CAUTION IN POST-9/11 COMMISSION ERA
Mr. CRAIG. Mr. President, I was at that hearing this morning when Henry Kissinger made his presentation, and I was extremely pleased that it was a bipartisan and balanced presentation. Instead of fingers being pointed or accusations being made about what we ought or ought not do in a post-9/11 Commission era, what Henry Kissinger said was, caution. In a political year that is ripe with political innuendo, be careful what you create because you might not like it after the fact, that recreating the intelligence community of this country and of this government is tremendously important, but it needs to be done well so we don't get the wrong results.
I think all of us recognize the dysfunctional character of our intelligence community and the results that it yielded, and why there was a 9/11, and why a 9/11 Commission was developed, and why we are working now in the Governmental Affairs Committee to try to craft and change the character of that intelligence community.
It was a very positive hearing this morning. I was pleased by the bipartisan approach, which will disallow any candidate out there from opportunistically pointing a finger and saying you are or you are not doing something in the right manner. It was well presented this morning.
MEASURE READ THE FIRST TIME-S. 2823
Mr. CRAIG. Mr. President, I understand that S. 2823 is at the desk, and I ask for its first reading.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will report the bill by title.
The legislative clerk read as follows:
A bill (S. 2823) to provide for adjustment of status of certain foreign agricultural workers, to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to reform the H-2A worker program under that Act, to provide a stable, legal agricultural workforce, to extend basic legal protections and better working conditions to more workers, and for other purposes.
Mr. CRAIG. Mr. President, I ask for its second reading, and in order to place the bill on the calendar under provisions of rule XIV, I object to further proceedings on this matter.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Objection is heard. The bill will receive its second reading on the next legislative day.
Mr. CRAIG. Mr. President, I thank you for that process.
What I have just done will result in placing the Agricultural Job Opportunity, Benefits, and Security Act-the AgJOBS bill, or S. 2823-on the calendar for future consideration by this Senate. There is a great deal of work that has not been done by the Senate this year. The issue of immigration reform, especially that affecting well over 1.5 million undocumented agricultural workers of our Nation, is, in my opinion, a critical issue.
In a post-9/11 era, what we have said about our country, and what our citizens are saying, is pretty straightforward. They are saying control the borders, identify those who are within, and arrest those who are undocumented or illegal or who might perpetrate harm to this Nation.
I agree with those very fundamental principles that retain the character and the integrity of our country. But what we are also finding in a post-9/11 era is that our negligence as a country, our responsibility as legislators in failing to produce a workable immigration policy, has resulted in between 8 million and 12 million undocumented foreign nationals in our country. Many of them-frankly, most of them-are hard-working human beings who have contributed a great deal to our country and to our country's economy.
In the area of the agricultural economy, that is especially true. In the agriculture of Idaho and most of our States in the Nation, undocumented workers play a very significant role in the normal processing and functioning of agriculture itself, the production of the food and fiber that make it to the shelves of the supermarkets and the tables of the families across our country. We now attempt policy that tightens our borders, but we also need to recognize our immigration problems will not be solved by simply wanting to penalize. Instead, we need to manage; controlling and shaping a better system; understanding the importance of that workforce to the Nation on the one side, and on the other side, recognizing the sheer humanitarian character and responsibility we have as Senators and as those who form public policy.
Last year, on the United States-Mexican border, over 300 people died trying to make it across the border to identify with a job in this country. Many of them died of heat or lack of water in the deserts of Arizona and New Mexico near Mexico. That is a tragedy in its own right and a crisis in the making. But it is a tragedy that is a result of bad law that doesn't function well, and a law that will not function well until we adjust it and change it. That is why in working with all the interested groups over the last 5 years, Ted Kennedy, Chris Cannon and Howard Berman in the House, and I have produced the legislation that is at the desk. It has been vetted well. It has the support of a tremendous community of interest, from growers and employers on one side to agricultural workers on the other side. It has the support of a historic, bipartisan, and diverse national coalition. It is a bill that should be considered by this Congress. It is a bill that will pass the Senate because we now have over 60 cosponsors. It is a bill whose time has come, but is it is a bill that possibly will not find time this year simply because of the shortness left in this session and the work that is necessary to be done?
I have worked with the leader and will continue to work with the leader to see if we can't find that window of opportunity to vote our expression on this most important issue, this year, sooner rather than later.
I have chosen this rule XIV process to make the legislation current at the desk to start the process to see if we might find that window of time in which to debate and vote on what I think is one of America's most important issues: immigration reform, controlling our borders, identifying undocumented people in this country, doing background checks, and the vetting of their character which is necessary to determine whether they are here and constructive, or whether they are here with a destructive thought in mind, a destructive thought against U.S. citizens, as we found on 9/11 a few years ago. Bringing the undocumented out of the shadows not only helps these workers who add to the economy and pay taxes, but it also would help our homeland security.
Many of us are determined to deal with this issue now. If we don't deal with this now, there is no question in my mind that I and others will make it a No. 1 issues in the next session of Congress. This is an issue that legislators cannot turn their backs on. It is an issue that cries out for resolution.
I believe S. 2823 is a proper solution to a major segment of that very large problem in this country.
I thank you and I yield the floor.
I suggest the absence of a quorum.