Sen. Rand Paul today issued a follow-up letter to Senate Democrat Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) urging him to refer the immigration bill to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC) in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings last month. In Sen. Reid's response to Sen. Paul's first letter, he indicated that HSGAC would hold hearings regarding immigration and border security. But, Sen. Paul does not believe that hearings alone will suffice and calls for further debate and amendments in HSGAC. The text of this letter can be found below.
TEXT OF LETTER:
May 6, 2013
The Honorable Harry Reid
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Majority Leader Reid,
As I stated in my previous letter to you on April 22 of this year, I believe it is critical for the Senate to fully review and consider the events that led to the tragic bombing in Boston last month. Most importantly, we must learn how persons admitted to and residing legally in the United States-from a dangerous region of the world, no less-could fall through the cracks, progress through the immigration process, and remain in the United States, where they were able to carry out vicious attacks despite being subjected to a significant amount of scrutiny during their immigration processing.
At the same time that we are trying to learn how the warning signs that might have stopped this horrible tragedy were missed, the Senate is pushing ahead with consideration of new immigration reform legislation. This legislation would reorganize large sectors of our society and alter the process we use to admit foreign visitors to the United States, and it would also bring unknown millions of people out of the shadows and into legal residence in the United States. Although I and many of my colleagues have called for full deliberation of this legislation-especially in light of the events in Boston-most indications are that this enormous piece of legislation will be expedited to the fullest extent possible. Just this week, you suggested that that your goal is for the Senate to complete work on this bill and pass it within the next two months.
It has been argued that immigration has already been debated for years and, while that may be true, it most certainly is not the case with this legislation. It was drafted behind closed doors and has only been available for review for a few weeks. Further, the investigation of the events in Boston has barely begun. The Senate needs time to further examine the Boston case and the immigration issues it raises, and work to apply whatever reforms are needed, before we rush to pass legislation that will have an uncertain impact over generations.
We must take the time necessary to find out how our immigration and screening process failed before we pass legislation to legalize millions of people. If our immigration system is overwhelmed to the point of failure by the volume of applications and background checks it must perform now, then shouldn't we consider what millions of new applications and procedures will do? Needless to say, the many questions relating to this legislation, not only the ones raised by the events in Boston, are more numerous than can be suitably included in this letter. Therefore, we should continue to scrutinize and learn about what systems failed and what systems worked, and find how these lessons might relate to this new immigration reform legislation.
In your response to my letter, you indicated that the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC) was about to hold hearings on issues related to immigration and border security. While this is certainly a welcome step, this is not sufficient on its own. I believe the immigration bill should also be amended and refined by HSGAC. Having HSGAC also markup the immigration reform bill will only make the bill stronger and our nation safer.
I strongly urge the immigration bill be referred to HSGAC for further debate and amendments, especially in regards to provisions relating to functions of the Department of Homeland Security, such as immigration processing and security screening (including student visas and refugees), and also to consider how to address gaps in visa exit tracking. You should, in discussion with the leadership of HSGAC, make this referral as soon as the Judiciary Committee has completed its own markup of the bill.
We should absolutely be certain that the bill has received a thorough review and reflects relevant findings from the Boston bombing, and that we have taken immigration security considerations into account, before floor consideration of this legislation begins.
Thank you for your timely response to my previous letter, and I appreciate your consideration of my request in this matter. I look forward to your response.
Rand Paul, M.D.
United States Senator