KENNEDY ON IMMIGRATION PRIOR TO CLOTURE VOTE
This vote on cloture is more than just a vote on immigration reform. It's a vote about whether the Senate intends to keep moving America forward in the long march of progress that has been so important for our nation and our role in the world.
Year after year we've had borders that aren't secure and immigration laws that don't work.
Year after year, we've had people dying in the desert because they want a better life for themselves and their families.
Year after year we've had millions of people living in fear every day - worrying that they could be deported.
Year after year we've had an underground economy that hurts American workers, exploits undocumented workers, and abuses hard-working immigrant families.
Year after year, we've heard talk about reforming our system. We've heard the bumper sticker solutions and the campaign ads. We know how divisive it is.
But now is the time fix our dysfunctional system.
I've been around here long enough to know that opportunities like this don't come very often. The American people are demanding a solution. President Bush is committed. Senator Reid has made this a priority. Senators from both parties agree that now is the time to end this crisis.
Politics is the art of the possible, and this legislation is our best opportunity for change and reform.
It is time to protect our borders and strengthen our national security. This bill will double our border guards, increase the number of inspectors, and crack down on smugglers and employers who break the law.
It is time to face up to the fact that we have 12 million undocumented workers. This bill will give our nation a chance to know who is here, and provide a pathway to citizenship for those who prove they are here to work hard, obey the law, learn English, and pay taxes.
It is time to renew our commitment to family values. This bill takes a family backlog that now stretches some 22 years, reduces it to eight years, and ensures that a majority of future immigration will be based on family ties.
It is time to ensure that our immigration laws do not undermine the wages and working conditions of American workers. This bill, by preventing unscrupulous employers from exploiting undocumented workers, protects American workers too. Mistreatment of immigrants is a moral issue in its own right - it is also an attack on the rights of all workers.
This bill isn't perfect. But it is a strong bill and a good solution. There is no alternative plan at all. Those who are most critical of this bill have offered only slogans, cynicism and silent amnesty. The Senate can do better than that.
A vote for cloture is a key step toward a fair and realistic solution to our immigration crisis. Even more important, it is a critical step toward proving to the American people that this Congress is genuinely working together to solve our nation's problems.