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Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. CORNYN. Mr. President, I join my colleague from Utah in many of his remarks, if not all of his remarks. I come here to speak on the pending immigration bill more in disappointment than in anger because of the lost opportunity we had in the Senate to come up with a bill that would actually do the job of restoring legality and order to our broken immigration system, create a system of legal immigration which would benefit our economy, and reflect our basic values.

It has been 5 months since the Gang of 8 first released their framework of principles for immigration reform. At the time, they were saying many of the right things--things that gave me great encouragement that we would come up with a better product than we have today. They promised their bill would secure our borders once and for all.

I live in a border State with 1,200 miles of common border with Mexico. We know that border permits not only illegal entry into the United States because of inadequate resources and personnel there, but also it is a benefit to the United States because of the legitimate trade that passes through the ports of entry that create and support up to 6 million jobs in America.

They promised a tough but fair legalization program. They promised that permanent legalization would be contingent on border security. This is a recurring theme in my remarks because I actually was so naive to believe the representations made by the Gang of 8.

In January 2013 Senator Durbin, the distinguished majority whip, said: A pathway to citizenship needs to be contingent upon securing the border. That is what he said in January. Instead of a delivery on that promise, what we got was his statement 6 months later in June of 2013: The gang has delinked the pathway to citizenship and border enforcement.

So the American people have been asked to extend an act of common generosity and compassion that is typical of the American people, but what they get in return is no assurance that the system has been restored to order or that the border has been secured. Unfortunately, once again, it is business as usual in Washington, DC.

The promises the Gang of 8 made were encouraging and they raised hopes in me and others that we truly would have a bipartisan immigration bill voted out of the Senate that was worthy of the name. But, unfortunately, the bill now bears little resemblance to the initial promises of the Gang of 8.

I know we talked a lot about border security, but in addition to a national security issue this is a matter of restoring the public's confidence that the Federal Government will actually do its job.

The fundamental problem with this legislation is that it demands border security inputs but not outputs or results. In other words, the idea is--and the Washington Post editorial seemed to get it today--if you promise to buy enough stuff, then somehow the job will miraculously get done.

This bill asks us to believe that quadrupling the size of the Border Patrol and expanding the border fence will solve the problem of illegal immigration. I certainly agree that what the Border Patrol calls tactual infrastructure or fencing--and particularly in urban areas--can be a tool that is effective. I certainly believe that additional Border Patrol--my proposal was that we add about 5,000 Border Patrol--would be helpful. Once the technology identifies people crossing the border illegally, they have to have somebody go pick them up.

I actually agree with Senator McCain when he initially opposed my amendment to add 5,000 Border Patrol agents, when he said he thought the answer was mainly in the area of improved technology. I agree with that. But imagine my surprise when Senator McCain and Senator Schumer, the two main advocates of this surge in the underlying bill for border security, said: We think 5,000 Border Patrol agents is a budget buster, only to come back a few days later and offer 20,000 Border Patrol agents at an increased cost of at least $30 billion.

So without a coherent strategy or mechanism for ensuring results, adding 20,000 Border Patrol agents--assuming that it ever actually happens--and a few hundred miles of additional fencing could turn out to be a massive waste of taxpayer dollars. Again, there is something fundamentally wrong with the idea that if we throw enough money at the problem, it will somehow miraculously be resolved.

What we need is a plan, and what we need to know is how we can invest in this plan to accomplish measurable results, and this bill does not produce that.

So if a person believes the Federal Government is going to hire 20,000 additional Border Patrol agents and spend all this money over the next 10 years, well, as the song goes, I have some oceanfront property in Arizona I would like to sell you.

My colleagues don't have to take my word for it. In recent days experts from across the political spectrum have told us this bill takes the wrong approach to border security. And contrary to what my good friend from Tennessee says, it is not ``this bill or nothing.'' This is not the only alternative. So one could say this bill is flawed and doesn't accomplish the job but still be for immigration reform and a solution, which I am.

The former Commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service Doris Meissner said the border security provisions in this bill are detached from reality. Former Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Robert Bonner, also formerly head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, said the bill ``is simply throwing a phenomenal amount of money at a problem to gain political support''--which it apparently has done--``but is not likely to solve the problem.''

Meanwhile, former DHS official John Whitley has reminded us that we should be focusing on border security outputs instead of inputs. In other words, we should be looking at not just what is put into this but what it actually produces in terms of results. That makes sense. Just spending a lot of money on stuff we are going to buy without any plan and without measuring outputs isn't going to get the job done.

