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Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. President, this is important legislation, the immigration bill. I was able to have a discussion with Senator Reid yesterday. He was moving forward on the motion to proceed to the bill which requires considerable debate. I asked for and insisted on the opportunity to have some time today to talk about it, and he agreed to that. I think that was a good step, and I thank him for that agreement.
We have a lot to talk about. The matters are complex and important, and I urge my colleagues to pay real attention to the legislation. This is the bill, as printed, front and back of each page. It was reportedly going to be 1,000 pages, and our colleagues were proud to say it was 800 pages. Since then, more has been added to it, and now it is over 1,000 pages again.
It is very complex and there are certain key points with multiple references to other code sections that are in existing law; therefore, it is very difficult to read.
It takes a considerable amount of time, and I don't even suspect the Gang of 8 has had the time to read, digest, and understand fully what is in the legislation.
We are a nation of immigrants. The people whom I know who are concerned about this legislation in Congress are not against immigration. I certainly am not. We admit about 1 million people a year legally into our country, and that is a substantial number by any standard. Indeed, it is the highest of any country in the world. It is important we execute that policy in an effective way as it impacts our whole Nation.
Immigration has enriched our culture. It has boosted our economy, and we have had tremendously wonderful people who have come here--people who have contributed to our arts, our business and economy, science and sports. We have had a good run with immigration in a lot of ways, but we need to ask ourselves at this point in time: Is it working within limits? Are the American people happy with what we are doing? Are we moving in the right direction?
We know our generous policies have resulted in a substantial flow of people into the country, and our challenge today is to create a lawful system of immigration that serves the national interests and admits those people into our country who are most likely to be successful, to prosper, and to flourish, therefore, most likely to be beneficial to America. Surely we can agree that is a good policy, and it has not been our policy prior to this.
We have both the enormous illegal flow of people into the country as well as a legal flow that is not evaluated in a way that other advanced nations do when they execute their policies of immigration, for example, Canada. We should establish smart rules for admittance, rules that benefit America, rules that must be enforced, and must be lawful. We cannot reject a dutiful, good person to America and then turn around and allow someone else who came in illegally to benefit from breaking our laws to the disadvantage of the good person who, when told no, had to accept that answer. It is just the way we are.
So we must establish smart rules for admittance, rules that benefit America, and these rules have to be enforced--and that is not happening today.
The current policies we have are not serving our country well; therefore, a reformed immigration system should spend some time in depth in public analysis of how and what we should consider as we decide who should be admitted, because we cannot admit everybody. When that is done, we need to create a system we can expect to actually work to enforce the standards we have. I believe we can make tremendous progress, and we can fix this system. It needs to be fixed.
The legislation that has been offered by the Gang of 8 says they fixed it. Don't worry; we have taken care of all that is needed; we have a plan that will be compassionate to people who have been here and we have a plan which will work in the future and end illegality. Well, it won't do that, and that is the problem.
It will definitely give amnesty today. It will definitely give immediate legal status to some 11 million people today, but the promises of enforcement in the future, the promises that the legislation will focus on a way that enhances the success rate of people who come to America is not fulfilled in the legislation.
Read the bill and see what is in it. I wish it were different. We will talk about in the days and weeks to come what is in the bill and why it fails. I can share with everyone how it is we came to have such a flawed bill before us. We need to understand that as we go forward.
I am amazed the Gang of 8 has sent such legislation forward, and how aggressively they defended it in the Judiciary Committee. We did have a markup in the Judiciary Committee. We were allowed to offer amendments and had some debate there, but it was an odd thing. Repeatedly members who were not even in the Gang of 8 said: I like this amendment, but I cannot vote for it because I understand it upsets the deal. We need to ask ourselves: Who made the deal? Whose deal is this? How is it that the deal is such that Members of the Senate who agreed to an amendment say they must vote against the amendment because it upsets some deal? Who was in this room? Who was in the deal-making process? So I think that was a revealing time in the committee. They had agreed and stated openly there would be no substantial changes in the agreements the Gang of 8 made, and they would stick together and vote against any changes except for minor changes.
