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Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. SESSIONS. The Congressional Budget Office's analysis of the immigration bill of the Gang of 8 confirmed in dramatic fashion our most significant concerns about the bill. Indeed, I would say, through the history of the movement of this bill through the Senate, this is the most dramatic event yet.

Basically, it says these things in explicit phrases after careful analysis:

No. 1, it will reduce the wages of American citizens.

No. 2, it will increase unemployment in America.

No. 3, it will reduce GNP per capita in America. The growth in our economy will be reduced by the passage of this bill.

It concludes that the flow of illegal immigrants will not be stopped but will only be reduced by 25 percent.

So we are talking about a bill that is supposed to be the toughest ever, that is going to promote economic growth in America, a bill that is supposed to make us economically stronger and end illegal immigration in the future. It just doesn't do that.

I have read the bill. I have studied the bill and looked at the bill. I have been concluding and saying for weeks each one of those things, and the score confirms that.

So I would ask colleagues: How can we vote for a bill that pulls down wages of Americans, increases unemployment, and only has a modest reduction in the illegality that is occurring today, reduces GNP, and increases the debt? How can we do that?

For example, the bill would increase welfare spending by $259 billion in the first 10 years and increase the on-budget deficits by $14 billion.

It has been said the overall deficit when we account for the off-budget items looks better. But that is a direct result of counting the Social Security, Medicare, FICA withholding on people's payroll. That money, for the people who are paying in, is being set aside in trust funds to pay for their Social Security and retirement when they draw it in the future. We can't count that money as improving the debt situation of the United States. As soon as the 10-year prohibition or so that limits welfare is off, then the cost of the legislation is going to go up much more.

The bill would make no meaningful reduction in future illegal immigration. CBO estimates about 350,000 illegal immigrants would be added each year. As Senator Cornyn has said, 7.5 million people would enter illegally in the next 10 years instead of the current level of about 10 million. So that is a 25-percent reduction. CBO writes:

However, other aspects of the bill would probably increase the number of unauthorized residents--in particular, people overstaying their visas issued under the new programs for temporary workers. .....

I have been pointing out for weeks people are going to come here with their families, supposedly to work temporarily for 3 years, with the ability to extend for 3 years, and then who is going to be able to tell them to go home? They are not going to go home in any realistic way. We are going to have a substantial increase in visa overstays. CBO concludes that is correct. It is a guaranteed policy that will not work. So the bill would result in a massive increase in the future legal flow of immigration.

Current law estimates we will add 10 million people in 10 years, including the legalized illegal immigrants. That means 30 million immigrants by 2023. That is the number I have been using. I felt that was a fair, legitimate number. It is complicated.

I asked Senator Schumer twice in the committee: How many people will be admitted in the next 10 years and given legal status? He wouldn't say. The bill's sponsor would not tell us how many, but CBO now has said the figure I have used--30 million--basically is correct. That is triple the number that would be admitted under the current legal flow of immigrants into our country. We admit 1 million a year. That would be 10 million over 10 years, and this would be 30 million. So we have to ask those questions.

Finally, CBO tells us, under this bill: The average wage would be lower than under current law over the first 12 years.

Let me read that again: The average wage would be lower than under current law over the first 12 years. They use the words ``first dozen years.'' So that should be the end of the bill right there.

This is the chart that is included in CBO's analysis and their report. It is the exact same chart they prepared, not the chart I prepared.

I know the Presiding Officer cares about this issue. This is the impact on average wages. This is where we start today at the zero factor, and it drops down to 2024, 10 years of lower wages than if we didn't pass the bill--which only makes sense because we are flowing in a huge flow and supply of low-skilled workers, and they are going to pull down the wages particularly of our lower income workers. This is going to happen. Mathematics and the free markets tell us that.

So the country--the Nation--the Congress should try to determine what the right flow of immigrant labor is and get it right so we are not hammering American workers today who are unemployed, who are struggling for jobs, trying to get better pay. In fact, average workers' pay has declined since 1999.

CBO's estimate of per capita GNP--this is their chart from their report--shows that through 2030, we have lower GNP per capita than if the bill never passed.

I yield the floor.

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Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. President, if we have a few more minutes and no one else is seeking the floor, I would note that CBO's unemployment rate `` ..... S. 744 would cause the unemployment rate to increase slightly between 2014 and 2020''--6 years of higher unemployment rates.

We have heard a lot of talk over the years about the declining wages. I do think that it is important for us to discuss. But that decline of wages--which started over a decade ago and is accelerated with this legislation--how is it we are not talking about it?

Senator Menendez, one of the intrepid authors of the immigration bill before us made some remarks earlier this morning that I thought were pretty remarkable. He said not to worry about these first 10 years of lower growth, lower wages, and higher unemployment because the analysis actually gets better in the next 10 years.

