Federal News Service
HEADLINE: HEARING OF THE SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE SUBJECT: THE UNITED STATES AND MEXICO: IMMIGRATION POLICY AND THE BILATERAL RELATIONSHIP
CHAIRED BY: SENATOR RICHARD LUGAR (R-IN)
WITNESSES: PANEL I:
SENATOR CHUCK HAGEL (R-NE);
SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ);
SENATOR LARRY E. CRAIG (R-ID);
SENATOR RICHARD J. DURBIN (D-IL);
SENATOR JOHN CORNYN (R-TX);
PANEL II: ROGER F. NORIEGA, ASSISTANT SECRETARY, BUREAU OF WESTERN HEMISPHERE AFFAIRS, DEPARTMENT OF STATE;
C. STEWART VERDERY, ASSISTANT SECRETARY, OFFICE OF POLICY AND PLANNING, BORDER AND TRANSPORTATION SECURITY DIRECTORATE;
EDUARDO AGUIRRE, DIRECTOR, BUREAU OF CITIZENSHIP AND IMMIGRATION SERVICES;
PANEL III: DR. STEPHEN E. FLYNN, JEANE J. KIRKPATRICK SENIOR FELLOW IN NATIONAL SECURITY STUDIES, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS; DR. DEMETRIOS G. PAPADEMETRIOU, PRESIDENT, MIGRATION POLICY INSTITUTE; DR. ARTURO A. VALENZUELA, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR LATIN AMERICAN STUDIES, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY
LOCATION: 419 DIRKSEN SENATE OFFICE BUILDING, WASHINGTON, D.C.
SEN. RICHARD LUGAR (R-IN): This hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is called to order. Today the Senate Foreign Relations Committee meets to examine the United States-Mexico bilateral relationship with a special focus on the role of immigration. The relationship between Mexico and the United States is complex and wide ranging. Every day the bilateral agenda deals with trade, management of our common border, water distribution, energy cooperation, transportation, communication, tourism, the environment, human rights and the struggle against drugs and organized crime.
Americans and Mexicans must understand that the fate of our two nations is inextricably intertwined. Mexico is the second largest trading partner of the United States. An economic downturn in either economy will affect the health of the other. And moreover, Mexico's importance to U.S. national security has been underrated, particularly during this era of global terrorism. Americans will not be as prosperous or as secure as we can be without sustained economic growth and political stability in Mexico. And a United States-Mexican relationship that transcends momentary agreements in pursuit of our objectives.
The most obvious economic and security concerns related to Mexico stem from Mexican migration across the U.S. border. When Presidents Fox and Bush met in January of 2001, they recognized that migration is one of the major ties that bind our societies, a quote from the two presidents. Mexicans represent 30 percent of the total immigrant population of the United States. Mexico's share of our total unauthorized immigrant population increased from 58 percent in 1990, to 69 percent in 2000.
Too often the debate on how to respond to illegal immigration from Mexico ignores the larger context of our relationship, or the role that Mexico must play in helping us get a grip on this question. I believe we need to broaden the context of the debate so that we see immigration is not just an economic or law enforcement issue, but also as a foreign policy issue. We must engage in diplomacy aimed at making the Mexican government a closer ally in preventing and responding to illegal immigration.
I would offer five common objectives that Mexico and the United States should pursue as we are developing and debating immigration policy. First the United States and Mexico both have a strong interest in improving the management of our common border. Both nations must cooperate in preventing illegal immigration, as well as in preventing tragedies in which Mexican citizens attempting to enter the United States lose their lives, while concealed or transported in dangerous circumstances. Our border cooperation must also include strengthened efforts to stop terrorist infiltration via land, sea or air.
Second, both the United States and the Mexican government should try to facilitate greater transparency among the undocumented Mexican population in the United States. It serves the interests of neither nation to keep illegal immigrants in the shadows. Through matricula cards or other methods, we must have greater ability to identify Mexican nationals in this country. Without identification, little interaction with American society is possible. This increases the chance that immigrants will be the victims of crime or exploitation, reduces the value of remittances to Mexico, and complicates the jobs of U.S. emergency and social service personnel.
Third, in conjunction with improved border management and immigration transparency, the United States should develop realistic mechanisms through which illegal immigrants can regularize their status through positive behavior. Fourth, cross border labor must be put in the context of our broader trade relationship. It is legitimate to develop means to match willing Mexican workers with willing American employers in sectors where no Americans can be found to fill a job. We should strive to achieve this through regularized means that accentuate the benefits to both the American and the Mexican economies. President Bush's temporary worker proposal and other similar proposals developed in Congress deserve close examination by this body.
And fifth, the United States and Mexico should expand cooperation aimed at domestic development in Mexico, particularly in the country's poorest regions. The two year old Mexico-United States Partnership for Prosperity is a good start toward that objective, but more needs to be done. The Mexican government must undertake this effort as a special responsibility that goes in hand with American willingness to develop means to regularize the status of illegal immigrants.
This morning we are joined by three impressive panels to discuss these objectives and other aspects of our relationship with Mexico. On the first panel, we will hear from our colleagues, Senators Hagel, McCain, Craig, Durbin, and Cornyn. Each of these Senators has grappled with the immigration question, and each has sponsored relevant legislation. We are pleased by the strong interest of our colleagues in this hearing and look forward to learning about how their bills would contribute to the improvement of United States- Mexican relations and American immigration policy.
