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Hatch at Senate Judiciary Committee Markup of Immigration Legislation


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U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), current member and former Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, delivered the following statement on the opening day of the Judiciary Committee's markup of S.744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act:

Mr. Chairman, this markup is the start of a long process that includes not only this committee and the full Senate, but the House as well. The bill is hundreds of pages long, and hundreds of amendments to it have already been circulated. As the only other current Senator who has chaired this committee, I know that you have a big task ahead of you.

I commend the bipartisan group of Senators who have developed the bill we begin marking up today. No one should expect a simple solution to such a complex set of problems -- but I believe that our goal should be serious, effective legislation that can be broadly supported not only by Congress but also by the American people. I cannot speculate at this early stage about the likelihood of success, but I believe that it is possible and will do whatever I can to help reach that goal.

Mr. Chairman, you and I worked for years on patent reform legislation. That process started with a bill many saw as controversial and ended with solid legislation that passed the Senate 89-9. I hope this effort will not take nearly as long, but the patent bill's outcome gives me hope for the task before us now.

Let me mention a few areas to which I will be paying particular attention in the weeks ahead. The first is improving the process for allowing high-skilled individuals to enter the United States and work in important technology and other fields. As you know, I introduced the I-Squared Act which so far has 25 bipartisan co-sponsors, including Judiciary Committee members Senators Klobuchar, Flake, Coons, Lee, and Blumenthal. The bill as currently drafted could render the important the H-1B and L-1 visa categories unworkable for many U.S. employers. In fact, unless it is changed, this bill could encourage American companies to hire skilled foreign nationals abroad rather than in the United States.

The second area involves workers in the agriculture sector of our economy. My friend from California, Senator Feinstein, has been leading a serious effort to achieve what can only be described as a delicate compromise in this area.

The third area is enforcement. In this or any other area, the best legislation in the world is of little value unless it is properly implemented and seriously enforced. We have experience to draw from here, negative experience I have to admit, but experience all the same. We ignore that experience at our peril, and we will shirk our duty and fail the American people if we repeat the mistakes of the past.

As ranking member of the Finance Committee, I am also concerned about issues within that committee's jurisdiction and have circulated amendments on those issues. They include the treatment of registered provisional immigrants under the President's health care law, maintaining and strengthening the ban on legal immigrants from receiving welfare benefits, the collection of back taxes, and the determination of coverage for Social Security benefits. I look forward to working with my colleagues to address these critical issues.

So Mr. Chairman, my belief that this process can succeed will motivate my participation. There are serious disagreements about both principles and policy and achieving real and meaningful legislation will require addressing the concerns and priorities of conservatives as well as liberals, Republicans as well as Democrats, the House as well as the Senate. If we have that perspective now and keep it with us as we move forward, I do believe that we can succeed.

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