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Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. REED. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that I be allocated 8 minutes and that the remaining Democratic time be under the control of the Senator from Connecticut, Mr. Murphy.

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Mr. REED. Mr. President, I rise to add my support to S. 744, the comprehensive immigration bill we have been debating over the past week.

I first wish to thank the eight Senators who came together to draft this bipartisan bill. They have done an extraordinary job. And I wish to particularly thank Senator Leahy for his brilliant leadership as chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

Immigration reform is an important priority that for far too long has been left unaddressed. We all agree that the current system is broken. The bill before us is a realistic approach to fixing this broken system. That is certainly better than continuing the failed status quo.

I have long been an advocate for comprehensive and commonsense immigration reform that is tough but also fair. Standing here, addressing my colleagues, urging immigration reform, I cannot help but remember the 2006 and 2007 immigration debates and the many calls to pass immigration reform during that time.

Today, 6 years later, we still have not passed needed reform, responded to the overwhelming call to do so from the American people, and moved our immigration system into the 21st century. Today we once again have the chance to act and pass comprehensive immigration reform.

This bill includes strong border security measures to better protect our national security and to ensure that those trying to come to the United States for better opportunities do so legally. It calls for persistent surveillance of the entire border, for the apprehension of 90 percent of the illegal entries, and makes the investments in infrastructure and technology we need to meet these tough goals.

The Secretary of Homeland Security would be required to submit both a comprehensive southern border security strategy and a southern border fencing strategy to Congress, plans to achieve these goals, before the 11 million immigrants waiting in the shadows could even begin the very tough but fair earned path to citizenship. This rigorous path includes criminal background and national security checks; paying fines, fees, and taxes; learning civics and English; and going to the back of the immigration waiting line.

The bill before us also improves worksite enforcement to better protect
all workers and wages, and it makes changes to our immigration system that will help us retain the bright and talented leaders of today and tomorrow and reduce backlogs and inefficiencies.

As we continue this debate, I am hopeful the Senate will have the opportunity to consider three amendments I have filed.

In the 1990s, Liberian refugees fled a brutal civil war that killed more than 150,000 people and displaced more than half of the population. Since then, these individuals have been granted temporary protected status or deferred enforced departure, granted by the administration because the conditions in their home country of Liberia were too dangerous for them to return. Many of these individuals have now been legally residing--legally residing--in our country for more than 20 years, paying taxes, holding jobs, and being part of our communities.

Amendment No. 1224 would clarify one aspect of the merit-based track two system, ensuring that it makes eligible these Liberians and others who were granted TPS or DED due to dangerous or inhospitable conditions in their home countries and who meet the 10-year minimum requirement for long-term alien workers.

This bill intended to include these populations. However, the long-term alien section of the bill uses the term ``lawfully present.'' Since this term is not defined by statute and could be subject to interpretation, these Liberians and others in similar situations could be inadvertently excluded from this track. The intention was always to include these individuals. I ask my colleagues to work with me to correct this so these deserving individuals, whom four different Presidents have supported, are not left behind on a technicality.

The second amendment, No. 1223, recognizes the longstanding role that libraries have played in helping new Americans learn English, American civics, and integrate into our local communities. It ensures that they continue to have a voice in these critical efforts. Across the United States, libraries are the cornerstone of all sorts of educational activities. In fact, according to the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), more than 55 percent of new Americans use a public library at least once a week.

Libraries offer learning opportunities to new Americans in a trusted environment. We have to recognize the vital importance of libraries as we ask individuals to come forward to learn English, to learn civics, and to learn the skills that are required to participate fully in the life of the American people.

This amendment expands on the recent partnership between U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and IMLS, and ensures that libraries remain a keystone and a resource for new Americans. This amendment would add the IMLS as a member of the Task Force on New Americans to help direct integration policy and clarify the role that libraries will continue to play in facilitating these services.

I have also filed an amendment with Senators SCHUMER and CASEY, No. 1233 that would upgrade the immigration bar on expatriate tax dodgers. I authored an amendment to the 1996 immigration law that prohibits citizens who renounced their citizenship in order to avoid taxation from reentering the United States. I was prompted to act after hearing about a raft of wealthy U.S. citizens who gave up their citizenship to avoid paying taxes but would obtain reentry to the United States very easily and continue, effectually, to live their lives as Americans, even though they were for, tax purposes, foreigners.

One of the more egregious examples was Kenneth Dart, a billionaire who, in the early 1990s, renounced his American citizenship to avoid paying U.S. taxes. He became a citizen of Belize and then was appointed by the Government of Belize to be a consular officer in Sarasota, FL, Mr. Dart's hometown. This ruse and other ruses such as this must be stopped. My amendment would make it clear that the Department of Homeland Security must stop this flouting of the law by people who avoid taxes by changing their citizenship and then freely return to the United States.

I look forward to action on these amendments during this debate. This is an important debate. Indeed, the strong bipartisan vote that brought us to this moment procedurally captures the overwhelming recognition that we need to fix the system. We need to move forward.

This is a situation where we have a bipartisan bill that has overwhelming support in the United States. We must move it forward, amend it appropriately as I have suggested, pass it, and then send it to the House with the hope and the expectation that the President will sign this bill, opening a new era in this country for the millions who are seeking to be Americans.

I yield the floor.

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