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Negro Leagues Baseball Museum

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, I would like to take a few moments of the Senate's time to try to put this legislation at least into some perspective, as someone who has worked on legislation dealing with immigration for some period of time, so the American people can have an understanding of what this debate is really all about.

I think all of us understand what has been well stated here, and that is our borders are broken and porous. Ten years ago, we estimated that about 40,000 were coming into this country illegally and we were catching maybe almost half of them. Now the estimates are from 400,000 to over 1 million, and we are catching 5 or 10 percent of them. We have increased expenditures by $20 billion in terms of law enforcement and building fences and increasing border guards 300 percent over the period of the last 10 years, and it doesn't work. It has not worked, and it is not working today. Although there are a number of our colleagues who believe it offers the best way to try to get a handle on our borders.

That was the position which was taken by the House of Representatives and passed by the House of Representatives, effectively criminalizing every individual who is undocumented here in the United States and criminalizing any individual who might have been indirectly helping that person, whether it was a minister, a member of the clergy, or a nonprofit organization such as a humane group that operates in a feeding program or looks after people who have been in shelters. That is why Bishop Mahony, the cardinal of Los Angeles, said that the House legislation was such a vicious piece of legislation. Those aren't my words; those are his. That was the position of the House of Representatives. Many of us who have worked on immigration issues believe that is not the answer.

The fact is, it was the majority leader who introduced similar legislation in the Senate of the United States which to many of us represented the position of the Republican Party. That was the position which was introduced by the majority leader. There wasn't a great deal of turmoil or opposition at the time he did that, so that was why many thought that was going to be the position of the Republican Party. That is at least one aspect of this debate and discussion.

Another aspect of it: Some 3 1/2 years ago, the Senator from Arizona, Mr. McCain, introduced legislation dealing with immigration in a more comprehensive way--rather than just law enforcement, looked at other factors in addition to law enforcement. Over 3 years ago, I introduced legislation that looked at a number of different aspects in terms of legalization and other kinds of approaches but different from those of Senator McCain. At about that time, Senator Hagel and Senator Daschle introduced different legislation. This was all before the 2004 election.

Then, after the election, when we saw that these different pieces of legislation which were introduced were not working, Senator McCain and I worked together and in May of 2005 introduced common legislation. We were convinced of a number of things. We were convinced, first of all, about the importance of securing our borders from a national security point of view. You have all these individuals who are coming in here, and in the wake of 9/11, we don't know who they are, and this presents a national security issue. If you have millions of immigrants who are virtually underground because they are undocumented, this is a national security issue. When we find out that Homeland Security is worried about different cells in different parts of the country, and we know we have millions of immigrants who are subject to exploitation because they are undocumented, this is a national security issue.

So we looked at it and said: What are the features that are going to be necessary to deal with national security, because that is very important, and to deal with the fact that there is this magnet, drawing people to the United States, the magnet of the American economy so that strong individuals who want to provide for their families, work hard, play by the rules, and provide for their families are offered jobs by American employers? So they come here and send money back to look after their children and families, to develop a community. Many hard-working individuals have come, and many of them have enlisted in the Armed Forces of our country. More than 70,000 are serving in the Armed Forces of our country. Permanent resident aliens are in the Armed Forces serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

So we said: What is necessary is we have to bring these people out of the shadows. How are we going to do that? We have to entice them out so they feel they can be a part of our American system, and how is that going to happen? Since they cut in front of this line instead of waiting their turn, if they were to follow the immigration laws, we would say: You have to go to the back of the line. You have to go to the back of the line. You have to wait until that line is cleared up. You have to pay a fine, pay your taxes, abide by the laws of this country, work hard, and then, 11 years from now--11 years from now--you will be eligible to become an American citizen. The other side says: We can't do that because that is amnesty. That is amnesty.

It is very interesting that whenever we talk about the undocumented, in many instances men and women who work hard, who are trying to provide for their families, who are devoted to their religion--98 percent of the undocumented are working today. Working. These are qualities which we admire--people who work hard, provide for their families, have beliefs in their God, are attentive to their church, care for their children--all qualities we admire. But that is too bad; we are just going to send them back or criminalize them. We are going to send them back.

So we have a difference here in the Senate. We have an agreement that we have to get a border and it has to be secure. We have the undocumented, and the question is, How are we going to deal with them? And we have differences in this body. Many say we have to send them back. We heard speeches even earlier today saying that we can't permit, under any circumstances, that they remain here in this country. There has been no talk about how they are going to do it. Of the 240 amendments that are before us, I didn't see any asking for $240 billion to get the buses out there to ship them back, while their children, who are American citizens, are pleading that they remain here, and their children are going to school and want their parents to stay. No, no. Let's just get a bumper-sticker solution and call it amnesty. Bumper sticker: It Is Amnesty. Bumper sticker: Bad. It is just a bumper-sticker solution, rather than dealing with a complex issue.

