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Public Statements

Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007--Continued

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

COMPREHENSIVE IMMIGRATION REFORM ACT--Continued -- (Senate - June 27, 2007)


Mr. GRASSLEY. Thank you. I am not going to talk about the substance of my amendment. I want to remind people before the amendment comes up that, No. 1, I was promised by the Senator from Pennsylvania and, in turn, his talking to the Senator from Massachusetts, that I would have an opportunity to offer an amendment. Now I have that opportunity to offer the amendment, so that promise has been kept. I have tried to clear it with my Republican colleagues who have been objecting all afternoon so that they would not object to my efforts to offer and debate my amendment. So I hope you realize it doesn't do much good to make a promise for me to offer my amendment if I don't have an opportunity to debate the amendment. That is the first point.

The second point is that I should not even be here having to offer this amendment. If you go back to that Thursday afternoon in April when there were rump sessions in S. 219, I was invited by some of the people to the rump session who were working on this compromise--to come in and offer a compromise on Social Security identification, employer identification, or verification. I went to that meeting and sat there for a long time and explained a compromise. I had no objections to the compromise at that particular time, but 3 weeks later, the document comes out and it is not the compromise I had presented, which I assumed was agreed to. That doesn't surprise me because going back to January or February, Senator Kyl had met with me and some other people, because this is in the jurisdiction of the Finance Committee--we have jurisdiction over IRS and over the Social Security system--saying that they were very strongly in favor of having something that went way beyond protecting the privacy of Internal Revenue tax records and Social Security information and were hellbent on going down a route of giving the Department of Homeland Security any sort of information they want, not within the tradition of protecting the privacy of income tax records.

So that is why my amendment is being offered, because I am going back to that compromise which I presented to the committee in the rump session back in April which I thought was OK. I find out now that it is not. That is why I am going to offer my amendment.

How much time do I have?

The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Obama). Seven minutes 50 seconds.

Mr. GRASSLEY. Mr. President, I am going to speak generally about the legislation before us.

There is some concern that I have expressed--not so much on the floor but in other public comments I made--that I am one of about 22 or 23 Members of the Senate who were here in 1986 when we passed amnesty, as is in this bill as well. I was one of those Senators who voted for amnesty at that particular time. At that particular time, we had maybe 1 million to 3 million people cross the border illegally and who were here illegally. We all thought--and there have been plenty of references to statements made in the Congressional Record 20 years ago--that if we were to adopt amnesty, it would settle this problem once and for all, do it once and for all. You know, I believed that. But do you know what I found out maybe 5 or 10 years ago? When you reward illegality, you get more of it. Now the guesstimate is that we have 12 million people here illegally. They are not illegal people, but they came here illegally.

I think I have an obligation to consider the votes I made before and, if they are wrong, not make that mistake again. You know, it is a little like the chaos you would have if you didn't respect and enforce red lights and stop signs. You would have chaos at intersections and accidents. Wherever you don't enforce the rule of law, those are the things that happen. You need social cohesion, and social cohesion comes from respect for the rule of law in our country.

So it seems to me that, as we go down this road, what we ought to do is concentrate on legal immigration, the reforms we are bringing to the H-1B program, the reforms we are bringing in the way of a temporary worker program. People would rather come here legally rather than illegally, I believe. I know it is not very satisfying to people to hear that we have 12 million people in the underground. The point is that if people could come here legally to work, they would soon, one by one, by attrition, replace people who are here illegally, I believe.

I am not one who wants to make that mistake again. That is why I am weighing very heavily the issue of what we do with amnesty or what other people who don't like the word ``amnesty'' would say is earned citizenship, guest worker program, those sorts of things that are covering up really what we are doing.

I say if it walks like a duck and it quacks like a duck, it is a duck. If it looks like amnesty, it is amnesty. That is the bottom line. We ought to learn the lesson that in 1986 it didn't work. I don't think it will work now. I am 73 years old, so obviously I am not going to be here 20 years from now when we have another immigration bill. But I should not make that problem so that a successor of mine has to deal with 25 million people being here illegally as opposed to the 12 million now or the 1 to 3 million before.

I yield the floor and whatever time I didn't use I will retain or whatever is done with the surplus.


Mr. GRASSLEY. Mr. President, I have 3 minutes left, I have been told. First of all, I think the Senator from Massachusetts was doing a good job reading from a letter Secretary Chertoff sent to me. I sent back a rebuttal letter, and I would like to provide the letter for the Senator from Massachusetts to read. It is a point-by-point rebuttal of what is wrong with Secretary Chertoff's analysis of my amendment.

One of the criticisms that Senator Kyl gave against my amendment is we are not going to force employers to look through 160 million workers to find illegal workers. Let's look at the basic legislation. The legislation legalizes people who are here already illegally. So if they are illegally working, and this bill legalizes them, don't you see how ridiculous it is that we are going to tell people to go out and find people who are here illegally when the bill has already legalized them?

The second point is that we eliminate the requirement of a photograph for identification. My amendment requires every U.S. citizen to present a passport or driver's license and every noncitizen to present a legal permanent resident card or work authorization card. Each of these documents is required to contain an individual's photograph.

Moreover, my amendment requires workers to submit their passport number, driver's license number, or employment authorization number in addition to their Social Security number through the employment verification system. Without that information, there is no guarantee that Homeland Security will be able to contact the issuing agencies or determine which document was issued. This is the very same problem that has prevented Homeland Security from utilizing Social Security Administration data in the past.

My amendment further requires the Social Security Administration, the State Department, and the State departments of motor vehicles to establish a reliable and secure method to allow the Department of Homeland Security to verify the identity document of each issuing agency.

On another point Senator Kyl made saying it eliminates after 5 years the information sharing among Government departments, which is critical to making this work, a sunset is standard practice when we compromise the protection for the individual taxpayer, that the taxpayer's income tax information will be private so that, like President Johnson and President Nixon, it cannot be used to violate your privacy for political reasons. That is why that law was passed.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record several letters regarding this issue.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:


Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, will the Senator yield for a question?


Mr. KENNEDY. Isn't it true that the Finance Committee estimated that under these systems, there were going to be a certain number of mistakes that were going to be made?

Mr. GRASSLEY. Yes, we presented that to you that day in April----

Mr. KENNEDY. That is exactly right. It is significant numbers, in the hundreds of thousands, as I remember. It is in the hundreds of thousands of mistakes that are going to be made as they set this up. I am just wondering about the protection of those workers. In our bill, we provide that those individuals should be protected because they can keep their jobs while they appeal a nonconfirmation. I am wondering if the Senator will relate to us how he thinks----


Mr. KYL. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the Senator from Iowa have an additional minute to respond, and then I will take my last minute.

Mr. REID. For debate only.

Mr. KYL. Yes, for debate only.

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

The Senator from Iowa.

Mr. GRASSLEY. Mr. President, the only response I can give to the Senator from Massachusetts is that we have worked very hard in the Finance Committee to make sure that private income tax information and private Social Security information is protected. It seems to me that is basic to a system of taxation that is voluntary compliance.

We have made some compromises of that, some use of that under very strict guidelines in the past. We presented it to the Senator's committee on this bill the same as we have in the past. The 5-year sunset is one example. Certain penalties for misuse of the information is another one.

It seems to me that is very basic if we are going to have confidence in our tax system and protect the privacy of the individual taxpayer.

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