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Public Statements

Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act Of 2007

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. SALAZAR. Mr. President, as we resume the immigration reform debate in the Senate this week, I am mindful of the fact that we have indeed come a very long way and that this Senate has spent a significant amount of time dealing with the issue of immigration. Last year, we were on the issue of immigration for over a month. This year, through the dialog and discussion of immigration, we have been working on this for the last several months. We were on the bill through last week and will continue to work on it this week. Hopefully, at the end of the week, we will be able to act on comprehensive immigration reform for our country.

As I have often said, from my point of view, this is an issue of national security. It would be an abdication on the part of the Senate in Washington today if we were not able to move forward with comprehensive immigration reform. Since in the days after 9/11, it has become clearer and clearer to us that we need to secure the borders. Our legislation does, in fact, secure the borders.

Secondly, the legislation makes sure that we move forward to enforce the laws of America. The legislation we have proposed is a tough law-and-order piece of legislation that will make sure we have the resources, that the United States doesn't look away from the enforcement of our laws, and that we enforce them.

Third, our legislation also deals with the economic realities that are so much of the immigration debate, the components of the economic realities relating to the guest worker program, as well as the agricultural job workers,
as well as other provisions of the bill that speak to the economic realities our country faces. I hope we will be able to move forward to the conclusion of this legislation this week.

I note there was progress made on the legislation during the last week. We disposed of 13 of the 107 amendments that were filed. Seven of them were disposed of by rollcall vote and six by voice votes with unanimous consent. At this point, we have 14 amendments that are pending and that we will vote on. Some of them we hope to begin voting on tomorrow morning and work our way through some of the more difficult amendments in the afternoon.

Let me also say at this point that as the President of the United States has spoken out around the country on the issue of immigration reform, he has taken a lot of heat for his position. A lot of people, both Democrats and Republicans, have taken a lot of heat on what we are trying to do with immigration reform. I think it is a responsibility of the Members of the Senate, the Members of the House of Representatives, and the President to do what is right for the country. There are some who, frankly, will argue that we ought not to do anything, that the answer to dealing with immigration reform is simply to not do anything for a year, 2, 3 or 4 years and to do what they call an enforcement-only approach. We know, from a realistic point of view, that will not work; we will not be able to secure our borders or to enforce our laws within our country, and we would not be able to deal with the reality of the 12 million undocumented workers who toil in America today.

So the comprehensive, bipartisan approach we have brought forward for consideration by the Senate is our best attempt at coming up with something that makes sense for comprehensive immigration legal reform in our country. I appreciate Senator Kyl and his leadership, the leadership of many on the Republican side of the aisle as well as those on the Democratic side, who have said we are going to get the solution.

For those who say there is no solution to this issue or that we can wait 4 years to resolve it, they are wrong. We have it within our capacity and within the courage of the Members of this Chamber to get to a good conclusion on immigration for the United States.

I yield the floor for my friend from Arizona.


Mr. SALAZAR. Mr. President, first I want to make a comment about the process that has been underway on immigration. We sometimes think about what is the most important thing we are given as Senators. What is the privilege we get to exercise on behalf of the American people in representing our States? We get to work on issues of enormous importance to civilization, to the United States, and to our respective States in this country. But one of the decisions that is made here by the majority leader is what kind of time is going to be allocated on what kinds of issues.

Well, this majority leader, Senator Reid, said 2 months ago he would set aside May, some time in May, for us to deal with the issue of immigration. He did the right thing, because what he did is he held peoples' feet to the fire to deal with this issue that some people would rather not deal with at all. He said for us in the Senate, the 100 Members of this Chamber would be spending a significant amount of time in May and now into June dealing with this issue. But the amount of time we spent working on the issue of immigration goes far beyond the current effort we have on this bill.

Last year, through the Judiciary Committee hearing that lasted for weeks prior to a markup and then for almost a month here on the floor of the Senate, we labored hard day and night to come up with a comprehensive immigration reform package. When all was said and done, some 35 votes were cast on that legislation, and there were over 60 votes in the Senate to move forward with comprehensive immigration reform. That was a month of struggle in this Chamber, trying to come up with a solution to deal with the very significant challenges we face with immigration.

