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Comprehensive Immigraton Reform Act of 2006

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, months ago in the Judiciary Committee markup I offered an amendment that codified the process of expedited removal and extended it to include criminal aliens. We have to remember, this is about criminal aliens. What we do know from one of the Judiciary Committee hearings is somewhere between 6 and 8 percent of the people coming across our southern border have a criminal history.

There are valid points to the questions that have been raised by the Senator from Wisconsin, who I have the utmost respect for, but I think this is a question about what could happen versus what is getting ready to happen. What is getting ready to happen is instead of 28 percent of our Federal prisons today being filled with illegal aliens, it is going to become 45 and 50 percent, because they are going to stay here. We are going to give them 27 months. They are going to use stays to stay here, and what we are trying to do is have a balance.

Is it possible that somebody could be denied entry into this country and have a negative consequence? Yes. But it is far more likely there is going to be a tremendous negative consequence to us in costs and to our children as we allow this system to continue to go on and be perpetuated the way that it is.

I also remind my colleagues that current law under what we call expedited removal is law, and it is being carried out. What this amendment does will get rid of the expedited and ultimately will get rid of the removal, and what we are going to see on criminal aliens is we are going to see our prisons not having 28 percent illegal aliens who are criminals, but we are going to have 50 percent. The cost right now is $7 billion a year to our country, and $1.7 billion of that is associated with Federal prison costs for illegal immigrants. So we are talking about expedited removal.

The other thing to remember that we are talking about is this is only going to be applied to people who have been here less than 14 days and within 100 miles of the border.

The administration opposes this amendment, and for good reason. The Feingold amendment would allow aliens to remain in the United States and would perpetuate the incentive for aliens to pursue even the most meritless appeals. That is what happens when we allow this. I am not a lawyer, but I know that the obligation for clear and convincing evidence is a high standard, and that is a difficult thing. But we have to measure it against all the other consequences of not having that standard.

The arguments that the Senator from Wisconsin makes are real. They are true. But he doesn't talk about what the downside is, and the costs and the lost opportunity and actually human grief that comes from having that process for those who are going to bear the cost of it.

The section that the Senator from Wisconsin focused on in his amendment is already law. It is already U.S. Code, Section 242(f) 28 USC 1252(f2). All my amendment did to this section of the Code was to add the judicial injunction being amended to include stays. What is happening is that 90 percent of these stays are overturned right now. Ninety percent of them are overturned at the appellate division. So what we are doing is comparing what could happen to what is happening and what is the cost of that.

The heart of the Senator from Wisconsin is good. The heart of the Senator from Kansas is good. The question is, How do we balance that with the human costs of carrying out this sacrifice of not being 100 percent? We could be 100 percent. What we would do is not allow anybody to return to their country until we know that they are going to be adequately clothed and adequately fed. Forget abused and incarcerated. What about the standard of making sure they have the same opportunities that people in America have. We are not applying that standard to these people, the 90 percent where the stays are denied.

So I don't challenge what could happen to somebody who was denied the basis of asylum. What I ask is, where is the common sense on how we handle these thousands and thousands and thousands of cases that allow somebody 27 months here, who uses the claim of asylum, which, in fact, has nothing to do with why they are here, but allows them to stay another 27 months? It also raises a tremendous cost for us, because they not only have to be held, they have to be defended, and we are paying for that as well.

As to the points made by the Senators from Kansas and Wisconsin on the possibilities of what could happen, it is true; they could. But it doesn't consider what is going to happen if we continue to allow this abuse of the system where an injunction is forbidden by Federal law and a stay is issued because they can't offer an injunction, because it is illegal to do so.

So is it a difficult issue? Yes. Do I see the problem of abuse of this much greater than they? Yes. Do I balance the scales differently? Yes. Because the undetermined cost and the undetermined consequence of the way that we are doing it now is just as dangerous in the long-range measure of humanity as of the potential dangers of one person--even if it is one--if only one person was denied asylum, if it is just one, should we go even further? The fact is we can't be perfect. Even without clear and convincing evidence, we are not perfect. Even 90 percent of those that are--the stays are overturned. Some of those we decided wrongly. So it is not as clear-cut as the Senator would make it seem. And it is not just the issue of some people who might be interested, because some are going back now after a denial of the stay, using a better standard of evidence.

So I would hope that we would keep this in the bill. It is not in the House bill. It may not stay in the complete bill. But it is certainly something that will turn resources that are today wasted tremendously and turn those resources to help those people who get here and have gotten asylum to have a better life.

Mr. President, with that, I yield the floor.

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