Federal News Service
HEADLINE: HEARING OF THE SENATE FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE SUBJECT: THE UNITED STATES AND MEXICO: IMMIGRATION POLICY AND THE BILATERAL RELATIONSHIP
CHAIRED BY: SENATOR RICHARD LUGAR (R-IN)
WITNESSES: PANEL I:
SENATOR CHUCK HAGEL (R-NE);
SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ);
SENATOR LARRY E. CRAIG (R-ID);
SENATOR RICHARD J. DURBIN (D-IL);
SENATOR JOHN CORNYN (R-TX);
PANEL II: ROGER F. NORIEGA, ASSISTANT SECRETARY, BUREAU OF WESTERN HEMISPHERE AFFAIRS, DEPARTMENT OF STATE;
C. STEWART VERDERY, ASSISTANT SECRETARY, OFFICE OF POLICY AND PLANNING, BORDER AND TRANSPORTATION SECURITY DIRECTORATE;
EDUARDO AGUIRRE, DIRECTOR, BUREAU OF CITIZENSHIP AND IMMIGRATION SERVICES;
PANEL III: DR. STEPHEN E. FLYNN, JEANE J. KIRKPATRICK SENIOR FELLOW IN NATIONAL SECURITY STUDIES, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS; DR. DEMETRIOS G. PAPADEMETRIOU, PRESIDENT, MIGRATION POLICY INSTITUTE; DR. ARTURO A. VALENZUELA, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR LATIN AMERICAN STUDIES, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY
LOCATION: 419 DIRKSEN SENATE OFFICE BUILDING, WASHINGTON, D.C.
SEN. CRAIG: Well, Mr. Chairman, thank you. And as John has mentioned, all of us have legislation pending at this moment to deal with this problem. I approach it with the same passion that John does, although the difficulties that are happening in Arizona are phenomenally inhumane, and he's right to be passionate about this problem. You've outlined it well, the relationship we have with the great nation of Mexico and the dependency we truly have on each other at this moment, to work this problem out. I've introduced legislation as has John, as has John Cornyn and certainly Senator Hagel and it is a problem that truly cries out for a solution sooner rather than later.
I must tell you that this president has finally stepped forward and offered up a solution, up until that time the federal government really remained in a state of denial and it was 9/11 that awakened us to the reality that we've got somewhere between eight and 12 million undocumented foreign nationals in this country. And of course, as you know, Mr. Chairman, when we then shut the borders or worked hard to shut the borders after 9/11, we did two interesting things.
Our intent was to keep people out, but we also locked people in. Hundreds of thousands of Hispanics who flowed back and forth over the Texas, Arizona, New Mexican and California borders on an annual basis working and going home and taking their money with them and not being able, then to get back or staying because they were fearful if they left they couldn't get back. And they would not have the kind of resource that they had been able to have prior to 9/11. So, border closures are not just the only solution here, and I think you're so right to hold this hearing to deal with this kind of problem.
John spoke already of the over 200 people who have died in Arizona. Last year over 300 died in the deserts of the southwest as they struggled to make their way into this country to work. And that's what's important, they died in boxcars, they died in the backs of vans, they died of thirst as John so-offered those description. Now, that's the reality that we're dealing with.
Shame on us for dragging our feet toward this problem. But we are doing just that at this moment, and I think as John has said, some would suggest that it is purely a law enforcement solution, but I am here to tell you that that is a part of it and only a part of it. Those who say just round them up and get them out of the country are suggesting something that on its face is impossible to do.
When you have between eight to 12 million and we use those numbers because we don't know exactly how many undocumented foreign nationals we have in our country, we know that law enforcement is a part of it. But these people who are here by the vast majority deserve a responsible humane approach toward dealing with them, treating them appropriately for the roles they play in this country, and for the desire I think many nations have and in this case, dominantly two nations, the United States and Mexico have in solving this problem.
I'm going to offer you a solution today. It deals with only a small part of the total problem, but it is one, Mr. Chairman, that is ready, it's mature, it's been well thought out over 5 years of negotiation. You're a cosponsor, Senator Hagel's a cosponsor, John McCain's a cosponsor. It's my Ag Jobs Bill, we haven't got John Cornyn on it yet, but he's leaning, he's leaning in our direction and let me for just a moment-Barbara's on it. We will have, within two weeks, over 60 senators on this legislation. And, Mr. Chairman, we have at this moment over 400 organizations nationwide who support it.
Now, here are the key elements that makes this a workable proposition. Not only does it reach out to identify 500,000 workers who are now eligible in this country, undocumented who can do something that is significant and important for themselves and for the economy of our country. And that is earn a legal status, earn a legal status. That is the key component of the ag jobs bill. Earned adjustment to a legal status. And they can do that by staying here and working for a period of time under a temporary legal situation and move that forward. In doing so, we fill a tremendous need for our country.
We treat a great many hardworking people in a phenomenally humane and responsible way and we bring them out of the back streets and the alleys and the shadows of our culture to the front street where they belong. Because they are, as John has said, an important component in the economy of our country. That's what ag jobs is all about. And I think both you and I know that there are great numbers of these people working in your state, in Nebraska, in Idaho, in Texas. We believe in Idaho that it is possible that during the peak of the work season there are between 25 and 30,000 undocumented workers. And Idaho's not a very big state. But it's a big agricultural state and that's important.
I have a couple of letters that I would like to add for the record. I have a letter here from Clayton Yeutter, former secretary of Agriculture and he is asking that we get on the ag jobs bill and move it this year as a way of moving something in the right direction. Here is what he says. "In the northeastern United States, 99 percent of the new entrants into the farm labor force admit they are lacking legal status." That's a phenomenal statistic, but it's an important one.
I also would like to introduce for the record, the names of the 400 organizations that are supporting this legislation, Mr. Chairman, from the American Farm Bureau to the United Farm Workers Union. When I was standing in front of a microphone with the national presidents of those two organizations who have, for decades, been arch enemies. They see and recognize the importance of solving this problem now: U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO, The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, and the legal services advocates for both large and small workers and Latino groups across the country, it is a mature product.
It is something that I will urge the Senate by my action, or collectively by this and other committees actions to vote on this year, Mr. Chairman. Because, as all of us believe, this is something we don't just pass on for another year. I also agree that amnesty does not work. What I offer is not amnesty, it is the ability to earn a legal status and all who are coming want that opportunity. To deny those people that opportunity, to deny our economy this needed workforce, to fail to treat these undocumented workers in a responsible and humane way, is in my opinion, un-American. That is what we are about here.
Thank you for holding this hearing, it is critically important as we build the necessary base to move this legislation and I would hope we could move it this year, or at least a small part of it. I believe mine is the excellent and appropriate template from which to move and look at the criteria for developing a legal status by causing those who come to earn it. And to give them that opportunity to do so. So I thank you for convening this hearing, Mr. Chairman.