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Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act--Contiued--

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. SESSIONS. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. SESSIONS. Madam President, I appreciate the excellent remarks from the heart of my good friend Marco Rubio. He is a great addition to the Senate. And I would say the heart of America is good. The heart of this country is good. For 30 years they have been pleading with Congress to keep a generous immigration policy afoot in America, but at the same time they have been pleading with us to end the illegality that has continued for years now. The people have pleaded with us to do something about it, and year after year after year Congress has refused, the President has refused. That is why we now have 11 million people in the country illegally.

I think the heart of America is good and people are willing to deal compassionately and not try to deport 11 million people. They want to do the right thing about this, but by a 4-to-1 margin they have said they want to see this Congress do what Members of Congress have repeatedly promised and never delivered on--create a lawful system, a system we can be proud of, a system that serves the national interests.

As I explained this morning, rather than working with law enforcement groups and prosecutors and considering the needs of everyday citizens, the sponsors of this bill have spent months in negotiation with special interests and lobbyists to produce a bill that will not work. That is the problem we have before us today. This will create even more lawlessness in the future.

I want my colleague to hear what our Nation's immigration officers--men and women on the frontlines--have to say about this legislation. Shouldn't we listen to them? They asked to be able to participate in these secret negotiations, and they were rebuffed. I asked that they be allowed to participate, but they were rebuffed. Let's hear what they say about the bill--the bill Senator Schumer said in committee was tough as nails, and the TV ads running have said it is the toughest bill in history, maybe the history of the world. Is that correct? Is that correct, I have to ask? I think not.

This is a joint statement issued today by the councils representing Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers--the ICE officers--and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service officers, a joint statement of two associations representing these tens of thousands of officers. Shouldn't we listen to what they are saying? Please listen, colleagues.

ICE officers and USCIS adjudication officers have pleaded with lawmakers not to adopt this bill. The Schumer-Rubio-Corker-Hoeven proposal will make Americans less safe, and it will ensure more illegal immigration in the future--especially visa overstays. It provides legalization for thousands of dangerous criminals while making it more difficult for our officers to identify public safety and national security threats. The legislation was guided from the beginning by anti-enforcement special interests and, should it become law, it will have the desired effect of these groups: blocking immigration enforcement.

This is an anti-public safety bill and an anti-law enforcement bill. We urge all lawmakers to oppose the final cloture vote on Thursday and to oppose the bill. We call on all Americans to pick up the phone and call their members of Congress.

So who do we trust on this question of whether we have a bill that will work? Our good political Senators who work hard but haven't been out on the frontlines doing the work or the people we pay who try to do the work every day, putting their lives at risk?

There is something else I would like to touch on. I think it is one of the least-discussed parts of the conversation. I am sure we will have others talk in more detail about enforcement failures of the legislation, but in many ways this could be the most important. I know our friends in the media certainly haven't given a lot of coverage to it, but I hope we will think about it more; that is, the future flow or the legal immigration part of the bill.

The Congressional Budget Office tells us that the bill's large increase in mostly lower skilled legal workers will push down wages and increase unemployment. That needs to be talked about. It must be fully understood. Hundreds of people are hurting today.

There was an article recently in the New York Times--I think 700 people camped out for 5 days to get a few jobs as elevator repairmen. They waited in the rain, they camped out, they waited in line hoping to get one of those jobs.

There was an article involving Philadelphia about individuals who had prior convictions and wanted work. They set up an opportunity for them to apply to find a job. They expected 1,000, and 2,000 showed up. They interviewed a number of them, and the stories they gave are heartbreaking.

Don't we need to consider the impact this policy could have on working Americans? It is a sensitive topic but a crucial one.

Here is what David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, said recently:

There are those who say you can't have a sensible debate because it's somehow wrong to express concerns about immigration. Now I think this is nonsense. Yes, of course it needs to be approached in a sensitive and rational manner, but I've always understood the concerns--the genuine concerns of hard-working people, including many in our migrant communities, who worry about uncontrolled immigration. They worry about the pressure it puts on public services, the rapid pace of change in some of our communities and of course the concerns, deeply held, that some people might be able to come and take advantage of our generosity without making a proper contribution to our country.

