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Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. COBURN. Madam President, I appreciate the comments of my colleague from Texas and his earnest desire to confront the problems in front of us. I would say at the outset that the recognition over the last 8 1/2 to 9 years of being in the Senate is that we have a problem we need to solve, and I don't think anybody disagrees with that, but I think there are two important points to which the American people expect us to pay attention. One is what Reagan described as the shining city on a hill and that people coming here make us better. There is no question about that. What he wanted in 1986 was not all walls, as some people wanted, not all doors, as some people wanted, but a wall with doors.

So there are two basic facts that confront us. One is that the rule of law is the glue that holds us together. And when we hear talk about the American people having confidence as to whether we are going to enforce the rule of law, whether it is on immigration or anything, the very fact is that fabric which is holding this Nation together is being stretched very thin right now, and the last thing we should do in an immigration bill is to stretch that fabric further in terms of the confidence of the American people and in terms of the rule of law.

This bill and this amendment is full of holes all throughout as far as the rule of law is concerned. My colleague from Texas outlined some of that. He also outlined the capability of the waiver--waiving the border fence, waving the requirements for RPI status. It is all written, but it is written so that the Secretary of Homeland Security can waive almost every portion of it. So that is not the rule of law, that is the rule of rulers and whatever the rulers decide.

One of my great disappointments in the Senate is that we too often don't follow regular order. This bill was put together. It did go through the Judiciary Committee, but not once did it come through the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Homeland Security, where Border Patrol, where ICE, USIS--where all the implementation of anything that is in this bill will take place; where, by the way, all the knowledge, all the experience of all the members on that committee for the last 10 or 12 years, with the exception of Senator McCain, was not utilized in putting this bill together. So what we have is some very good effort and well-intentioned effort by a lot of people to do some things, but let me outline where they have it wrong.

The National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers wrote a letter denying the fact that we need 20,000 additional Border Patrol agents. Here are the people who know. How stupid is this?

What we are doing is throwing money and hoping it will stick on a wall and that we can convince our colleagues we have a border security plan when, in fact, there is no border security plan in the United States today. How do I know there is no plan? Because 2 weeks ago I had breakfast with Secretary Napolitano, and I asked her to send--and she said she would--sector by sector, a border plan for the United

States, and I got a 2-page letter that had nothing in it.
This isn't a new border plan. This isn't a specific border plan. The country doesn't have one right now, so we have put this together, outside of the regular order, well-intentioned people trying to solve a problem to assure the American people that in fact we are going to secure our borders.

I will readily admit to you that if I lived in the poverty of some of the Central American nations that I would make every effort on my part to get here--legally or illegally--because the opportunity is here, that opportunity to improve yourself, that opportunity to work hard, that opportunity to live in a Nation that has a justice system where the rule of law reigns supreme. If I were from one of the Central American countries and came here, the very irony would be the fact that I am going to break the law that is the very nurturing thing that gives the opportunity to advance for me and my family.

I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record the letter from the National Association of Former Border Patrol Officers.


Mr. COBURN. Now, what has Senator Cornyn outlined that does not fit with common sense? He said people who commit three misdemeanors, whether it be child abuse or spousal abuse or drunk driving, shouldn't be given RPI status. Yet, under this bill you can do that. And for those who are not familiar with courts of law, it is on the date. So if you got two on one date, that only counts as one. Theoretically, you could have 10 or 12 misdemeanors and still qualify for RPI status. How does that fit with the rule of law? How does that fit with the glue that holds us together? What that does is flaunt the rule of law.

The other thing that I think is very problematic in this bill is we have 20,000 Border Patrol agents but no increase in ICE agents, no increase in USCIS, who are the very people who are going to have to handle the 11 million people here who are going to progress to RPI status. So where is the money to handle the 11 million additional people for ICE and USCIS? It is not in there.

If in fact we want the rule of law to work, then we want the people who qualify under this bill for RPI status to do so under the rule of law, which means you have to investigate and do a background check, and make sure the documentation establishes them being here before December 31 of 2011; that in fact they do have residence here, that in fact they have worked here, and that has to be worked on. That can't just be a blanket. Because the opportunists will take advantage of that system. If in fact there are no ICE agents and there are no USCIS agents to actually handle that, that means everything that has been set up in this bill will happen without an investigation, without knowledge that it is true and, in fact, people qualify for RPI status.

The other side of the bill Senator Cornyn made a point about which I wish to expand upon is the fact we are not going to have an entry and exit visa system because 80 percent of the people go through the land ports, and this bill exempts those land ports totally from that.

