COMPREHENSIVE IMMIGRATION REFORM ACT OF 2007 -- (Senate - May 23, 2007)
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Mr. CORKER. Madam President, I rise today to, first of all, thank our leadership for allowing a true debate to take place on this issue. I know at one time it was discussed that we would pass this huge piece of legislation, that affects so many people, in 3 days. Because of the acquiescence of the bill managers and leadership, we are truly going to have 3 weeks of debate.
You heard the Senator from Texas offer an amendment to make this legislation better; and the Senator from North Dakota, to offer his views. I think this whole process has been very healthy.
One of the things we are trying to address in this bill is a situation where our immigration has been broken, the system has been broken for many years. In 1986, legislation was offered to try to solve this problem. What has happened is it has gotten even worse, so there has been, obviously, more thought put into this bill.
I appreciate again the many amendments and the discussion that has taken place. Many of the things we have talked about have addressed the legalities, have addressed some of the technicalities in our immigration system. It seems to me, one of the things we have not addressed--while we have tried to address fairness to businesses, we tried to address fairness to immigrants, we tried to address fairness to families--one of the things I think we have not addressed is a sense of fairness to the American citizen.
What I mean by that is this. There is a sense of fairness that we see many times on the floor that is not addressed by the fact that we have about 12 million people in this country today illegally. People see this bill as straight amnesty, where all of a sudden we are going to make it legal that if you have been here working, for however long, you become legal in this country by virtue of being here.
In many cases, people have talked about some of the draconian measures that require people to actually return home to their countries. Yet this bill, in some cases, does that. Certainly, to become a green card holder, somebody has to return home to their country before coming in. That is something Americans think is fair.
If you want to be a temporary worker in this country, according to this bill, what you would do is work here for 2 years, as the Senator from North Dakota responded, then you would leave and go back for a year, and then you would come back into our country. Yet that is not perceived to be draconian and I do not think it is at all. But the one provision that seems to me to hit at the essence of the American frustration that is not in this bill, is the fact that we have some triggers that are going to cause our borders to be secure and make us be able to track people in an appropriate way--the administration said this can take place over the next 18 months--but what we are not doing is asking the people who are here in our country illegally to actually return home and come back through legal channels.
It is that point, I think, that has divided the American people, the fact that this bill does not address the inequity of allowing those people to remain here. These are people who came here, obviously, to support their families, and we understand what the motivation is for many people to be here, but this bill does not address that inequity.
What I propose tonight and I am working with other Senators to hopefully make happen after we come back from recess, is to actually have a provision in this bill that treats people who are here illegally like those who wish to have a green card, like those who would be temporary workers in this bill. I would ask that other Senators work with me and others to create an amendment to this bill that actually would cause, over a reasonable amount of time, people who are working in this country to return to their home country and then come back through legal channels. I think that strikes at the very core of what so many Americans believe is so inappropriate about having illegal immigrants, illegal workers, automatically made legal.
I think that is a central fallacy in this bill as it has been offered today. After many of these technical amendments are agreed to over the course of the next few days, and as we come back from recess, I look forward to working with other Senators to try to ensure that if this immigration bill passes, it passes in a way that meets the sense of fairness the American public believes this bill ought to have; that it addresses that inequity of people who jumped in front of the line and came here, being here illegally and yet being able to benefit without, during a reasonable period of time, returning home and coming back through legal channels, once we have the mechanisms in place to allow people to do that. I hope to have the opportunity to work with others in this body to make that happen.
I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.