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Illegal Immigration

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. WOODALL. I appreciate my friend from Alabama for yielding.

Candidly, I can't say it much better than my freshman colleague from Tennessee just did. We are a Nation of immigrants, and we are a Nation of laws. And my question is, When did it become so clear to everyone else that those things were in conflict with one another? Because when I look at it, it's not in conflict at all; in fact, it's in concert, in concert with one another.

It was hard to listen to the story that my friend from Alabama was telling because it's not a story that you only hear once. It's a story that you hear heartbroken families tell over and over and over again. It's a family in Alabama, it's a family in Georgia, it's a mom in South Carolina, and it's a grandmother from Indiana, and on and on and on.

What I want to know is, Who is it who's coming to defend that story tonight? Because I hear it in town hall meetings all the time, and I know my friend from Alabama hears the same thing: Rob, I want you to go up there and I want you to fight for what's right, and I don't want you to compromise. Well, I don't want to compromise on principle. There is absolutely no principle I have that I'm interested in compromising on. But what I tell folks back home is there's common ground. There's common ground where no matter where you sit on the political spectrum you can see your way clear to this path forward.

What I want to know from my colleagues--and I wish there were more of them in the Chamber tonight--and, again, I'm grateful to my friend from Alabama for putting this hour together--but where are the folks who oppose enforcing the laws? Where are the folks who believe that legal immigration is what we don't want and illegal immigration is what we do want?

Where are the folks who believe that when criminals commit crimes, they're not supposed to be prosecuted? Where are those folks defending that? Because what I see in my part of the world--and I'm there in the northeastern suburbs of Atlanta--what I see in my part of the world are people who are proud of our history as an immigrant Nation and proud of our future as an immigrant Nation.

I tell folks all the time I don't worry that people want to come to America. I worry about the one day people don't want to come to America. What happens when they want to take their big brain and their hard work ethic and their entrepreneurial ideas and take it to China or take it to India or take it to Brazil? I worry about that.

We have so many challenges, as my friend from Alabama knows, in terms of restructuring our legal immigration process. I am heartbroken that we spend even a moment arguing amongst ourselves about the necessity of shutting down illegal immigration now--not tomorrow, not a week from tomorrow, not after the next election cycle, today.

Of the few things that the United States Constitution empowers the Federal Government to do, requires that the Federal Government do, enforcing our border security is one; and we don't do that well. We have so many conversations down here, as the Speaker knows, about all the things the Federal Government should stick its nose into, as if we're going to do those well. What about the one the Constitution requires us to do, which is secure our borders?

For me, the untalked-about victim in the illegal immigration debate is the legal immigrant. Have you ever been to a naturalization ceremony? Do you have any friends who have been naturalized, who have earned the right to be a United States citizen? Wow. Wow. It's tears, but it's tears of joy. I wish we were teaching the same thing to our young people in schools that we're teaching to our immigrants in their citizenship classes, who are developing this deep and abiding respect for the rule of law and the American way of life.

And the victim, when we turn a blind eye to illegal immigration, is the legal immigrant who does it all right because they're the victim of the animus that comes out of this debate. They're a victim of the sadness. In fact, I will tell you, the angriest people--again, I come from the Deep South. A lot of folks have a lot of stereotypes about how it is in the Deep South. But I will tell you, the angriest people in my part of the world about illegal immigration are not the ninth generation white guy; it's the legal immigrants.

Somebody stopped me the other day and they said, Rob, if you ever pass an amnesty bill--which we never will do, just to be clear, never, ever going to happen, not while I'm here in Congress--give me my money back. You can't give me my life back; you can't give me back all the years and years and years I worked and I waited on the list and I waited patiently in my home country until my number came up, you can't give me that back, but I want my money back because it wasn't cheap. It's not. Being a United States citizen is advanced citizenship. It requires great commitments, as it is a great opportunity; and we treat it in this country as if it's a nothing.

As my friend from Alabama knows, there's another bill, introduced by my friend from Iowa (Mr. King), called the Birthright Citizenship Act--and I'm a cosponsor of that act--that goes back to the 14th Amendment. It goes back to that time in this country when we were struggling with our national identity and says those born in the United States, under the jurisdiction thereof, shall be United States citizens.

As you tell the story, I say to my friend from Alabama, of someone who has been convicted of crime after crime after crime, of someone who has warrants out for their arrest across the United States, of someone who hasn't yet found a single American law that they have chosen to obey, I tell you that person is not under the jurisdiction of the United States, and births that are associated with that person do not give rise to citizenship in the United States.

But the courts have said Congress just won't decide on this; Congress won't take a stand on this. Well, Steve King of Iowa said, yes, we will. And I was proud to join him on that to define what is the greatest gift we have in this country, and that's the gift of American citizenship. I was born with it, and I'm grateful for it every day of the week, but we treat it like it's nothing. And I will say to folks who think that it's nothing, go to one of these naturalization ceremonies. Talk to your friends and neighbors who have worked for it and earned it, and they will tell you that it's something.