There were a number of amendments accepted, a number of Republican amendments accepted. Many of those were second degree or altered by the majority in the committee, but none of those fundamentally altered the framework and the substance of this legislation. I don't think that is disputable, and we will talk about that. So this is the problem we are working with.
So how did the legislation become as ineffective as it is? I contend--I think it is quite plain--it is because it was not written by independent Members of the Senate in a more open process but was written by special interests. I wish to share some thoughts on that subject right now because I think it goes to the heart of the difficulties we have.
There were continual meetings over a period of quite a number of months that got this bill off on the wrong track in the beginning. Powerful groups met, excluding the interests of the American people, excluding the law enforcement community. Throughout the bill we can see the influence these groups had on the drafting of it. Some of the groups actually did the drafting.
A lot of the language clearly came from the special interest groups engaged in these secret negotiations.
What is a special interest group? A special interest group is a group of people who have a commitment, an interest they want to advance, but they don't pretend to share the national interest. So maybe it is a legitimate special interest, maybe it is not a legitimate special interest, but they have a special interest, a particular interest they want to advance.
So this is what happened: Big labor and big business were active in drafting this legislation, with the entire deal obviously hanging on, it was reported, their negotiations. For example, the Wall Street Journal, March 10:
Competing interests abound. The Chamber of Commerce and businesses it represents are locked into negotiations with the AFL-CIO about workers in industries like hospitality and landscaping. Meanwhile, farm-worker unions have been quietly negotiating with growers associations about how to revamp short-term visas for agricultural workers. And senators on both sides of the aisle are weighing in to ensure their state industries are protected.
The Washington Post, March 10: ``Hush-hush Meetings for Gang of 8 senators as they work on sweeping immigration bill.'' The article reads:
They are struggling on the question of legal immigration and future workers, and are trading proposals with leaders of the AFL-CIO and the Chamber of Commerce to try to get a deal.
``Try to get a deal,'' they are working on a deal.
How about this: Roll Call, March 21:
Talks led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and AFL-CIO over a new guest-worker program for lower-skilled immigrants are stalled, prompting members of the bipartisan group of eight senators to get personally involved to try to nudge the negotiations on to resolution.
So the Senators were not in those discussions. The Senators, when it got to be tough and things weren't moving along, they came in to try to egg it on, to get the agreement. Who is the agreement between? It is between the unions and big business, which are representing the American worker, effectively.
New York Times, March 30:
The nation's top businesses and labor groups have reached an agreement on a guest worker program for low-skilled immigrants, a person with knowledge of the negotiations said ..... Senator Schumer convened a conference call on Friday night with Thomas J. Donohue, the president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Richard L. Trumka, the president of the AFL-CIO, the nation's main federation of labor unions, in which they agreed in principle on a guest worker program for low-skilled, year-round, temporary workers.
We know there is one group not included in these talks, and that is the group given the duty to enforce the immigration laws. The national ICE union, the customs and enforcement organization, pleaded with the Gang of 8 to consult them. They urged the Gang of 8, they wrote letters to the Gang of 8, and I sent information to the Gang of 8 asking them to consult with the officers who have the duty to enforce this law, but to no avail. They were shut out of every meeting and never have been consulted.
It is interesting to note, however, that others weren't shut out of the meeting. They weren't left out of the room.
The Washington Post, April 13:
While Obama has allowed Senate negotiators to work on a compromise that can win approval, a White House staff member attends each staff-level meeting to monitor progress and assist with the technical aspects of writing the bill.
So there has been an attempt to suggest that this is truly a congressional action, that the White House is just sort of hands off. But we know the White House is deeply involved in this and approving every aspect or disapproving aspects they don't like. The question is, Who is influencing this? Who is influencing the White House, President Obama?
The Daily Caller, on February 6, notes this:
On February 5th, Obama held a White House meeting with a series of industry leaders, progressive advocates and ethnic lobbies, including La Raza, to boost support for his plan that would provide a conditional amnesty to 11 million illegal aliens, allow new immigrants to get residency for their relatives and elderly parents, and also establish rules for a ``Future Flow'' of skilled and unskilled workers. The invitees included the CEO of Goldman-Sachs, Motorola, Marriott, and DeLoitte.
