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Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. LEAHY. In answer to my friend from Florida, who has been a friend for decades and knows the coastal area far better than anyone else, the more secure we make the land border for those who want to have illegal entry into the United States, the more they are going to look for other ways. Water is one of them.

The distinguished Senator from Florida has seen everything from boat lifts on through coming into his State. Without naming the countries, we know them all. So that is long way around of saying ``of course.''

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Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, I would note that there are some in this body, I am sure, who want no immigration bill. I get the feeling that is a smaller and smaller group. I imagine they would love to just keep killer amendments going for weeks and weeks and hope the bill might die.

On the other hand, we have some very legitimate requests made on both sides of the aisle. I have been told that some of the ones we might want to bring up that we would pass probably unanimously, the other side will not allow them to come up unless we allow these other amendments.

I would hope that during the next 2 days both sides would allow the distinguished ranking member and me to sit down and go through and accept--as we normally do on a bill such as this--a package of amendments that are acceptable.

I suggest the absence of a quorum and ask that the time be equally divided.

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Mr. LEAHY. Is it not a fact that the first amendment that was brought up was a bipartisan one of Senator Hatch's and mine? Shortly thereafter, the Senator from Iowa came with an amendment. Following the normal courtesy done, I allowed mine to be set aside so he could bring up his, but isn't it a fact that when we asked if we could set that aside for some noncontroversial amendments on either side, he told me he could not?

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Mr. LEAHY. The Senator is probably aware of the fact that we have a large number of amendments that were from both Republicans and Democrats. We suggested that they are all acceptable, could probably be adopted by a voice vote, both these Republican and Democratic amendments, but that has been rejected by the other side. Is the Senator aware of that?

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Mr. LEAHY. I might ask another question. The Presiding Officer has an amendment involving women that would be easily accepted, but we cannot get that agreement. The Senator has been here a long time in both bodies. It is my recollection--is it correct at least in the past--that when we have a group like that, both sides should come together and accept them. Is that the normal practice?

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Mr. LEAHY. I appreciate that. The Senator from New Jersey has the floor. I appreciate him coming here and saying this. Nobody in this body of either party has worked harder and more diligently than the Senator from New Jersey on comprehensive immigration reform.

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Mr. LEAHY. Madam President, at 5:30 p.m. today the Senate is going to vote on the modification to the Leahy amendment, which is the package that was put together by Senators Hoeven and Corker. The distinguished senior Senator from New York who has led the so-called Gang of 8 in putting this bill together has just spoken on the floor, as will, I believe, the distinguished majority whip, who is also on the floor.

As I indicated on Friday when I spoke about this, this is not the amendment I would have drafted. I think every one of us, if we drafted the bill, would have drafted it differently. Republicans demanded these aggressive border measures to secure their support for the overall legislation. And while it means spending an enormous amount of money, because their amendment will increase Republican support by spending this money for this historic, comprehensive legislation, I will support it. Ultimately, the comprehensive legislation is most important.

I appreciate that this package includes a provision Senator Murray and I worked on that takes an important step toward restoring privacy rights to millions of people who live near the northern border. Over the past decade, the Department of Homeland Security has periodically set up a Border Patrol vehicle checkpoint nearly 100 miles from the Canadian border in Vermont. Many Vermonters have questioned whether this is an effective border security measure or whether it is just a waste of money. Some have wondered why we are doing it when we are 100 miles from the friendliest border any country has ever known.

My provision will make significant progress in addressing that checkpoint by injecting oversight into the decisionmaking process for operating checkpoints so far from the border. While this is an important step in the right direction, I am disappointed that the version of the Hoeven-Corker amendment is limited to the northern border, and I will continue to work on this issue so that all Americans can have their privacy rights protected. Most of us appreciate our privacy rights and don't like to be stopped for no particular reason.

Today's vote for cloture on this Republican package is a vote for bipartisan support for comprehensive immigration reform. It is a vote in favor of taking the bold steps needed to confront the current situation and give the many millions of people living in the shadows the opportunity to come into the lawful immigration system. I applaud those Senators, both Democrats and Republicans, who have come together to get us here. Now is the time for this whole body to come together in support of fixing a broken immigration system that hurts all of us. It stifles our economy and keeps our families apart. We have gotten to this point through compromise, but we have not compromised on the core of this legislation that is intended to set so many on the path to become full and lawful participants in American life. And in that spirit of compromise and cooperation, which was fostered through almost 140 amendments that were agreed to by bipartisan votes in the Senate Judiciary Committee, I will support this amendment and urge my colleagues to also support this amendment.

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