COMPREHENSIVE IMMIGRATION REFORM ACT OF 2006 -- (Senate - May 16, 2006)
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Mr. SALAZAR. Mr. President, as we come back to the floor of the Senate today to take up this issue of national security and the national urgency on workable immigration law, I want to first say that I applaud my colleagues both on the Democratic and the Republican sides who have been working so hard to move forward with a comprehensive immigration reform package.
I also want to say thank you to the President of the United States of America for his statement last night to the Nation, in which he appealed to the best interests of America to come together and develop a comprehensive immigration reform package. I believe it is worthwhile to quote again from what the President said last night.
Tonight I want to speak directly to Members of the House and the Senate. An immigration reform bill needs to be comprehensive because all elements of this problem must be addressed together, or none of them will be solved at all. The House has passed an immigration bill. The Senate should act by the end of this month so that we can work out the differences between the two bills and Congress can pass a comprehensive bill for me to sign into law.
Again, he said we need to work on this problem together, on all of its elements, or none of the elements will be solved.
Mr. President, amendment No. 3994 is an amendment that takes a very different approach from the Senator from Georgia, my good friend, Senator Isakson. As chairman Specter noted on the floor yesterday, the proponents of the Isakson amendment take the view that we ought to have all our border-strengthening and security measures in place before we address any aspect of this problem. I don't think that that is an effective approach.
In the past, for the last 20 years, when we have tried to approach immigration issues by only looking at one issue at a time, we have failed. We have continually thrown money at a problem to increase border security through funding. Yet our borders continue to be porous and broken, and the lawlessness that comes with that is something we see across America. I don't believe we should let this crisis fester. I don't believe we should continue to tolerate those being in the shadows of society, the 11 million undocumented workers in this country today. I don't believe we in the Senate should stand in the way of a comprehensive immigration reform that has extensive bipartisan support in this body.
It is very clear to all of us today that the current situation is inadequate and there is a lot of work that needs to be done. I want to move ahead on all fronts and take the comprehensive approach that has been discussed on this floor, and a comprehensive approach which the President himself has endorsed.
National security is at the heart of a workable immigration law, and we should not allow an immigration law to go into effect if it will not address the national security interests of the United States. That is at the heart of my amendment. My amendment is a very simple amendment. As the clerk read that amendment, it was very clear and straightforward, and it simply requires the President of the United States to make a determination that the national security of the United States will be strengthened by the following programs: Title IV, which includes the new guest worker program, and title VI, which includes the provisions relating to the 11 million undocumented workers who are living in the shadows of America today; and it also includes the bipartisan changes to immigration that have been forged in this body by leaders such as Senator Craig and Senator Feinstein on agriculture jobs and the DREAM Act, which is another bipartisan measure. Under our amendment, those provisions of the bill cannot be implemented unless and until the President of the United States finds that it is in the national interest and for national security that those provisions of the legislation be implemented.
Senator Isakson's amendment, on the other hand, is designed to weaken this comprehensive approach. The approach of my friend from Georgia would focus only on border enforcement. When we look at the history of the last 20 years, approaches that have focused on border enforcement only have been approaches that have not succeeded in dealing with the issue of immigration.
I agree with President Bush that we need to address this issue in a comprehensive manner, and I urge my colleagues to support amendment No. 3994.
At the end of the day, it seems to me that those of us in this body who recognize the importance of this issue need to understand that the stool has to have three legs for us to develop comprehensive immigration reform.
First, we need to secure our borders. In the legislation we have proposed, there are multiple provisions that deal with the strengthening of our borders, including the doubling of the number of Border Patrol officers, bringing in new technology that would allow us to make sure we know who is coming and going across our borders, and a number of other provisions that are intended to ensure that our borders become secure.
The second leg of that stool is making sure that we are enforcing our immigration laws within our country. We have not done an adequate job of enforcing our immigration laws in this country. The President acknowledged that reality as well. Our legislation will make sure that we are enforcing our immigration laws within the interior of our country.
The third leg on that stool is to make sure we are addressing the human and economic reality of the 11 million people who currently live in an undocumented status in America today.
Sometimes when we get into these debates on the Senate floor, it is a discussion about policy, but it is also important for us never to forget why we are here, and never to forget that there are, in fact, millions of human beings who are very much affected by the current system of lawlessness on our borders.
Sadly, last year, over 300 people died trying to cross the border. In my own community, over the last several Sundays, I heard a Catholic priest talk about how it is that people were dying of thirst and hunger in the deserts of Arizona and places such as Texas. I heard my colleague, my friend from Arizona, Senator John McCain, speak eloquently and passionately about this issue.