So they are in the meeting, apparently.
Also, we know participating in a lot of these discussions was the American Immigration Lawyers Association. This group obviously was involved in writing the bill, and I have to tell my colleagues that they will be the biggest winners of this legislation.
Time and again, rules that were fairly clear--and probably should have been made clearer--are muddled, provisions were placed in that will create litigation and encourage lawsuits, delays, and will increase costs. For example, ``hardship'' is the new standard for many waivers and exemptions in this bill, in many cases
the exemptions are for family problems and other things of that nature. Well, when ICE says a person should be deported, then the deportee has the ability to say: Well, I have a hardship. My mother is here, I have a brother who is sick, or I need this or that.
What does ``hardship'' mean? It means a trial. That is what it means. So the Immigration Lawyers Association was substantially involved in the meetings.
Politico, on March 9, said:
In a bid to capitalize on the shared interest in immigration reform, a budget deal and new trade pacts, the White House has launched a charm offensive toward corporate America since the November election, hosting more than a dozen conference calls with top industry officials--which have not previously been disclosed--along with a flurry of meetings at the White House.
Continuing the quote:
Participants on the recent calls include the heads of Goldman Sachs, the Business Roundtable, Evercore, Silver Lake, Centerbridge Partners, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as well as the heads of Washington trade groups representing the banking industry, such as the Financial Services Roundtable.
So they have been involved in these discussions. Even foreign countries have had a say in drafting our law.
The Hill, on February 7, reported:
Mexico's new Ambassador to the U.S., Eduardo Medina-Mora, has had a ``number of meetings with the administration'' where the issue of immigration has come up since he took office last month, said a Mexican official familiar with the process. He is expected to meet with lawmakers shortly as legislation begins to take form. ``Probably like no other country, we are a player in this particular issue,'' the source said.
Well, the law officers weren't in the room, we know that. People who question economically the size and scope and nature of our immigration system weren't in the room.
So in case anyone doubts the role of special interests in drafting the legislation, pay attention to this quote by Frank Sharry, executive director of the liberal pro-amnesty group, America's Voice, in the Wall Street Journal, April 17:
The triggers are based on developing plans and spending money, not on reaching that effectiveness, which is really quite clever.
In other words, the sponsors of the bill were telling everyone they had triggers in the bill that would guarantee enforcement of laws in the future about immigration flow into America, and that if enforcement didn't occur, the triggers would stop people from being legalized and end the process. That is not so. We have studied the language and we know the triggers are ineffectual and are not significant and won't work. That will be explained in the days to come.
Mr. Sharry acknowledges it. He said it was clever to have these faux triggers--these triggers that will not work--because we can tell everybody: Don't worry, the legality will not occur if the enforcement doesn't occur. But in clever ways they drafted a bill that will not work. They will say it works, but it will not work.
Again, with all of the slush funds in this bill, there are a number of them that go to private activist groups, community action groups. It is easy to see that special interests had a seat at the negotiation table.
The National Review, on May 29, reported:
A number of immigration-activist groups, such as the National Council of La Raza, would be eligible to receive millions in taxpayer funding to ``advise'' illegal immigrants applying for legal status under the bill.
So money will go to these activist groups, such as La Raza. La Raza is responsible for advocating, not enforcing, our laws. So La Raza is in the meetings. La Raza is an open advocate for not enforcing laws involving illegal immigration. They are active participants in advocating for amnesty. They are going to get money out of the deal with some of the grant programs, while the law officers who have the ability to tell the committee, the Gang of 8, how to make the system work are shut out of the process.
Were prosecutors involved in the process? No, they have not been.
The National Immigration Forum, a pro-immigrant group, has been involved in some of these discussions.
So some people have said the bill had to be drafted in secret, but that the markup process in the Judiciary Committee would be open and transparent. But that is only partially so. We did have a markup. We were allowed, those who had objections to the bill, to offer amendments, as did those who support the bill. We had the opportunity to talk and offer amendments. But at every turn in the committee the members of the Gang of 8 expressed support on occasions for certain amendments, only to vote against the amendment. Due, they said, to the agreement, they had to vote together and against significant amendments, regardless of their personal feelings.
