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Public Statements

First Hearing on Comprehensive Immigration Reform


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Prepared Statement of Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa
Ranking Member, Senate Committee on the Judiciary
Hearing on Comprehensive Immigration Reform Legislation
Friday, April 19, 2013

We appreciate this opportunity to talk about immigration reform in light of all that has been happening in Massachusetts.

I know that the people of Boston and Watertown are in everybody's thoughts this morning.

We here are trying to understand why these events have occurred. It's hard for us to understand that there are people in this world that want to do Americans harm.

So, this hearing is an opportunity to refocus on the issues at hand, and the importance to remain vigilant and secure the homeland.

Exactly 30 years ago today -- on April 19, 1983 -- this committee held a meeting to discuss the Immigration Reform and Control Act. Senator Simpson, the author of the bill, opened the meeting by presenting the bill and stating its purpose: "Its purpose, a very simple one, to control illegal immigration in the United States and to control legal immigration without limiting immediate family reunification." He further stated, "The first duty of a sovereign nation is to control its borders. We do not do that."

The bill we debated that day would provide legalization to millions of people already in the United States. On that day, Senator Simpson stated: "We are attempting to assure that this is a one-time only program."

The bill we are considering today, according to the bipartisan group of eight Senators who crafted it, will "ensure that this is a successful permanent reform to our immigration system that will not be revisited."

Thirty years have passed, and we're saying the same things and facing the same problems. We're proposing the same remedies and asking the American people to trust that we'll get serious about enforcing our immigration laws.

So, let me be clear. I applaud the group of eight senators for their commitment to reforming our broken immigration system. Time will tell if this bill solves that problem like their statement says. Throughout the debate on S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, I will be asking whether this bill avoids the same mistakes and truly fixes our immigration system for generations to come.

Because we thought when that bill passed in 1986 that's what we did. We did everything in good faith. We shut off the magnet to bring people to this country by making it illegal to hire undocumented people for the first time. But we didn't look far enough ahead. We didn't do it right.
I have made it clear that this bill needs to go through the committee process. I have argued that the bill must be open to amendments during consideration in committee and on the floor. Every member of the Senate must have an opportunity to read, analyze and improve the bill.

Unfortunately, I think we're off to a rough start. The Majority is rushing us to read and analyze the bill. It's just under 900 pages and it tackles some very important issues. There are some new concepts. Most members and staff on this committee have not read the bill in its entirety before this hearing. Certainly, we should be afforded enough time to understand and debate the bill. And, we've been assured that we will.

In 1983 -- before the Judiciary Committee met on this day -- the Subcommittee on Immigration held four hearings before it reported the bill to the full committee. The year before that, the committee held sixteen hearings and five consultations. Prior to the May 1982 mark-up of the same bill, the committee had 100 hours of hearings and 300 witnesses.

We have experts that need to be heard on this bill. We need to hear from people who live and work along the border. We need to understand how changes in our visa programs will affect businesses and American workers. We need to know how new concepts will be put into practice. And, most importantly, we need to hear from the Congressional Budget Office about the impact this bill will have on taxpayers.

This is not something to be rushed. We have to get this right. Otherwise the goal of the bipartisan group -- to solve the problem once and for all --- will not be met.

And, given the events of this week, it's important for us to understand the gaps and loopholes in our immigration system. While we don't yet know the immigration status of the people who have terrorized the communities in Massachusetts, when we find out, it will help shed light on the weaknesses of our system. How can individuals evade authorities and plan such attacks on our soil? How can we beef up security checks on people who wish to enter the U.S.? How do we ensure that people who wish to do us harm are not eligible for benefits under the immigration laws, including this new bill before us?

We have a long road ahead of us to pass legislation to reform our immigration system. We cannot tolerate anything less than a transparent and deliberative process to improve the bill.

I look forward to hearing from her and our other witnesses.

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