On our second panel, we will hear from representatives of the Administration. We welcome again Roger Noriega, assistant secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs. Eduardo Aguirre, director of the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services at the Department of Homeland Security, and Stewart Verdery, assistant secretary for Policy and Planning at the Department of Homeland Security.
On our final panel, we will hear from Dr. Stephen E. Flynn, the Jeane Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow for National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. Dr. Demetrios Papademetriou, president of the Migration Policy Institute and Dr. Arturo Valenzuela, the director of the Center for Latin American Studies at Georgetown University. We thank all of our witnesses in advance, we look forward to their insights.
And it's my privilege now to recognize the colleagues that I have mentioned in the summary of witnesses before. We are indeed indebted to the interest of our colleagues in the hearing, and the specific legislation and thoughtfulness they have provided. I want to call upon Senator McCain first, because I know he has urgent time requirements and then we will proceed with Senator Hagel or Senator Craig, depending upon the time requirements of those gentlemen.
SEN. JOHN McCAIN (R-AZ): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I want to thank you and Senator Hagel and my colleague Senator Craig and others who have been actively involved in this issue for a long period of time. I want to just mention a couple of statistics with you and I'll try to be as brief as possible because I know you have some very important witnesses. We're nearing the end of March, Mr. Chairman, in Arizona, my state of Arizona since January 1st of 2004, since January 1st this year, 470 drop houses have been found across Arizona.
Over 2,000 suspected smugglers have been arrested. Over 155,000 undocumented immigrants have been apprehended. In the city of Phoenix, killings are up by 45 percent. Violent crimes such as kidnapping, home invasions and extortion are up 400 percent. Those are interesting statistics and a source of enormous concern to the mayor of Phoenix, Mayor Phil Gordon said Wednesday's discovery, that's another drop house, 156 undocumented immigrants being held by armed smugglers in a rented house in north Phoenix in filthy conditions without food or water.
He says, "Wednesday's discovery underscores the need for federal immigration reform," pointing out that although police can stop criminal activity, they can do little to stem the flow of undocumented immigrants into the city." Quote, "It's a mandate that effects all of us," Gordon said. "We need an immigration policy that works, we need to secure our borders, the federal government has to do something about these issues."
May I just mention after I mention those statistics, Mr. Chairman, there's an article recently in the Arizona Republic. It's a lonely place to die out in the soft sandy washes. The desert floor with its volcanic rock can reach 160 degrees. Most people go down slowly. Blood starts to seep into the lungs, exposed skin burns and the sweat glands shut down. Little hemorrhages, tiny leaks, start in the heart.
When the body temperature reaches 107 the brain cooks and the delirium starts. Some migrants claw at the ground with their fingernails trying to hollow out a cooler spot to die. Others pull themselves through the sand on their bellies like they're swimmers or snakes. The madness sometimes prompts people to slit their own throats or to hang themselves from trees with their belts.
This past year the bodies of 205 undocumented immigrants were found in Arizona. Official notations of their deaths are sketchy, contained in hundreds of pages of government reports. There are sometimes little details, glimpses of the people who died. Maria Hernandez Perez (ph) was number 93. She was almost two, she had thick brown hair and eyes the color of chocolate. Kelly Avalezgez Gonzalez (ph), 16, carried a bible in her backpack, she was 109. John Doe number 143, died with a rosary encircling his neck, his eyes were wide open.
Mr. Chairman, I give you those statements and those numbers to try to emphasize the urgency of this situation, this crisis. The human dimensions of it are incredibly appalling. If 200 and some people were dying in such a short period of time anywhere else in America, there would be some great hue and cry about it, but we sort of discover these bodies, many times they've been eaten by animals and we just sort of move on.
I guess what I'm trying to say is, it's apparent to me that the Congress is not going to act this year on the immigration issue. We've had one hearing in the Judiciary Subcommittee, a very good hearing-one hearing. This hearing is of utmost importance. I think we all know if we go out in the month of August without acting, then of course we have just the month of September and this year has expired. Everybody has different proposals. I respect Senator Hagel's proposal that he has proposed along with himself and Senator Daschle. Senator Craig, obviously his proposal addresses one of the immediate problems, and that's an agricultural worker bill.
I think it's time we sat down-and on the left the so-called advocacy groups for Hispanics refuse to sign on to a proposal because they want an amnesty, just a blanket amnesty. Mr. Chairman, we tried that in the 1980s, we gave amnesty to several million people, now we've got several million more people who are here illegally. Blanket amnesty doesn't work.
On the other side of the coin, we have the other people who say all we got to do is secure our borders. Mr. Chairman, the war on drugs proved that that if as long as there's a demand, there's going to be a supply. There's right now a demand for workers, there are jobs that Americans won't do. So it seems to me that maybe for the good of two year old Maria Hernandez Perez who was almost two years old who died in the desert, that perhaps maybe we ought to give this issue some serious priority.
Finally, could I say since it's a purview of this committee, I believe that the hopes and aspirations of the Mexican people were very badly dashed after September 11th. I think one of the worst casualties of September 11th was any movement towards immigration reform. It's had an obvious effect on the internal politics of the country of Mexico, but more importantly it has prevented us from addressing this issue in a very comprehensive fashion. I could go on a lot longer, Mr. Chairman, but I want to thank you for holding this hearing, I want to thank you for your advocacy for reform and I want to thank Senator Hagel as well for his active involvement.
