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Dream Act Amendment

Floor Speech

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Location: Washington, DC


Dream Act Amendment

Mr. VITTER. Mr. President, I rise today to strongly oppose the Durbin amendment to the Defense appropriations bill. That amendment would pass the so-called DREAM Act into law.

In standing up in opposition, let me suggest this should not be called the DREAM Act. It should be called the ``Amnesty Reality Act'' because this is yet another attempt, another version of amnesty for a significant number of illegal aliens.

Let me say at the outset I am not standing here to criticize or to lambaste the individuals involved, undoubtedly, who came to this country with their parents to try to find a better life because of very difficult conditions in Mexico or otherwise.

The point of my opposition is not directed at them. It is directed at what is very bad and destructive policy in terms of U.S. immigration policy, repeating the mistakes of the past, making a very real problem worse and not better through a significant amnesty program.

Why is this an amnesty? Well, purely and simply, this so-called DREAM Act, which I think should be called the ``Amnesty Reality Act,'' embodied in this Durbin amendment to the Defense appropriations bill would provide a pathway to citizenship to who knows how many folks who entered this country, and remain in this country, illegally. Specifically, it targets folks who came into this country illegally as minors, presumably with their families, with their parents. It also gives them benefits in this country that most U.S. citizens do not enjoy, specifically, instate college tuition that U.S. citizens outside that State do not enjoy.

This is very frustrating to me. Just a few months ago, we had a major debate on the floor of this body about immigration policy. A large so-called comprehensive immigration bill was on the floor of the Senate. It received a lot of attention and a lot of focus. That was a good thing because the American people got engaged; they focused on what was going on. They understood what was being proposed, and they wrote and e-mailed and called us in record numbers.

I do not think anyone can deny the message came through loudly and clearly. The message was: We do not support an amnesty program because that will make the problem far worse and not better. The second part of the message was: Let's start with real enforcement. Let's finally get serious with border security, workplace security, to begin to address this very real illegal immigration problem in this country.

That message came through in such volume that it literally shut down the Senate phone system on the morning of that pivotal vote which defeated that so-called comprehensive immigration bill proposed by Senator Kennedy and Senator Durbin, the author of this DREAM Act amendment, and others.

What is so frustrating to me is that very loud, very clear message seems to have fallen on deaf ears in terms of some Members of this body. Unfortunately, this DREAM Act amendment is proof of that. Again, it is, clearly beyond argument, another version of amnesty. It would provide a pathway to citizenship for a significant class of people, folks who came into this country illegally as minors. We do not know how many people that would be, and we have very little way of enforcing even the provisions of this amendment to keep it to the folks to whom it is supposed to be targeted.

What do I mean by that? Well, the folks are supposed to have come into this country in the last 5 years. Yet at the same time the amendment says it can apply to people up to age 30. What sort of proof do these folks have to offer with regard to when they came into this country? There is no proof requirement. It could simply be an affirmative statement by themselves, no other required proof. So this is open ended, this is unenforceable, and it is a significant amnesty.

In addition, as I mentioned a few minutes ago, it provides substantial benefits to these folks illegally in our country, benefits that the huge majority of American citizens do not enjoy. What is that? Well, the biggest is instate college tuition that would come to folks who sign up for the DREAM Act. As soon as they sign up, they would be treated as instate residents of that State. They would get instate tuition, and--guess what--all other U.S. citizens, the children of all other U.S. citizens outside that particular State who would love the benefit of instate tuition would not enjoy that same benefit.

That does not match the commonsense test that the American people want us to use. It certainly has nothing to do with the message the American people sent to us loudly and clearly during the debate on the so-called comprehensive immigration bill with its massive amnesty program. Again, that message came through loudly and clearly: No amnesty; real enforcement.

The American people are saying that not because they are mean-spirited, not because they hold anything against these individuals who are seeking a better life in this country, but because they know, because common sense tells them, this is going to make the problem worse and not better. Inadequate enforcement, with amnesty, acts as a magnet to magnify the problem, to encourage more illegals to cross the border into our country. If that does not ring true just because of common sense, history proves it.

The last time the Congress acted in this area of the law was in 1986, again with significant immigration reform. The promise was exactly the same: We are going to get serious. We are going to get real with enforcement. We just need this amnesty one time--never again--to help solve the problem.

Well, what happened? That bill passed into law. The real enforcement never happened to an adequate extent, but, of course, the amnesty provision went into effect immediately. What happens when you combine inadequate enforcement with real amnesty? What you do is make the problem worse and not better, encourage more illegals to come into the country.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating. In this case it is in the numbers. What was then, in 1986, a problem of 3 million illegal aliens in this country, is now a problem of 12 or 13 million or more. So what did that one-time solution do? It quadrupled the problem. It proved not to be a solution at all.

I suggest we do something that some might consider novel around here. Let's listen to the common sense and wisdom of the American people. Let's say no to amnesty, as we did in June by defeating the immigration bill sponsored by Senator Kennedy and others. Let's say yes to real enforcement both at the border and in the workplace. And let's offer that message again by defeating this very ill-conceived Durbin amendment.

To help defeat this amendment, I will be offering a second-degree amendment to the Durbin amendment. My second-degree amendment is very simple. It simply says nothing in the Durbin amendment goes into effect, goes into law, until the US-VISIT Program is fully operational. The US-VISIT Program is something that was first proposed in 1996, an entry/exit system so we know who is coming into the country, who is leaving the country--something very basic, very necessary in terms of enforcement.

Although it was proposed in 1996, it has never come close to being fully operational because Congress, folks in Washington, this administration and previous administrations, have never had the political will to get it done.

So, again, my second-degree amendment to the Durbin DREAM Act amendment is very simple. That cannot go into effect until the US-VISIT system is fully operational at our borders. I will be proposing that amendment assuming the Durbin amendment is, in fact, called up for consideration on the Senate floor.

Mr. President, with that, I yield back my time and suggest the absence of a quorum.

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