The group that has been working with Senator Kennedy, Senator Kyl, Senator Specter, the Presiding Officer, and others who have spent so much time in trying to come up with a comprehensive bill that would allow us to deal with this issue and move it forward worked very hard over the last several months. So we have been on this legislation for a very long time. We were on this legislation for all of last week. There were 13 amendments that were made to the legislation during the week we had on this legislation last week.

At this point there are 14 pending amendments. We hope we will begin to vote on those amendments tomorrow morning and will continue through the rest of the day and through the rest of the week. It is my hope at the end of the day we will have an immigration reform package that is adopted by the Senate, and will then move forward.

I wish to make a comment on one of the attacks that has been made on this legislation by many Members around the country where they said what we are trying to do is give people amnesty. Well, when I looked up the definition of amnesty in the Merriam Webster on-line dictionary, it says essentially amnesty is a pardon. Amnesty is a pardon.

This is not a pardon. What we are calling for in this legislation is a far
cry from a pardon. This is a probationary status people are being put in.

I come from a law enforcement background. I spent 6 years as attorney general. I helped put thousands and thousands of people behind bars. I prosecuted gangs and white-collar crime, and made sure that murderers were serving their time in the prisons of my State. That is a part of what I did as a prosecutor, as a member of law enforcement.

In law enforcement we say: If you do the crime, you got to do the time; you got to pay the fine. Well, what is it we are asking people here to do? We are asking them to do a tremendous amount of work and activity to demonstrate that they are, in fact, entitled at some point down the road to a green card.

The first thing you are asking people to do under the new program we are setting up is that they have to come out of the shadows into the sunlight of society, and to register with the Government. That is not a requirement we make of any citizen in the United States, but it is a requirement we are going to make to have undocumented workers here in America, that they have to register with the Government and they have to do that and then go into a probationary period that is going to last for a very long period of time.

At the time they register, they have to pay a fine. Now, it is not a $5 fine, a $25 fine, a little slap on the wrist. You are talking about an accumulation of fines and processing fees and impact fees that at the end of the day is probably going to be somewhere in the neighborhood of $7,500 to $8,000 per person.

At the time they pay their penalty, they have to pay $1,000. After they pay their penalty of $1,000, they have to pay $1,500 dollars to get their Z card application, and then 3 years later they have to pay another $1,500, at 8 years of going through this purgatory where we require them during those 8 years to take English classes, to make sure they stay out of trouble with the law, to make sure they are gainfully employed. If they survive that 8-year period of purgatory, at that period of time they have to pay an additional amount of money in order to get their green card.

When you add up all of that money they have to pay, you are talking about somewhere in the neighborhood of $8,000. That is not amnesty. That is people having to pay a very significant fine and take on a very significant number of affirmative actions that ultimately, after waiting for a period of 8 years, might qualify them to get a green card.

For those who cry the word ``amnesty'' when we talk about immigration reform, they are continuing to play into the hands of those who want to make a political debate with no end. They believe if you label people who are for comprehensive immigration reform with the word ``amnesty,'' somehow it will never get done. That is the do-nothing crowd. In fact, that is what happened in the House of Representatives last year, when in this body, in a bipartisan vote, Democrats and Republicans coming together, passed comprehensive immigration reform. The other body, the House of Representatives, then decided they did not want to take it up--not because of the national security issues that are at stake; not because of the economic security issues which might be dealt with in this legislation; not because of the human and moral issues which are at stake in the immigration reform debate, they did not want to take it up in the House of Representatives, the then Republican majority did not want to take it up in the House of Representatives simply because of the fact that they thought it was their trump card to keep the majority in the November elections.

So those who parade around the country with the shrill cry of ``amnesty'' are doing the American people a great disservice. What they are doing is they are playing politics and having politics trump the national interests. The national interests, which we are trying to serve in this legislation, to me are important, fundamental, simple, but they are interests which we cannot escape as the leaders of this country.

They are first securing our country. We came here as Members of the Senate because we want to protect America. We all say we want to protect America. Well, what more can we do to protect America than to make sure the borders of our country are, in fact, being secured? This legislation we now have in this Chamber will, in fact, secure our borders.

Those of us who come here to the Senate also say we need to do something to enforce our laws. One of the values we have as the people of America is we say we are a nation of laws.