But if we look at that and how it plays out, what we would see is this: We would see there is an improvement in the wages in the second 10 years--which, let me tell you, their projections are always better the first 10 years. But in the second 10 years, even if we saw some growth, the growth still does not get back to the level it would have been had the bill never been passed. We have to know that. The growth does not recover from the spot we already are.

Respectfully, the inconvenient truth that he referred to is that this Rube Goldberg scheme that has been hatched will certainly help certain special economic interests and certain political interests will be served for sure, but it will be devastating for American workers at a time they are already hurting. I don't see how we can justify this.

Are we supposed to tell the American people that they are to accept declining wages for another 10 years? How can that be the policy of the Congress of the United States? How can we tell the American person, at a time when
unemployment is way too high, that we are going to pass a bill that makes unemployment higher? How can we tell them the on-budget deficit is going to be increased? Am I hearing this correctly?

To the public I would ask: Can you, the American people, afford that? Can you sustain declining wages for another 10 years? Do you want your Congress to pass a law that will reduce your wages that would increase unemployment?

What about after that? Because of the sustained downward pressure on wages, American wages 20 years from now will still be lower than they would have been had the legislation not passed, and, particularly, as I indicated, it falls on the lower wage people who are falling further behind. The impact of the 1,000-page immigration legislation that is before us today, experts tell us, will fall more heavily on the poorer people and cause them to fall even further behind.

The working people in this country are going to get hammered by this legislation. We need to be passing laws that help them get jobs, help them add higher wages, help them have better benefits and more full-time jobs, not fewer full-time jobs.

I don't see how we owe loyalty to Mr. Zuckerberg, the Facebook billionaire who is running ads telling us what we are supposed to do. Does he know real people who are suffering out there?

He doesn't impress me. He claims there is some convention of conservatives running this advertisement. I am not aware that Mr. Zuckerberg is a conservative. Do we all owe our loyalty to him because he brilliantly produced Facebook or do we owe our loyalty to the working men and women who vote for us, who fight our wars, pay our taxes, and serve our country?

I suspect that if Mr. Zuckerberg were to post job openings tonight on Facebook, put out his salaries, what he wants to pay, he would find there might be plenty of Americans who want to take these jobs. I suspect so. I would ask him to do so. Put on your website what kind of qualifications, what kind of salaries you will pay, and let's see if we do not have more applications than you suggest exist out there.

We know we have college graduates in large numbers in STEM fields also having a hard time finding work. We know that is a fact. We have senior engineers and scientists and computer people who would like to go to work too. Maybe they have been laid off. Maybe there has been downsizing. They have experience. Are they not to be considered? We have to bring people in through some of these work programs for a period of time to take the jobs.

A good immigration plan can work. We may need to bring in some workers. We certainly need seasonal workers whom we can bring into America if we do it right, and we need a guest worker program. I support that. I support the million people a year who are admitted into our country who work here every year. But this is a huge increase. The guest worker program will double under this legislation.

I am afraid we are not serving the legitimate interests of the American working men and women--immigrant, native born, Black, Asian, White, Hispanic--who are here today, struggling today. Are we serving them if we bring in more people than the economy can absorb? We can see that will pull down their wages and make it hard for them to have a job.

An author in the National Review wrote recently--I think this is very wise and insightful:

We are a nation with an economy, not an economy with a nation.

What that means to me is that we represent people, human beings, and we have an obligation to help them make their lives better and not to make their lives tougher. It seems to me we have such a pell-mell rush for amnesty that we have not seen the enforcement, we have agreed to too much legal flow, and we have very little reduction in the illegal flow over the next 10 years, and for that reason the bill should not become law.

That is why the bill is in trouble. That is why we need to be listening to the House. They are having serious hearings, step by step, on this legislation. The first legislation that I have seen them to produce is very good.

We can reform the system. We can make it better. We can have a generous immigration system for America, as we have already had. We can be compassionate toward people who have been here for a long time and not try to deport everybody who has been here and done well but is not legally here. We can do something about that. But we need to be sure that the amount of workers coming in is an amount that can readily be absorbed, that can be assimilated, and we need to be sure that the illegality ends. CBO says it will not under this bill.

AMENDMENT NO. 1208, AS MODIFIED

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the Lee amendment No. 1208 be modified with the changes that are at the desk.

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Mr. SESSIONS. I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.

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Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. President, the subcommittee, of which I was not a member, gave a lot of thought to this. Their number reduced by half the amount that could be charged. I think it is somewhat higher than in the amendment of Senator Manchin, but it went from--it could have been $900,000 a year and I believe they cut it to under $500,000 a year. The Committee on Armed Services discussed it. I believe the Manchin amendment did not pass. I supported the subcommittee's mark on that. I think they have come to a reasonable number. You are asking top executives maybe to move across the country to lead an engineering project, and maybe that is the right figure.

But I respect the interest of the Senator, and I understand the effort behind his amendment.

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