Mr. Cameron goes on to say:

It is our failure in the past to reform welfare and training that meant that we left too many of our young people in a system where they didn't have proper skills, they didn't have proper incentives to work, and instead we saw large numbers of people coming from overseas to fill vacancies in our economy. Put simply, our job is to educate and train our youth, not to rely on immigration to fill the skill gaps.

Does that resonate with any of our people today? Have we thought through this as to how we should handle these matters?

Let's look at our own situation right here in America. Twenty-one million Americans are unable to find full-time work. One in three without a high school diploma is unemployed. Forty-seven million Americans are on food stamps. Labor force participation is the lowest since the 1970s.

The percentage of Americans actually working is lower and has been continually falling since the 1970s. It goes back to that date when women were just beginning to enter the workforce.

One in three youth in our Nation's Capital is living in poverty. It appears we are in an era of a new normal--economists have been talking about this--a new normal where we see slower growth in developed economies than we normally would see. There is more robotics, and businesses are looking to contain the growth of employment. Low job creation has been the result.

Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that I be notified after 20 minutes.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. SESSIONS. Our own Congressional Budget Office has done a 10-year economic projection, as they do every year. They did this in January, unconnected to immigration. They found in the second 5 years of our 10-year window, 2018 to 2023, we would only create 75,000 jobs.

Some have said we are going to bring in workers, and that is going to create jobs. We will talk about what economists really say about that. But what does this legislation do? I think this legislation has not given thought to the plight of these unemployed Americans.

Colleagues, the legislation that is before us today has four times more guest workers. These are people who come only to work. They are not just seasonal workers, they come for years at a time with their families, but they come specifically to take a job--four times more than in the 2007 bill that failed and many objected to on the grounds it would hurt workers.

It also triples the grants of permanent status awarded to legal immigrants over the next decade relative to current law. That was the result of the legalization process. Experts who have looked at this and other factors have come to the same conclusion: There would be at least 30 million people who would be given legal status over the next decade, whereas normally we would give 10 million people legal status. Yet to this day the sponsors of the legislation refuse to tell us how many would come into the country.

What we do know is that the plan is not a merit-based plan as promised, but it is mostly lower skilled, meaning it will hurt our poor and working-class citizens the most. We have data that shows that. This will be a hammer blow for working-class Americans.

The Civil Rights Commission had hearings, and members wrote us. They said it is going to devastate poor workers. They said,

We don't have a shortage of lower-skilled workers. We have a glut of lower-skilled workers.

That is a direct quote from their letter. So let's compare our current situation when the legislation was introduced in 2007. Today, 5 million more Americans are unemployed than in 2007; 20 million more Americans are on food stamps; and unemployment among teenagers is 54 percent higher

than in 2007. Meanwhile, median household income is 8.9 percent lower than in 1999. That is huge.

Professor Borjas at Harvard, himself an immigrant who studies immigration and economics, has said a large part of that decline is driven by the large immigration flow that comes into our country. This would increase it dramatically. We want to have immigration. We are not going to stop immigration. We are going to maintain a generous immigration flow. But the people need to know this bill increases it dramatically.

CBO did a report on the legislation. This is what they found: Unequivocally, the legal immigration surge in this bill will reduce average wages for a decade. There is a chart in CBO's report. I had it on the Senate floor earlier. Wages will remain lower for many years after that than if the bill had never passed.

What about unemployment, the number of people out of work? According to CBO, it will increase, and per capita, GNP will be lower for the next quarter of a century.

Yes, you are going to have an increase in GDP--and our colleagues are quick to say that--because of the large new group of people. But that increase per person in America doesn't occur. It reduces the per capita GNP. And these are extremely conservative estimates. Dr. Borjas in his report suggests the situation will be worse than this.

