INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE REORGANIZATION
AMENDMENT NO. 4041 TO AMENDMENT NO. 4027
Mr. NICKLES. Mr. President, I call up amendment No. 4041 to amendment No. 4027.
Mr. KENNEDY. Point of order, Mr. President. Parliamentary inquiry: As I understood it, the Senator from Arizona yielded for points of discussion. I ask the Chair if he would not rule. I ask if he asked consent if he would be able to yield, for the point of discussion, to other Members here? As I understand it now, the Senator is offering an amendment. That is not discussion. I make a point of order.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator yielded for a specified period of time.
Mr. KENNEDY. And not for discussion only?
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Simply for a specified period of time.
Mr. KENNEDY. What is the request now that is before the Chair?
Several Senators addressed the Chair.
Mr. McCAIN. What is the pending business?
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Oklahoma has the right to call up an amendment.
Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, what is the request?
Mr. McCAIN. What is the pending business before the Senate?
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator has called up an amendment and has sent it to the desk, and a second-degree amendment as well, which is his right.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, my friends and colleagues from Iowa, Florida, and Louisiana have outlined very briefly some of their concerns about how they felt the minority had been treated in an arbitrary way in the conference committee.
I want to remind the Senate that we had a 78-to-15 vote in the Senate to tie the tobacco buyout with the FDA regulations, and that particular proposal came back. We had not asked that the tobacco buyout be in the tax bill. But, nonetheless, the House decided to put it in the bill. Then when it came back here, the decision of that conference was made to take care of the tobacco companies and give short shrift to the children of this country.
I think it is going to be appropriate that many of us talk about that and make sure the American people understand that.
Finally, we have also had the issue on overtime. Three times we saw the decision made in the Senate to repeal the administration's overtime-twice in the House of Representatives. This was given 6 minutes in the conference committee.
I think the working families of this country have a right to understand and know what is in that FSC bill. I for one intend to use my time to make sure that they do.
I thank the Senator from Arizona for yielding.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. GREGG. This is within the jurisdiction of my committee, and the Senator from Massachusetts and I have worked on this. We think it is important for existing students who are paying this ridiculous interest rate-the Government is paying this ridiculous interest rate-and use the money to help teachers who are going into underserved areas. Will the Senator allow me to do that?
Mr. McCAIN. I would be glad to.
Mr. KENNEDY. I am in strong support.
Mr. McCAIN. I am happy to yield for a question by the Senator from Massachusetts.
Mr. KENNEDY. Will the Senator agree with me that even though I might strongly support what the Senator from New Hampshire has stated, I would like to defer action because my friend and colleague Senator Harkin is not here at the moment. He may or may not object. He objected to it earlier. I hope the Senator will address this later on in the afternoon or evening.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. KENNEDY. It is a privilege to join Senator CRAIG today in urging the Senate to pass this important jobs bill for immigrants in agriculture. We have been struggling for decades to find a solution to the heart-wrenching problems facing so many farm workers for so long.
The Agricultural Jobs, Opportunity, Benefits, and Security Act-AgJOBS-is an opportunity to correct these long-festering problems. In a landmark agreement, both the United Farm Workers and the agricultural industry support this solution. It gives farm workers and their families the dignity and opportunity they deserve, and it gives farm owners a legal workforce.
The bill is a compromise, and it has 63 Senate sponsors, with almost equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans. More than 400 organizations across the country support it. They include advocates for farm workers, such as the United Farm Workers, the Farm Labor Organizing Community, and the Farm Worker Justice Fund. They include business groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Council of Agricultural Employers, the American Nursery and Landscape Association, and the American Farm Bureau Federation. They include civil rights groups such as the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, Latino organizations such as the National Council of LaRaza, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and the League of United Latin American Citizens.
It is a bill whose time has come. In fact, we should have passed it long before now, because the need is so great, and the current situation is so untenable. For economic, security, and humanitarian reasons, Congress ought to complete action on this legislation before we adjourn for the year.
The AgJOBS bill is good for both business and labor. The Nation can no longer ignore the fact that more than half of our agricultural workers are undocumented immigrants. Growers need a reliable and legal workforce. Workers need legal status to improve their wages and working conditions. Everyone is harmed when crops rot in the field because of the lack of an adequate labor force.
The AgJOBS bill provides a fair and reasonable process for these agricultural workers to earn legal status. It reforms the current visa program, so that employers unable to obtain American workers can hire the foreign workers they need.
Undocumented farm workers are easily and unfairly exploited by unscrupulous contractors and growers. Their illegal status deprives them of bargaining power and depresses the wages of all farm workers. Our bill provides fair solutions for undocumented workers who have been toiling in our fields, harvesting our fruits and vegetables.
The bill is not an amnesty. To earn the right to remain in this country, workers have to demonstrate past work contributions to the U.S. economy, and also make a substantial future work commitment. These men and women will finally be able to come out of the shadows, identify themselves, and provide evidence that they have worked in agriculture, so that they can continue to work hard and play by the rules.
Hard-working migrant farm workers are essential to American agriculture. We need an honest agriculture policy that recognizes the contributions of these workers and respects and rewards their work.