So Senator McCain and I worked on this issue. We worked out the program, the penalties, the requirements for people who are here to be able to earn their way toward the possibility of citizenship, bring them out of the shadows, treat them in a humane way, understanding that we have a problem and an issue. And as much as those on the other side of the aisle might bellyache about this solution, they don't have any answer, other than criminalizing it. That is the answer they have: criminalizing. So we have what I consider a just solution. It may not be the right one, it may not be, but at least it is--I believe and the majority of the American people believe that earning your way to be a citizen in this country is an acceptable way to treat these individuals.

So then the issue is, we have a magnet here in the United States. Now we are talking about the border. How are we going to lessen the pressure on the border? There are a number of things in our bill. One is that we want to try to cooperate with Mexico, the countries of Central America, in terms of trying to work out more effective ways and means of being able to do it. There are a variety of different ways. The Mexican Government has indicated that. I think there are a variety of different ways of trying to do that to lessen the pressure. We have basically the only proposal that gives any consideration to that whatsoever, and I think it can be extremely meaningful.

We find the remittances, as they go back to Mexico, to many of these communities. So many of the people who are here remit funds because they care about their families and their communities. We could work with Mexico to lessen the pressure.

Nonetheless, we understand that we are still going to be a magnet. So we say: OK, let's set a figure. We had a negotiation, and 400,000 was the figure for temporary workers. After 4 years, they have an opportunity to petition for a green card and after 5 more years--to become 9 years--to be able to become American citizens if they demonstrate they have worked hard, paid their taxes, haven't run into trouble with the law.

So we are saying we want to make the borders secure in terms of the security issues, and we want to make it safe for people to come here, and we want to have a process so that the magnet which is the American economy will draw people in an orderly way--not to replace American jobs but to advertise and see if there are Americans available. But if they are jobs Americans won't do, there will be a legal way for people to come in. So the person who is down in the center part of Mexico will have an alternative: Do you want to risk going across the desert and dying in the desert, or do you want to go to your embassy and find out if there is a job for which you are qualified and go to the United States and have at least some job protection in the job you have? That is the alternative. Legality. Legality. Legality in gaining entrance, not illegal across the border, earning the legal position by earning your legalization.

Then we have the enforcement provisions. In the United States, if employers are going to hire undocumented aliens, then we have 5,000 individuals who are going to be trained and equipped to be able to go after employers who are going to attempt to violate the law. The temporary worker gets the biometric card, comes up and presents it to the employer, and then we know he or she is documented. If not, then we know he is undocumented, and then that person is going to be subject to penalties. It has never been tried before, but it is a local process and a legal system.

What many of us are saying here tonight is we have a total package that talks about the border, talks about the temporary worker, talks about law enforcement, and talks about earned legalization. That is the package. That is the package that came out of the Judiciary Committee 12 to 6. Not bits and pieces, not just border security like the Republican leader had or like the House of Representatives had. It garnered 12 members of the Judiciary Committee, Republicans and Democrats alike, in a bipartisan way, after 7 days of hearings, 6 days of markups, and scores of different amendments.

What Senator Reid is talking about is why not let us have a vote on that particular approach to the challenge that we are facing on immigration? There are those who just want law enforcement--fine. But why is it that those who worked, and worked hard, and looked at this and studied it, and studied hard, and after days of hearings and a lot of work--why should we be denied the opportunity to have a vote on the total package?

That is what we are being asked. We are being asked: Let's split that package up somewhat. Let's try to divert it.

I know there are those strongly opposed to it. I respect them. I have heard them. I listened to them. They are on our committee and strongly oppose it. I strongly respect that. But aren't we entitled to at least a chance to have a vote on a comprehensive approach? What is so difficult about it? I agree with the Senator from Mississippi, this is important. We ought to be continuing on this issue. It is of vital importance and consequence. It affects the lives of hundreds of thousands, millions of people. We have seen what is out there, across the country--500,000 people in southern California, 100,000 people in Chicago. You are going to see next Monday in 10 different cities, more than a million individuals who are out there demonstrating.

Why are we not dealing with this? Why don't we deal with it? What many of us are asking, including myself, is give us at least the opportunity to vote on that. If that is not successful, if we cannot get the majority here, then so be it. We have to find a different approach.

