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Securing America's Borders Act

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. CRAIG. Let me first thank the chairman for his due diligence. There is no question that he has focused on this for a good many months and has tried to work us through a process of time and issue. The Senator is so right in talking about all of the complications involved: the types of labor, qualifications, and all that is necessary to deal with this in a responsible way, and to contain our borders and to control them. And without that, no orderly process will ever happen effectively.

As the chairman knows, I have spent a good deal of time on this issue, somewhat focused on a segment of our economy in agriculture. To your knowledge, as it relates to the compromise you are talking about that may be struck and has taken form here in the last 24 hours, is the agricultural provisions that we--myself, working with a member of your committee, Senator Feinstein--worked to put in the bill that came out of committee, is that still the provision that is in place as we know it and as we would vote on it?

Mr. SPECTER. Madam President, I respond to the distinguished Senator from Idaho in the affirmative. It is intact. The reduction in green cards and visas from 400,000 to 325,000 may impact on that to some extent. But the amendment which was offered by Senator Feinstein, who is on the committee and on which you were a collaborator--and I again congratulate you on that, as I did in committee when we accepted the amendment--is intact. It is a very important amendment, worked out very carefully. You have been working on this for years--you can say how many years--but it has been a very long haul.

Mr. CRAIG. I thank the chairman for that response. Every employment sector is unique, and what we have found, and I think what the committee has found, is that agriculture, because of the type of labor involved, is kind of the entry door many of our migrant laborers come through, legal and illegal, and from that, if you will, learn and move to other segments of the economy.

So we tried to reflect that in the structure of the Feinstein amendment to the bill, recognizing that other portions of the bill would be different, and that the compromise that is being talked about, in my opinion, makes some sense as it relates to seniority and time and place to work in a fair and responsible way. At the same time, it makes sure that we don't effectively damage these segments of the economy Americans will not work in, choose not to work in, and that we find foreign nationals can and will and are very effective in their work there.

I thank the Senator very much.


Mr. CRAIG. Mr. President, let me talk about the business at hand, and that is the most important debate that I think this Senate has held in a good many months, on S. 2454, the comprehensive national immigration bill. In this immigration reform discussion, I have stood here to emphasize our imperative duty to guard our borders and strengthen our national security. I have spoken about the provisions within S. 2454 that deal particularly with the agricultural economy that I have focused on now for a good many years. I presented my colleagues with alternatives and approaches toward resolving the issue of illegal foreign nationals working in the agricultural economy.

Today I want to talk about another component of the immigration debate. I am concerned about some of the comments being flung around as we address this critical issue. Certainly, this is a topic that awakens America's emotions, but I cannot help but reflect on what those comments reveal about us as a Nation. It is as though America doesn't want to face the mirror and look at herself. She doesn't want to see what she is and what that means. But for her own good, she has to. She must look in her mirror. She is a blend. She is a wonderful mosaic. She is English. She is German. She is Italian. She is Polish. She is Irish. She is Asian. She is African. And, yes, she is Hispanic. She is multiracial, multiethnic, and diverse in every aspect of her national life. That is why she is admirable. That is why she has prospered, and that is why she is strong.

What is true in science is true in sociology. Mixing results in achievement and strength--we ought to think about that. We ought to evaluate some of the conceptions we have regarding immigrants and measure them against the realities to see if they hold true.

Immigration is a phenomenal national challenge. It always has been. But immigration is a challenge, it is not a threat. Quite honestly, immigrants represent solutions to many of our Nation's problems, both currently and in the future.

(Mr. VITTER assumed the chair.)

Mr. CRAIG. Mr. President, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a shortfall of 10 million workers in this country by 2010. The reason is quite simple: Our workforce is growing older, and as it grows older, it shrinks.

That is true in Japan, a great Nation 30 years ago, 20 years ago, suggested to be the economic force of the world, and 12 years ago, it quit growing and began to die. Why? Because her workforce grew older.

On the other hand, immigrant labor is behind the significant economic growth this country has experienced in different areas in recent years. These are the economic necessities of today in a growing economy. Can we recognize this? Do we see that foreign nationals are cleaning up New Orleans and binding her wounds? Do we know that the Pentagon was rebuilt by Hispanic muscle?

Immigrants are sweating it out across our country. They consistently have done it literally for centuries. In my home State, Hispanics were digging the mines in the 1860s. Mexican cowboys and ranchers were solid members of the pioneer communities even before my State became a State. Hispanics were mule packers in the 1880s, the mule trains that moved across the great West. They and the Chinese were building and maintaining the railroad systems of the American West throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Today, they are harvesting apples in Washington, peaches in Georgia, and oranges in Florida. They are gathering grapes in California, slashing sugarcane in Louisiana, harvesting potatoes in Idaho, and picking corn in Iowa. Their footprints are in agricultural fields across America.

Immigrants are hard workers. They work hard because they are grateful people and feel a sense of debt for the opportunity this country has given them. Contrary to what some believe, immigrants who have entered legally and illegally are not here to siphon services but to produce and to contribute. They are working hard and, in most instances, giving back.

