Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007

Floor Speech

By:  Lindsey Graham
Date: June 6, 2007
Location: Washington, DC

COMPREHENSIVE IMMIGRATION REFORM ACT OF 2007 -- (Senate - June 06, 2007)

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Mr. GRAHAM. Will the Senator yield?

Mr. KYL. Yes.

Mr. GRAHAM. For those who are worried about this, on the issue of families, you should be worried about this. Is it not true that in this bill, in terms of family reunification, the way we have accomplished or dealt with the bill, families will be reunified decades earlier, and those who are waiting to join their families under this bill--those who have done it right--will be together no later than 8 years; is that correct?

Mr. KYL. That is exactly correct. Instead of waiting 20, 30 years, they will have to wait no longer than 8 years.

Mr. GRAHAM. So if you want to be the person who keeps families apart, bring this bill down. I assure families will not be reunified under the current system like they are here, that we will have a dramatic increase in green cards to get these families reunited. We go up to 74 percent. If you want to keep families apart, bring this bill down and let the current system survive.

Secondly, when it comes to families, there are 12 million people here illegally. Is it not true that their families, under this bill--if they will do the right thing--will never live in fear again?

Mr. KYL. Mr. President, to me, that is one of the main features of the bill. Today, we have people who are being exploited, people against whom crimes are being committed, but they are afraid to report it to the law enforcement authorities. They are not being paid adequate wages and their working conditions are poor. Frankly, they are being taken advantage of. As long as they are in this gray status, that will continue.

This bill offers them immediately an opportunity to begin a process by which they are playing by the rules and, as a result of that, they can have the freedom and the assurance of being protected by the laws of the United States.

Mr. GRAHAM. To my good friend from Arizona, I say this: If you are concerned about the 12 million people who are living in fear, subject to exploitation, then this is the best chance you will ever have in my political lifetime to fix it. If you want to bring this bill down, the one thing I can assure you is that the 12 million, or however many there may be, will not only live in fear, they are going to live in more fear because we have stirred up a hornets nest in this country.

I argue, if you care about people who have families not being afraid anymore, if they get themselves right with the law, help us pass this bill. In the future, after everybody has been accommodated who has a reasonable expectation, we are going to allow families to be part of the new immigration system.

Could the Senator tell me again, in the future, what percentage of visas will be given to families?

Mr. KYL. The answer I give the Senator is that family visas alone are 51 percent--a majority--and another 17 percent is humanitarian.

Mr. GRAHAM. Would the Senator acknowledge that is twice the family component of other nations with whom we are competing?

Mr. KYL. Mr. President, that is almost exactly right. I know in the case of--in fact, I will give you the exact number. In Canada, it is 24 percent. If we have 51 percent, obviously, that is close to twice that number. In Australia, it is 27 percent. And, again, if we are at 51 percent in the future, that is almost exactly twice.

But remember, that is only after 8 years. For the next 8 years, it is 74 percent because of what the Senator from South Carolina was pointing out.

Mr. GRAHAM. Mr. President, the bottom line, I say to my good friend from Arizona, is we would have no bill without him. He stepped to the plate and said I am willing to look at the 12 million anew; I don't believe we are going to deport them, and I don't believe we are going to put them in jail; So I am going to give them a chance to identify themselves, come out of the shadows and do things that will make them valuable to our country and will be fair and humane.

We have accomplished that. We couldn't do it last year. We are going to reunite families who have been waiting for decades to get into this country. We are going to expedite family reunions in an 8-year period for some people because they would not live long enough to get back with their families.

In the future, we are going to have a new system. There is going to be a strong family component, but I make no apologies about this, in the future we are going to have immigration based on the global economy and merit. We need to start looking at where we are in the world and making sure people come into our country under a merit-based system. Neither one of my parents graduated high school. There is a way forward for the semiskilled and low-skilled workers to come into our country in the future. But the family component in the future will be spouses and minor children, freeing up thousands of green cards for merit-based employment. They are not going to bring in their adult children unless they have a way to get in on their own. They are not going to bring in their third cousin. Nobody else does that. They are going to come in as a nuclear family, and we are going to do it based on merit, and merit is not a degree.

Under this bill, if you come in with a strong back and a strong heart and a desire to get ahead, you get points for getting a GED, you get points for an apprenticeship, you get points for doing the things that make you a better person. So I reject completely the idea that the merit-based system excludes hard-working people.

I end with this one thought. If we don't get it right now and correct the flaws in our system which led to the 12 million which will make us globally noncompetitive, then who will? When will they do it? There are a million reasons to say no to something this hard, there are 12 million reasons to say yes, and there are many reasons in the future to say yes because our country cannot survive with a broken immigration system that makes us noncompetitive.

This is a national security issue. This is a global economic issue. Now is the time to understand we will never have a perfect bill but to do something that will be good for America.

I thank my good friend, Jon Kyl, and Senator Kennedy for getting us this far.