To whom do we owe our allegiance? To these groups who want more people in the high-tech world, agriculture world, meatpacking, or other businesses, or to the American citizens, who work hard, pay their taxes, fight our wars, and obey our laws? Who is speaking up for their legitimate interests?

So the time is long past, as Prime Minister Cameron has said, for a national discussion over illegal immigration policies. We all believe in it. No one proposes ending immigration. It is a deep part of our tradition as a nation. But a nation has not only a right but a duty to establish a responsible flow that promotes assimilation of those who come here, promotes self-sufficiency, rising wages, and helps identify people who can flourish.

The last thing we want to do is to invite people to come to America to work and find out there are no jobs for them here or that they are putting Americans out of work in order to get a job. That doesn't make sense. We have not had the kind of discussion we need. The data indicates, objectively speaking, that this will be a detriment to working Americans.

A great nation needs a policy that promotes its legitimate national interests, that considers the tough time workers are having today as a result of high unemployment and falling wages, a policy that rejects ideas that will pull down even further the wages of hurting workers; that could, as Senator Sanders has said, create a permanent underclass in America. It is a dangerous thing. We need to do it right.

The legislation before us is a dramatic step. I urge my colleagues to reject the bill and to work on a positive reform plan that serves the national interests of all Americans--immigrant and native born.

Sadly, this legislation advances the interests of those who wrote it--many of them with very special interests--at the expense of the general public.

The vote we are about to have is for final passage. The promises of an open and fair process have been as hollow as the promises that this bill would be the toughest ever and will end the lawlessness in the future forever. It just will not happen. Our law officers have told us this.

This legislation is amnesty first. The legality occurs first. It plainly lacks the kind of mechanisms that are necessary to create a law enforcement system that will work. There is a lack of commitment to that. You can see it throughout the bill. It is not written by people who are out there every day and who know the problems with enforcement. If it were, they would have fixed so many of these problems that are fully shown throughout the bill.

Yes, more money has been promised with the recent amendment for the border, but that is in the distant future. What about the rest of the bill? The E-Verify workplace enforcement system is terribly flawed. It has been delayed. It could be put to work right now. We don't need to wait 5 years as this bill does. Why it would be delayed that long is beyond me, unless you are not very interested in getting started and making sure that half the people are legalized and others can't come in and take a job who enter illegally.

The entry-exit visa system in this bill, S. 744, this 1,000-page bill, is much weaker than current law. Current law says you must have a biometric entry-exit system at sea, air, and land ports. This bill says you only have to have an electronic system at airports and seaports, making the system incomplete and unable to identify who stays and who has returned home on time.

Interior enforcement is much weaker--read the passionate letters from our law enforcement officers as I read this morning, pleading with us not to pass the bill because, they say, it will hurt enforcement and weaken national security.

The method of processing those given legal status will not work. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which manages this, has one big objection to this bill. They say there is no way they can accomplish what will be asked of them if this bill is passed. They say it will lead to lawlessness, and they will be unable to identify dangerous people who should not be in the country.

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Mr. SESSIONS. I thank the Chair. I will be wrapping up. Far from having fines pay for the cost of this amnesty as the sponsors promised, this is a huge budget buster--a huge budget buster now. The ObamaCare provision that was supposed to ensure that persons who were given legal status did not get subsidized health care now provides an incentive for businesses not to hire American workers because they will have to pay the ObamaCare premiums but would hire foreign workers, the illegal workers who are now given legal status--they would be having multithousand-dollar advantages in hiring them over American workers.

The legislation will not work. Let's continue to work through all these problems together. I do believe that this--our bill's sponsors are clearly correct to say we need to fix this broken system. A bill that will respond to the pleas of the American people for a lawful immigration system that serves our national interest and in which we can take pride is what I will support. How can we vote for a bill our own Congressional Budget Office says will reduce average wages in America for 12 years.