And some people say to me, why is Senator Hagel involved? There's illegal, undocumented people working in the state of Nebraska. There's illegal, undocumented people working in Indiana. It's not an Arizona problem, it's a nationwide problem and we will be shirking our duties as legislators if we don't give this issue the highest priority and act on it as quickly as possible. I thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. LUGAR: Well, thank you very much, Senator McCain, for a very strong keynote statement as we begin this hearing. I think the hearing is important and all the considerations today I hope will lead to action. I hope the prospects of August coming with inactivity are unacceptable. I think the relationship is important, as you pointed out.
I want to call now upon Senator Craig, and Senator Hagel has graciously stepped aside out of the batting order because he claims he will be here throughout the hearing.
SEN. LARRY E. CRAIG (R-ID): Oh, right.
SEN. LUGAR: And so I'm taking him at his word, thank goodness, that he will do that. Senator Craig and then Senator Cornyn.
But at the moment, Larry, will you proceed?
SEN. CRAIG: Well, Mr. Chairman, thank you. And as John has mentioned, all of us have legislation pending at this moment to deal with this problem. I approach it with the same passion that John does, although the difficulties that are happening in Arizona are phenomenally inhumane, and he's right to be passionate about this problem. You've outlined it well, the relationship we have with the great nation of Mexico and the dependency we truly have on each other at this moment, to work this problem out. I've introduced legislation as has John, as has John Cornyn and certainly Senator Hagel and it is a problem that truly cries out for a solution sooner rather than later.
I must tell you that this president has finally stepped forward and offered up a solution, up until that time the federal government really remained in a state of denial and it was 9/11 that awakened us to the reality that we've got somewhere between eight and 12 million undocumented foreign nationals in this country. And of course, as you know, Mr. Chairman, when we then shut the borders or worked hard to shut the borders after 9/11, we did two interesting things.
Our intent was to keep people out, but we also locked people in. Hundreds of thousands of Hispanics who flowed back and forth over the Texas, Arizona, New Mexican and California borders on an annual basis working and going home and taking their money with them and not being able, then to get back or staying because they were fearful if they left they couldn't get back. And they would not have the kind of resource that they had been able to have prior to 9/11. So, border closures are not just the only solution here, and I think you're so right to hold this hearing to deal with this kind of problem.
John spoke already of the over 200 people who have died in Arizona. Last year over 300 died in the deserts of the southwest as they struggled to make their way into this country to work. And that's what's important, they died in boxcars, they died in the backs of vans, they died of thirst as John so-offered those description. Now, that's the reality that we're dealing with.
Shame on us for dragging our feet toward this problem. But we are doing just that at this moment, and I think as John has said, some would suggest that it is purely a law enforcement solution, but I am here to tell you that that is a part of it and only a part of it. Those who say just round them up and get them out of the country are suggesting something that on its face is impossible to do.
When you have between eight to 12 million and we use those numbers because we don't know exactly how many undocumented foreign nationals we have in our country, we know that law enforcement is a part of it. But these people who are here by the vast majority deserve a responsible humane approach toward dealing with them, treating them appropriately for the roles they play in this country, and for the desire I think many nations have and in this case, dominantly two nations, the United States and Mexico have in solving this problem.
I'm going to offer you a solution today. It deals with only a small part of the total problem, but it is one, Mr. Chairman, that is ready, it's mature, it's been well thought out over 5 years of negotiation. You're a cosponsor, Senator Hagel's a cosponsor, John McCain's a cosponsor. It's my Ag Jobs Bill, we haven't got John Cornyn on it yet, but he's leaning, he's leaning in our direction and let me for just a moment-Barbara's on it. We will have, within two weeks, over 60 senators on this legislation. And, Mr. Chairman, we have at this moment over 400 organizations nationwide who support it.
Now, here are the key elements that makes this a workable proposition. Not only does it reach out to identify 500,000 workers who are now eligible in this country, undocumented who can do something that is significant and important for themselves and for the economy of our country. And that is earn a legal status, earn a legal status. That is the key component of the ag jobs bill. Earned adjustment to a legal status. And they can do that by staying here and working for a period of time under a temporary legal situation and move that forward. In doing so, we fill a tremendous need for our country.
We treat a great many hardworking people in a phenomenally humane and responsible way and we bring them out of the back streets and the alleys and the shadows of our culture to the front street where they belong. Because they are, as John has said, an important component in the economy of our country. That's what ag jobs is all about. And I think both you and I know that there are great numbers of these people working in your state, in Nebraska, in Idaho, in Texas. We believe in Idaho that it is possible that during the peak of the work season there are between 25 and 30,000 undocumented workers. And Idaho's not a very big state. But it's a big agricultural state and that's important.
I have a couple of letters that I would like to add for the record. I have a letter here from Clayton Yeutter, former secretary of Agriculture and he is asking that we get on the ag jobs bill and move it this year as a way of moving something in the right direction. Here is what he says. "In the northeastern United States, 99 percent of the new entrants into the farm labor force admit they are lacking legal status." That's a phenomenal statistic, but it's an important one.
I also would like to introduce for the record, the names of the 400 organizations that are supporting this legislation, Mr. Chairman, from the American Farm Bureau to the United Farm Workers Union. When I was standing in front of a microphone with the national presidents of those two organizations who have, for decades, been arch enemies. They see and recognize the importance of solving this problem now: U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO, The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, and the legal services advocates for both large and small workers and Latino groups across the country, it is a mature product.
