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Mr. LEAHY. Madam President, I will be speaking shortly on matters of immigration. I just wanted to report to the Senate that since February the Senate Judiciary Committee has held six hearings on immigration. We concluded the last one yesterday with the testimony of Secretary Janet Napolitano.
In all, we have had dozens of hearings on immigration in the last couple of years, but these six were especially important for the Senate and for our work in the Judiciary Committee. Tomorrow we will put the immigration bill on the Judiciary Committee's agenda.
Under our normal practice, I have consulted with the ranking member. We both agree. The bill would be held over until the first Thursday we come back from our early May recess. This actually works well because it will give all members of the committee, and those Senators not on the committee, more time to read it.
Once we start marking up the bill and voting on it in committee, it would be my intention to not go Thursday to Thursday, which is normal committee procedure, but to hold markups several days a week. I am told that people do not intend to delay this immigration bill for the sake of delay, and I hope that is so. This is too important an issue.
Madam President, I suggest the absence of a quorum.
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Mr. LEAHY. Madam President, to go back, earlier this morning I spoke of the immigration hearings we have held in the Judiciary Committee and how important they are, not only to the Senate but to the country.
It was an extraordinary series of hearings. Forty-two witnesses spoke about the need for meaningful immigration reform. I believe there is a chance to have real immigration reform this year, the kind of reform that our great and wonderful country deserves. This is a country where every one of us is a child, grandchild, or great grandchild of immigrants; a country where a large percentage of the major Fortune 500 companies were started by immigrants.
We heard from ``Dreamers'' and farmers, business people, religious leaders, economists, government officials, practitioners, law enforcement advocates, and others. We heard from those opposed to comprehensive immigration reform, and we heard from those who support it.
Since the bipartisan legislation was introduced a week ago, we held 3 days of hearings with live testimony from 26 witnesses. I have accommodated many member requests. I worked with ranking member Chuck Grassley to ensure that all viewpoints were heard. In fact, no witness he suggested was denied the opportunity to appear and testify. I think we all realize--whether Republican or Democrat--no matter how we may vote, we should have a clear record.
I asked Secretary Napolitano to return to testify, again, even though she just did so in February. She was scheduled last week. But with the horrific circumstances in Boston, of course we all understood why she had to cancel that appearance. She came yesterday and answered every single question asked of her.
As I said earlier, when we meet tomorrow the right will be exercised under our committee rules to hold over the immigration reform bill for a week. I have discussed this with Senator Grassley, and I think we both agree that this is a wise thing to do, to hold it over and give people that extra time to read the bill. Next week is a recess week, so we will be able to turn to marking up the legislation in May. By that point, the bill will have been publicly available for three weeks before we vote on any aspect of it or consider any amendments offered to it. Everybody will have had a chance to see it. We live-streamed all the hearings. All of this is on the Judiciary Committee Web site.
The legislative proposal we are examining is a result of the significant work on a bipartisan compromise. I do not want to see comprehensive immigration reform fall victim to entrenched or partisan opposition even though it may well exist. In the course of my hearings I quoted my dear friend of many years, Ted Kennedy, one of the lions in this body. In the summer of 2007, he and I had worked very closely with former President George W. Bush to pass comprehensive immigration legislation. But that immigration reform was being blocked in the Senate. He spoke of our disappointment. He said:
But we are in this struggle for the long haul. Today's defeat will not stand. As we continue the battle, we will have ample inspiration in the lives of the immigrants all around us.
From Jamestown, to the Pilgrims, to the Irish, to today's workers, people have come to this country in search of opportunity. They have sought nothing more than a chance to work hard and bring a better life to themselves and their families. They come to our country with their hearts and minds full of hope.
I urge all Senators to consider the recent testimony of Jose Antonio Vargas, Gaby Pacheco, and the families who can be made more secure by enacting comprehensive immigration reform.
The dysfunction in our current immigration system affects all of us. I hope that our history and our decency can inspire us finally to take action to reform our immigration laws. I know this is something my maternal grandparents, who were so proud to come to this country, speaking a different language, beginning a business, raising a family, seeing their grandson become a Member of the Senate, I know that is the way they would feel.
I know my wife's parents, who came to this country speaking a different language, having their children here in the United States and having stood with Marcelle and me and my parents when I was sworn into the Senate, and then watching these children and grandchildren, understand what a wonderful country this is.
We are a great and good country. But we are also a country that becomes greater and better because of the diversity brought to our shores. That is true from the beginning of this country to today. Let's make it possible.