And in the army that we're developing across America to come and stand strong on the issue of illegal immigration, the army that's forming across America to say we are proud that we're a Nation of immigrants, but we're even more proud that we're a Nation of laws, that army is composed of legal immigrants of every stripe from coast to coast, from north to south. It makes me so proud because I think that's what America is all about.

I want to go back and say to the gentleman from Alabama, thank you for introducing the American Jobs Act. For folks who look those things up on TV, it's H.R. 2670, I believe; is that correct?

Mr. BROOKS. Yes.

Mr. WOODALL. Again, where are those folks? We're not talking about compromising our principles; we're talking about pursuing those things that are common ground. In this era of 10 percent unemployment, who are those folks who think that hardworking, taxpaying American citizens don't deserve that job first if they're willing to work for it? Who is that?

I'm sure that there has been an editorial or two in your local newspapers--if your newspapers are anything like mine--that have not reacted all that kindly to your decision to stand up and do what is right. But doing what's right is not always easy, and it's rarely appreciated in its time. It's often appreciated as history writes it. But who is it who believes that folks who have paid their taxes for a decade, who have been laid off in the middle part of their life, who can't afford to send their kids to college, who can't afford to buy medicine for their wife? Who are those people who believe that those folks don't deserve first crack at that job? First crack.

We have a legal immigration process in place in this country that will allow you to come here the right way, get a green card the right way, and apply for jobs just like everybody else. Folks do it. Do it, and I welcome you.

But in this era of unemployment, who are those folks who defend this practice of illegal labor? I will tell you, it's not just the folks who go to work. It's the folks who employ those folks who go to work. This is not about illegal immigrants alone. This is about those businesses that hire those illegal immigrants.

A crime is a crime here in this country. They're not all the heartbreaking crimes that my friend from Alabama has described, but they are crimes that have consequences. These are not victimless crimes. Illegal immigration is not a victimless crime.

The victim could be that American who can't find a job to support his kids and his family. The victim could be that school district that can't afford to sort out how those classes are going to go, that can't afford all the teachers, but has an increasing workload because of the children associated with illegal immigration today.

The victim could be that health care system that can't treat folks as they'd like to treat them, doesn't have enough money to deal with the community as it is, and the burden keeps growing and growing and growing. It is not a victimless crime.

In terms of finding common ground, I looked at my friend Rob Bishop's bill. Rob Bishop is from Utah, and he's introduced H.R. 1505, the National Security and Federal Lands Act.

Now, the preposterous things that we discuss here in Washington, this is one. Look it up for yourself. H.R. 1505, what it does is it changes the law, changes the law so that Border Patrol agents can access areas of the border. Hear that. There is a bill in this Congress to change the law so that Border Patrol agents can get access to the border. 4.3 million acres of border designated wilderness along our southern border, and in those areas the Border Patrol can't use motorized vehicles, can't construct roads, can't even install security and communication apparatus. Hear that. Hear that.

The law of the land in America today is that the Border Patrol agents cannot patrol the borders. H.R. 1505 will change that, and I hope we'll pass that here.

I want to say finally to my friend from Alabama, you and I are both new here. I've only been here 9 months, and I'm learning something every day here. I was more than a little bit surprised when the administration came out and said, no, it's really not whether or not you're illegal; it's whether or not you're illegal and when we make our decisions about whether or not to deport you.

But what I learned in that conversation is that we have a backlog of deportations in this country. When we talk about funding priorities in this country, for the last 9 months I've been focusing on funding the Border Patrol. I thought what we needed were more boots on the ground, and I still believe we do. But what I have learned from the administration is we also need more bottoms in the seats in immigration courtrooms across this country. We may need more immigration judges. If we don't have enough people to process all the deportations that are in line, what we need is not to stop the deportations; what we need is to hire more people to process those deportations.

I tell you, I'm a small government conservative. You're not going to find many government programs that I want to come down here and spend money on. But again, the Constitution has given to you and me the responsibility of enforcing this part of the law, has given us the responsibility of securing our borders; and if what it takes to be successful is spending more money to hire more immigration court judges to fill more buses to comply with more of the law that is, in fact, the law of the land, then I'm prepared to do that.

I appreciate the administration, again, for educating me in that way, because I had no idea that we were so successful at identifying folks and we just weren't successful at finishing that deportation process.

So I say to my friend from Alabama, again, I so much appreciate his leadership on this issue. I am a proud supporter of the Jobs for Americans Act. I look forward to bipartisan support on that act because, again, we're not talking about asking anyone to compromise their principles. We're asking people to celebrate that we are an immigrant nation and that we are a nation of laws. And I tell you, I don't want to live in a nation that is willing to give up on either one of those, and we don't have to.

I thank my friend.

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