It is something that I will urge the Senate by my action, or collectively by this and other committees actions to vote on this year, Mr. Chairman. Because, as all of us believe, this is something we don't just pass on for another year. I also agree that amnesty does not work. What I offer is not amnesty, it is the ability to earn a legal status and all who are coming want that opportunity. To deny those people that opportunity, to deny our economy this needed workforce, to fail to treat these undocumented workers in a responsible and humane way, is in my opinion, un-American. That is what we are about here.
Thank you for holding this hearing, it is critically important as we build the necessary base to move this legislation and I would hope we could move it this year, or at least a small part of it. I believe mine is the excellent and appropriate template from which to move and look at the criteria for developing a legal status by causing those who come to earn it. And to give them that opportunity to do so. So I thank you for convening this hearing, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. LUGAR: Thank you very much, Senator Craig, for your testimony and for your advocacy and for the bill that you have introduced.
The chair wants to intervene at this point. Senator Boxer will necessarily need to move to another hearing soon and she will not be able to stay for the hearing. I want to recognize her at this point for comment or questions.
SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D-CA): Thank you, I'll be very brief. I have an opening statement and I'd like to put it into the record and just take less than five minutes first of all, to thank you, Mr. Chairman, and to thank Senator Hagel as well. For my state of California, this is obviously extremely important and I would like to associate myself with the comments of Senators Craig and McCain. I think Senator McCain put a human face on this issue. We need to do that, it's important. And I also think when Senator McCain said that one of the issues growing out of 9/11 is that we really didn't make a priority of this relationship, I think that's just a fact of life. And I've met with the members of the Mexican government, they certainly feel this way.
So I think your doing this is a wonderful signal that we are ready to engage in this. And so, briefly let me just say that I am on the Craig-Kennedy bill, that it isn't correct what Senator McCain, that the Hispanic organizations have not backed this bill, they all support the Craig-Kennedy bill. This is a bill that, frankly, I think we just ought to go to the floor and do it, because it's dealing with the ag portion of the problem. Everyone supports it. The workers, the bosses, the Hispanic groups. There just seems to be, as far as I can tell, no opposition and the beauty of the bill as Senator Craig says is, you're removing-you're giving people hope. You're giving them an opportunity, you're giving them hope, if they play by the rules they get their legal status.
I'm also proud to see Senator Durbin here. I'm a cosponsor, a proud cosponsor of the DREAM Act, and basically he'll explain but-so I won't take the time to do that, again it gives hope and health to children. The kids didn't know that they were doing anything wrong when their parents brought them here, their parents came here in an undocumented fashion.
And they're working hard at school, and I think when you hear from Senator Durbin that's another wonderful bill. And those two, along with the State Criminal Alien Assistance program, which we will not be looking at but which helps our states and localities bear the costs of incarcerating undocumented immigrants these taken together, we begin to move forward here.
I would just quickly say without going into it that the president's proposal, and he did step forward with a proposal, if you really look at it and I don't know that we're going to do that later today, I think it makes matters worse because what it does is it sets up a three-year program where people can come in and if they want to re-app. for another three years they can. After six years they need to leave the country and go back. If they're lucky enough to have a sponsor, they might get in line for a legal status. So what this does it just sets up a permanent class of very powerless workers and that leads me to my last point I want to make to this committee.
An AP reporter did an investigative story about what's happening to our Mexican workers in the American workplace and it is very shocking. One in 14 workplace deaths are Mexican as opposed to one in 24 workers of other nationalities. And the reason AP found for these death rate disparities, Mexican immigrants are less likely to receive job training or safety equipment, more reluctant to complain. It seems certainly that if we don't have a program like the Craig-Kennedy plan, people are going to stay in the shadows, they're going to be fearful.
So, God knows, we don't want people to die, you know, excruciating deaths at the border. We also don't want them to die at the workplace, so this is an issue we need to deal with in a very forthright fashion. I think the colleagues that are sitting before you have done that and I think Senators Hagel and Daschle are also doing that as well. So I'm really grateful to you for having this hearing and allowing me to speak out of turn at this point, because I have to go to the McCain hearing on rail safety. Thank you.
SEN. LUGAR: Thank you very much, Senator Boxer.
SEN. RICHARD J. DURBIN (D-IL): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. My Senate colleagues and fellow immigrants, I want to thank you for giving the opportunity to testify today about immigration reform. I believe this is a priority for America, it's a priority for Mexico and it's important that we act this year. It's imperative that we address our deeply flawed immigration policy. It jeopardizes our national security and our economy. It often treats hardworking immigrants unfairly. In recent months the discussion about immigration reform has been dominated by President Bush's guest worker proposal.
Though I agree with Senator Boxer, that I think there are some fundamental flaws with the president's proposal, let me go on record to commend the president. It took courage, political courage for him to step out and say it's time for America to speak forthrightly about immigration. I think he opened the door and I think we have an obligation as public servants who understand the gravity of this issue to step through that door and make positive changes. To my knowledge, the president's proposal has not yet been introduced as a bill, it may be later this year.
