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Public Statements

Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. President, I thank the Senator from South Dakota. He is exactly correct. This is a failure of Congress and the administration. As soon as some discretion was given to the administration to not build a fence, they quit building a fence, and we are so far behind what we promised the American people.

I say to Senator Thune, I remember being engaged in the debate in both of those years, 2006 and 2008. We actually came up with a fund. We funded sufficiently the fence construction that needed to be done. We told the American people we were going to do it. We were proud of ourselves. Actually, I remember giving a hard time to my colleagues because in 2006 we authorized the fence but there was no money. So it was later that we finally forced the money to be appropriated because the issue was, you say you are for a fence, you go back home and say: I voted for fencing and barriers, and then you do not put up the money. So the money was even put up, and it still did not happen as required by law.

I say to Senator Thune, I think you said it so clearly. That is why the American people are rightly concerned about amnesty first with a promise of enforcement in the future. Even when we pass laws that plainly say a fence shall be built, we put up money to build that fence, and it does not happen in the future.

So what we are asked to do with this legislation is to

grant amnesty immediately. That will happen. That is the one thing in this bill that will happen. But we need to ask ourselves: What are the American people telling us?

A recent poll showed that by a 4-to-1 margin the American people said: We want to see the enforcement first. Then we will talk about the amnesty. Do your enforcement first.

The Senator's question is, How will it work? Well, we have discussed that over the years. The greatest example of how it works is in San Diego. That area was in complete disarray, with violence, crime, drugs. It was an economic disaster zone. There was a very grim situation in San Diego. There were all kinds of illegality at the border. They built a triple-layer secure fence, and across that entire area illegality ended totally, virtually. Almost no illegality is continuing at that stretch of the border today. Crime was dramatically reduced. Economic growth occurred on both sides of the border. It was highly successful.

So several things happen. First, you end the illegality with a good fence. Second, it reduces dramatically the number of Border Patrol officers needed to make sure illegal crossings are not occurring because there is a force multiplication of their ability. So you can save a lot of money by having fewer people. When people see a very secure fence, they decide it is not worth the attempt, so they don't even try to cross. That reduces the stress on the Border Patrol, the number of deportations, and the number of people who have to be sent back. Building a fence reduces costs and saves money in the long run and really achieves what I think the American people have asked us to achieve.

I say to Senator Thune, I think your amendment is very reasonable. It certainly puts us on a path to completing the kind of barriers that are necessary. As the Senator said, it comes nowhere close to saying there is a fence across the entire border. It would just be at the areas where it would be most effective.

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Mr. SESSIONS. I say to Senator Thune, thank you for your leadership in offering a clear legislative proposal that will work. It is my observationthat things that get proposed around here that do not work often are passed; things that will actually work are difficult to get passed.

I say to Senator Thune, I do not know if you realize that all of the sponsors of the legislation have talked a good bit about fencing that might occur, having a report on fencing. What we do know is that it did not require fencing anywhere in the bill. But in case anybody had any doubt about that, Senator Leahy, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, offered an amendment that explicitly stated that nothing in the bill shall require the construction of any fencing at the border. So despite what others have heard about this being the toughest bill ever and it is going to do more for enforcement than we have ever had, it, in fact, weakens and almost guarantees we will not have additional fencing, which would certainly be a component, in my mind, of a stronger, tougher enforcement mechanism.

Fencing barriers do, I believe, help the President, who should lead on this, who should say clearly to the world: Our border is secure. We are building fences and do not come. The number of people who would attempt to come would drop a lot if we made that clear statement.

I thank the Senator for his good work.

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