We have in this group of American workers thousands, millions of immigrant workers, millions of minorities and African Americans and others at low wages. This legislation, at a time they are hurting very badly will reduce average wages for 12 years, will increase unemployment, and will reduce per capita GDP for over 25 years. This is policy we have to ask serious questions about, all this at a time of high unemployment, long-term falling wages, surging welfare and disability and dependency.

It is not a healthy trend in America. We have to ask these questions. Our real focus, as Prime Minister Cameron has said, should be to work hard to train our people, our unemployed, our young people for jobs that pay a decent wage, have a health care and a retirement plan. This legislation will not end the lawlessness as our professional officers have repeatedly told us. It will not do so. It will give legality--immunity, if you want to call it that--virtually immediately. There is a promise of enforcement in the future, but our officers say it will not happen. It is not going to happen now.

I believe they are correct. I had the honor to be a Federal prosecutor for quite a long time and I know law officers and I know their difficulties and I totally agree with them.

This was a letter that was written today from the ICE officer head, Mr. Chris Crane, a true patriot. He has worked so hard to do this. He said one of the problems with the bill:

..... is a failure to enforce the nation's immigration laws on the interior of the United States. It is not a border issue. It cannot and will not end as a result of increased border security. It must be resolved through increased interior enforcement.

40% of all illegal immigrants currently in the United States did not illegally cross the border, but instead entered legally with a visa and didn't leave when it expired. 40,000 border patrol agents provided in your legislation will never come into contact with these individuals. .....

Do you hear that, colleagues? These Border Patrol agents are never coming in contact with the people who are in the interior who came on visa and chose not to return. He goes on to say:

Systems like E-Verify and biometric Entry/Exit--still missing from your bill--may identify millions of illegal immigrants and status violators, but ICE officers will not exist to locate and apprehend them rendering the systems useless. The majority of foreign nationals identified by these systems will remain in the United States. .....

500,000 ICE fugitives are currently at large in the United States. ICE estimates 2 million criminal aliens at large in the United States, 900,000 criminal aliens are arrested by local police each year.

They go on to note there are only 5,000 ICE officers in America. This administration sued State and local governments that try to help the ICE officers get their job done.

Then the joint statement today from the ICE and USCIS Officers Association says this:

ICE officers and USCIS adjudications officers have pleaded with lawmakers not to adopt this bill, but to work with us on real, effective reforms for the American people.

This bill, they say, is an:

..... anti-public safety bill and an anti-law enforcement bill. We urge all lawmakers to oppose the final cloture vote today and to oppose the bill.

This legislation will not end the lawlessness. I wish it were different, but
those are the facts. It does not create a merit-based future flow as has been promised, and it leaves us in a very difficult position. I feel like there is no choice for us today. Let's vote no on the legislation. It is not going to end the efforts. We are going to have to continue to wrestle with this.

The good news is that the House, at least initially, what I have seen in their work indicates they are giving a far more prudent approach to it. The first bill they produced--I tried to offer it as an amendment, but it did not get brought up--has an effective effort at improving interior law enforcement. That is the kind of thing we need to be doing. Then we can win the confidence of the American people, and we can move past this very difficult time in our history.

I reserve the remainder of the time on this side.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. SESSIONS. Madam President, as I have looked at the legislation--and we have wrestled with what goes in it--I will just share with my colleagues my perspective, having been in charge of enforcing Federal laws as a U.S. attorney in the interior of the country.

We need to understand a couple things. The border is very important. There has been wide open illegality at our borders for years.

San Diego, a number of years ago, was having drugs, crimes, violence. They built a fence and prosperity rose on both sides of the fence. Crime went down. It just had to be done, and they have been very happy with it.

That helps a lot, and it is not at all impossible for us to get our border under control today. It does not require that much more than current capacity, but what we need is an absolute commitment from the President and the Director of Homeland Security to get that done. We have lacked that.

I want to move beyond just the requirements of the border. There are other areas that are critical to having a lawful system of immigration. Those include entry-exit visas, and that includes workplace enforcement.