The gang influenced other members on the committee to do the same. The Huffington Post, April 16, headline: ``Senate Immigration Group Turns to Keeping Fragile Agreement Intact.''
It goes on to quote Senator McCain as saying:
We will pledge to oppose, all eight of us, provisions that would destroy the fragile agreement we have.
So they have an agreement. They have an agreement with the unions and big business and the agribusinesses and the food processors and La Raza and the immigration lawyers. They have an agreement with them, and they are going to defend it, even though they acknowledge amendments that were offered would improve the bill.
This is no way to serve the national interest, in my view.
In discussing an amendment that would require workers to make a good-faith effort to hire American workers first, Senator Whitehouse said this--this is what happened in the committee--
I'm in a position which I'm being informed that this would be a deal breaker to the deal. I, frankly, don't see how that could be the case, but I'm not privy to that understanding, and so I'm going to vote in support of the agreement that has been reached.
In other words, Senator Whitehouse says: Well, I do not understand this. I would like to vote the other way, but I am told you have a deal and this would damage the deal and so I cannot vote for it. He was not even in the Gang of 8 but went along with that.
Related to that same amendment, Senator Franken echoed the remarks, saying:
I really just want to associate myself with Senator Whitehouse's remarks.
He goes on to say:
I don't want to be a deal breaker.
In discussing an amendment that would increase family-based immigration, Senator Feinstein noted:
I think it's been a unique process because those people who are members of a group that put this together have stood together and have voted against amendments that they felt would be a violation of the bipartisan agreement that brought both sides together.
I am not sure that is always good. I am not sure that is the right thing to do to set public policy in America: to have some secret agreement, reached with a group of people we hardly know who they are, trump the ability to do the right thing for the American people.
I want to say that is what has happened here. And the point to make is, and what I think our colleagues need to understand and the American people need to understand: In reality, the special interests--La Raza, the unions, the corporate world, the big agriculture businesses, the food processors--they are the ones that made the agreement in this process, and the Senators merely ratified it, and they cannot agree to a change because they promised these special interest groups things. So if La Raza would accept point A that somebody wanted accepted, and the unions would accept point B, then they would both agree: I will do A if you will do B.
Then the bill gets to the floor and somebody says: A is wrong and we should not put that in the bill. Let's change that. Oh, no, we cannot change that. We have an agreement. The agreement with who? La Raza, the agribusinesses, the Chamber of Commerce, Microsoft, Zuckerberg. That is what happened here. I am just telling you. And the people who drafted this bill, the people who have advocated these special interests--we should not be surprised at their influence. Businesses, groups, organizations have special interests. There is nothing inherently wrong with that. What is wrong is that Members of Congress--Members of the Senate--need to be representing the national interests, the people's interests, the workers' interests in America. That is what we need to be doing--not representing the special interests.
I have to tell you, the openness of this is sort of breathtaking to me. Who is protecting the national interests? Did they have any of the top-ranked economists in this country being asked what would be the right number of low-skilled workers to bring into America? Did they have any of the top experts say how many advanced science degrees can we have? How many of our college graduates are unemployed? What is the right number? None of this was apparently discussed by our colleagues who allowed this process to go forward.
I would say, finally, with regard to the special interests, they have no interest--virtually none of them that were involved in this process--of guaranteeing in the future that we do not have more illegally immigration. That is the failure here. They do not have any interest in that and, therefore, there was no intensity of interest in that aspect of the legislation.
Oh, there was a lot of interest in how many computer programmers could be admitted or how many agriculture workers or how many low-skilled factory workers or construction workers or other workers. They all worried about that. They fought over that. That is what these negotiations were about. There were internal discussions and disagreements.
But nobody was investing any time or interest in the second phase of this. If you have an amnesty, if you have a legality of millions of people who came here illegally, what are we going to do to ensure it does not happen in the future?
