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Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. GRASSLEY. Mr. President, this amendment is the first of many that will i
improve the bill and do what the American people expect us to do.

The American people are being asked to accept a legalization program and, in exchange for that--and that is a very compassionate approach--we would be assured and the American people would be assured that the laws were going to be enforced. But as we read the details of the bill, it is clear the approach taken is to legalize first and enforce later.

My amendment would fundamentally change that. The amendment now pending would require the Secretary to certify to Congress that the Secretary has maintained effective control over the entire southern border for 6 months before proceeding and processing applications for registered provisional immigration status. It is a commonsense approach: Border security first. Legalize second.

To summarize, the bill requires the Secretary of Homeland Security, within 6 months that a bill is signed into law, to submit a ``comprehensive southern border security strategy'' as well as another plan called the ``southern border fencing strategy.''

After those so-called plans are submitted to Congress, the Secretary can start processing applications to legalize the 12 million people who are in the United States. The result is that those who are undocumented would become legal after a mere plan is submitted--not even considering if the plan will work.

There are two major flaws. The first is, Why do we need legislation to have the Secretary submit a border security strategy? Isn't that already the Secretary's responsibility? Do we really need to pass a law to tell her to do her job? We shouldn't have to.

This is a reminder of what comes up in my town meetings in the State of Iowa. I have had 73 of those in the 99 counties already. When I start, somebody will ask me about immigration. So I try to give them an update on where we are on the immigration legislation and what I believe about it. But invariably, without a doubt, somebody, before I start to explain, says, We don't need any more legislation. All we have to do is enforce what is already on the books and we wouldn't have a problem. So that gets kind of back to the point: Why do we need more plans? Isn't it the Secretary's responsibility already to enforce the law?

Second, the bill would start legalization even if the Secretary's strategies are flawed and inadequate. What if this Secretary isn't committed to fencing? What if this Secretary believes the border is more secure than ever? Well, in fact, Secretary Napolitano told the committee she thought our borders were secure. That ought to concern all of us, and for sure we couldn't sell that proposition to some of the people who come to my town meetings in Iowa.

RPI status is more than probation. RPI status is legalization. Once a person gets RPI, they get the freedom to live in the United States. They can travel, work, and benefit from everything our country offers. RPI status is de facto permanent legalization. We all know it will never be taken away. Given the history of these types of programs, we know it will never end.

My amendment improves the trigger and fulfills the wishes of the American people: Secure the borders. My amendment ensures the border is secured before one person gets legal status under this act.

If we pass the bill as is, there will be no pressure on this administration or any future administration to secure the borders. There will be no push by the legalization advocates to get that job done. We need to work together to secure the border first, including Members of Congress, members of the administration, business leaders, union leaders, and advocates for all kinds of immigration people. We need to be in the same boat to push for secure borders. But if we have legalization before we know the border is secure, then we break up and balkanize the advocates for immigration reform and the promise that goes with it of border security.

So we need to secure the border for several reasons so we are not back in the same position 20 years from now. We need to protect U.S. sovereignty. We need to protect homeland security and improve national security.

There are a variety of threats to our border. There are potential terrorists and transnational criminals. Foreign nationals use the porous border to import threatening goods such as weapons of mass destruction, illegal drugs, contraband, counterfeit products, and other products meant to harm Americans or hurt our economy.

Under my amendment the Secretary would have to prove that we have ``effective control''--and I have not changed that definition of ``effective control;'' it is as defined in the bill--and to do it for at least 6 months before applications for RPI status are processed.

I agree with at least one of the authors of this bill. If this border security title is not improved, this bill does not stand a chance of making it all the way to the President of the United States.

My amendment is this very necessary first step of fixing this issue.

People do not trust the government will get this right or that this administration is dedicated to securing the border. We do not need a new bill to do that. All we need to do is prove to the American people that we are sincere and we will secure the border. That is what is promised by the authors. I do not doubt their good intentions. But when you have a plan submitted, and that is the basis for legalization, it seems to me we ought to have proof that the border is secure. So let's wait until the border is secure and then legalize.

I thank the chairman for the courtesy of offering this first amendment. Also, the chairman was not here when I spoke yesterday, but I said that he promised an open and transparent process in committee, and we had that transparent, open process, and I thank the chairman for doing that and seeing that it was done. I hope that process can continue on the floor.

I yield the floor.


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