But we shouldn't wait for that, I think we can move on immigration reform. We should pass the DREAM Act, it's the only immigration reform proposal reported favorably by the Judiciary Committee in this Congress. It will signal that we're serious about immigration policy reform. I've introduced this act with Senator Orrin Hatch. What an unlikely political couple, Hatch and Durbin, who happen to agree and 42 cosponsors have joined us. The bill was reported favorably by the Judiciary Committee on an overwhelming 16 to three vote. It's narrowly tailored to provide immigration relief to a select group of students who have good moral character, have no evidence of wrongdoing in their background, who are trying to pursue higher education and really give more back to America.
Mr. Chairman, I note that you and eight other members of this committee are cosponsors of the DREAM Act. I think we have the wind at our back on this issue. The administration hasn't taken a position, I hope that their witnesses today will tell us that the president supports the DREAM Act. I know several of my colleagues on the committee have met some of the inspiring young people who would benefit. Let me tell you just a couple of illustrations that tell the story.
Diana, born in Mexico, raised in Chicago. Her parents brought her to this country at the age of six. Her father works for construction, $25,000 a year income. Her mother manages a fast-food restaurant and earns $15,000 a year. Last year, Diana graduated from high school in Chicago in the top 5 percent of her class, with a GPA of 4.4 on a 4.0 scale.
An aspiring architect, she's an Illinois state scholar and the first place winner of the National Annual Design and Drafting contest. An active member for a Catholic parish, she was the recipient of the 2003 New Leadership Award from the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops. Because of her excellent grades and her great background, she was accepted at North Western University, a prestigious school but due to her immigration status was unable to attend. Nonetheless, she became the first member of her family to attend another college when she enrolled in the Architecture School at the University of Illinois in Chicago.
Let me tell you another story of a young person who was not Mexican. Teresa, raised in Chicago, her Korean parents brought her to the United States when she was two years old. Her mother, the family's sole breadwinner earns $20,000 per year working 12 hour days at a drycleaners. Here's how I came to know Teresa. Her parents called my office and said Teresa is a musical prodigy. She's been accepted at the Julliard School of Music but when she went to fill out her application to go to school there they had a box that said what is your citizenship? She turned to her mother who said, Teresa, I'm sorry, we never filed the papers. You're not documented in the United States. And she then came to learn that she couldn't get financial assistance at the Julliard School of Music.
She came to our office and said I've been here since I was two years old, what can I do? We called the Immigration and Naturalization Service and they said it's clear what she should do, she should return to Korea. This young girl had been in the United States for 16 or 17 years, she knows no other country. Well, thank goodness she went ahead and went to Julliard and she is a musical prodigy. She will be a person that we look up to and admire and probably buy her CDs in years to come. But the hardship on her and her family trying to achieve this dream is the reason that Senator Hatch and I have offered this amendment.
Mr. Chairman, the DREAM Act would provide immigration relief to these students. It will permit young people of good moral character who graduate from high school, attend college or enlist in the military and are long-term U.S. residents to become permanent residents. The DREAM Act will also repeal a provision of the federal law that makes it prohibitively expensive for states to grant in-state tuition rates to undocumented students.
In the interests of time I won't go through the details, but keep in mind the DREAM Act simply gives to states the option to decide. We precluded that with a legislation we passed years ago. Mr. Chairman, I can't think of another bill that I have introduced that has created so much support and hope among people who are desperate. To have a young person come to me, as I'm sure each of us can tell this story, and say, Senator, I'm about to graduate from college, I've worked my way through, extra jobs, it's been extremely difficult. One young man said to me I have degrees in biology and computer science, I want to go into medical research but my undocumented status stops me from contributing back to the only country I know, the country that I love, the United States of America.
Mr. Chairman, at the end of this hearing I hope that we don't just have a great committee report and little action. You're not that kind of chairman. You're looking for solutions and I want to join you and I hope by the end of this Congress we will respond favorably and pass the DREAM Act. Thank you very much.
SEN. LUGAR: Well, thank you very much, Senator Durbin, for your testimony today. I think the news you bring by a vote of 16 to three the Judiciary Committee has forwarded the DREAM Act to the Senate should be underlined and may have been missed by many. But one purpose of our hearing is really to highlight constructive action that's occurring and this is one in which we could, as senators, take action and I pray that we will. The Mexican Consul in Indiana feels this is the most important way in a legislative session that we could make headway in the relationship. So, I appreciate your championship of the DREAM Act and your testimony here today. And thank you for coming.
Let me say that-and I made a note so as not to interrupt the flow of things, the entirety of Senator Boxer's statement will be made a part of the record, likewise the two documents that Senator Craig offered to us, were made a part of our record.
I'd like to call now upon Senator Hagel.
SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R-NE): Mr. Chairman, thank you, and I thank you and all of our colleagues on this committee for the attention this morning and focus on an issue that, as we have heard from our distinguished colleagues, that is as important a priority as any priority we have in the Congress, certainly this year. And I, too, recognize our colleagues for their proposals and their leadership on these big issues that cannot continue to be deferred any longer. Not only in the national security interests, economic interests, geopolitical strategic interests of this country but as Senator McCain said this morning, there's a human dynamic to this that often gets lost in the underbrush of the technicality of legislation and regulation.
I might also say that, as you have noted, Mr. Chairman, the Craig-Kennedy proposal, the DREAM Act that Senator Durbin so concisely outlined and what it would do, I believe deserve consideration in the Congress this year and should be passed this year. I'm a cosponsor of each of those bills and, in fact, it would take us a long way toward a comprehensive immigration reform that we need.