We talk about trying to work through these accommodations. I am always interested in listening to individuals, people who are concerned about this. We have had, as I mentioned, early in this debate, the extraordinary stories from our friend and colleague, the Senator from New Mexico, Mr. Domenici, telling his life story--the absolutely extraordinary story of his parents. We listened to the good Senator from Florida, MEL MARTINEZ, talk about this. I listened to my colleagues. KEN SALAZAR'S relatives were here 250 years before any of our ancestors were here, down in the Southwest and out in Colorado. We listened to BOB MENENDEZ as well. We listened to our other colleagues who have been engaged in this. They understand its difficulty and its complexity.

We do have a recommendation from our committee. It seems that in the life of this institution we ought to be able to have a vote on that particular proposal. If it does not carry, then we will have to deal with the other reality. But to deny us the opportunity to get that as well as consider other amendments, as the Senator from Illinois pointed out, that will be relevant and current tomorrow, after cloture--I think would be an enormous loss.

I certainly have worked and I am glad to work to reduce the differences among views and opinions. I think all of us are going through the learning experience. As much as we know about immigration, we always learn more from talking with people who are concerned and interested and knowledgeable about these issues. The legislative process is an evolving process. I have certainly observed that over an extensive period of time. So we are always interested.

If there are ways we can achieve the outlines that we talked about, at least from my point of view then it makes sense. What does not make sense is to try to separate different groups against each other. That I find difficult to accept. We cannot have one group that has been here for a lengthy period of time, another group that has been here almost as long, and have them treated in different ways. That doesn't really solve the problem. It might help some people in terms of how they are going to vote on a particular issue, but it really is not dealing with the substance. We are interested in dealing with the substance, not just getting safe political positions for our colleagues. We want to get this legislation done.

We certainly want to try to find common ground, right up until the very end. I will certainly work in any way I can. I know others are thinking and working hard on it. As has been pointed out by every speaker, this is too important a piece of legislation to let it slip by. It is too important.

I am proud of the proposal that is before the Senate. I think it is the result of a great deal of thought and examination by a variety of our different colleagues from all parts of the country and with all different kinds of constituents. When you get an issue that is as volatile as this, and you have a 12 to 6 vote and you have that kind of bipartisanship in this, recognize those of us who support this proposal understand it is a total kind of approach to the challenge. The single-shot approaches have not worked. Let's just try, here in the United States Senate, to give an opportunity for this comprehensive approach, which is meaningful in terms of our national security, is enormously important in terms of economic progress, and most important is a reflection of our humanitarian values. Let's give that a chance. That is what we are hoping, and I hope the Senate will give us that opportunity to do so.


Mr. KENNEDY. The remarks that I had were directed toward the undocumented. The Senator from Arizona has an amendment that is portrayed as only preventing the adjustment status for criminals, but if you look and examine the various provisions which are included in the Senator's amendment, they also include the status offenders which effectively would be denied any opportunity for the benefits of this legislation.

In the provisions included in the legislation--I haven't got the amendment right before me, but there are three or four different items that would do so. That, I think, goes to the heart of this whole process because effectively, if the Cornyn-Kyl amendment is adopted, it effectively takes out 60 percent, as I understand it, of those who are undocumented from any kind of adjustment of status.

I have listened to the Senator debate this. That is certainly my understanding and the understanding of others who studied it carefully, and that would leave the individuals in the kind of state they are today, where they would have an illegality in their current status and would continue to be subject to the kinds of exploitation which is happening now and continue to depress wages on other workers. I believe that would really strike at the heart of the legislation. I know the Senator does not agree with me on that.

Mr. KYL. Mr. President, if I could just ask the Senator from Massachusetts, I was not referring to the amendment which is pending on the floor of the Senate. I was referring to the Cornyn-Kyl bill, which is a comprehensive immigration reform bill that deals with enforcement at the border, enforcement at the worksite, a temporary worker program, a way to deal with the illegal immigrants different in ways from the bill that passed the Judiciary Committee but nonetheless is a comprehensive reform bill which was voted down. But it does represent an alternative on which we would like to have a vote on the Senate floor.

I wanted to give the Senator an opportunity to acknowledge that in the Senate there are alternatives to criminalizing the illegal immigrants--if he wanted to?

Mr. KENNEDY. I thought at the beginning of the Senator's comments he was referring to the amendment----

Mr. KYL. There was a misunderstanding.

Mr. KENNEDY. As the Senator notes, the House bill had the criminalization. The Frist bill had the criminalization issues. The Cornyn-Kyl does not have that particular provision. I do think when we voted on that issue, on the Durbin amendment, I think the Senator voted against the Durbin amendment, if I am correct, which was to decriminalize. So I don't quite know what the Senator's position is on the issue, but I stand corrected.

I was mentioning the House bill and the Senate majority leader's bill.

Mr. KYL. I thank the Senator from Massachusetts. In the debate and characterization of things, sometimes we make a characterization and it might be subject to misinterpretation. It may well not have been, but in any event, I appreciate the Senator's clarification.

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