What makes us different today than the circumstances we see happening in places such as Iraq, such as Lebanon, and other places? What makes us different here in the United States of America is we are a nation of laws. We enforce our laws. We pass laws here in the Senate, the House of Representatives, that are signed by the President, and then we have an executive branch that enforces the laws of America.

Well, they haven't been enforced very well. In fact, I think in the last several years we have seen the lowest number of enforcement cases that have been taken against employers who have hired people who were not authorized to be in this country.

What we have set up in this legislation is a program that will, in fact, make sure we are enforcing the laws of our Nation, and that that value of being a nation of laws is something we can celebrate.

Certainly the legislation before us as well deals with the reality of the 12 million undocumented workers who are here. We deal with the other issues that are part of the economic challenges we face in America. The 12 million people who are here working with undocumented status are providing very valuable assistance to the American people.

For every American who is watching the debate on immigration, they ought to ask themselves: Who is it that is cleaning your yard? Who are the landscapers of America today? Who is it that is working out in the meat-packing plants making sure you have the meat and produce that ends up on your table for your evening dinner? Who is it that is working out, in resort areas, making sure that not only your landscaping is being taken care of but the needs of your household are being taken care of? Who is out working in the homes of America making sure that the children of America are being taken care of? Who is it out there in America today making sure that the nurses' aides working in homes of Americans taking carry of our elderly are there?

Many of them are the undocumented workers of America. Most of those people today live very much in the shadows of our society. They live in the shadows of our society. They often are subject to exploitation. Often when they come from whatever country, they are subject to the kind of exploitation that is very un-American. What we are trying to do is move our immigration system from a system that does not work, from a system that is a system of lawlessness, of broken borders, to a system that is a lawful and orderly program for immigration in our country.

At the end of the day, my hope is as we debate the issues on amendments the rest of the week, that we in this Chamber, in this Senate, will move forward and we will say we are going to move with an immigration reform legislation that will address the issues of national security, that will address the economic security issues here in our country, that realize the human and moral issues that are very much at stake.

Let me conclude, before I yield to my colleague from Arizona, by reminding people about the moral issues which are very much at the heart of this debate issue. Last year when we opened the debate on immigration reform in the Senate, Senator McCain, who has been an advocate for comprehensive immigration reform, talked about the number of people who had died in the desert in his State. He said at the time there had been 400 people who died in 2004. I believe 600 people died in 2006. He said: These are not just statistics; those are people who were found dead in the desert.

If I remember correctly, he talked about a young mother who was found dead in the desert holding her child, who also died, in her arms.

In my own church in the State of Colorado, our archbishop, Archbishop
Chaput, has often spoken out about the moral issues which are at stake with respect to the immigration debate. He wrote a column that was widely published in the Catholic Register last year which he titled ``Dying to Live.'' What he meant to say in that title, what he said in his article, is that people who are coming here to live the American dream were actually dying in our deserts as they came here to live the American dream.

It seems to me what we can do as a Senate, working with the House of Representatives, working with the President, is come up with a system of law and order that will give people an understanding of how our immigration system works, that will make sure our borders are secure, that will make sure we enforce our laws in the United States of America, and that will make sure we end the immorality that has been very much a part of our system of lawlessness and chaos we have made with immigration in our country.

I hope my Democratic and Republican colleagues will help us move forward as we address amendments through the rest of the week and to produce legislation that we can move forward to the House of Representatives.


Mr. SALAZAR. Mr. President, I commend my good friend, the Senator from New Jersey, BOB MENENDEZ. Since he has been in the Senate, he has brought a passion and a voice of reason to so many issues. It is a delight to have his voice heard in the Senate.

In every way, each of the 100 Members of this Senate brings our own personal history and our own personal perspectives to this debate on immigration. The Senator from New Jersey brings a tremendous sense of practical experience and personal knowledge, and a sense of how immigration has affected his family and his parents and his community in a way, perhaps, that is very unique in this Chamber. His contributions to the whole debate on immigration reform--not only here in the Senate this year but throughout his entire history in public service--are something we all very much appreciate. We hope to be able to work with him as we move forward and try to get to a final conclusion on this bill. His comments are comments which are not only eloquent, they are comments which are very much heartfelt by me and others in this Chamber.


