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Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. President, we have an attempt to move and rush through the Senate an immigration bill before the American people can absorb what is in it. I think this is a very bad policy. The bill was introduced at 2 a.m. 8 days ago. It was set for markup in the committee today. Our diligent staff has been trying to read it and absorb it, and they are having a great deal of difficulty sifting through this complicated 844-page bill.
Senator Grassley, the ranking Republican on the committee, has asked for the bill to be put over for 1 week. Next week is a recess, so now it will come up in 2 weeks to be presented and passed out of committee.
On Monday, we had a hearing. I will not say it was a circus, but it was impossible to absorb all the information. Twenty-three witnesses testified, one right after the other, 5 or so minutes each. The Senators who were here on Monday--not a lot--had 5 minutes of questioning and not much was resolved. They did not know what was in the bill either. They were just testifying about policy, basically. Nobody could explain exactly how the bill is going to work.
So people say: You should be able to handle a bill like that. You should be able to read an 844-page bill.
So I just want to show why this is a pretty complicated process and why a piece of legislation such as this has to be carefully read. It is not easy to do so.
So this is page 65 of the bill that I will show you. It deals with an issue I talked about yesterday. Secretary Napolitano issued a prosecutorial directive and guidance to ICE officers that was so upsetting to the ICE officers that they sued her and their Director, Mr. Morton, in Federal court, saying she is directing them not to follow plain U.S. law.
I brought it up in the hearing, and Chairman Leahy said: Well, a lot of people file lawsuits. Very few win. Well, yesterday or the day before yesterday, the Federal judge basically ruled in favor of the officers and said a Secretary of DHS has no authority to issue guidelines that counteract plain mandatory Federal law. So, basically, the Secretary was saying: Do not remove certain people from the country that current law says must be removed. She was refusing to do what the law of the United States says. This is one of the reasons we have such a problem reforming and fixing immigration law. It is because the American people have little or no confidence in the willingness of our officials to even follow present law, much less new law.
They have planned to fix this in the bill so now the Secretary would have even more power. In the legislation we have already found maybe 200 references to waivers and discretion of the Secretary. But look at page 65:
(i) In general.--The Secretary may waive the application of subparagraph (A)(i)(III) or any provision of section 212(a) that is not listed in clause (ii) on behalf of an alien for humanitarian purposes, to ensure family unity, or if such waiver is otherwise in the public interest. Any discretionary authority to waive grounds of inadmissibility under section 212(a) conferred under any other provision of this Act shall apply equally to aliens seeking registered provisional status under this section.
Exceptions to that.
The discretionary authority under clause (i) may not be used to waive--
(I) subparagraph (B), (C), (D)(ii), (E), (G), (H), or (I) of section 212(a)(2);
(II) section 212(a)(3);
(III) subparagraph (A), (C), (D), or (E) of section 212(a)(10). .....
So if I am a Senator, and I am trying to protect the interests of the people of the United States to understand what a piece of legislation means, I have to go back and read every one of those subparagraph exceptions.
This is gobbledygook. My staff tells me every time they go back and read it, they see more difficulty. I have not even had a chance to look at this. Oh, but do not worry about it, we have set up a vision. We have a vision of this great immigration bill that is going to be comprehensive and fix all our problems. Trust us. Do not worry about it. You will find out what is in it later. Right? Just like health care, I guess.
This is not a way to do business. The immigration policy of the United States is just as important as the health care policy of the United States.
I am not going to consent to this bill. We ought to find out what is in it. It goes on more and more and more, this kind of gobbledygook.
(IV) with respect to misrepresentations relating to the application for registered provisional immigrant status, section 212(a)(6)(C)(i).
And it goes on.
It is not right to say that people who are concerned about the legislation are obstructing the process. We are trying to find out what the bill does.
A headline yesterday in the Christian Science Monitor said: How many people will be made legal under this bill? It then quoted one of the supporters of the bill as saying: We don't know.
So I asked at the Judiciary Committee this morning--one of the sponsors was there, Senator Schumer--I asked: Do you want to tell us how many people are going to be legalized under the bill? Oh, we don't know.
So we do not know that. We do not know answers to other questions, such as: How much will the bill cost the Treasury of the United States? What kind of expenses will be incurred? What is the total number of people who will be admitted?
What we have discovered has revealed that the legislation fails to live up to virtually all the promises that have been made about it so far. I hate to say that, but that is the truth.
Let me list a few instances. These are promises we have been told are taken care of or will be effectuated by the legislation if we just vote for this good bill. Just vote for it. It is 844 pages. Just vote for it. Here are some of the things:
We were told the bill would be enforcement first. But the plan confers immediate legalization in exchange for future promises of plans for enforcement, many of which will likely never occur. We have plain law now that requires removal in lots of cases that the Secretary is failing to follow.
In fact, a major loophole that jeopardizes the entire border security section commands that the Secretary of DHS grant current illegal immigrants permanent legal status and, therefore, a guaranteed path to eventual citizenship after 10 years if just one of the so-called triggers that is supposed to ensure enforcement is prevented from occurring by a lawsuit. So all they have to do is to keep an enforcement trigger tied up in court for ten years, and then the people are not going to be deported if the enforcement does not occur.
We were told the Secretary would be required to build a fence at the border. We passed a law in 2007 that required 700 miles of double-strength fencing at the border--not the whole border but 700 miles. How many miles have been built since then? Thirty. Congress passed a law that said we would do this enforcement in the future, but it has not occurred.
We were told the bill would reduce the deficit. We have been told it will reduce the deficit and strengthen Social Security and Medicare. But the effect will be to legalize large numbers of low-skilled immigrants. Over half of those illegally here today do not have a high school diploma and will add trillions to the unfunded liabilities of Medicare, Social Security, and the President's new ObamaCare health care bill.