I was a Federal prosecutor. I personally tried an immigration case myself. I bet nobody else here can say that. So I am aware you have to have certain legal processes and certain investments in investigative and enforcement mechanisms to make the system work in the future.
As we go forward with this debate, we are going to show--and it is going to be clear--that this has not been fixed and, in fact, the standards of current law with regard to what ought to be done--requirements in current Federal law--are being weakened, some of them eviscerated by this bill.
This bill is far weaker than the 2007 legislation. I do not think there is any doubt about that. It will be clear when we get through it. It was rejected by the American people--the 2007 agreement--and it actually weakens current law in quite a number of significant areas--weakens current law--while we are being told: Do not worry, this is the toughest bill ever.
If I am mistaken, I am sure we will hear about that as we discuss it. This is a great democracy we are part of and I am expressing my view. But I have spent some time on these issues. I was involved with it in 2006 and 2007. I was a Federal prosecutor. I have done this over the years. I know how our ICE agents work, our Border Patrol agents work, our customs and immigration service people work. I have worked with them. I have tried cases for them. I know them personally. They have been left out of this process.
The ICE union has voted no confidence in John Morton, their supervisor. What a dramatic event. I am not aware of that ever happening in my 14 years-plus as a Federal prosecutor--the actual employment union declaring that they have no confidence in their supervisor. And what did they say? They said he spends all his time advocating for amnesty and not enforcing the laws. He is directing us to not follow legal requirements we took an oath to follow.
And get this: The ICE officers have filed a lawsuit in Federal court attacking Secretary Napolitano, or at least the conduct of her office. They have asserted she is not above the law, she is not authorized to direct them not to follow plain requirements of Federal law. The Federal judge initially seemed to accept the validity of the lawsuit.
I have never heard of that before. This is an incredible event. Nobody is even talking about it. It has been the position of this administration, everybody has to know, to see that the law is not being effectively enforced, particularly in the interior of America.
That has basically been--some even acknowledge--a de facto amnesty because you are directing your law officers not to do their duty. You basically eliminated the law. The administration should not be doing that. Congress has refused to change these laws time and again. If anything, they have sometimes increased them, strengthened them. And now we have our agents blocked from enforcing them.
The U.S. customs and immigration service that deals with the visas, deals with the applications for citizenship--CIS, the Citizenship and Immigration Service, they deal with the citizenship processes and the paperwork and all of that. They have written in opposition to this legislation.
So first, the ICE officers--Chris Crane, the head of that group, has written a powerful letter in detail condemning this legislation, saying it will not work, it will make matters worse, and it will endanger national security.
The Citizenship and Immigration Service group that deals with the paperwork and the citizenship processing and the visa work--and a lot of that--has likewise written saying this bill will not work and they oppose it.
Well, I have to say, somebody needs to be thinking about what is going on here. Right. Amnesty--done. The promise of enforcement, the toughest bill ever in the future--no, sir, not there, not close. That is why we have a problem. I cannot understand why people would not want the legal system to be complete, to be effective, and would be followed so we as Americans could be proud of it.
There is a lot of power behind this legislation. I can feel it. When I raise questions, push-back comes. You are not politically correct; you are unkind; you do not like immigrants. That is offensive to me. I believe in immigration. We have a million people who come in here every year legally. I do not oppose that. I do not oppose doing something responsible and compassionate for the people who have been here a long time illegally. But we have to be careful about it.
But the American people are so right on their basic instinct about this matter. I have to say how I believe the American people's hearts and souls are good about immigration. A lot of people think: Well, we have to meet in secret and we have to run this bill through as fast as possible because we do not want the American people to find out about it because they do not like immigrants. Not so. A recent poll revealed something very important, and our Members of this body and the House need to know it. It said: If you are angry about the way things are going with regard to immigration, are you angry at the people who came into the country illegally or are you angry at the government officials for allowing it to happen? Mr. President, 12 percent said they were angry at the people who entered illegally. Mr. President, 88 percent said they were angry at public officials for not creating a legal system that will work.
