Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006

By:  Lindsey Graham
Date: May 17, 2006
Location: Washington, DC



Mr. GRAHAM. Mr. President, I would like for a moment to showcase the staff of all Senators involved who have been working for hours to try to get this right. It is important to get this right. For me, this is sort of the model for where we go from here as a Nation and how we address immigration issues. Senator Kennedy and his staff have been terrific.

The goal, as Senator McCain said, was to make sure that our country is assimilating people who potentially add value to our country. If you are a thug, if you are a crook, if you are a murderer or a rapist or a bunco artist or a felon, you don't really add any value, and the only person you can blame is yourself. So I have no sympathy for your cause because your misconduct, your mean, hateful, cheating behavior has disqualified you--and too bad. You don't add value.

With three misdemeanors, as defined in the bill and as we have it under Kyl-Cornyn, you have had one chance, two chances, and the third time you are out. You have nobody to blame but yourself.

I think every Democrat and every Republican should come to grips with the idea that when we give people a second chance--whatever you want to call this process we are about to engage upon--there are certain people who do not get that second chance based upon what they did, either once or three times.

I think that is a good addition to this bill. It expands the base bill, and Kyl-Cornyn has done a good service to the body in that regard. But there is another side of this story. It is a group of people who haven't committed crimes other than violating immigration laws--nonviolent crimes or who, as Senator McCain said, is one step ahead of a death squad in some bad part of the world and have come here to start a new life.

On the civil side, there is a group that split--the absconders. If you have been given an immigration deportation order and you just ignore it, then you are not subject to being eligible either because you have had your day in court. You lose and there is no use retrying your case.

However, if you fall into a category of people who had no knowledge or notice of the order for deportation, then it is not fair to hold you accountable to comply with something you didn't know about. So we are going to look at that case anew.

Within that population of people who have been issued deportation orders, some of the people we are talking about come to our country one step ahead of death squads or repressive governments. A humanitarian argument could be made in a few cases that we are going to listen to. For that small group of people, we will have a waiver requirement. We will waive the ineligibility if to deport you would reenforce a system that would have led to a tragedy.

If you had not gotten into the program using fraudulent documents--if I had to choose between my family's demise or forging a document to get away from a oppressive government, I would forge the document. I am willing to give those folks a chance to make the case that they add value.

On the humanitarian side, if you have a child or a member of a family who is an American citizen and you receive a deportation order, I am willing to allow a case to be made that it is not in the best interests of this country or justice to break up that family. There is a limited class of cases. That is just as important to me as dealing with the criminal because if you can't deal with hard cases that have some a sympathetic element, then you have hardened your heart as a body.

I don't mind telling a criminal: Too bad, you have nobody to blame but yourself. But I am proud of the body listening to people who deserve to be listened to and creating a waiver process that will bring about a just result and to allow people to add value to the country if they can prove they can.

Senator Kyl and Senator Cornyn have been great to work with. I hope we get nearly 100 votes. I say to Senator Kennedy's staff, it would not have been possible without you.

This body should be proud of this product because you break people into groups because of what they did in their individual circumstances. To me, that has been part of immigration reform. One size does not fit all.


Mr. GRAHAM. Mr. President, quickly, while Senator Vitter is speaking for a lot of people who believe we should not do this together, we should have border security and come back and look at a different way of doing this with 11 or 12 million people, that does not mean you are hateful, that does not mean you don't understand there is a problem. They have a problem with the citizenship path, and I understand that.

I agree with the President, Senator Martinez, Senator Hagel, Senator Specter, Senator Kennedy, 70 percent of the American people--we have to do both. We are not going to put everybody in jail. That is off the table. It is not going to work. We are not going to deport 11 million or 12 million people. What do we do? Of these 11 or 12 million people, how many have children who are American citizens? How do you get them out of the shadows effectively to get control of the problem?

If we want to control the borders, control employment. If we do not control employment, we can build the biggest fence in the world, and it will not work. People will keep coming here until we get a grip on employment.

How do you control employment? Make sure you know who is being employed, and punish employers who cheat. Give them a chance to participate in the system that will work. The way to control employment is get people out of the shadows, sign up for a system we can control.

If you make them felons, they are not going to come out of the shadows. If you deport the parents and leave the children behind, they are not coming out.

If you think it is silly not to beef up the border, you are right. If you think it is wise to separate these issues and have a system where no one will participate by punishing people for coming out of the shadows, you are dead wrong. You can punish them in a fairminded way after they come out of the shadows, with an incentive for them to come, put them on probation. We are talking about a nonviolent offense.

We need the workers. We have 4.7 percent unemployment. We have 11 million people here working. They are not putting people out of work; they are adding value to our country. Some will make it to citizenship, some won't. Those who make it will have learned to speak English and will always have a job for 45 days. They will have a hard road but will have earned it if they get to the end. And some will not make it.

To deny they exist and to have a solution that will not get control of employment is just as irresponsible as not doing something about the border. That is why the President has chosen to get involved with a comprehensive solution that does two things at once--controls the employment and does something about the 11 million in a fairminded way--and also controls the border. If we separate these issues, we will fail again as a country.

I look forward to passing a bill that does both--deals with the employment problems, the border problems, and treats people fairly, punishes them fairly, and makes them pay their debt to society fairly. But I believe deep in my heart that some of the 11 million people will make it and some won't. They can add value to my country. And my friend from Florida is a value to my country, and he was not born here.

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