An output-based trigger would assure the American people that we will not grant legal status until after our borders are secured. And the reason is because this is not a punitive measure; this is a way of realigning all of the incentives so that Republicans, Democrats, Independents, liberals, and conservatives can all pressure the executive branch and the bureaucracy to actually accomplish the promises set out in the bill rather than just throw money at it.

The Presiding Officer has heard me say that the amendment I offered would have made legalization contingent on 100 percent situational awareness of the U.S.-Mexico border and full operational control of the border. I have been criticized by some of my friends who say that is an unreasonable requirement and then ask: Where in the world did you get those figures? Well, I got that out of the Gang of 8 proposal. The difference is that mine would have guaranteed accomplishing the goal; theirs merely promises it but will never keep that promise.

I would have also made it contingent on a nationwide biometric entry-exit system--something this Federal Government has been promising for 17 years since President Clinton signed that requirement into law, but that promise hasn't been kept either.

I also included in my amendment nationwide E-Verify, which is a way for employers to verify the eligibility of workers who apply for a job, that they can legally work in the United States.

As I said, ironically, the Gang of 8 promised all of these same things, but the only mechanism I have seen that would have actually guaranteed it to happen was the amendment I offered that was tabled.

What I have described is a real border security trigger, not just another promise--the kind of trigger that will be necessary to get bipartisan immigration reform not just out of the Senate but out of the House of Representatives and on to the President's desk. I don't think we should be so shortsighted as to pat ourselves on the back and say: Hey, the Senate has passed an immigration reform bill, only to find it dead on arrival in the House of Representatives and to make it harder, not easier, to get a consensus bill on the President's desk for him to sign. That is not success.

Not surprisingly, the Congressional Budget Office reports that this bill will have only the slightest impact on illegal immigration.

The American people are not fooled. A recent Rasmussen poll says that only about 28 percent of Americans actually believe this bill will secure America's borders. The American people have been fooled in the past, which is another reason they are skeptical now, and they don't believe this bill will get it, and I don't either.

In short, we are about to vote on a bill that repeats the mistakes of the past and does not learn from them, offering merely promises but no results. But it also makes a few new mistakes as well.

Despite earlier promises of a tough but fair legalization program, this bill grants immediate legal status to people with multiple drunk driving convictions and people with multiple domestic violence convictions. And for people who have actually already committed these crimes and been deported, this bill would allow them to come back and register for RPI status.

I simply do not understand, nor has anyone attempted to explain, how we can in good conscience support legalization, of violent criminals. I am not talking about just people who have come here to work and otherwise been law-abiding citizens; I am talking about people who come here and, in contempt of our laws, have committed crimes of violence, and they are now going to be rewarded under this bill with probationary status and a pathway to citizenship. A few days ago I challenged my colleagues to come to the floor and explain or perhaps defend these provisions. I didn't find any takers.

I also mentioned the tragic stories of husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters who lost their lives after being hit by an illegal immigrant drunk driver. Just to give some perspective, in 2011 alone Immigration and Customs Enforcement deported nearly 36,000 people with DUI convictions. This bill legalizes people who have committed driving under the influence offenses as well as people with multiple domestic violence offenses.

Some might argue that multiple misdemeanors aren't that big of a deal, but tell that to the family of a loved one who has lost their son, their daughter, their mother, their father, their brother, or their sister because of drunk driving by people who have illegally entered our country. It is worth remembering that the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony can be just 1 day in custody.

These are not minor offenses. It is worth remembering that, particularly in a domestic violence context, a felony is often pleaded down to a misdemeanor because of challenges getting cooperation from the complaining witness, who frequently lives with the defendant.

No fewer than 23 States classify certain domestic violence offenses as misdemeanors. In Minnesota, misdemeanor domestic violence even includes domestic abuse with a deadly weapon. That law may call it a misdemeanor, but it is a serious crime.

So for one last time, I will issue my challenge: Are there any supporters of this bill who will come to the Senate floor and tell the American people why drunk drivers, domestic abusers, and already deported criminals should be given immediate legal status under this bill? Well, I won't be holding my breath. No one has taken me up on that yet.