Doesn't that speak well of the American people? You could be angry about somebody who came into our country in violation of the law. But I think the American people understand that people want to come here, and it is our duty to stop it. They have been pleading with Congress for over 30 years to do something about it, to create a lawful system, to end the lawlessness, to do the right thing, to create immigration processes that we can be proud of, such as Canada has and other countries around the world have.
We believe in immigration. We want to do the right thing, but it needs to be lawful. We have more applicants for admission into America than we can possibly accept. I was in, I believe, Peru with Senator Specter a number of years ago, and a poll was called to our attention from Nicaragua that said 60 percent of the people in Nicaragua said they would come to America if they could--60 percent. Then the Ambassador in Peru told us they had a poll around there that said 70 percent.
Well, everybody cannot come to America.
We are not able to assimilate or absorb that. We all know that. We all agree with that. So therefore you set rules and processes that we can be proud of, that are fair and objective, and that people who want to come meet those standards and they wait their turn and they come lawfully.
We have had from this administration and prior administrations--President Bush also--too little interest in seeing that the law is enforced. We have loopholes in our laws and processes that need to be fixed. We can do that with a good immigration bill, but this one does not get it done.
I noticed that my friend did an op-ed yesterday--Karl Rove, who was President Bush's political adviser, a man of great talent back in the day that we were in college together. He quotes a lot of polls that say the American people are willing to accept legal processes and status for people in this country. I acknowledge that. They are. But he does not quote the polls that say overwhelmingly that they want the illegality ended. They want border security first because they are smart enough to know that if we do not get border security now, we may never get it. In fact, they want to get it. History tells us so.
He did not quote a recent Rasmussen poll. This is what was in the Rasmussen polling report. The so-called Gang of 8 proposal in the Senate legalizes the status of immigrants first and promises to secure the border later. By a 4-to-1 margin, people want that process reversed. My good friend Karl Rove did not quote that.
Additionally, while voters think highly of immigrants, which speaks well of us as American people, they do not trust the government. That skepticism is growing. In January 45 percent thought it was at least somewhat likely that the Federal Government would work to secure the border and prevent future illegal immigration. Today only 30 percent has that confidence. Why? Because they are beginning to learn that this bill does not do what they were told it was going to do.
The growing awareness of the border control issue has led to other shifts in public opinion as well. Early in the year Democrats were trusted more than Republicans on the issue of immigration. Now that has switched. Well, we are not interested in politics, we are interested in doing the right thing. When we do the right thing, the people will affirm it.
So Mr. Rove goes on to say: Now, do not say amnesty.
My friend Karl: Do not say amnesty. That is a bad thing for you to say.
Well, let me just say that under the legislation that is before us now, we would have a circumstance immediately where people will be given legal status. They will be able to get any job and they are here safe and sound. Unless they get arrested for a felony or something very serious like that, they are put on a path that guarantees them the ability to go all the way to citizenship.
Mr. Rove says they have to pay a $1,000 fine over 6 years. What is that--$170 dollars a year, $15, $12 a month? So this is the punishment? You pay $12 a month worth of fines, which allows you not to have to go home even though you entered the country illegally, did not wait your turn, and you are guaranteed a path to citizenship. Then at the end you have to pay another $1,000 some 10, 13 years later. So this is the punishment in the legislation. But the people who came illegally get exactly what they wanted immediately, which is to stay here, have the ability to work here. They will get a Social Security card. They will get the ability to go to any job in the country. They will have an ID that would allow them to do that. So they will be able to compete for any job in America. They will be able to compete for jobs that our husbands and sons and daughters and grandchildren might be competing for out there. There will be 11 million in that position.
So I do not think my friend Karl is making a very strong point there that this is some sort of punishment. He says: They must pay taxes. Well, hallelujah. Should you not pay taxes? They are ``barred from receiving any Federal benefits, including welfare and ObamaCare.'' That is a flat statement, and it is flat wrong. The first group, the DREAM Act group, which will be some 2, 2 1/2 million, maybe 3 million, they will be citizens in 5 years and will be able to get any of the Federal welfare programs in 5 years. Many of the ag workers will be in that position in 10 years. Any workers who qualify for the earned-income tax credit can get that immediately--now.
