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Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. BENNET. Madam President, I appreciate the recognition, and I ensure my colleagues I will be brief. I appreciate very much the work of the Senator from Ohio on this bill.

I wanted to come to the floor this afternoon to talk about the agreement that we have reached with Senators Corker and Hoeven that will significantly increase security measures taken at our borders.

We have spent a lot of time talking about this issue over the last months with some proposals that would have simply gone too far by sacrificing the path to citizenship, perhaps completely, in some of these proposals.

I thank Senator Corker, Senator Hoeven, and the other Senators who have been involved in this discussion for striking the balance in a different place and giving us a path to another bipartisan agreement that has required compromise--principled compromise--on all sides throughout this process.

A number of us have said that this bill is not the bill each of us would have written left to our own devices. But the nature of this place, when it is working, is that it is a place where people make principled compromises and come together.

I want to thank Chairman Leahy, who is on the floor today, for the process that he led in the Judiciary Committee to get us here. There were over 300 amendments considered. I think there were 141 amendments adopted by both Democrats and Republicans.

This is the way Colorado expects the Senate to work--a State that is one-third Democratic, one-third Republican, and one-third Independent, and doesn't care very much about what labels people put on each other or themselves but would like the institutions in Washington to actually reflect their priorities and reflect the way they do business, which is by coming together and figuring out how to deal with principled disagreements.

So while we have said this bill isn't the bill that I would have written alone, it is a good bill. It is a bill that has gotten stronger in the committee and stronger on the Senate floor. That is the way it is supposed to work.

People at home know that doing big things means we are going to have to be willing to come together from time to time on compromised solutions, and that is what we are doing here. We are protecting the principles the eight of us laid out when we started this process, which includes ensuring a pathway to citizenship that is real and attainable, in addition to preventing future illegal immigration through, among other measures, securing our borders.

Our agreement had additional support for securing the border even after the improvements we have seen over the last 10 years. But now what we have before us is what some have called a border surge plan that will significantly expand resources at the border beyond what is already in the bill.

It will double the number of border agents--an agent, it has been estimated, every 1,000 feet on the border. It will significantly expand fencing. It will implement new technology and resources such as fixed towers, surveillance cameras, and aerial surveillance units. It will provide for full monitoring of our southern border.

We have already dramatically increased security at the border. This bill will double the number of border agents on our southern border. And while these items will add more cost to the bill, we know such costs are offset by fees and fines on visas throughout our bill.

Yesterday's news from the Congressional Budget Office that the bill as written would achieve nearly $900 billion in deficit savings over the next 20 years--coupled with the gigantic steps we are already taking at the border, along with the growing coalition of support for fixing our broken immigration system--is leaving opponents with less and less to undercut the bill. The case is simply slipping away for maintaining the status quo that is holding back our economy, keeping us less secure, and tearing apart families.

At home, people actually think securing the border is a virtue. They support securing the border at home. People at home think a pathway to citizenship that resolves the question for the 11 million people working in this shadow economy, in this cash economy, is a virtue. People at home believe both of those things would be positive. In Washington, somehow it becomes a trade: border security for citizenship, depending on which side you are on.

I want to say how grateful I am to the other Members of the Gang of 8, particularly to Senator McCain, Senator Graham, Senator Rubio, and Senator Flake, my Republican colleagues, and to Senator Hoeven and Senator Corker for creating the opportunity for us to have a big bipartisan vote on this Senate floor next week; to be able to show the American people there is hope, that we can finally resolve not just the issue for the 11 million, but we can also begin as a country to have the talents of people from all over the world who want to contribute to our economy, who want to build their businesses here.

I thank them for legislating in such a constructive way, so as we move forward, to have the chance for each of us to vote to reaffirm two essential principles that make our country so special: One, that we are committed to the rule of law and the other that we are a nation of immigrants.

I yield the floor. I thank the Senator from Utah for his patience.

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Mr. BENNET. I object.

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Mr. BENNET. Through the Chair, two sentences, which are: Our farmers and ranchers in Colorado have been suffering through the worst drought that we have had in a generation. This is the third year in a row of that drought. We have passed a bipartisan farm bill twice on the floor of the Senate, I think with over 70 votes. It is not perfect. There are things in it I would change. It is the only bipartisan deficit reduction, other than the immigration bill, that has been achieved by a committee in this Congress, either on the Senate side or House side--the only one.

We make important reforms to our conservation title. We end direct payments to producers. The Senate bill is not a perfect bill, but it is a good bill. Today the House of Representatives voted their own bill down. Farmers and ranchers in Colorado who are working hard to try to support their families, to create a condition where they can leave their farms and ranches to the next generation of Coloradans, are left to scratch their heads once again why Washington cannot get its work done.

I urge the House of Representatives to pass the bipartisan Senate farm bill so our farmers and ranchers can get the relief they need.

I yield the floor.

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Mr. BENNET. I yield.

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Mr. BENNET. Through the Chair, I am aware of that. I appreciate the Senator from Vermont, the former chair of the committee and now the chair of the Judiciary Committee, reminding the Chamber that the Senator from Vermont has been here longer than I have been, just being honest about it. But I wonder sometimes what it would have been like to serve in this body when it did not have a 10-percent approval rating. The chairman was here when the Congress did not have a 10-percent approval rating. I don't know why anybody in the world would want to work in a place that had that level of approval.

I came down to the floor once with a slide that tried to find other enterprises that had the kind of approval rating we have in this Congress. It is very hard to do. The IRS had a 40-percent approval rating. There is an actress who had a 15-percent approval rating. Eleven percent of the American people say they want the country to be a Communist country--I don't, by the way. I think Fidel Castro had a 5- or 6-percent approval rating.

We have to start working together. That is what the American people want. That is what the people in my State want. They know we are not always going to agree on everything, but they expect us to actually get things done. One of the matters we have in front of us, this immigration bill, is an excellent example of Republicans and Democrats coming together to do their work.

The chairman is exactly right. The Senator from Vermont is exactly right. We have differences on the Agriculture Committee sometimes, but they are not partisan differences. They are not differences between Republicans and Democrats. They are regional differences, and we find a way to hash those out. We were able to pass this bill on the floor with broad bipartisan support. That is what we should do with this immigration bill and that is what the House of Representatives should do with our Senate farm bill.

I yield the floor.

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