Under current law, Congress has passed--and actually there have been six laws to this effect in the last 10 years--these laws require that there be an entry-exit biometric visa system at all air, sea, and land ports. The 9/11 Commission recommended that. The 9/11 Commission--when they had a review of what had been done toward accomplishing their recommendations--they went back to it and warned that we had not completed it. It is current law. It requires a biometric entry-exit system.

People who come into our country today are fingerprinted, but when they leave the country they are not checked. So we do not know--when they got their visa and they entered the country--whether they ever left.

There are arguments that have been made that it would cost billions and billions of dollars. But a pilot project, which I just discovered recently--I did not know it was there--was in Atlanta and one of the other airports. In Atlanta, they did this: A person goes through the airport to depart from the United States, they go by a handheld fingerprint-reading machine--police officers have them in their cars; they can stop a drunk driver and check their fingerprints right on the side of the road--they put their finger on that, they go out of the gate, and you know whether they have departed the country.

So this is a significant technological advancement. It works. In Atlanta, when they did that, they caught over 100 people on the watch list--people for whom there were felony warrants, people on the terrorist watch list. They knew, and we have a record of the people who left the country.

That is critical to our system. We have almost gotten there. But there has been a failure to see it happen because some people do not want it to happen. That is not in this legislation. This bill eliminates the requirement of a biometric system, and it eliminates the requirement that we have an exit system at the border. It is only air and sea. That is a major diminishment of an absolutely critical part of our system. It is going to be even more critical.

Why will it be more critical? Because we are going to have the doubling of the number of people who come to our country on visas, and we are going to have an increased problem of visa overstays. The Congressional Budget Office warned of that in their report. It is obvious. The Citizenship and Immigration Services and the ICE officers have warned of it repeatedly to us in their letters. So this has to be a part of our system. It just has to be. The fact that it is not in there indicates the people who drafted the bill had no real interest in seeing enforcement enhanced, but they actually wanted to allow the enforcement to be weakened. So that is a nonstarter. This has been in the law for over 10 years.

So the ICE officers have told us: Look, 40 percent of the people now who are here illegally came by visa overstays. But that is going to increase dramatically for a lot of reasons. One of them is we are going to double the number of people who come by visas under this bill.

So they have warned us that this concern about a de facto amnesty will continue because we have no people on the interior of the United States to enforce the law. You are going to 40,000 Border Patrol agents, but only 5,000 people inside the interior of the entire United States of America.

This President, as part of his systematic plan to stop enforcement, has sued States and broken the 287(g) agreements with States that allow them to participate and help the ICE officers do their jobs. States cannot prosecute people. States cannot deport people. But States can, as part of their job, when a police officer arrests somebody for a crime or drunk driving--and they identify them as being illegally in the country--they can take them to the ICE officers and help them do their job. And there are agreements to do this to this effect.

What has happened? This administration has eliminated those agreements and canceled the program. I helped write the program. Lots of States were participating happily in it, and they were not being forced to do anything they did not want to do, but it allowed them to be more effective in doing their job.

So the problem is when you see that missing in this 1,200-page bill, but you see provision after provision after provision that focuses on other issues, focuses on issues important to special interests who helped write the bill. Then you begin to get suspicious about what is happening. That is why the ICE officers and the Citizenship and Immigration Services were so concerned about not being able to participate in the program effectively and to share their views. It is clear they did not want their views.

So President Obama--although it has been maintained pretty carefully that he was not involved in writing the legislation, it appears he quite clearly was. They are not happy with the ICE officers. The ICE officers actually sued Secretary Napolitano for stopping them from enforcing the law they have sworn to enforce. They say they are being required to violate their oath and their commitment to the law by policies from politicians in the Homeland Security Department. They have written it in letter after letter after letter, openly saying the politicians in the Department are overriding the law--directing us and undermining our ability to do what we are sworn to do. They have a lawsuit pending about it. I have never heard of that, that officers would do that.

Then we have the confusion over the E-Verify system. Senator Portman improved the bill dramatically with his amendment--or would have. He was not able to get it up for a vote. But the E-Verify system is in place today and it is utilized by governments and by contractors who do work for the government. I think people who want to voluntarily use it can use it.

