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Public Statements

Immigration Reform

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. GRASSLEY. Mr. President, at 2:24 a.m. this morning, the Group of 8 finally unveiled their immigration reform bill. Since they began their meetings about 4 months ago, I have complimented them on their commitment to reforming our broken immigration system. I have sought their cooperation to ensure the bill goes through the committee process, and I have argued the bill must be open to amendment during consideration in committee and on the Senate floor. Every Member of the Senate must have an opportunity to read, analyze, and improve the bill.

The bill we received is just under 900 pages, and it tackles some very important issues, including measures on border security, E-Verify and the entry-exit system. It includes the legalization program for people here unlawfully, including DREAM Act eligible students and undocumented workers in the agricultural sector. It attempts to move our system to a merit-based and point system. It revises asylum procedures and the court structure governing immigration appeals. It includes reforms to the highly skilled visa program and seasonal worker guest worker program. It changes the way we implement the visa waiver program, and it includes a brandnew, low-skilled temporary worker program that allows willing workers to enter the country without being sponsored by an employer.

So you can see there is a lot covered in this bill. There are some new concepts. Yet the majority seems to want us to push this bill through the committee process and are intent on getting it to the floor by June. The sponsor of the bill, the senior Senator from New York, said he hopes the bill will be done in 8 weeks.

On Friday, Secretary Napolitano is scheduled to appear before the Judiciary Committee. It is my intent to dig into the details of the bill with her to understand the mechanics and how the bureaucracy will handle these changes. The Secretary had better have answers, especially since this may be the only time we hear about how the administration will implement the major overhaul.

The committee will then have a hearing on Monday to discuss the bill. However, the topics will be broad and all encompassing, I have been told. We have experts who need to be heard on this bill. Most importantly, because cost is a big factor around here, we need to hear from the Congressional Budget Office. Knowing how much this bill costs taxpayers and whether it will actually be budget neutral is a critically important matter.

Let me reiterate my desire to work on this bill. I think we need changes to our immigration system and to approve legal avenues for people to enter and remain in the United States, but this is not something to be rushed. We have to get this right; otherwise, the goal of the bipartisan group to solve the problem once and for all will not end. We have a long road ahead of us in order to pass this legislation to reform our immigration system. We cannot tolerate anything less than a transparent and deliberative process to improve the bill.

So let me get back to the point I made just a few seconds ago. This is something that cannot be rushed. We have to get it right. Let me say why I emphasize that.

There are only a few of us in the Senate who voted on the 1986 immigration bill. We thought we did it right. We thought by making it illegal, for the first time, for employers to hire undocumented workers--and have a $10,000 fine if they did--would take away the magnet that would bring people across the border so readily. Obviously, they come for a better life for themselves, and who can find fault with people who have good spiritual values, good family values, and good work ethics wanting to improve themselves. That is what America is all about. But entering the country illegally is not something a country based upon the rule of law can tolerate.

Anyway, we made it illegal in 1986, and then added that fine. We didn't anticipate a whole industry of fraudulent documents, so that if someone goes to an employer and says they are here lawfully and shows them a passport that looks like it is the real thing, the employer cannot then be fined $10,000 for hiring them. So we thought we took away that magnet at the time and that we might as well legalize the 3 million people who were here. We did that based on the proposition we were fixing this thing once and for all. But we know what happens when we make it legitimate to violate the rule of law. Instead of 3 million people, there are now 12 million people here in the country undocumented.

So when I read the preamble of the document put out by the Group of 8--and I am not finding fault with this--they make it very clear: We intend to--and I am paraphrasing it--fix this system once and for all so it never has to be revisited.

That is exactly what we thought in 1986. Well, we were wrong. So that is why I come to the floor tonight to plead, as I did, about a 900-page bill that just came out at 2:24 this morning, and presumably the Secretary of Homeland Security is coming before our committee in less than 48 hours to answer our questions. I wonder if she can fully understand it so she can answer our questions.

I think it is a legitimate question when the Group of 8 comes up with a proposition that we are going to fix this thing once and for all. Well, I hope they have a pattern to do that, and I hope they don't make the same mistake we did. But rushing this along has a tendency to be an environment for a screw-up like we had in 1986. We spent weeks and weeks on legislation to get it right, and we didn't get it right.

I yield the floor.


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