Immigration

Floor Speech

By:  Mitch McConnell
Date: June 28, 2007
Location: Washington, DC


IMMIGRATION -- (Senate - June 28, 2007)

Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, today is a day of victory and defeat. So many people have poured so much of themselves into this bill over the last weeks and months, and every one of them deserves our thanks and our respect.

This bill tested the will, and the goodwill, of many people. But it tested some more than others. So first I want to thank those whose position did not prevail.

Senator Specter's knowledge of this issue is matched only by his stamina. As the ranking member, he has our admiration and he deserves our thanks.

Senator Kyl inspired all of us, flying into his State and facing a lot of angry constituents, and the cameras week after week with optimism, patience and good cheer.

Senator Graham was one of the generals in this effort. He always does what he thinks is right, and Americans admire him for it.

Senator Martinez was another general. He brought intelligence and tenacity to this debate, and a story that never fails to inspire us.

Senator Lott's a great whip, and a good friend. He has been in this building more than 3 decades, but he has the energy of a freshman. He has been a leader and friend: I thank him for it.

Senator Salazar gave a lot of himself to this debate, a lot of time and no little criticism. Thank you.

And finally, it is a marvel of nature to see a man whose calling in life is obvious to anyone who sees him at his job. Senator Kennedy is such a man. He loves his work, and his passion has inspired us.

Of course, behind all these Senators are a lot of terrific staff members who have worked incredibly hard on this bill. On the Judiciary Committee, there was Michelle Grossman, Lauren Petron, Gavin Young, Lauren Pastarnack, Lynn Feldman, Juria Jones, and most of all Mike O'Neill.

On Senator McCain's staff, Becky Jensen. On Senator Graham's staff there was Matt Rimkunas and Jen Olson. On Senator Kyl's staff, Elizabeth Maier and Michael Dougherty. On Senator Martinez's staff, Brian Walsh, Clay Deatherage, and Nilda Pedrosa.

Now I want to thank everyone who opposed the bill.

Senators Sessions, DeMint, and Vitter got us all to sit up and listen closely to a lot of people who thought they had been shut out of this debate. They put the rules of this body to work. And I would take any one of them in a firefight.

Senator Cornyn, one of the original architects, deserves our thanks. He has been committed to finding a solution to our Nation's immigration problem for a long time. His contributions on the interior enforcement piece of this bill were a major part of the original compromise. But when he saw it was not a solution he could accept, he told us.

Senator Chambliss told us what the farmers needed, and we listened. We thank him for his important contributions to the bill.

Senator Isakson was the author of the trigger concept, which every one now agrees is a good idea.

To everyone involved in the crafting of this bill, I want to thank you. This was a labor of uncommon intensity. It required will, energy, and patience. And while it strained a lot of bonds, it broke none of them. As the majority leader said after the final vote, ``We're all still friends here.''

As the elected leader of my conference, I stood here in January and opened this session with a pledge. I knew contentious issues always have a better chance of being solved by divided governments, that immigration reform was within our reach, and I said we should put it in our sights.

I also knew it was going to have to be bipartisan if we were going to get a bill at all. So everyone I have mentioned rolled up their sleeves and got to work. And they put together a bill that represented the best chance we had of getting to our goal.

But it touched a nerve, and the shock of it shot right through the Senate. It lit up the switchboards here for weeks, and ignited a debate that strained our normal alliances here and at home in our States.

I heard from a lot of Kentuckians. Thousands of smart, well-informed people called my offices to talk about this bill. They did not like the idea of someone being rewarded for a crime, or the impact that this would have on a society whose first rule is the rule of law. They did not trust the Government to suddenly get serious about border control after neglecting it for 2 decades. And I do not blame them. I worried about all that too. And to every one of them, I say today: Your voice was heard.

A lot of good people came to my office. They argued for positions as diverse as the country itself. They explained their views patiently and with passion. I want to thank them too for informing my thinking and for helping to shape this extraordinary debate.

My goal from the start has been to move the conference forward, to facilitate debate, to ensure that the minority's voice was heard to the maximum extent possible. I had hoped there would be a way forward. And as the divisions between supporters and opponents widened, the only way forward, to my mind, was to ensure a fair process. This was the only way to be sure we could improve the status quo, which all of us agreed was indefensible. If every voice was heard, we could be confident our votes reflected the best this body could do.

I had hoped for a bipartisan accomplishment, and what we got was a bipartisan defeat. The American people made their voices heard, the Senate worked its will, and in the end it was clear that the bill that was crafted did not have the support of the people of Kentucky, it did not have the support of most Americans, it did not have the support of my conference, and it did not have enough support in the Democratic conference, a third of which opposed it.

This is not a day to celebrate. We do not celebrate when a pressing issue stays unresolved. But we can be confident that we will find a solution to the problems that we have tried to address here. Many people have made great personal sacrifices to work on a solution to our broken immigration system. A lot of them exposed themselves to ridicule and contempt.

And so we can say with pride that the failure of this bill was not a failure of will or hard work or good intentions. Martin Luther King once said that ``human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men.'' And we can be sure that many good people will step forward again to offer their intelligence, understanding, and their ``tireless efforts'' when the time comes to face this issue again.

That time was not now. It was not the people's will. And they were heard.