You heard Senator Cornyn talk about 40 percent, maybe even 50 percent of the people who are here illegally today came here legally, with a visa. They qualified for a visa, and they overstayed their visa. If in fact we have no internal enforcement, no ICE agents to enforce the visa overstays, we won't change that. The CBO even said you are going to have 7.5 million new illegals--undocumented--come across under this bill. If you have no internal enforcement, there is no way to drive that number down. Yet this bill puts the resources in the wrong place.

You control a border by controlling what the situation is on the border, depending on location, geography, topography, and assets. So throwing 41,000 Border Patrol agents across our southern border might work, but it is a tremendous waste of resources. It might be a jobs program.

The fact is it takes a combination of technology, fencing, Border Patrol, and the right combination for wherever we are talking about to be effective in operational control of the border. But that is not even a part of the bill. It is not part of the bill to have operational control of the border with a 90-percent effective rate. One of the reasons we can't get there--which is one of the things Americans want to see us promise in this bill--is because our control of the border today is somewhere between 40 and 65 percent. That is opposite of what the Secretary of Homeland Security will tell you, but that is what the studies outside of government say when they go to interview those undocumented workers who are here today. They did a very thorough analysis of that and said we are somewhere between 40 and 65 percent.

So the basis of allowing undocumented workers and those who are in our country who can contribute greatly to our country, the basis of putting them on some type of status to move toward a green card status and ultimately citizenship has to be based on some real facts.

Why would somebody not agree to 90-percent control of the border? The only reason they would not agree to it is they don't think it is achievable. The only reason it is not achievable is because we don't have the political will to do it. It is technically achievable. You can't get to 100 percent, but with good leadership, good sector-by-sector planning, good internal enforcement, and great legal immigration so you decrease the illegal, we could get there. Why is that not part of this bill? It is because the rule of law does not reign supreme in the Senate.

Let me make a couple other points. One of the big holes in this bill in section 1202 says the following: The Secretary shall initiate removal proceedings in accordance with chapter 4 of title II of the Immigration Nationality Act, 8 USC 1221; two, confirm that immigration relief or protection has been granted or is pending or otherwise close to 90 percent of the cases of immigrants who were admitted to the United States as nonimmigrants, et cetera.

All that means is she can waive the requirements under the bill. She can
waive the fence. All throughout this bill we are letting a non elected individual have the power to undermine every aspect of any tooth in this bill.

When the immigration debate started, my hope was that we would do the principle most Americans want us to do, which is we need to solve the problem of the undocumented in this country. We need to bring them out of the shadows. But the price to do that is cogent and realistic control of our borders.

Let me make a point. If in fact you don't have cogent and realistic control of your borders and you do everything else in this bill and everything works as the authors want it to work, guess who is going to be coming across the border. The very people we actually don't want here: the drug runners, the human smugglers, the criminals, the terrorists.

So when I say 90-percent operational control of the border and I am in Oklahoma, people look at me with askance. They say, Well, that means 10 percent of the people are still coming. And guess what makes up that 10 percent. The worst of what tries to get into this


So it is not just about getting a border security plan to secure our border, it is about limiting access of the criminals and the terrorists and the worst from coming into our country. This bill is going to allow that to continue. It is not going to stop that. It will continue.

To Senator Cornyn's point, what we need is to take this out of the political arena. We need to make it so the pressure is that we do what is best for America, and one which is best for America is having a lot more people come here and contribute to our melting pot. There is no question about that. But we have to have it where it cannot be manipulated by whoever is in charge for political benefit. That is why the Cornyn plan is novel in terms of actually solving the problem.

I am not going to be here much longer, less than 3 1/2 years, but I can already predict what is going to happen if this piece of legislation comes through: My daughters and their husbands 15 years from now are going to be listening to the same debate on the Senate floor.

The biggest deficit the Senate has, in my mind, is failure to put teeth into what they know will actually fix the problems in this country. This bill has no teeth. This bill has $48 billion thrown up against the wall to buy the votes to say we are going to have a secure border when in fact we are not.

That doesn't mean we can't get a secure border. I worked for 2 weeks with my staff. I told Senator Schumer from New York I would love to try to do that, but in 2 weeks you can't do it. What you have done, you haven't done it either, and you have done it from a deficit of knowledge rather than using knowledge. You didn't use any of the significant historical staff on the committee of jurisdiction to help write this legislation. The institutional knowledge is not in it. It will not succeed.

I don't know ultimately how I will vote on this amendment, but I am certainly not going to vote to proceed to this until we have had a chance--more than 72 hours--to actually work through and be able to ascertain and also share the flaws in the approach.

For a third of that amount of money you could easily secure the border, and we are going to spend $48 billion. And in there is another jobs program adding to the 102 we have now, at $1.5 billion. GAO has already said we need to redo our jobs program. Well, we have. We have an earmark for another youth jobs program, and we won't even fix the youth jobs programs we have now.

Madam President, I yield the floor.


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