IMMIGRATION -- (Senate - March 06, 2008)
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Mr. DeMINT. Madam President, I thank the Senator from North Carolina and the Senator from Alabama for their leadership on this immigration issue. Thanks for a few moments to speak on a bill that I will be offering related to the immigration debate that is called the Complete Fence Act.
Last year, I think we took on a noble task of trying to solve the immigration problem with one grand bill, but what we have learned in the Senate is that it is very difficult to focus on one issue and get a bill through without a lot of add-ons for special interests. We are certainly seeing it with the consumer product safety bill that we are debating now.
The House passed a bill that was bipartisan and unanimous and was supported by consumer groups as well as industry groups. It was a bill that was ready for us to take and pass and send to the President. But we in the Senate needed to add in a number of special interest provisions that have nothing to do with consumer product safety. We even discovered last night, as the bill was put into a managers' amendment, they had added some new things that apply to one State and things that have nothing to do--no germaneness--with consumer product safety that we have to deal with.
Certainly, that is what we ran into on the immigration issue. So much was added to the bill, it was like trying to swallow an apple when that apple needs to be eaten with a number of different bites.
That is what we are trying to do with this series of immigration bills which recognize that in order to have a real solution to the immigration problem in the country, we need to build a platform for reform one plank at a time. Even those who were pushing the comprehensive bill now realize we need to begin with border control and enforcement, the type of enforcement internally that the Senator from North Carolina was talking about: a worker verification program so employers know who is legal and who is not. If we build this system that way, in a way the American people can trust, we can get to the point where America will trust us to develop new immigration policies, how to deal with those who are already here, and how to accept immigrants in the future who are needed for our economy.
But the very first step, as all of us have recognized, is to have border control. This body has passed several times legislation that would build a 700-mile fence along the border that would support our Border Patrol in stopping illegal immigrants. It is not just an issue of illegal immigrants themselves; it also involves drug trafficking, it involves human trafficking, and it also involves security from terrorists who might be smuggling weapons into this country. It is essential that we control our borders.
In 2006, Congress passed the Secure Fence Act which required 700 miles of fencing, and this is metal fencing--this is not virtual fencing; this is metal pedestrian fencing along the southwest border--and a deadline for 370 miles of this to be completed by the end of this year. At this point, only 167 miles of real metal fencing has been completed, but we have been assured by the Department of Homeland Security that they will meet their goal of 370 miles of fencing before the end of this year.
The bill I am introducing would set a deadline for 2010 for all 700 miles of pedestrian metal fencing to be completed. This is essential to move ahead with the immigration reform process so the American people will know we are serious about protecting the border and having a workable immigration system.
So I urge all of my colleagues to urge the Department of Homeland Security and comfort the American people with the fact that we are serious about completing this fence and to support the Complete Fence Act of 2008.
Madam President, I yield the floor.