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Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. BLUNT. Mr. President, I thank you for the time.

I want to talk about the hard work my colleagues have put in on this bill. It looks as though it is going to get a number of votes today. It will not be getting mine.

I think it is important, as we look at these issues, to understand that once a bill actually gets to the President's desk and gets signed into law, we are probably not going to visit this again for a long time.

I think it does not put border security first or it does not address what I have more and more grown to think of as the other border, which is the hiring desk. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the underlying Senate bill would only cut illegal immigration by 25 percent. It does not seem to me that is nearly good enough.

I think the estimate was that if this bill did not pass, 10 million people would come into the country in the next 10 years. If it does pass, 7.5 million people would come into the country in the next 10 years illegally. Some of them will come across the border. A lot of them come here now legally and then they just stay. I do not see anything in this bill that does what we could be doing there.

I voted against proceeding to the amendment this week, the Hoeven-Corker amendment, because I did not think it really focused--as the Cornyn amendment did that I cosponsored--on granting legal status only after we get the border secured rather than doing it before.

In my view, these challenges need to be met. What do we do about the workforce needs of the country? What do we do about people who came here illegally or came here legally and stayed then illegally?

But it is important to understand that as long as it has taken to even get to this point, once a bill passes, we are probably not going to go back and say: Gee, I wish we had done this or I wish we had done that.

In addition, under the bill, the only requirement before legalization can begin is for the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to simply submit a border security plan to the Congress. There are lots of plans and a lot of them are talked about in this building. Some of them work; some of them do not work. But this does not require any further approval or verification of the plan.

The amendment I supported that Senator Corker was the principal sponsor on said you would have to meet some metrics, you would have to have some measures you know you could prove and would be willing to certify.

Everybody seems willing to admit that 100-percent awareness of what goes on on the border is possible. So if 100-percent awareness is possible, why isn't it possible--if you know 100 percent of what is going on and can watch the whole border--why isn't it possible to be able to certify a certain number of people are being stopped every year and that the border is not totally and completely and absolutely secure but meets a level of operational control the American people have a right to expect?

The $46.3 billion for border security is mandatory funding, but the amendment only requires $8.3 billion of that $46 billion to come from fees, leaving taxpayers on the hook for another $38 billion, again, without the other half of the problem--people who come to our country legally for a short period of time and then stay--being dealt with. If we do not deal with that, we have not dealt with the problem.

Mr. President, 20,000 additional border agents and $4.5 billion for additional border technology is not a strategic plan. It seems to me it is throwing a lot of money at a plan and hoping it works.

I read lots of people's comments on this who say: Well, we have overdone what needed to be done here, but we have underdone the things you ultimately are going to have to do to fix this problem.

This measure also provides $1.5 billion over the next 2 years to provide jobs for Americans between the ages of 16 and 24. While jobs for young workers are a priority, it has nothing to do with immigration reform. I think it had something to do with one of the additional votes. If what I read is true, this is something someone insisted be in this bill. I think we have to understand we would do a lot more to put young Americans to work if we had commonsense regulatory policies and commonsense energy policies.

Several editorial boards criticized amendments I cosponsored as poison pills because they considered them too costly to enforce what we were trying to do. One of the amendments I sponsored said we would have 5,000 extra people at the border, and editorial board after editorial board said: Oh, that is too expensive. It is a poison pill that will kill the bill. Those same people are now supportive of the bill that adds 20,000 people working at the border.

During the debate I cosponsored other amendments I sought that were defeated. These amendments were in addition to Senator Cornyn's amendment, the RESULTS amendment, requiring DHS to have situational awareness and control of the border.

Senator Lee had an amendment requiring congressional approval of the border plan that would come from the Department of Homeland Security. What would be wrong with that: congressional approval, so every year Congress continues to be engaged with the funds it takes to do what needs to be done, as well as the plan it takes?

Senator Grassley had an amendment requiring the border would have to be ``effectively'' secured for 6 months before the Department of Homeland Security Secretary could grant the provisional status. Others have pointed out, and I agree, once you begin to grant that provisional status, I do not see any realistic way a Congress ever goes back and says: We know we told you that you could stay, but now you have to leave.

Senator Paul had two amendments I supported. One was ``trust but verify,'' much like Senator Lee's amendment, where Congress would have to be sure the integrity of the border was being protected. Another one would protect the integrity of the ballot process from illegal voting. Nobody is here advocating illegal voting. Why we would not get an amendment that did something to ensure it would not happen is surprising to me.

Congress has one shot to address immigration reform in the right way. Unfortunately, I cannot vote for this bill because I think it fails to prioritize what needs to be prioritized. I also do not think this bill will be a bill that can pass the House of Representatives.

I hope the Senate will now work with the House to find a better solution for long-term immigration reform and we can meet those three criteria of: how do you secure the border, how do you meet the legitimate workforce needs of the country, and what do we do about people who are already here, and in many cases these are people who go to church where we go to church, their kids go to school where our kids go to school.

I, frankly, think those last two issues are pretty easily dealt with if the American people ever believe the government has met its responsibility to control our borders. One way to do that is to look at the actual border. Another way to do that is to give employers the kinds of tools they need so we can clearly identify who is in the United States who is eligible to work and who is not.

I yield back.

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