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Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. COBURN. Mr. President, I have refrained from being on the floor during this debate, as I listened to it and watched, and I would compliment my colleagues in trying to solve a very difficult problem. But I just heard a speech by my colleague from New Mexico that quotes all sorts of statistics that are not accurate.

I am the ranking member on Homeland Security. Here is what we know: We have estimates, and that is all we have. But we do not know the total attempts to cross our border. We do not know what they are. So when somebody quotes 70 percent to 80 percent, and you have no idea what the denominator is, you do not know what the numbers are.

Here is what the Council on Foreign Relations says about our border. How did they get this data? They went out and interviewed 6,700 illegal immigrants to find out their frequency of attempts, whether they have gone home, what their difficulty was, what their communities were like. Here is what they say right now is the control of our border: It is somewhere between 40 and 65 percent.

So we have the administration that says one thing, but when you ask them for details--as I have, as ranking member on Homeland Security--you cannot get the facts because we do not know.

So I applaud my colleagues for bringing this bill forward. I would love to get to yes on this bill.

I also want to raise the issue on the CBO scoring. What the CBO scoring said was we are still going to have 7.5 million people in the next 10 years come across the border under this plan. So in reaction to that, we have people who--other than one person on Homeland Security who actually has sat through the hearings, who knows what is going on with Homeland Security--we are going to come forward with a bill that is going to increase Border Patrol by 20,000 people. I can tell you, we do not need 20,000 Border Patrol agents. What we need is a coherent, smart strategy, with transparency, in the agency, Homeland Security, so we as Members of Congress can actually see what is going on.

All we have to do is listen to what the administration says and then listen to the people who are actually doing the work--who are the Border Patrol agents, who are the ICE agents, who are the USCIS agents, who are the CBP agents. When we talk with them, we get a totally different story.

Why is it that the people who are actually doing the work are telling us a different story than what the administration is telling us? There is a disconnect there, and we need to understand what that is.

So I look forward to reading the details of the supposed border security amendment. But ask yourself the question: Is it possible to secure our border? If we were to have a terrible outbreak on either our northern or southern border that had a high fatality rate, a high infectious rate, and we decided we were going to close the border tomorrow, could we do it.

There are great things in this base bill that will eliminate a large portion of the draw coming into our Nation through illegal immigration. Those are creating a decline in the attitude of those coming. They know if they come across, they are going to have to be able to prove they are a citizen to be able to get a job. I think that is absolutely right. There is some increase in the work visa programs and the special visa programs--probably not enough.

But if you think, let's just believe the administration, let's believe what people say about this bill, if you can cut it down to 8, 9, 10 percent, then the people coming across the border are not the people looking for a job. The people coming across the border are the people who tend to hurt our society--the drug runners, the human traffickers, the terrorists.

So the question I would ask is, Shouldn't we know that what we are doing as we establish a border security amendment will actually send confidence to the people of this county that, in fact, we are going to secure our border?

The vast majority of people in this country want to solve this problem. I want to solve this problem.

The way we are going to go about it is we are going to get to see an amendment sometime late tonight and then on Saturday we are going to have to vote on whether to proceed with that amendment, not having had the full time to actually consider what the outcome of the recommendations of that amendment are.

So some of the mistakes have been made as we have brought this bill forward. This bill came through the Judiciary Committee. But almost every other major thing that is of controversy in this bill is under the purview and the control of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee which got no sequential referral on this bill.

Where we are hung up on this bill is because we did not do regular order. We did not allow the process to work. We did not let the knowledgeable members of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee have an opportunity to impact this bill in a committee process. So now we are hung up with people who are not on that committee writing an amendment for Homeland Security.

We can write a good amendment for Homeland Security. I told Chuck Schumer and other Members of the Gang of 8 that. But we cannot do it in 2 weeks. We cannot do it with one amendment. What we are going to get is waste, loopholes, and problems. The last thing we need to do is waste another $5 or $6 billion on things that are not going to have a difference in terms of solving the real problem, but we are going to claim it solves the problem so we can pass a bill.

So I wish to get to yes on this bill. I wish to get to a way where we solve this problem and do not create it again in the future. But my concerns are both process and factually; that we are claiming things that are not true. All you have to do is sit before the committees or go talk to the leadership of the Border Patrol, ICE units, CPB, go talk to them. They are sitting there in amazement.

Three weeks ago, I had breakfast with Janet Napolitano. She said she would send me their border control plan by area, by region, the next day. A piece of paper came, but there was no border control plan. So the question I have is, where is the plan?

Of all the good recommendations that are in this bill, it is all going to be
contingent on execution of what is in there. So we are going to pass a bill and pass an amendment and then we are going to ask the very committee that was excluded from making proper recommendations of the bill to oversight it. We will oversight it. But the fact is we will not have any control to control it. So we will be raising the questions and the ineffectiveness. Yet we will not have accomplished what we are telling the American people we are going to accomplish.

What is that? It is that we are going to solve the problems with the illegals who are here. We are going to decrease the demand and draw across our border. We are going to control our border, even though we will not put that as a condition for granting people a movement from the shadows to the open. We will not put that as a condition, even though now with the supposed new border amendment the Border Patrol says they can get us to 90 percent. We will not make that a condition.

So my feeling is, right now, there is a great attempt by eight of my colleagues to try to solve this problem because we are in a hurry and we are in a time crunch. We should not be because the House is not going to take up this bill, but they are going to bring their own. So we ought to do it right. I have a lot of amendments. I would love to have votes on them, would love to have them considered. I understand we cannot call up amendments right now, which is the same dysfunction the Senate has been operating under for the last 7 1/2 , 8 years.

People who are knowledgeable on the committees of jurisdiction do not have the opportunity to improve the bill, to raise questions about the bill through their amendments, to refine the bill. It means we just want to get a bill passed. It does not mean we truly want to solve the problem. I look forward to a time to be able to come back to the floor and offer amendments that will actually improve this bill, that will give transparency to the American public about what we are doing, that will give transparency on how we are going to spend all this money that we are going to take from the very people we are trying to move out of the shadows, and we are not just going to throw money up against a wall and saying we did something when, in fact, we are not going to accomplish the very purpose that we put forward in this bill.

People who come to this country--and I would put myself in the same category. If I was caught in the lack of economic opportunity, I would try any way I could to get into this country of opportunity. But what makes this country a land of opportunity is the rule of law. What we are doing is we are saying--the irony is the people who come here and break the law to get the opportunity from the rule of law, if we do not fix it to where that does not happen again, we are going to unwind the rule of law in this country.

That is the glue that holds this Nation together. It goes something like this: If they do not have to abide by the law, neither do I. So we get an unwinding of the fabric and the confidence in the rule of law in this country. We ought to be very careful with what we do as we say laws do not apply. That is what we are saying with this bill, to a certain group of people, the laws we had on the books are not going to apply. We ought to make sure that does not happen again.

I wish to come back at some time when I can present the ideas of a lot of people who actually have a lot of experience and a lot of knowledge on homeland security and how it operates and how the different divisions within homeland security operate.

I suggest the absence of a quorum.


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