Other provisions are put off for 10, 13 years, and that makes the cost score look better. But over the long term, once the group is given legal status and citizenship, they will then qualify for every program. Since overwhelmingly the number of the workers here today are lower skilled who are illegal--they are lower skilled, and you can expect their incomes to be low--they will qualify for the earned-income tax credit, for Medicaid and program after program, food stamps and others.
The score goes up tremendously in the outyears. The Heritage Foundation is the only group who has done an in-depth analysis. They say that over the lifetime of the program, the people who are here illegally--if they are legalized under this bill, it would add $6.3 trillion to the debt and deficit of the United States. That is a lot of money. That is almost as much as the unfunded liability of Social Security, which is about $7 trillion. So this will be $6 trillion. Some say that number is too high, but I have not seen anybody say that number is not in the ball park. Nobody else has done a study to refute it. It is going to be trillions of dollars in the outyears.
It is not true that there will be no government benefits going to people who are in the country who get legalized under this. It is just not so. Well, this is another point. To me, this is sort of a fundamental point. It sounds so good when you have a political guru like my friend Carl. He says: To renew their temporary status after 6 years, those waiting to become citizens must prove they have been steadily employed, paid all taxes, and are not on welfare.
So let's take what has happened. So we have an individual who has been in the country 3 years. They get the provisional legal status immediately when the bill passes. In 6 years they have to, we are told, show they are steadily employed, paying taxes, and are not on welfare. Well, who is going to investigate that, first? No one.
So they have already been here 3 years. As long as they came before December 31, 2011, they are given legal status. Whether they have a job or not, they are given this legal status. Without a family, without roots in America other than having been here, they claim, before December 31, 2011. But we are not willing to deport them. So now 6 years later, they work intermittently, they are unemployed, and we have a recession, and we do not have enough jobs for people, and we are going to send out the feds and uproot them--their children are now in junior high and high school--and send them back home? Give me a break. That is one of the most bogus claims ever. That will not be enforced. There are waiver authorities in the bill, so waivers will be issued. Nobody is going out to enforce this. I am just tired of them saying this. They should not even say it to try to get the American people to believe that we are going to actually go out and deport what could be millions of people who are out of work in the 5- or 6-year period when they have to reestablish themselves. That just bothers me.
These individuals, Karl Rove said, ``must stand at the back of the line behind everyone who is waiting patiently and legally to immigrate here.'' That is not so. Give me a break. Those people are here illegally now. They do not want to be deported, which is understandable. They are going to be given permanent status, a Social Security number, and a right to work anywhere in America. They are not ahead of somebody from Honduras waiting in line to come here, or not ahead of somebody in China or Italy or Spain? Of course they are ahead of them. They are not waiting. I am without words to express my concern about that. We need to be accurate about what the legislation says.
What about this amnesty? Well, people say: You should not call it amnesty.
Well, I think that is a legitimate word. The legislation before us would immediately give legal status, allow people to move to legal permanent residency and citizenship later. You have to pay a few thousand dollars in fines. Well, I think that is amnesty.
Someone said: Well, they pay a $1,000 fine. They paid a penalty; therefore, you can't call it amnesty.
No, I do not agree. This legislation basically says that everybody here is given legal status and put on a guaranteed path to citizenship; just do not get convicted of a felony. So I really do not think that is a good argument. So that will continue for a bit. But I think the sponsors kind of gave up objecting back in 2007 when the legislation was before us at that time. But I would note that in 2007 the initial fine that people paid had to be paid up front--$3,000. Under this bill you pay a $1,000 fine over 6 years. Then to get a green card, the legal permanent residency, you had to pay an additional $4,000, and an interim review period called for a fine or payment of $1,500. In total, $8,500. So in 2007 the payment required for somebody to move forward to citizenship was up to $8,500. This bill is $2,000--really $1,000 to be able to stay here and work here, and that is a payment which is stretched out over time. The bill allows the fine to be paid in installments. So I would have to say it is difficult for me to accept that these people are earning their citizenship and that they are paying a price for it.
