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Public Statements

Immigration Reform

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. REID. Mr. President, today the Supreme Court correctly struck down the vast majority of the mean-spirited Arizona law; that is, of course, the immigration law. While I agree with the Court's decision to invalidate three troubling provisions of Arizona's flawed law, there are actually four provisions. Three were declared unconstitutional, one was upheld.

I am concerned about the section they upheld. I am surprised they did, but they did. The Justices upheld a measure that allows police to conduct immigration checks on anyone they suspect of being in the country illegally, even if their only evidence is an accent or maybe the color of their skin.

Allowing Arizona to keep its ``papers please'' system of immigration checks invites racial profiling. It gives Arizona officials free rein to detain anyone they suspect of being in Arizona without documentation.

As long as this provision remains, innocent American citizens are in danger of being detained by police unless they carry immigration papers with them at all times. However, it is reassuring that the Court left the door open to further court challenges of this unsound provision. I say to the Presiding Officer and to anyone within the sound of my voice, someone with my skin color or yours, I do not think we are going to be carrying our immigration papers with us everyplace we go.

But if someone is in Arizona and speaks with a little bit of an accent or their skin color is brown, they better have their papers with them. That is unfortunate. It is reassuring that the Court, though, left the door open to further court challenges of this very unsound provision. I am optimistic that once that portion of the law is implemented, it will be discarded.

Laws that legalize discrimination are not compatible with laws and traditions of equal rights. So it is disturbing that Mitt Romney has called the unconstitutional Arizona law a model for immigration reform. Anyone who thinks such an unconstitutional law should serve as a model for national reform is clearly outside the mainstream.

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed with that today. Today's partial victory affirms the Obama administration was right to challenge this awful law, and it is a reminder that the ultimate responsibility for fixing our Nation's broken immigration system rests with Congress.

Instead of allowing 50 States to have 50 different enforcement mechanisms, we need a national solution that continues to secure the border, punishes unscrupulous employers that exploit immigrants and undercut American wages, improves our dysfunctional legal immigration system, and requires the 11 million people who are undocumented to register with the government, pay fines and taxes, learn English, work, stay out of trouble, and go to the end of the line to legalize their status.

Democrats are ready for this challenge. We have been willing to craft a commonsense legal solution for a long time, one that is fair, tough, and practical. As I have indicated, we have been ready to do this for years. We have tried on a few occasions. The problem now and has been, Republicans will not vote for immigration reform--simple as that. We have tried.

The first step would be to pass the DREAM Act, which would create a pathway to citizenship for children brought to the country through no fault of their own. If upstanding young people stay out of trouble, work hard in high school, they should have a chance to serve their country in the military, go to college, and work toward citizenship.

Unfortunately, Mitt Romney said he would veto that, the DREAM Act. President Obama, on the other hand, took decisive action in halting deportation of the DREAMers. His directive will protect 800,000 young people and focus law enforcement resources where they belong, on deporting criminals.

As we all know, though, this is not a permanent solution. But President Obama's decision to defer these deportations was necessary precisely because Republicans have so far refused to work with Democrats on a solution. Congress must consider a long-term resolution to protect the DREAMers and tackle comprehensive immigration reform that addresses all 11 million undocumented people living in this country.

But that will take cooperation from my Republican colleagues. That has not been forthcoming. This week, we have a lot to accomplish, and getting it all done before the July 4 holiday will also take cooperation. By Friday, the Senate must pass flood insurance that will allow millions of Americans to close on new homes or new properties. We must send to the President a bill to ease drug shortages. That is the FDA bill. We need to protect 3 millions jobs with an agreement on transportation legislation, and the deadline to stop student loan rates from doubling for 7 million students looms at the end of this week as well.

I am putting my colleagues on notice that the Senate will stay as long as we have to, into the weekend if necessary, to complete this substantial workload. We hope there will be cooperation not only in this body but also in the House of Representatives. I alert everyone, we have a lot to do--extremely important pieces of legislation. We have to complete them before we leave this week.

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