Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007--Continued

Floor Speech

By:  Lindsey Graham
Date: May 22, 2007
Location: Washington, DC

COMPREHENSIVE IMMIGRATION REFORM ACT OF 2007--Continued -- (Senate - May 22, 2007)


Mr. GRAHAM. Madam President, we will put Senator Kennedy down in the ``undecided'' column on this issue, but I was very much persuaded by his argument.

The goal is to create a balance that will allow this country to move forward and not replicate the problems of the past, allow us to move forward and learn from our mistakes of the past, allow us to move forward in the best traditions of this country, and allow us to move forward in order to be competitive in a global economy.

The temporary worker program is one of the key elements of this bill. Why do we have 12 million people, plus, probably, here illegally? I think most of them came, hopefully they all came, not to destroy America but to earn more money here than they could in their home area. The problem is they are doing it illegally. They are subject to being exploited. There are no controls over how these people are being treated. There is no control over how they are paying taxes. It is a lose-lose. It is a losing situation for the economy and it is a losing situation for the worker.

If we do away with the temporary worker program, the only thing I can promise you for sure is the next Congress and the next generation of political leaders will look back on our time in shame. They will be cursing us because we failed to rise to the occasion and to logically deal with a problem that is crying out for a solution.

Providing a temporary worker program allows people from other parts of the world to make their life better on our terms. They will pay taxes. They won't be exploited. And before they get one of these jobs, we will have to advertise it in the area in question to American citizens. Only when an American citizen refuses to do a job in question can the temporary worker be hired, and at a competitive wage in order to take care of our people and also to take care of our economy.

This is a win-win. People from other places in the world can come through in an orderly process, get a tamperproof card, so we will know who they are. They will have a visa where they will never have to worry about being afraid of the law while they are here, as long as they obey the law. They can do jobs American workers are not doing at a competitive wage. That is a blessing to this country.

Everybody in the world doesn't want to come here to get a green card. There are a lot of people who want to come for a temporary period of time and improve themselves and go back and improve the country from whence they came. If we want to be competitive, we need to have the workforce vis-a-vis the rest of the world to make us competitive. If you take the temporary worker program out of the mix, then you are going to ensure in the future more illegal immigration. If you don't have a temporary worker program that is regulated, you are going to ensure exploitation.

From the economic side and the humanitarian side, we need to do this. If this amendment would somehow pass, then we will have repeated the fundamental mistake of the past. We will not have fixed a thing, and we will have ensured that more people will come here illegally, because the magnet will still attract them. We will ensure they get exploited, and we will hurt our economy because we can't regulate this workforce.

The Y card will be tamper proof. People will have to give a fingerprint; they will have to sign up; they will be regulated in terms of how they are treated; they will be paid a competitive wage, and we will know where they are and what they are up to; and we will allow them to work here and go back to where they came three different times, 6 out of 8 years, to better themselves. If they want to be a citizen, they can apply for a green card. The more points they earn during their temporary worker period, the more competitive they will be.

If they go to school at night, as my good friend KEN SALAZAR has suggested, if they get a certificate in an employment area and learn a skill, they will get points. If they get a GED, if they work hard during the day and improve themselves at night, then they get rewarded. Let me tell you about the individuals we are talking about. They work hard. Neither one of my parents graduated high school. They started a small business, a restaurant, where they opened before the sun was up and closed at 10 o'clock at night. They worked like dogs. When they were sick, they went to work, because there was nobody there to take their place.

The people we are talking about here are coming from other parts of the world and who are good workers. I am confident they will have a chance to prove their worth to our country, add to our economy, and make us a better nation. Some of them will want to become citizens, and they can. We need the Ph.Ds from India and other places, but we also need people like my parents, who will come and work hard, play by the rules, better themselves, and find a niche in our economy. Without a temporary worker program, we are going to ensure people come here in fear, live in fear, get exploited, and don't contribute to our economy.

This bill is as balanced as I know how to make it. I am always openminded to better ideas, but I am close-minded when it comes to destroying it. A temporary worker program is the key to not repeating the mistakes of the past, which is exploitation, not controlling who comes here, not having economic control over your workforce, and leaving people to be exploited. If it stays a part of this bill, we all can hold our heads up high and say we created a win-win situation that says to the hard-working person, who looks to America as a place to start a new life, to learn a skill, to improve themselves, there will be a place for you. Those who want to stay after their temporary worker period is over, you can get points to stay, and the more you do, the more you better yourself, the better chance you will have.

To me, it is exactly what we have needed for years. My good friends, Senator Kennedy and Senator Salazar, and so many others, have sat down and tried to make this temporary worker program meet our economic needs and be humanitarian in its application. I think we have done a darned good job. For the sake of this country and all we stand for, let us keep this bill moving forward.

Madam President, I yield the floor.

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