We are talking about trillions of dollars when Social Security and Medicare need to be strengthened, not weakened; and the numbers are not going to be disputed. It is not going to strengthen Social Security and Medicare, as many advocates say. It is going to weaken it, and it is also going to weaken the financial stability of the ObamaCare legislation.
We were told illegal immigrants would not have access to public benefits, but the bill ensures that millions of illegal immigrants will immediately be eligible for State and local public assistance. If people need something, need health care, they are going to get it somewhere. Some will get formal benefits in as short as 5 years and will be eligible for all Federal welfare programs at the time of the grant of citizenship.
We were told there was a 10-year path to green cards or permanent legal residence and a 13-year path before one could become a citizen. But 2 to 3 million of those who are in the country illegally are expected to assert that they came into the country as younger people and, therefore, would be eligible for citizenship in 5 years under this remarkably broad DREAM Act provision that removes any age cap on the persons who can assert that they came as a youth. Even those who had been removed from the country can come back and claim the benefits of this bill.
Illegal agriculture workers will also get green cards in 5 years. Individuals working illegally in agriculture today would be able to get legal permanent resident status in just 5 years. This would enable them to receive benefits of some kind. We were told this legislation was for illegal immigrants who have deep roots in the country. But the amnesty is extended to recent arrivals, including those who may have come here alone just over a year ago.
Millions would be legalized who overstayed their visas. People who are not even living in the country anymore could return and receive benefits and legal status. Those who have been deported multiple times could receive benefits under this legislation. That is just what is in this complex 844-page bill.
We were told the legislation would curtail the administration's aggressive undermining of Federal law. That somehow the law was going to be enforced more. But it provides the Secretary of Homeland Security with even more discretion than she has today. It is filled with grants of waiver power and discretionary power. The American people are very dubious of the willingness of our government to do anything that would consistently and effectively enforce laws.
I believe the American people's heart is right about the issue of immigration. I believe the American people should be respected and their opinions valued. What are they saying? They say: We need a lawful system of immigration. People should be treated fairly. They believe in immigration. Right now we are bringing in 1 million people a year legally. The American people say that is about right, although a recent poll showed that over half of the American people believe that number is too high. They would like to see it brought down some at this time of unemployment and falling wages.
They still strongly favor immigration for America. They are not mad at immigrants. They do not hate immigrants. They do not dislike them. They respect people who want to come to America. They understand the desire of good people around the world who would like to come to America. But what they are angry about is people in high office flatly telling them time and time again: We are going to fix this system, we are going to make it lawful, and we will make it one that you can be proud of. Then they do not do it. They say they are going to build a fence, and it does not get built. They say they passed a law that requires removal of certain people who violate the law; they do not get removed. The American people are right about this. It is Congress and the President who have not been fulfilling the right standard.
We were told there would be strict standards for amnesty, but the bill grants amnesty for those who have been convicted of multiple crimes. There are a whole host of exceptions to ineligibility. We were told the bill would make us safer. But Mr. Chris Crane, the head of the ICE association, said it will not; that immigration officers have been undermined. They have voted--the 7,000-member association voted no confidence in Mr. Morton, their supervisor. They filed a lawsuit for the failure of their officials to allow them to enforce the law, basically complaining about their supervisors directing them to violate the law.
That is what they complained about. That is what the judge seemed to take very seriously. We were told this would move us toward a merit-based, high-skilled immigration system with a responsible future flow that would be more effective in identifying people who could be successful in America. This might be the biggest and most dangerous flaw of all. It does not look like it is going to move our numbers in any way in that direction.
The bill would remove limitations on the number of visas for spouses and children of green card holders. That would apply to both those here illegally and all current and future legal immigrants. It would clear the 4.5 million illegal immigration backlog of people who filed to come under chain migration, family migration. Only so many were supposed to be admitted per year. You file and wait until your time comes up, then you get admitted. So, apparently, the drafters of the bill felt bad because people said: You are giving people who came illegally advantage over those who have been waiting their time.
So how did they solve that? That is a pretty brilliant way to solve it. They agreed to let everybody who has filed to come in immediately and exempt from them from the caps. That would solve the problem all right.
Those who are approved under the DREAM Act, persons who came as younger individuals, can obtain green cards on an expedited status for their spouses and children. We have to be careful that we do not create a system that allows aging parents to be brought to the country in large numbers. That will be a burden on us. Truly, we have to be thoughtful about that. We have to be responsible. As a member of the Budget Committee, we are looking at these numbers. We have to reduce our costs, not add to it wherever possible.
The agriculture worker program is expanded, giving the Secretary of Homeland Security almost unchecked authority to increase the visas to whatever number he or she sees fit. Think about this: The Christian Science Monitor asked: How many will be illegal immigrants will be admitted?
I asked the bill sponsors and supporters today in committee: How many would be admitted over the next 10 years?
Under current law, we should be admitting about 1 million people a year, the largest number any Nation in the world allows, to come into our country legally. That would be 10 million over 10 years. Under this bill, we believe the number would be 30 million-plus.
Let me say to my colleagues, I respect their work and their efforts. I know we have always valued immigration in our country, but it is time to create a system that serves the national interest, a lawful system where those who violate the law are not rewarded, those who do not violate the law are validated, a system that brings in the kind of person that has the best chance to be successful and not be a ward of the State or charge of the State.
There are a lot of things that we really need to do: protect our national security, have a system and a policy that we are proud of, that is morally defensible. I am afraid this bill is not there. That is why I am concerned about it. I look forward to doing the best I can to examine it carefully.
I yield the floor.