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Public Statements

Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act--Continued--

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. SESSIONS. I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded.

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Mr. SESSIONS. Madam President, coming up, we will be voting on some amendments. I just want to share a few thoughts as we gather in advance of that. One of the comments made earlier by one of our good Senators indicated a belief that this immigration bill is going to raise the salaries of American workers. I think that is what was said. I have to point out that is not accurate.

This is a very serious issue we are confronting. This legislation does the opposite of what was said and creates an unprecedented flow of new workers into America--the likes of which we have not seen before--and it will have a direct result of depressing job opportunities and wages of American citizens. It will affect immigrants who are legally here and also looking for work. It will impact the wages of African Americans, Hispanics, and any other group in America.

Here is the reason why: Under our current law, the legal flow of persons to America would be 1 million a year, and that is the largest of any country in the world. Over 10 years, that will rise to 10 million people. At this point, we now have 11 million immigrants here, plus a backlog of approximately 5 million more immigrants, which will total approximately 15 million people who would be legalized in very short order under this legislation.

Some say, well, they are already working here, so there is not a problem on employment. But many of those workers are in the shadows, underemployed, maybe working part-time in restaurants or other places, and all of a sudden they will be given legal status. At that point, they will be able to apply for any job in America. This will be good for them, but the question is, Is it our duty to give our first responsibility to those who have entered illegally? Don't we have a responsibility to consider how it will impact people who are unemployed today and are out looking for work?

Since 1999, we know wages have dropped as much as 8 percent to 9 percent. Wages are declining, not going up in America today. One of the big reasons, according to Professor Borjas at Harvard, is that the flow of labor from abroad creates an excess of labor and that causes wages to decline. It is just a fact, and that is the way that works.

In addition to that, we have our current law that allows temporary workers and guest workers who come for a period of time, and then they can work. What happens to that flow of workers today? They will double the number of people who will be coming in as temporary workers. Everyone has to understand that many of them come for 3 years with their family after which they can reup for another 3 years. They also compete for a limited number of jobs that legal immigrants would be competing for as well as citizens would be competing for.

So there is this bubble of 15 million that is accepted at once and a doubling of the current flow of nonimmigrants. In addition to that, the annual immigrant flow into our country will increase at least 50 percent. It could be more than that. So that would go from 1 million a year to 1.5 million a year. Over 10 years, that is 15 million.

There are 300 million people in this country, and as elected officials, they are our primary responsibility. If this legislation were to pass--the 8,000 pages in this bill--it would allow 30 million people to be placed on a permanent path to citizenship over this 10-year period, and that is well above what would normally be 10 million people. In addition to that, the flow of so-called temporary guest workers will be double what the current rate is.

Madam President, how much time is there on this side?

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Mr. SESSIONS. Madam President, I ask to be notified in 5 minutes.

I believe Senator Vitter's airplane has been delayed. His amendment is projected to come up. I don't know if it will be called up if he is not able to get back.

He has an excellent amendment that deals with a fundamentally flawed part of our immigration system that the bill before us makes worse, not better. It absolutely and indisputably does make it better.

This is the current situation: Six times Congress in the last 10 or 15 years has passed legislation to require an entry-exit visa system. It is required that it be biometric. In other words, it would require fingerprints or something like that. Normally, fingerprints would be utilized.

People are fingerprinted when they come into the country. It goes into the system, but we are not checking when anybody leaves. People legally come on a visa, and they leave. Because we don't use a system when people leave the country, nobody knows whether they left. Forty percent of the people who enter the country illegally are coming through visa overstays. They get a legal visa, and they just don't leave. People don't even know if they left because they are not clocked out.

The 9/11 Commission said this is wrong. We need a biometric entry and exit system at land, sea, and airports.

What does this bill do? It eliminates that language that is already in law, passed by Congress, and inexplicably has never been carried out. The bill merely requires a biographic or electronic exit system. It does not require a fingerprint-type exit system. Not only that, it only requires it at air and seaports, not the land ports. The 9/11 Commission said that would not work because people come in all the time by air and leave by land, so we cannot rely on it. It will not establish the right integrity to know whether somebody overstayed. That makes perfect sense.

Senator Vitter attempts to address that. He suggests that we have an integrated biometric entry-exit system operating and functioning at every land, air, and seaport--not just air and sea--prior to the processing of any application for legal status pursuant to the original biometric exit law, the 2004 Intelligence Reform Act, recommendations. That is what the current law says.

In addition to that, before the implementation of any program granting temporary legal status, the Department of Homeland Security Secretary must submit written certification of the deployment of the system which will then be fast-tracked and approved through streamlined House and Senate procedures. This amendment is added to the current bill, and it will be effective in accomplishing what we need. In other words, it has a little trigger that says they don't get their legal status until the government does what they have been directed to do by Congress for over 10 years and have failed to do.

We have had a pilot test at the Atlanta airport, for example, where people go to the airport, catch a plane back home to England, Jordan, India or wherever they go, put their fingerprints on a machine, and it reads them as they go through the airport. What they found was that out of 29,744 people in that pilot test, 175 were on the watch list for terrorism or warrants were out for their arrest or other serious charges were against them. They were able to identify them before they fled or left the country, and that is what the whole system was about.

They found it didn't slow down the airport and that it didn't cost nearly what people are saying it will cost. Some have said it would be $25 billion, and that is totally inaccurate. According to this report, it will not cost anything like that. Police officers have fingerprint reading machines in their automobiles. You can go by there, put your fingers on there to read your print, and if you have a warrant out for arrest for murder or drug dealing or terrorism, you get apprehended.

They recently caught a terrorist--actually from Alabama--and prosecuted him in Alabama. He was trying to get on a plane in Atlanta.

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Mr. SESSIONS. I thank the Chair, reserve the remainder of my time, and yield the floor.

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