the time to start the clock over, learn from the mistakes of the past and make a national commitment to secure our borders and deal with those who violate our immigration law in the sternest fashion. Because this Nation is under siege. After 9/11, illegal immigration is not just about people coming here to work, it is about people coming here to commit crimes and do us harm.

So I am very hopeful this amendment will become part of the bill, and we can say, after this bill passes, we have taken a new approach, a tough approach, a long overdue approach, that we do care about the laws on our books and we are going to enforce them, and if you violate the law in the future by illegally coming across our border, you are going to jail.

Mr. President, I would like, if I could, at this time, to recognize my colleague from Georgia, Senator Chambliss.

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Mr. GRAHAM. Mr. President, very briefly, and I will move to have this amendment voted upon, if that is the correct order of business.

To my very good friend Senator Kennedy, it is my understanding in terms of incarceration costs, the costs are paid by the Federal Government through the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program about 90 percent--90 cents on the dollar. So the Federal Government does help the local communities almost fully to deal with the expense of people who are caught violating or who are put in jail.

In terms of leniency--is there any evidence our laws are too lenient--I would say there are about 12 million pieces of evidence that our laws are too lenient. How can you have 12 million people come across the border and the word not be out that there is not much of a downside to doing it? Now, if you get 12 million people violating the law, it must be common knowledge among that population and others there is not much going to happen to you.

Well, that needs to stop. We need to give people who are here a chance to assimilate. Legal paths, we have more legal paths than we have ever had through this bill.

The illegal part of it has to come to an end and will only come to an end if there is a downside to breaking our law, and this amendment is about mandatory jail time. I am not trying to make it easier on people; I am trying to make it harder on people who take the law into their own hands and violate our border security. That is why we have mandatory jail time. Prior misdemeanors, you are going to go to jail 1 year if we catch you here again. If you served jail time of 2 1/2 years and we find you on our soil again after you have been deported, 2 years. If you got a sentence of 5 years and we find you on our soil again after you have been deported, 4 years in jail. If you are convicted of three or more felonies, 4 years in jail, if we find you here again. If you are convicted of a violent crime, no less than 5 years, and up to 20 years.

It is time to get serious. This is a serious amendment for a serious problem. I know this is going to send the right message and that we need to be tough, not just in words but in deeds.

I urge passage of the amendment.

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Mr. GRAHAM. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to add Senator McConnell as a cosponsor of the amendment.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

Mr. GRAHAM. Mr. President, very briefly, to respond to my good friend from New Mexico about some of his concerns, this is not about me feeling good; this is about having the law work in a way that will deter people from crossing our borders illegally.

I point to the Angel Resendez case, and if we had this law in effect where we had mandatory jail time for those who had committed offenses and caught on our soil. In a 10-year period he committed five crimes, got deported each time, and was able to come back and commit another crime. If this amendment had been in place, he would have been in jail for a longer period of time and maybe his murder victims would be alive today. This is a case not about me feeling good; it is about somebody with a great propensity to cross our border illegally and commit crimes and not being held accountable in a serious way.

After the Booker case, the sentencing guidelines are advisory. If we want to send a message that we are flexible when it comes to immigration law violations, we are doing a great job of it. People must believe we are flexible, because they are coming across our borders in droves. Flexibility is being taken as indifference. What we need to do is to make it a crime that will sting people when they come across.

The cost to this country of having laws that are ignored and are virtually a joke is huge. Look at where we are today with illegal immigration. Let's try something new. Let's try doing something that has worked over time: If you commit a crime, you do some time.

With that, I yield the floor and ask for passage.

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AMENDMENT NO. 1168 TO AMENDMENT NO. 1150

Mr. GRAHAM. Madam President, if I could request the indulgence of Senator Cornyn, on behalf of Senator Hutchison, I call up amendment No. 1168 and ask unanimous consent for its immediate consideration.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered. The clerk will report.

The legislative clerk read as follows:

The Senator from South Carolina [Mr. GRAHAM], for Mrs. Hutchison, for herself Mr. Bingaman, Mr. Domenici, Mr. McCain, Mr. Kyl, Mrs. Feinstein, and Mr. Cornyn, proposes an amendment numbered 1168 to amendment No. 1150.

Mr. GRAHAM. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the reading of the amendment be dispensed with.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

The amendment is as follows:
(Purpose: To provide local officials and the Secretary of Homeland Security greater involvement in decisions regarding the location of border fencing)

On page 6, line 11, strike the second period and insert the following: ``;

(C) in paragraph (2), as redesignated--

(i) in the header, by striking ``SECURITY FEATURES'' and inserting ``ADDITIONAL FENCING ALONG SOUTHWEST BORDER''; and

(ii) by striking subparagraphs (A) through (C) and inserting the following:

``(A) REINFORCED FENCING.--In carrying out subsection (a), the Secretary of Homeland Security shall construct reinforced fencing along not less than 700 miles of the southwest border where fencing would be most practical and effective and provide for the installation of additional physical barriers, roads, lighting, cameras, and sensors to gain operational control of the southwest border.

``(B) PRIORITY AREAS.--In carrying out this section, the Secretary of Homeland Security shall--

``(i) identify the 370 miles along the southwest border where fencing would be most practical and effective in deterring smugglers and aliens attempting to gain illegal entry into the United States; and

``(ii) not later than December 31, 2008, complete construction of reinforced fencing along the 370 miles identified under clause (i).

``(C) CONSULTATION.--

``(i) IN GENERAL.--In carrying out this section, the Secretary of Homeland Security shall consult with the Secretary of Interior, the Secretary of Agriculture, States, local governments, Indian tribes, and property owners in the United States to minimize the impact on the environment, culture, commerce, and quality of life for the communities and residents located near the sites at which such fencing is to be constructed.

``(ii) SAVINGS PROVISION.--Nothing in this subparagraph may be construed to--

``(I) create any right of action for a State, local government, or other person or entity affected by this subsection; or

``(II) affect the eminent domain laws of the United States or of any State.

``(D) LIMITATION ON REQUIREMENTS.--Notwithstanding subparagraph (A), nothing in this paragraph shall require the Secretary of Homeland Security to install fencing, physical barriers, roads, lighting, cameras, and sensors in a particular location along an international border of the United States, if the Secretary determines that the use or placement of such resources is not the most appropriate means to achieve and maintain operational control over the international border at such location.''; and

(D) in paragraph (5), as redesignated, by striking ``to carry out this subsection not to exceed $12,000,000'' and inserting ``such sums as may be necessary to carry out this subsection''.

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Mr. GRAHAM. Madam President, I urge the adoption of the amendment.