Mr. SALAZAR. Mr. President, we continue to make significant progress as we move forward to getting to some final votes on this legislation.

Last week, we disposed of 13 amendments. In comparison, last year, there were approximately 35 amendments throughout the entire debate on comprehensive immigration reform. So last week we accomplished disposing of 13 significant amendments to the immigration reform legislation before us.

The unanimous consent request I will propound in a second will add an additional four amendments to this legislation.


Mr. SALAZAR. Mr. President, I would note that with the adoption of those 4 amendments, when you add them to the 13 amendments that were added to this legislation last week, we have now acted on 17 amendments that have been proposed to the Senate. We have a number of other amendments that are pending, and we encourage our colleagues to come forward with other amendments they may also have. We are also ready to move forward to schedule votes on additional amendments beginning tomorrow morning.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that on Tuesday, June 5, when the Senate resumes consideration of S. 1348, the immigration legislation, that the time until 11:50 a.m. be for debate with respect to the Allard amendment No. 1189 and the Durbin amendment No. 1231, with the time to run concurrently on both amendments and divided as follows: 10 minutes each, the majority and Republican managers or their designees and Senators Allard and Durbin; that no amendments be in order to either amendment prior to the vote; that the amendments be voted on in the order listed here; that upon disposition of the Durbin amendment, the Senate stand in recess until 2:15 p.m. in order to accommodate the respective party conference work periods; that there be 2 minutes of debate equally divided prior to the second vote and that the second vote be 10 minutes in duration, with no further intervening action or debate.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection? Without objection, it is so ordered.

Mr. SALAZAR. Mr. President, let me make a closing comment prior to adjourning the Senate for the day.

We begin our work on immigration reform legislation in this time after the work period for Memorial Day. We have a lot of work ahead of us in this week ahead. It is my hope we will be able to work together to get to a position where we will have a final vote in the Senate this week on immigration reform legislation.

We will hear, as this week continues, many personal stories about immigration, how the families of some Members of the Senate came into this country from different places. You will hear the stories which often tell us of immigration which has made us a rich country. I am sure we will hear the story of Senator Domenici and his parents and how his parents and his grandparents came to this country as immigrants--illegally at one point--and became part of the American dream. You will hear lots of those dreams told here as we deal with the issue of immigration reform.

For me, the issue of immigration is an important one for a lot of different reasons. Today, it is a very important issue for us because of the national security issues which are at stake. Unless we are able to fix our broken borders, I don't think any of us can say we are truly advancing the ball of national security for our country. The Presiding Officer knows well that as attorney general, the members of the law enforcement community hold ourselves up with pride to say we are different from other countries around the world because we honor the fact that we are a nation of laws and we uphold those laws in our country. That is integral to making this the great democracy we have in our country. So it is very important for us to move forward because we need to uphold those values which are so fundamental--the value of national security, the value of upholding a nation of laws. Those are fundamental values.

For me, the issue of immigration reform also has some history in my whole family because my family did not immigrate to this country as is often thought about with respect to many of the immigrants we have here in the United States, families who came here in the last generation or the last 100 years. My family settled the city of Santa Fe, NM, in 1598. That was some 409 years ago. It was a time when, for the next 250 years following 1598, the part of the Southwest which is now northern New Mexico and southern Colorado was in the hands of the Spanish Government through 1821 and under the sovereignty of Mexico from 1821 until 1848. So for 250 years, my family farmed and ranched on the banks of the Rio Grande River in northern New Mexico and the southern part of Colorado and were very much a fabric of that landscape of the Southwest, very much a fabric of those non-Native American settlers who came and who found the great American dream to be a true dream in the United States in later years.

In 1848, the treaty between the United States and Mexico was signed and Mexico ceded the northern part of its territory to the United States of America. At that time, those generations who came before me and my family were given a choice--a choice to become American citizens under article 10 of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo or, in the alternative, they could move some several hundred miles to the south to what had been a new border that had been created, now several hundred miles along the Rio Grande River, about 400 miles to the south of Santa Fe, NM, some 500 miles to the south of where our current ranch resides.

At that time, my family, like many families of the day and in other generations as well, made the decision that they would stay. They would stay because they knew that this land was their land and those communities were their communities, that those landscapes were their landscapes and that they would make it their home.

