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Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. McCAIN. Madam President, will the Senator yield for a question?

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Mr. McCAIN. First of all, could I say that all of us who have had the honor of working with the Senator from Tennessee and the Senator from North Dakota are greatly appreciative of the work they have done. If there is going to be broad bipartisan support for the final product, it will be because of what the Senators from Tennessee and North Dakota have done, and I am very grateful for that.

I think it is important--wouldn't the Senator from Tennessee agree--that people understand that this is a very tough bill, and it required a lot of cooperation from our friends on the other side of the aisle to go along and agree with this. I think they have shown a great deal of compromise in order to reach this point and agree with us on this legislation, for which clearly we need bipartisan support.

But I would like to ask the Senator for a couple of specifics because, again, I think it is important that we understand how tough this legislation is. Is it not true that we know already that E-Verify must be used by every employer in the country before anyone under this plan could be eligible for a green card? Isn't that true? It is already there?

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Mr. McCAIN. And the electronic entry-exit system at all international airports and seaports has to be up and operational before anyone is eligible for a green card; is that true?

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Mr. McCAIN. Now, thanks to the Senator from Tennessee and the Senator from North Dakota, is it true that additional technology must be deployed and operational in the field--and that includes new VADER radar systems, integrated fixed towers, unmanned aerial systems, fixed cameras, mobile surveillance systems, ground sensors--to the point where the head of the Border Patrol has assured us that if these technologies are in place and operational, we can have 100 percent situational awareness and 90 percent effective control of the border?

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Mr. McCAIN. So to put the final piece of this puzzle together, is it not true that the Senator from Tennessee and the Senator from North Dakota have called for 350 miles of additional border fencing in addition to the 350 miles already there and that 20,000 new, full-time Border Patrol agents be hired and deployed before someone is eligible for a green card? Is that a fact?

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Mr. McCAIN. I wonder if the Senator from North Dakota would like to respond to that.

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Mr. McCAIN. And is it not true, I say to my two colleagues--Madam President, I ask unanimous consent to engage in a colloquy with both the Senator from Tennessee and the Senator from North Dakota.

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Mr. McCAIN. Is it not true, I say to my friends, that on our side of the aisle there is understandable skepticism--and well-founded skepticism on the part of my friend from Texas--because we have seen this movie before. In 1986 we gave amnesty to 3 million people and we said we would secure the border. Then in 2006 we passed a border security appropriations, and there was going to be plenty of money. Yet it was never funded.

So for those of us from the Southwest particularly but people all over America, is it not true that there is understandable skepticism that we would not pass legislation that is binding? And is it not true that we can't make this, as far as border patrol and as far as miles of fencing, any more binding than it is in my colleagues' amendment?

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Mr. McCAIN. I would ask my colleagues one more question. With all due respect to every Member of this body, when we look at this legislation and we look at these triggers and the technology that is going to be required, which, if operational, the head of the Border Patrol has said will give 100 percent awareness and 90 percent effective control, plus this increase in fencing, plus Border Patrol agents and the already existing in legislation E-Verify--and I think the Senator from North Dakota is very correct. If we remove the incentive, if people know they can't get a job in this country unless they have the proper documents, then people will stop coming illegally. It also addresses the issue of the 40 percent who are here who never crossed our border illegally but came on a visa and overstayed it.

So I would just ask for maybe a subjective opinion. Is it possible that one could ever argue against this legislation now by saying that it does not give us a secure border?

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Mr. McCAIN. Could I have the Senator from North Dakota finish answering this question?

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Mr. McCAIN. I thank the Senator from Texas for his engagement.

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Mr. McCAIN. I thank my friend from South Carolina for his usual eloquent exposition of what this situation is all about.

I have other colleagues who are waiting to speak, but I want to say again, the Senator from North Dakota and the Senator from Tennessee have shown the best of what this institution can be all about. Not only did they reach agreement between the two of them, not only did they reach agreement with I believe a significant number of our colleagues but they also reached agreement with my colleagues on the other side of the aisle. In this day and age, that is a signal success. I thank them for not only what they produced but the many compromises they had to make along the way.

I won't try to embellish what the Senator from South Carolina said, except to say I come from a State that has probably been torn apart more than any other by this issue. We passed legislation in reaction to our broken borders, where ranchers in the southern part of my State were actually murdered; where our wildlife refuges were destroyed; where people died in the desert by the hundreds, their bodies were found months later; where coyotes bring people across the border and then hold them in drop houses in Phoenix for ransom under the most unspeakable conditions; where drugs are brought freely across the border and guided by guides on mountaintops, guiding these drug cartels as they bring the drugs to Phoenix. The drug people will tell you that Phoenix, AZ, is still the major drug distribution center in the United States of America.

So I take a backseat to no one, even from the great State of Texas, of the enormous challenges and controversies associated with illegal immigration.

We tried before and we failed. I won't go into why we failed and all the people who were responsible. I will take responsibility. I didn't do a good enough job in selling my colleagues on the absolute need for immigration reform. The fact is 11 million people live in the shadows, they live here in de facto amnesty, and they are being exploited every single day.

Should not it be for a nation founded on Judeo-Christian principles to bring these people out of the shadows? Yes, punish them because they committed crimes by crossing our border illegally. But isn't it in our Nation to come together and pass this legislation and not manufacture reasons for not doing that? Isn't there enough of a penalty? Isn't there enough border security now, thanks to my colleagues from North Dakota and from Tennessee--isn't there enough now?

All I can say is I urge my colleagues to vote overwhelmingly in favor of this hard-fought, well-crafted amendment and let's move on to other issues that face this Nation. Then I believe we can look back years from now and say to our children and our grandchildren that we did the right thing.

I yield floor.

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