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Public Statements

Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. VITTER. Mr. President, I am here to speak about an amendment I have filed on this immigration bill that I have been working hard to get a vote on. It is certainly not the only amendment I filed, but it is a top priority. My amendment is the violence against women and children amendment, amendment No. 1330.

We have heard a lot of promises and a lot of rhetoric on this issue from many people, including the Gang of 8. What I have found distressing, as I have actually gotten to read the bill--and let's always remember one of the great lessons of ObamaCare was to read the bill before we vote--is that the details and exact language does not match a lot of the rhetoric.

One of the earliest and most important promises by the Gang of 8 was that in this amnesty process folks who were guilty of serious crimes would not be eligible for citizenship; in fact, they would be deported. That is why the bipartisan framework for comprehensive immigration reform that the Gang of 8 released in January of this year said:

Individuals with a serious criminal background or others who pose a threat to our national security will be ineligible for legal status and subject to deportation. Illegal immigrants who have committed serious crimes face immediate deportation.

We can all agree with that. The problem is the details in the text of the bill do not agree with that because it does not include several serious offenses, particularly against women and children.

My amendment is simple. It is to beef up and strengthen this part of the bill by including the Violence Against Women Act offenses as crimes, which would disqualify someone from being granted amnesty and would trigger immediate deportation. These include serious, violent crimes such as sexual assault, stalking, domestic violence, sex trafficking, dating violence, child abuse and neglect, as well as elder abuse. It is specifically Violence Against Women Act offenses. These are serious, violent crimes against some of the most vulnerable people in our society. In my opinion those offenses should clearly be disqualifiers. So that is what the amendment would do.

Now, VAWA, which we debated and voted on a few months ago, has widespread bipartisan support. More than 200 national organizations and more than 500 State and local organizations expressed support for that bill. A great majority of Senators voted for it. I voted for it. So we should certainly follow up on that rhetoric and that vote by making sure these serious offenses in the Violence Against Women Act are disqualifiers to amnesty in the immigration bill.

This is not my only amendment, and not getting a vote for this amendment so far is a frustration. It is a frustration for a lot of us with regard to a lot of amendments. This immigration debate is enormously important. This bill is enormously long. It is well over 1,000 pages. So far we have had 10 rollcall votes on amendments--10, period. That is one amendment per--I don't know--120, 130 pages. That is ludicrous, and that is not the full, robust amendment process we were promised for months and months by both the majority leader and the Gang of 8.

I hope I can get a vote on this amendment, and I also want and expect a vote on the other amendments I filed. I have many amendments, but I have narrowed that list down.

So, with that, Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that my Violence Against Women and Children amendment No. 1330 be made pending and eligible for a vote.

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Mr. VITTER. In closing, I find that very disheartening. This is a big subject. I agree with the proponents of the bill when they say this is a big problem that needs fixing. It has been on the Senate floor for 3 weeks. The bill is well over 1,000 pages long, and we need more opportunity for serious debate and amendments than we have gotten.

As soon as a path to passage was identified late last week--as soon as that happened, the amendment process was basically shut down. It continues to be shut down today. The important amendment I have brought to the floor that has been denied a vote is an example of that. I find it very regrettable.

I yield the floor.

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Mr. VITTER. Will the Senator yield?

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Mr. VITTER. I thank the Senator from Alabama for yielding, and I want to echo these concerns. I, for one, have been filing amendments and trying to get votes on important amendments for weeks, since the very beginning of this process. I started the first day of this debate, and I haven't let up.

The Senator from Alabama is exactly correct. A slow, halting amendment process at the beginning was completely shut down by the proponents of this bill as soon as they identified a path to pass the bill. As soon as they put together the major elements of the Corker-Hoeven amendment, then the amendment process was shut down. Now they are trying to resurrect a little bitsy piece of it at the tail end of the entire debate. For what reason? For the purely cynical reason that they can get a few amendments they want up to try to grow and maximize their vote. Well, that is a purely cynical, one-sided process, and I, for one, won't stand for it.

I have been here urging my amendments from the beginning and consistently. The Senator from New York was on the floor a few minutes ago saying this was some last-minute plea. It hasn't been last-minute on my part. I started on day one, and I continued on day two and continued on day three, all through the process. I was ready with my amendments early on. Friday, I organized a letter expressing this very concern about the shutdown of the amendment process and organized signatures and sent that letter on Monday to the distinguished majority leader.

So my plea for votes on significant amendments didn't start today. It didn't start yesterday. It has been part of the entire floor process, but that process has been completely controlled and manipulated in a one-sided way by the proponents of this bill, and now they just want a few amendments at the end. Why? No. 1, so they are not embarrassed by the complete shutdown they have orchestrated; and No. 2, so they can try to buy a few more votes for the bill on cloture. Well, that is not an open process, that is not a fair process, nor is it fair to be picking and choosing what amendment votes I get. All of the amendments by myself and others are germane.

This is not reasonable in any way. So I proudly join the Senator from Iowa in objecting to that offer, which was completely cynical and one-sided.

I thank the Senator for yielding.

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