So for the generations in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico since 1848 until today, they continued to contribute greatly to the American dream in many different ways.

In my own case, many members of my family have served in the U.S. military and have contributed greatly to the American dream. My own mother and father came here to Washington in the early years of World War II. My mother worked in the War Department at the age of 19, coming from a village in northern New Mexico, and spending 5 years working in the War Department as part of that ``greatest generation'' which gave back so much to America to give us the kind of greatness we have had for the last 60-plus years here in the United States. My father became a soldier in the Army. He retired as a staff sergeant after having served his time in the U.S. Army.

There were other members of my family. My uncle Leandro, who is my mother's brother, 2 years older than my mother, gave his life in the soils of Europe defending this country's efforts in World War II as the United States of America saved this world from the hands of the Nazis and the hands of the fascists who would have turned civilization back to a place none of us ever wanted to go back to.

So today, as we stand here on the floor of the U.S. Senate debating what we should do with the immigration laws of this country, it is important to remember that this country has indeed come a long way, that we are, in fact, an America in progress, that the America in progress we have seen for centuries and for generations is one we must build upon. For us here in the Senate to simply accept what some would suggest--and that is that we do nothing with this issue of immigration--is, in my view, a dishonor to our country and to the responsibilities we have. It is an abdication of duty, for those of us who have taken the oath of office to uphold the laws of the United States and the Constitution of our country to make this country greater than it is today, for us to simply say that this issue of immigration is too tough for us to deal with and that all we ought to do is somehow ignore it or figure out ways of sidestepping it and go on to work on other issues.

I so much admire Senator HARRY REID because he has said to the Nation that he would hold the feet of the Senate to the fire as we deal with the issue of immigration. It may not be a comfortable issue for most people to deal with. It is a contentious issue. The phone calls and e-mails--and I am sure every Senator, both Democratic and Republican, has had their phones ringing off the hook for the last several weeks as we have dealt with this issue. Through the courage of Senator Reid, he has said we will move forward with this issue, and we are dealing with the issue. Through the courage of other Senators, both Democrats and Republicans, we have said this is an issue we can tackle. Yes, there are tough amendments, and we are working our way through those tough amendments, trying to make this immigration legislation which is on the floor better legislation, perhaps, than what was introduced here at the beginning of last week, and we are making progress.

As I said, I think there are now 21 amendments which have been made to the legislation. There will be others we will make as the week goes on. But at the end of the day, America's greatness really depends upon chambers like this Chamber here, which holds the keys to the democracy of our country, and debating those issues which are difficult and getting us to a point of a conclusion to deal with these issues which are so fundamental to the 21st century of America. When we deal with this issue, what we will have done is we will have found solutions to the issue of a broken border that has been broken for a very long time. When we effectively deal with this issue, we will deal with the reality of the economic demands of the United States of America and how we treat people with the kind of humanity and morality we would expect of others.

It is true that when one looks back at the immigration history of this country, there have been chapters in that immigration history which have been very difficult and very painful for those involved.

From 1942 until 1964, there was a chapter in our immigration laws called the national Mexican immigration program, or the Bracero Program, in which people were brought into this country because there was a need for labor, and we had many of our men and women in uniform serving in faraway places, as those in my family were serving at that particular time, but because there was a need for labor in our factories and on our farms, people were brought to this country under a program. But it was a program that did not have worker protections, and the consequence of that program was that there were many people who suffered and who lived through a tremendous amount of pain because they did not have the protection of the laws of the United States of America.

Today, in the legislation we have brought forward, we have included the worker protections that will ensure these people are protected. At the same time, the legislation we brought forward recognizes the importance of the American worker because even under the temporary guest worker program, which is a controversial issue being debated on this floor, what we have said in that part of the legislation is that a job has to be advertised first to the American worker and that if an American anywhere is willing and ready to take that job, it will not be available to somebody who would come in under the temporary guest worker program.

So the economic issues, the national security issues, the human and moral issues which are at stake in this debate are some of the most important issues we face. I am hopeful that colleagues, working together in the Senate for the remainder of this week, will be able to come to a successful conclusion with respect to immigration reform legislation.


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