Then Mr. Rove mentions they have to pay their taxes. But one of our watchful publications, Politico, did an article about that on June 3. They said with regard to tax payments:
After all, it was one of the Gang of Eight's main talking points when it unveiled the immigration blueprint in January. Sponsors vowed that their proposal would include a back tax requirement to ward off critics' claims that their bill would be amnesty. Citizenship would come at a price, they said.
But the gang has all but dropped that talking point. The immigration legislation currently moving through the Senate includes a scaled-back provision that relies almost entirely on immigrants coming forward to the Internal Revenue Service voluntarily. Critics call it ``toothless.''
It is toothless. There is no back tax. My friend, Karl Rove, is still out here spinning, claiming you have some great advantage. We are going to collect all these back taxes.
Nobody is going to investigate these cases, even if the law is clear. We don't have the money and the ability to do so, and it is not going to happen. That is just a fact.
Let's talk about in general some of the other issues that will come before us. I know my colleague, Senator Lee, will be joining us on the floor in a little bit, and I will yield to him if and when he comes, but I wanted to talk about these promises we were given by the people who wrote the bill, a promise that the path to citizenship would be ``contingent upon securing our border and tracking whether legal immigrants have left the country when required.''
Now, that is fundamentally correct. That was the promise. That is one of the Gang of 8 principles they published. Our bill, they say, does that. I wish that were so. A path to citizenship would be ``contingent upon securing our borders and tracking whether legal immigrants have left the country when required.'' But in truth, the bill is amnesty first and a promise of enforcement later.
With regard to tracking immigrants who leave the country when they are required to, it devastates and weakens current law, so that can never happen, effectively. It is unbelievable to me they would directly pass a bill that directly contradicts current law.
On ``Meet the Press'' not too long ago, Senator Schumer--and one of the Gang of 8--said it flatout. He acknowledged that promise of enforcement first is not going to happen. He said, ``First, people will be legalized. ..... Then we will make sure the border is secure.''
Instead of enforcement first, it is legalization first. That is as plain as day. It is not even disputed in any law. The illegal immigrants would be legalized immediately, and not a single border or interior enforcement measure has to be in place then or ever.
All Secretary Napolitano needs to do is submit two reports to Congress. Illegal immigrants will then begin receiving legal status, work permits, Social Security accounts, driver's licenses, travel documents, and other State benefits, financial benefits, that come from the States. Nothing requires that any border security be in place, any fence be built, before this amnesty is ever accomplished.
We were told we were going to have a trigger. Until the fences were built, until other enforcement mechanisms were undertaken, until that happened, you weren't going to have amnesty. But it is not so. All the Secretary needs to do is submit a report. She has already said we have better enforcement than ever before in history and indicated she does not believe we need more fencing. The contention from the Gang of 8 that we are going to have major fencing at the border has not been proven.
The Secretary of Homeland Security is merely supposed to develop a plan. Frank Sharry, the head of the pro-amnesty group, as I noted, said the following:
The triggers are based on developing plans and spending money, not on reaching that effectiveness, which is really quite clever.
Mr. Sharry let the cat out of the bag. He said it is a faux trigger, an apparent trigger that is not real. He said it was ``quite clever''--and indeed it is--but it is now becoming clear that what has been promised is not happening. You could say to the American people: Don't be taken in on this. We can see it now, make your voices heard, follow this debate. If the promises for this bill are not followed, then let your voice be heard in Congress. Tell your Congressmen you are not happy. Tell your Senator you have to do better.
The whole crux of it is that if we have an amnesty, if we have a very generous, compassionate treatment of people who violated our laws and come here, shouldn't we have a policy that ends the illegality in the future?
That is what the American people have demanded for 30 years. They are good and decent people. That is an absolutely proper thing for them to demand of Congress, and we are not doing it. It is heartbreaking to me that we are here going through this process with a bill as flawed as this one. As times goes by we will talk more about it.
I see my friend, the Senator from Utah, Mr. Lee, who is a fabulous new addition to the Senate Judiciary Committee, where this legislation moved. He contributed in many able ways to the discussion, offering excellent amendments. He is a skilled lawyer and a man who is deeply committed to the principles of law that made our country great.
I yield the floor.
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