A strong bilateral relationship with Mexico, as you have noted in your opening comments, Mr. Chairman, is important to our national security interests as any bilateral relationship we have today. And with nearly 100 million people and a 2,000 mile border with the United States, strong relations with Mexico are critical to enhancing our national security, our political stability, our economic growth and free trade throughout the Western Hemisphere. America's security and vitality depend on policies that are based on the strengths of America, not our insecurities. Adjusting to the global economy requires immigration policies that consider those seeking to live and work in the United States as assets to and not burdens on, our national economy.
Daniel Henninger recently wrote in the Wall Street Journal that, quote, "The global migration of human labor on which there is little organized data, is perhaps the most powerful force in the globe today." End of quote. Many politicians and commentators have portrayed immigration as a threat to American workers, but immigration is a vital part of America's strength and it always has been. As noted in his opening comments, Senator Durbin greeted us all as fellow immigrants. In January, Senator Daschle and I introduced S 2010, the immigration reform act of 2004. Our legislation is a bipartisan, comprehensive proposal that addresses the complicated and difficult issues related to U.S. immigration law.
Briefly, Mr. Chairman, our bill would strengthen national security by identifying undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., tracking foreign workers entering our borders and increasing funds for border security. Two, fix the current system for immigrants who follow the law by reducing visa processing backlogs, reunifying families and remedying inequities under the current law. Three, improve economic stability by establishing an enforceable program to bring needed foreign workers into the U.S. for jobs that would otherwise go unfilled.
Four, national security to track and identify immigrants living within these borders. The participants in the bill worker program would be required to maintain counterfeit resistant authorization cards issued by the Department of Homeland Security. Individuals who continue to break immigration laws would be barred from these programs. Fees associated with our bill would be designated for border security.
Fixing the current system. Our legislation reduces the existing backlog of applications for family sponsored visas to ensure that immigrants will be allowed to reunite with their U.S. citizen and legal resident family members. The bill provides designated funding to implement these changes. To provide foreign workers for jobs that would otherwise go unfilled, our bill admits a limited number of workers through a willing worker program. Employers seeking to hire a foreign worker must first demonstrate that no qualified U.S. worker exists and that they will provide the same wage levels and working conditions as provided for U.S. workers.
Workers will be admitted for a limited period of time and will be allowed to change employers. Visa renewals would be available on a conditional basis. Qualified workers and their families would be provided an opportunity to adjust their immigration status.
Finally, our legislation provides an opportunity for undocumented workers and families currently living in the U.S. to become invested stakeholders in the country if they can demonstrate that they have met all the following requirements: (1) pass national security and criminal background checks; (2) resided in the U.S. for at least five years preceding the date of introduction; (3) worked a minimum of four years in the U.S., one of which must occur post enactment; (5) paid all federal taxes; (6) demonstrated knowledge of English and American civics requirements; and (7) paid a $1,000 fine in addition to required application fees. Individuals who qualify for this program will submit an application to the Department of Homeland Security. Upon approval, DHS may adjust the immigration status of qualified applicants.
Mr. Chairman, Senator Daschle and I and our cosponsors look forward to working with this committee, other appropriate relevant committees in the Congress and the Bush administration and all of our colleagues on this important issue. Mr. Chairman, I too wish to offer my thanks for your attention to this issue and thank you for your leadership.
SEN. LUGAR: Well, thank you very much, Senator Hagel, for the excellent legislation that you have offered and described today. Let me ask now whether members of the committee have any opening comments.
You have a short statement I understand, Senator Dodd?
SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD (D-CT): Well, Mr. Chairman, in the interests of time let's move along. We've got a couple of panels of witnesses and I'm very interested in hearing what they have to say. I do have an opening statement but I'll ask that it be included in the record. Let me just express my gratitude to you, Mr. Chairman, for putting the bilateral relationship of the United States and Mexico back on the front burner, as Senator Hagel has said. And I apologize that I missed the comments of our colleagues earlier, but I suspect by their presence here they share the view that it's always dangerous to prioritize any bilateral relationship as the most important.
But certainly one could never argue that if you had to list the four or five most important bilateral relationships, Mexico would have to be on that list at any given time and I think the committee's assertion that this agenda-particularly the issue of migration be included. And I commend Senator Hagel and others who have put together some very thoughtful pieces of legislation. This is a very complicated issue, one that's going to require a lot of attention and detail. But the fact that we have eight million undocumented workers in this country needs to be addressed. Obviously the border issues are critical, but it is also true that we have good people here. The overwhelming majority of the people who have come here to work make a significant contribution to our country and that should not be lost on us at any-in any moment.
So I thank you for doing this. I'm anxious to hear our witnesses and, again, I apologize for missing the opening statements of others. But I commend you for holding this hearing.
SEN. LUGAR: Well, thank you very much, Senator Dodd, for your attendance today and your leadership always in issues in our hemisphere. And your statement will be made complete in the record.
Senator Corzine, I want to recognize you, if you have --
SEN. JON CORZINE (D-NJ): Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I will be brief. I'll have a statement for the record, but I want to echo the sentiments I've heard from my colleagues with regard to the importance of this bilateral relationship. But recognizing the tension that exists in our society with regard to the immigration issues I think requires it for our own purposes within our own borders. And I think many of the initiatives that I've heard presented by my colleagues, several of which I'm cosponsoring, I look forward to having them moved aggressively under the agenda.