The legislation will also modify the current temporary foreign agricultural worker program, and it does so in a way that preserves and enhances key labor protections. It strikes a fair balance. It also benefits employers, by streamlining the visa application process and reducing paperwork for employers.
This legislation will also unify families. When temporary residence is granted, a farm worker's spouse and minor children will be allowed to remain legally in the United States, but they will not be authorized to work. When the worker becomes a permanent resident, the spouse and minor children will also be granted that status.
In the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, we can no longer accept policies that fail to protect our borders. Congress has periodically invested millions of dollars to increase the number of immigration border patrol agents, improve surveillance technology, and install other controls to strengthen border enforcement, especially along our southwest border. Yet, almost everyone agrees that these steps have failed to stop illegal immigration. The proof is in the numbers-several hundred thousand people a year continue to enter the United States illegally, and a significant part of the workforce in many sectors of the economy, especially agriculture, is undocumented.
One major unintended effect of our border enforcement strategy has been to shift illegal border crossings to the harsh desert and mountain terrains along the border, causing significant increases in deaths. According to the U.S. Border Patrol, since 1998 nearly 2000 people have died attempting to make the difficult journey across that border. Desperate migrants are being drawn into criminal smuggling syndicates, which increase the danger of violence to border patrol officers, border communities, and the workers themselves. As Stephen Flynn, an expert on terrorism, noted at a recent Congressional hearing, these "draconian measures" have produced chaos at our borders, which "makes it ideal for exploitation by criminals and terrorists."
The AgJOBS bill will make legality the norm and reduce illegal immigration. It provides reasonable rules that are realistic and enforceable. It replaces the chaotic, deadly, and illegal flows at our borders with orderly, safe, and legal avenues for these farm workers and their families. A workable and legal program for foreign workers crossing our borders will strengthen our security, substantially reduce crime and enable immigration enforcement authorities to focus their resources on terrorists and criminals trying to enter the country illegally. We need laws that recognize reality, so that legality is the rule, not the exception.
In this post-9/11 world, we cannot afford to ignore the fact any longer that so much of today's agricultural workforce is undocumented. The AgJOBS bill enhances our national security and makes out communities safer. It brings undocumented farm workers and their families out of the shadows and makes it possible for them to pass thorough security checks. It shrinks the pool of law enforcement targets and enables law enforcement officers to give priority to terrorists and criminals. It will make our communities safer, because once immigrants become legal, they will no longer fear deportation if they report crimes to law enforcement officers.
Reducing the size of the undocumented population also reduces the ability of suspected terrorists to hide. The half million or more undocumented farm workers eligible for this program will undergo rigorous security checks when they apply for legal status. Future temporary workers will be carefully screened to meet security concerns. Law enforcement resources will be more effectively focused on the highest risks.
Opponents of this legislation offer no workable solutions to the serious problems of current law. Yet they have blocked our efforts for a genuine debate on the issue. We cannot be complacent any longer. I urge my colleagues to support this needed legislation. It is long past time to end these dangerous conditions, and to do it in a way that not only improves the lives and working conditions of all farm workers, but also enhances the security of our Nation. I urge my colleagues to approve this legislation, and I look forward to its enactment into law as soon as possible.
BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
Mr. KENNEDY. Madam President, while my good friend the Senator from Louisiana is in the Chamber, I commend her for the enormously persuasive case she has made and say I agree with her 100 percent and will certainly do everything I can to support her.
The point is, we passed this underlying bill in June, and the conferees were appointed in July by the Senate of the United States. The House of Representatives did not even appoint their conferees until the end of last week, and did not have their first meeting until Monday of this week, and we are trying to jam this legislation through the Senate late in the afternoon on a Friday, and the cloture motion was filed the first thing this morning before there was 1 minute of debate on it.
Ms. LANDRIEU. Yes.
Mr. KENNEDY. I say that both in terms of the substance, which is so powerful, and the process and the procedure in standing for the Guard and Reserve, I commend the leader. There is an arrogance among the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and the Republican leadership that ends up and results in this kind of a situation where they say: Well, there won't be people over there who will stand for the Guard and Reserve. We will send it over there late either last night, which they would have done if they had been able to get these printed up, or we will have it over there on Friday morning, and they will all want to take off on Friday, so they will go ahead and pass it. That is the view.
I commend the Senator from Louisiana for the substance and commend her for the process as well. And I will take the time not just at this moment but also to comment about the same legislation, how Chairman Thomas and the Republican leadership are prepared to take care of the tobacco companies but not take care of America's children. That was the choice. You could have done both. I would have supported looking out after tobacco farmers who are having difficulties on that. I would have supported having the tobacco companies pay for that particular bailout. But it should have included the protection of America's children, and the Republican leadership refused to do that.
It refused to look out after American workers. We have passed-three times in the Senate, twice in the House of Representatives-a prohibition against this administration's repeal of the overtime provisions that affect 6 million of our fellow workers, primarily the first responders. Police and firefighters and nurses: They are three of the largest groups that were going to be affected. We passed that three times. The House of Representatives passed it twice.
We had 5 minutes of discussion on it from the proponents of it in the same conference. I was there. So that is certainly one of the reasons that we speak and we are so concerned about those provisions. We will have a chance to address those matters. But I do want to speak to the Senate on two other matters briefly this afternoon.