I have just a few final points. We have been told this bill reduces the Federal budget deficit over the next 10 years. Amazingly, in some sort of Washington-style accounting, we can spend about $50 billion and still save money. That is amazing. It is magical. And it is pure fantasy. We were told that previously on the Affordable Care Act, but we know this bill is premised on accounting tricks. The reality is that it will actually increase the on-budget deficit.

This is the amazing thing to me. We have some of our colleagues who are some of the most effective deficit hawks in this Chamber--those who have been champions fighting against special spending projects that tend to corrupt the political process--yet they support this bill and seem to have turned a blind eye to the on-budget deficit and the fact that this bill is littered with de facto earmarks, carve-outs, and pet spending projects.

We have been told this bill modernizes the southern border. Yet it does absolutely nothing to facilitate the flow of lawful trade and commerce across our border and to allow law enforcement to focus on the criminal element, which would represent a tremendous step in the right direction.

I wish to reiterate that I agree with the Gang of 8 and those who support some aspects of this bill that we need a nationwide E-Verify system. I know Senator Portman from Ohio, for example, had an E-Verify improvement amendment, but, like 45 other amendments denied an opportunity to be heard as part of this process wherein we have only seen 10 votes on amendments, he was unable to offer that improvement to this bill.

I agree with the Gang of 8 and those who say we need stricter penalties on employers who hire illegal immigrants. I agree with those who say we need to increase the number of visas for highly skilled immigrants with advanced STEM degrees. I agree with the goal of unifying families. All of these measures enjoy broad bipartisan support, and I want to offer my congratulations to the Gang of 8 for including them in this bill.

However, I can't support a bill that repeats the mistakes of the past by making a promise of future action that will never be kept, particularly on border security, and one that repeats the mistakes of 1986. I certainly can't support a bill that offers immediate legal status to drunk drivers, wife-beaters, and violent criminals.

I was disappointed when my RESULTS amendment was tabled, and I am disappointed that today we are about to pass deeply flawed legislation that will not be taken up by the House of Representatives. But I take some comfort in knowing that while the initial Senate debate is ending, the broader nationwide debate is just beginning. In the weeks and months ahead, I want to continue to play an active and constructive role, particularly working with our colleagues in the House of Representatives, to pass real immigration reform that promotes security and prosperity for the American people.

I note that one of our colleagues in the House called this bill a runaway train in the Senate, but that train is getting ready to slow down, and I think the American people will benefit from the Congress taking its time to make sure that we not simply pass a bill but we pass a good bill, one that reflects our values and one that also benefits our economy. I think they will benefit from a careful discussion and dialog between the Senate and the House about what ultimately will be the bill that goes to the President's desk.


Mr. CORNYN. Mr. President, I would say to my good friend, the assistant majority leader, I am aware of the promises that are made in the underlying bill. My point is there is no mechanism to guarantee the goals the Gang of 8, on which the assistant majority leader has served--the promises that are made in terms of 100-percent situational awareness and operational control--there is absolutely nothing there that will guarantee the American people that promise will be kept, which is a serious problem, which is the reason why, when I saw the bipartisan framework for comprehensive immigration reform, I was encouraged. Because I could support a bill that did make a pathway to legal permanent residency contingent upon a certification that these goals have been met. But I cannot based on sad experience dating back to 1986 and 1996, and other times in the past, where Congress has made repeated promises of future performance--promises that are never kept.

I would say, in conclusion, the American people are asked to be extraordinarily generous here in terms of providing probationary status and the possibility of legal permanent residency, and maybe even citizenship in the future. That is an act of extraordinary generosity and compassion they are being asked to demonstrate. But to be given just promises that will not be kept by throwing money at the problem, without any real plan to make sure it is going to be effective, this bill falls way short of its promises.


Mr. CORNYN. Mr. President, reserving the right to object, I want to compliment the distinguished chairman of the Judiciary Committee for the open process he conducted in committee to process amendments on both sides of the aisle and the open and transparent way that was done. That stands in stark contrast to what has happened here on the floor, where we have only had 10 amendments that have had rollcall votes, compared to 46 rollcall votes the last time we debated comprehensive immigration reform in 2007.

I would point out for my distinguished colleague that of the 32 amendments that are being offered now by unanimous consent to be voted upon, 27 of them are Democratic amendments and 5 of them are Republican amendments.

Senator Leahy noted that one of my amendments was excluded. Actually all of my amendments have been excluded, including the one that would prohibit legalization of drunk drivers and spouse beaters and other criminals, as well as one that is designed to root out fraud in the program.

On behalf of my ranking member, we object.


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