Because this is something that not only is important, as Senator Hagel talked about, with regard to national security and economic realities in our own communities, but is one that I think we need to address the tension that actually exists in our society which surrounds the questions of immigration and we ought to get the rules of the road established.
So I thank you very much for the hearing and look forward to the witnesses' testimony.
SEN. LUGAR: Thank you very much, Senator Corzine. Let me just indicate that the committee recognizes that of the bills that have represented-or presented here today, other committees have jurisdiction, in some cases primarily, and we understand that. Action has already been taken on the DREAM Act in Judiciary Committee, and Judiciary has likewise had a hearing with regard to the immigration proposals of our president and others as I understand it. It is clearly not our intent to step on the toes of any of our colleagues, but rather to emphasize the overall relationship today with Mexico as important as a foreign policy, as a national security issue, and these subsets of issues clearly are a part of that. But we have had, I think, a good understanding with the chairman of the relevant committees, who have encouraged us to proceed with this hearing and so we will try to pursue that diplomatically with our colleagues, as well as with all who are involved in the testimony today.
Let me now call our second panel of witnesses. And these are witnesses representing our administration: the Honorable Roger F. Noriega, assistant secretary Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, Department of State; the Honorable C. Stewart Verdery, assistant secretary Office of Policy and Planning, Border and Transportation Security Directorate; and the Honorable Eduardo Aguirre, director of Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services.
My understanding is that the witnesses have agreed upon an order of testimony which would mean Secretary Noriega first, then Mr. Aguirre and then Mr. Verdery in that order. So we will ask you to proceed, gentlemen. All of your statements will be made a part of the record in full, and perhaps you would wish to summarize. But our purpose is to hear you out, get your information today.
MR. ROGER F. NORIEGA: Thank you very much, Senator-Mr. Chairman and senators. It's a great pleasure for us to be here this morning, and we thank you for the opportunity to discuss the U.S. relationship with Mexico. My comments, which I will summarize here, will provide some additional context for the discussion of the immigration issue. I agree with you of course, Mr. Chairman and the other senators, that this hearing is a good opportunity to generate understanding and support in our country and in our Congress on this important issue.
As President Bush has said, and which has been echoed here this morning, the United States has no more important relationship than the one it enjoys with Mexico. Despite some disagreements in a history that has not been without some difficult episodes, the economies and societies of our two countries are interwoven and both countries are definitely stronger for it.
Mr. Chairman, I should note that each of the five principles that you outlined this morning are very much at work in our relationship with Mexico. I think President Bush and President Fox have converted this relationship in a short period of time into a win-win equation. We understand that when we work to secure our border for honest commerce that we both benefit. When we accommodate legal migration and fight against illegal migration, we both benefit. When we encourage trade and economic development, both of our countries stand to benefit. And when we fight drugs and work together to-in the region and in the world, we both benefit.
This is very much a partnership with Mexico, one of shared responsibilities in confronting and dealing with the issues between our two countries and in the world we share, and we do so in a very constructive way. That was underscored at the meeting between the two presidents in Crawford at the President's ranch on March 5 and 6, which was an excellent opportunity to discuss these bilateral relations in a very informal personal, friendly setting. And I was inspired by the commitment demonstrated in those meetings by the two presidents to work together to enhance an already strong relationship in ways that will benefit our people.
I'd like to discuss very briefly some of those key bilateral issues. As my colleagues in the Department of Homeland Security can attest, Mexico has offered outstanding cooperation in improving border security and counterterrorism efforts. During the recent threat to aviation security at the end of the year 2003, Mexico worked closely with the United States canceling flights and increasing security and screening in Mexican airports as the situation required.
Under the Border Partnership Accord signed by both presidents in March of 2002, we are increasing security for both countries in speeding the movement of legitimate goods and travelers across our border. During the last three years the U.S. and Mexican officials have developed unprecedented levels of cooperation on law enforcement, including information sharing and even joint investigations. The Mexican government has achieved impressive records in capturing leaders of the major drug trafficking organizations that operate on both sides of our borders. The Mexican attorney general's office and the Mexican military conduct extensive eradication operations.
The narcotics related violence in border communities, particularly in Ciudad Juarez, Nuevo Laredo and Tijuana, remains a serious problem, as does corruption in Mexican state and local law enforcement officials. However, President Fox has not backed away from his efforts to target drug traffickers and to eradicate these illicit crops. It is important that the United States government continue to support Mexico in these efforts.
On the specific issue of extradition we've made considerable strides. As you know, Mexico does not extradite criminals facing the death penalty and a Mexican Supreme Court ruling bans the extradition of fugitives facing life imprisonment without parole, and these have-this has caused serious concerns in terms of getting people back to face justice. Differences in our legal systems also lead to problems with the quantity and type of evidence required by Mexican courts, but we're working to address these issues and we hope that the Mexican Supreme Court will revisit the issue of life imprisonment.
President Fox has made noteworthy advances in the area of human rights and the passage of an unprecedented Freedom of Information Act, the creation of a new federal professional criminal investigative body, and the appointment of a special prosecutor for historic human rights cases. Many human rights challenges remain, particularly at the state level, but we believe Mexico will continue to tackle these problems.
