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Kennedy On Immigration Agreement

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Year after year we've had borders that aren't secure and a system that is broken

Year after year we've had people dying in the desert because they want a better life for themselves and their families.

Year after year we've had millions of people living in fear day after day - worrying that they could be deported like the hundreds of people were in New Bedford.

Year after year we've had an underground economy that hurts American workers and abuses hard working families.

Year after year we've heard talk about reforming our system. We've heard the bumper sticker solutions, the campaign ads, and we know how divisive it is.

We'll now it is time for action. 2007 is the year we must fix our broken system.

We must strike while the iron is hot - I've been around here long enough to know that opportunities like this don't come often: the American people are demanding a solution, the President is committed, Senator Reid has made this a priority, and Senators from both parties are now determined to solve this crisis.

Politics is the art of the possible and the agreement we just reached is the best possible chance we will have in years to secure our borders and bring millions of people out of the shadows and into the sunshine of America.

We all want to secure our borders and strengthen our national security. There is broad agreement on the doubling of border guards, securing our perimeter, increasing the number of inspectors, cracking down on smugglers and employers who break the law.

There is also broad consensus that the 12 million undocumented workers who are here should be offered the chance to earn their legalization - immediately. If this agreement becomes law it will provide a historic opportunity for millions of people right away.

On family immigration, as someone who comes from a large family I couldn't be more committed to upholding our policy of supporting families that want to stay together.

This proposal includes family backlog reduction in 8 years for most of the 4 million in the family backlog, a backlog that currently stretches some 22 years.

It also maintains that more than a majority of future immigration will be based on family ties. That couldn't be more important. Family reunification has been the cornerstone of our immigration policy for decades and under this proposal it still will be.

About 20 per cent will be given to the refugees who desperately need asylum in our country.

And the remaining third will be based on a point system that factors in preferences for both high skilled and low skilled workers, as well as extended family ties.

The agreement includes temporary workers that will have strong labor protections. This will help people who risk their lives crossing the border for a job will have the chance to apply for good jobs in the United States. And it helps strengthen the backbone of our economy.

This plan isn't perfect but it is a strong agreement and a good solution. Only a bipartisan agreement will become law and I believe we owe it to the American people to stop talking about immigration and start acting. We owe it to them to solve this crisis in a way that upholds our humanity and our tradition of a nation of immigrants.

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