Since 1998, more than 2,000 men, women, and children have lost their lives crossing the border between Mexico and the United States. That is not what we are about in America. Anywhere else in America if we had 2,000 people dying, the people of America would be standing up and saying we must do something to correct this problem and to correct it in a way that is going to work. That is why a comprehensive solution is needed in this situation. That is why my amendment No. 3994 was proposed. It will help us move down the road to developing that comprehensive immigration reform package.
I thank the Chair, and I yield the remainder of my time to the Senator from Massachusetts.
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Mr. SALAZAR. Mr. President, my friend from Massachusetts is correct. We stand firmly for the proposition that we need to absolutely secure our borders. Indeed, if we fail to address the reality of 11 million people living in the shadows of the United States today, we will have failed to achieve the national security objective.
If one thinks about what happened in the days after 9/11, our Government ought to know who is living in our society. We cannot know that when we have 11 million people living in the shadows. Those people need to be brought out of the shadows, they need to be brought out into the sunlight, they need to be registered, they need to pay a fine, they need to learn English, and they need to do the rest of the things we talk about in this legislation.
The very fundamental principle of an immigration law to provide us with national security in America will be altered if we are not able to move forward with the implementation of those provisions of the law.
The proposal which my good friend from Georgia has proposed, the Isakson amendment, would essentially gut the sense of our comprehensive immigration reform bill because we would not be able to deal with that reality and we would not be able to deal with the guest worker program that the President of the United States is proposing.
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Mr. SALAZAR. Mr. President, I agree with my friend from Massachusetts. In fact, that would happen. We would have 11 million workers who probably would continue to work as they have been working now, for some of them decades in this country, and that the system of illegality in terms of employers hiring undocumented workers is simply a system that is going to continue into the future unabated. That is why it is so essential that we move forward with this issue in a comprehensive approach.
Last night the President was absolutely correct in his statement that we cannot deal with this issue of immigration reform in a piecemeal manner. We have to deal with it in a comprehensive manner that addresses the issue of 11 million undocumented workers who are in this country today.
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Mr. SALAZAR. Mr. President, my friend from Massachusetts is, in fact, correct. We need to deal with the entire set of immigration issues today, including the illegal hiring of people in this country. The provisions we have set forward in this bill will allow us to, in fact, bring those people who are here illegally and who are undocumented out of the shadows so we can address the national security interests.
My amendment requires the President of the United States to basically say that before the guest worker program is implemented, the President has to determine that it is in the interest of national security for us to implement those provisions; that before we move forward with the program that addresses the reality of 11 million undocumented workers, the President of the United States shall acknowledge and make a statement that, in fact, it is in the national security interests of the United States of America. That is why this amendment is a much better, preferred approach than the amendment which is being offered by my friend from Georgia.
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Mr. SALAZAR. Mr. President, let me reiterate that the approach which was outlined by the President, which the bipartisan coalition of Senators has been working on, is a comprehensive approach. History has shown that when we take only one aspect of immigration reform, we fail. We failed in 1986. We failed at different efforts over the last 20 years. This time, we have to get it right.
The President of the United States is right when he ultimately stated last night that we need comprehensive immigration reform. The proposed amendment by my colleague from the State of Georgia, and my good friend, essentially would take what are the 54 provisions of title I in this piece of legislation we are currently considering, going from section 101 all the way to section 154. It essentially would say that we are only going to be about a border enforcement bill without dealing with the other aspects of the legislation which is proposed. He would leave on the side what we do to bring the 11 million people who are here out of the shadows and get them registered in a system where we can monitor them, make sure if they are criminals they are deported, make sure if they are law-abiding citizens we put them in a kind of guest worker program that will work, and his provision essentially would gut this bill.
The proposal of my good friend from Georgia is no different in most respects from what came out of the House of Representatives. It is a border-enforcement-only bill.
It has been said time and time again that if we are going to address the issue of immigration reform, we need to do it in a comprehensive manner. We need to move with border enforcement, and our legislation does that. The President's statement last night that in the meantime we will go ahead and have the National Guard assist us in making sure we are securing our borders needs to be followed.
Second, we need to make sure we are enforcing our immigration laws within the interior of our country. Our legislation proposes to do that.
Third, we need to deal with the reality of the bill and the elephant in the room--the 11 million people who are living here in the United States today. We need to bring them out of the shadows. My friend from Georgia would propose to leave them in the shadows for an indefinite period of time, whether it be 5 years, 20 years, or 30 years, whatever it might be. That will not work. We need to move forward with comprehensive immigration reform today.
I urge my colleagues to oppose the Isakson amendment and to support the amendment which I have offered.
I yield my time back to the Senator from Massachusetts.
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