The Idaho commerce and labor department reports that between 1990 and 2005, Hispanic buying power in Idaho rose more than twice as fast as total buying power across our State. Nationwide, the purchasing power of Hispanics will reach $1 trillion--that is trillion with a ``t''--in 4 years. Beyond their role in sustaining the country's labor force, immigrants make a net fiscal contribution to the U.S. economy.

The President's 2005 Economic Report, which uses figures that are most authoritative in analyzing to date the economic impact of immigrants, says:

The average immigrant pays nearly $1,800 more in taxes than he or she costs-- the economy. Undocumented immigrants are believed to contribute billions of dollars to our Social Security system, billions of dollars they will not benefit from.

According to the President's report, the administration's earnings suspense file--that is a file within Social Security made up of taxes paid by workers with invalid or mismatched Social Security numbers--totaled $463 billion in 2002.

While other nations of the developed world are aging, America still sees a youthful face reflected in that mirror in which she looks. Immigration renews the United States, and it keeps us young, while countries such as Japan, as I mentioned earlier, and Russia and Spain are facing problems because their populations are decreasing. America has the necessary arms to support its pension and its social programs. Therefore, a comprehensive immigration reform is in America's best self-interest.

Yes, we must contain our borders. Yes, we must, in any immigration program, make sure that it is controlled and managed so that those who come to America can, in fact, become Americans.

Understanding these realities erases some of the misconceptions bouncing around this Chamber and bouncing around America, misconceptions that sometimes smack of prejudice. Previous immigration waves have experienced it to some extent, but I believe that we, as a nation, are greater than that. When every one of us, except Native Americans, belong to a family that came from somewhere else, we should be careful not to erect mental borders, the type that keep people who are different from us at arm's length.

We are a nation that encourages new thinking and benefits from the growth that results from that new thinking. The American poet, Oliver Wendell Holmes, said it best when he said:

A mind stretched by a new idea never returns to its original shape.

It expands. It grows. It broadens. Immigration is a source of new ideas of entrepreneurship and vitality. The meeting of cultures simply does not happen in a one-way street but in a bridge, where both sides give and receive.

When America looks at herself in her mirror, what will she see? She will see the very multicultural character she has always been. She will see that characteristic is her greatest asset.

So the debate on the floor of the Senate today is worthy of this Senate. It is worthy of all of us to make sure that a program that is broken, a national immigration program that has not had a caretaker for over two decades, now be given that responsibility, to be redesigned, to be shaped, to be brought under control, that our borders be secure and that America's multinational or multiethnicity continue to grow and prosper and bring the kind of strength and viability to our culture that it has always given us.

America will be greater because of what we do here, if we do it right; it will not be lessened by our actions.

I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.


Mr. CRAIG. Mr. President, I will be brief. Obviously, Senator Sessions is on the committee and had been speaking prior to this interlude with our leaders.

I have worked 5 years to get a piece of this bill, and I have a piece of the bill that is currently before us. At the same time, I have voted consistently to allow my colleagues who disagree to have a vote on their issues. Senator Sessions and I rarely disagree on issues. On this we disagree.

He is very artful in casting certain provisions of it one way. I could argue it the opposite way. I suspect my arguments would sound nearly as logical as his. But what is important here is the final shaping of a very important piece of legislation.

Controlling our borders is an absolute must that we have denied ourselves for now two decades. Everybody talks about the 1986 act. It didn't work. No, it didn't work. It didn't work because we didn't realize, at least some didn't, that we were sending a signal out that if you could get here and wait your time, some day you might become legal. You might become a citizen. We didn't realize that we put a megaphone to the world and said: Come one, come all.

We also had an economy and job-creating environment in which there were jobs to be had. We didn't control the border. Again in 1996, a decade later, we attempted to tackle it again. Numbers had grown. We didn't control the border.

In 1999, I began to work on the agricultural issue. I worked a compromise over a period of 5 years now with a lot of different people. But in the heart of what I have done is a very important key: it is controlling the border. No matter how we write this legislation, if you cannot define the number and control the number, it is for naught. That is an absolute fact.

It isn't by accident that the first few titles of the committee bill are all about border control. I wish we would move much faster on border control. I wish nationally we could move tomorrow because what we have offered will take a few years to implement.

We have to train more Border Patrol men, 1,500 a year, and go on and on with beds of detention and all that. That is important and part of the control. We have to find the resources to do it. So all of that has to fit together.

At the same time, Americans are phenomenally frustrated about what we are doing and where we are. They know why we need to do something, and they know our borders ought to be controlled. Well, I am going to stand here and defend the right of my colleagues to offer amendments. I would like to think that on the issues I am passionate about, my arguments are more persuasive to a majority and I can defeat any amendment that might be proposed to change certain provisions. I don't know, but I am willing to take that risk because I have to guarantee this process.

The attitude of shut out and deny has never worked in this Senate. We always shape it a little bit, but we never deny it. Yet for a week now it has been denied and it will not stand or the bill will fall. That would be wrong for the American people not only to see but to understand because in it are the ingredients to solve a problem, if we have the heart and the will to implement it.

I yield the floor.

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