KENNEDY ON THE GRAHAM BORDER SECURITY AMENDMENT
Today, Senator Edward M. Kennedy released the following statement in response to the border security amendment offered.
"We hear much talk of national security, but this amendment does nothing to secure our nation and everything to tear it apart. Without a comprehensive approach to resolving our broken immigration system we are merely endorsing ten years of failed policies.
We have tried enforcement-only approaches for 10 years now, including adding 66 miles of border fences since 1996, tripling the number of Border Patrol agents stationed on the border, stripping undocumented immigrants of virtually all due process rights, and denying undocumented and legal immigrants access to welfare benefits, all at a cost of $20 billion. And what have been the results? Twelve million people are in the United States illegally. Twelve million or more people whose identities are unknown, who live in the shadows and who are outside our detection.
That number is only going to continue to grow, no matter how many enforcement measures are put in place, unless we address the underlying reason for illegal immigration. Yes, there may be some people who seek to do us harm, and we must use our resources to detect and deport them. But the vast majority of the twelve million are here to work and to be with their family.
The primary cause of undocumented immigration is not too little enforcement, but too few visas. American employers and American families demand immigration to meet their labor needs and to meet their demand for family reunification.
Our immigration system is broken because the American economy demands about 400,000 new low-skilled immigrant workers each year, but our visa system only provides about 5,000.
Our immigration system is broken because three million immigrants are already on waiting lists to rejoin their families in the United States, but their wait to legally enter the United States is ten or twenty years in many cases. Enforcement alone cannot address these fundamental imbalances.
That is why enforcement alone won't work, no matter how strict we try to make it. Those who advocate an enforcement-only approach deny the strength of economic and social connections between immigrants abroad and their employers and families within the United States. We will have enforcement first, but we will not have effective enforcement.
My colleagues suggest that America wants enforcement first, but Americans have stated repeatedly that they want a workable solution to our immigration crisis. They want to see a way that will allow their neighbors to earn a path to citizenship, they want to find a way to balance enforcement and benefits, they want Congress to heal the ugly divides that are making the immigration crisis that much worse.
Adopting this amendment will only increase the raids on vulnerable workers, strip away even more due process rights, and encourage retaliation against immigrants.
If my colleagues genuinely want immigration reform, they must address what the vast majority of Americans really wantan end to an underground economy, an end to harsh and inhumane immigration policies, an end to the isolation of twelve million people. The American public has accepted the need to address these problems, and so must the Senate."