We share the Mexican government's concern over the murders of women in Ciudad Juarez. Secretary Powell has raised this issue in his exchanges with Mexican officials, as have I. The United States has provided assistance in the past and stands ready to provide further assistance in addressing these serious crimes. We are exploring with the Mexican government ways where we can intensify our joint efforts to address the mutual problem of trafficking in persons across our borders.
Our shared border with Mexico imposes upon us a joint responsibility for resource management of all kinds and there's no resource more important for people on both sides of that border than water. The deficit in water deliveries from Mexico to the United States is an ongoing serious concern, one which we discuss on a regular basis. I can assure you this came up in Crawford, for example. There is a deficit. Mexico under President Fox has not added to that deficit. They've kept up regular annual payments of the water debt and there has not been an addition to the deficit, but it is something that we need to address to ensure that our farmers can count on the water supplies that are necessary for their productive enterprises.
In the area of trade, the North American Free Trade Agreement is a success for all three countries. Of course, there are disputes and we're trying to resolve those through the dispute resolution mechanisms in NAFTA and the WTO. But Mexico is an important ally in the efforts to reach a freed trade area in the Americas. They understand that trade has benefited all of our countries, definitely all three countries involved in NAFTA.
We are extremely pleased by the activity of the Partnership for Prosperity, a public-private alliance established in 2001 by Presidents Bush and Fox that seeks to spur growth and addresses the root causes of migration in those regions of Mexico from which a disproportionate number of persons immigrate to the United States illegally.
We seek to engage through this exercise the energies of the private sector to address the problems of poverty and development. And, we believe that we've already seen some meaningful progress on this area and this can become a model for us to use elsewhere in the Americas.
President Fox recognizes the need for comprehensive economic and fiscal measures to make Mexico more competitive and to generate sufficient jobs for his own citizens. Toward this end he has introduced legislation to reform Mexico's fiscal structure and energy sector, and he has worked very closely with the political class in Mexico to address these important fundamental issues.
Finally, the relationship we share with Mexico also has a hemispheric and global dimension. The United States and Mexico have very active and productive engagement on regional world affairs, more than ever before. We cooperated, for example, in helping the government of Bolivia and helping the people of Venezuela, and these are two areas where we're working together to advance our mutual interest in democracy.
My colleagues from the Department of Homeland Security will describe in more detail President Bush's January 7 proposal on migration; where it currently stands and what the president's vision is for safe, orderly, humane and practical and market-sensitive immigration measures. The president is speaking of a temporary worker program, not an amnesty, which will match willing workers with willing employers. While it is not Mexico specific, it will definitely have a major impact on Mexico and an impact on those who are here or those who want to work here legally. President Fox understands the importance of the temporary worker program for his country, and he has voiced support for the proposal during his meeting with President Bush in Monterey in January, and again in Crawford.
In conclusion, the progress in the United States-Mexico relationship over the last three years has been extraordinary. We believe that progress will continue, again emphasizing that this is a win-win partnership. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I'll answer any questions you might have.
SEN. LUGAR: Well, thank you very much, Secretary Noriega. It's a pleasure to have you before the committee again today and we thank you for that testimony.
MR. EDUARDO AGUIRRE: Good morning, Mr. Chairman, thank you very much. Senator Dodd, Hagel, members of the committee. My name is Eduardo Aguirre and I have the honor of serving President Bush's administration and our great nation as the first director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, USCIS, within the Department of Homeland Security. I'm pleased to appear before you today to testify on the bilateral relationship between the United States and Mexico in light of the president's recent proposal for immigration reform.
First, a little background on USCIS. Within the creation of USCIS just a little over a year ago, my team of 15,000 and I embraced a simple but imperative mission: making certain that the right applicant receives the right benefit and the right amount of time, and preventing the wrong applicants from accessing America's immigration benefits. We established three priorities: eliminating the immigration benefits backlog, improving customer service, and at the same time enhancing national security. Accomplishing these priorities will have an impact on Mexico as many of our customers are Mexican Nationals.
On January 7, as you know, President Bush courageously confronted a broken immigration system, one that had been ignored too long. From the East Room of the White House he called for Congress to deliver true reform and a new temporary worker program that facilitates economic growth, enhances national security and promotes compassion. The president made clear his principles for reform, which are to protect the homeland and control our borders, match a willing foreign worker with a willing employer when no American can be found to fulfill that job, promote compassion, provide incentives for return to the home country, and protect the rights of legal immigrants.
This is not an amnesty program, as has been said before, which would otherwise join the illegal track with the legal one by facilitating green card status and potential naturalization. Rather, the president proposes a one time regulated opportunity for undocumented workers already here as of the date of the president's announcement to legitimize their presence and facilitate more fully in our economy for a finite period before returning home. And it creates an ongoing opportunity for individuals abroad to apply to come temporarily to the United States to legally fill jobs that American workers will not fill. This proposal presents long term viable alternatives to the many risks associated with illegal immigration.
For the committee's consideration I'd like to raise five points to complement my reflections on the process. First, enforcement is paramount to the temporary worker program. While Assistant Secretary Verdery will elaborate on some of the enforcement aspects of the temporary worker program, for United States Citizenship and Immigration Services security and fraud prevention are anonymous-synonymous with enforcement and must be a priority. Second, the American worker comes first. The president has made it clear that this program would match a willing foreign worker with a willing employer when no American can be found to fill the job.