You can give a Social Security number to your boss or your employer-to-be and he runs it and checks. What they find is many illegal workers are using the same Social Security number as other people. The computer and the Social Security department catches that. That tells the employer there are six different people using this Social Security number. You should not hire this person until he has been checked out.

So that is the way the E-Verify system works. It takes about 3 minutes. It has a 99-percent accuracy rate, but the forces out there have blocked the legislation for E-Verify. Even this minimum standard that is operating today, we had to fight to get an extension. I had to hold up legislation to guarantee that they would at least extend the current system because there are forces out there that put in big money that do not like this project. They do not like it. They want to end it. They are afraid it will be expanded.

Any plan that pretends to be serious about workplace enforcement has to utilize the E-Verify. Well, this bill, instead of just taking the system and expanding it--which would not take much effort; computers are capable of handling the numbers--instead of just doing that, they have done it in a way that delays it for 5 years. So to me this indicates there is not an intensity of interest after the amnesty has been given.

After people have been given legal status, they will be given a Social Security number. They will not be hurt by having to have their number checked. They will have a legitimate Social Security number. They will be legal. They will take any job out there. But the people who come in later, the people who did not qualify, people who otherwise were criminals and should not be getting a job and do not qualify for this provisional status, they would be identified for years under this system. It indicates a lack of seriousness in the commitment.

I see Senator Grassley is here. I will wrap up by saying that creating a lawful system of immigration requires more than border enforcement. It is important but you have to have interior enforcement. You have to have workplace enforcement. You have to have entry-exit visa enforcement. This is critical.

As I have been stressing, we do not talk about it enough. The bill also sets out in its 1,200 pages the future flow of workers into America. Our colleagues have said it is a merit-based system. We have a points system. Unfortunately, that is not substantially correct. It looks to us like less than 15 percent of the people enter into our country under our plan by a merit-based system. Canada does that. They are very happy with that. I think about 60 percent of their people do so. The more education you have, the more job skills you have, the more fluency you have in the language, you get more points.

Under this merit-based system, it has about 15 percent of the people covered by it in a point system. The fact that your brother is here is equal to 10 points. If you have a 4-year college degree, that is only equal to 5 points. It takes a master's degree to get 10 points, equal to the family connection points. So the point system is still heavily skewed to things other than actual job skills, education level, and the ability to be productive and flourish in our society.

We want to bring people to our country who are going to be able to flourish, do well, be able to find a job, and not be unemployed or the only skill they have is one that Americans are applying for in big numbers and they would take a job from an American, unemploying an American. So we have to create a system that serves the national interest and identifies the kind of workers the country needs and we can absorb as a part of the over 1 million or so people we admit each year lawfully into America.

That makes sense to me. Also, the guest worker programs are exceedingly complex. There are W programs, there are E programs. There are different kinds of programs throughout this whole bill. The net result, the number of people who come not to be permanent citizens, not to be immigrants, but come as guest workers will double under this legislation. That makes it harder for the legal immigrant who is new in America trying to find work to get a job. They are having to compete with the guest workers. So those are the kinds of things we need to be thinking about as we go forward.

I wish to express my appreciation to the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, Senator Chuck Grassley. He has been a student of this problem since 1986. He has shared with us his perspective on it. He has a deep conviction that if we go through this process again, it needs to be done in a way that we can be proud of a few years later, not be embarrassed about as we were after 1986.

So we would create a system that allows a lawful flow to occur but stops the illegal flow in the future. That is the problem I think this legislation has, among others.

Senator Grassley, thank you for your efforts. Good work. I have enjoyed working with you and Senator Leahy, who conducted a tough series of hearings. He let us have votes. We got a lot of votes in the Judiciary Committee. He asked if anybody else had another amendment when we finished. We got it done. That has not happened on the floor today. We have only had nine votes, and three of those were motions to table very important amendments that deserved more consideration than that.

I yield the floor.

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