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Public Statements

Immigration Reform

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Madam Speaker, I think what we are engaging on today has the potential of being truly historic. We need a vote on immigration reform.

Several weeks ago, I was home in the district I represent. I go home every week. The Secretary of Commerce was visiting in Silicon Valley. She gave a good speech. After she finished her speech, she invited questions. The very first question was from a young man--a scientist--who said this:

I started a company. I am about to hire four Americans. But my visa is up next month. What am I supposed to do?

As I was talking to that young man, another young man came forward--another scientist who has just formed a company. He is about to go into a hiring mode, but his visa was about up.

So when you take a look and listen to the people in Silicon Valley saying we are going to lose jobs in America because we have a dysfunctional immigration system, that shows the problem that we have allowed to fester.

Recently, I met with farmers. They told me that they are not planting crops this year because they can't identify who is going to pick those crops. About 80 percent of the migrant farmworkers in America are here without their proper documents. Do I think that is a good situation? No, I do not.

A number of years ago, when I chaired the Immigration Subcommittee, we had a wonderful witness, Dr. Richard Land, then the head of the Southern Baptist Convention, and this was his testimony. He said:

We had for many years two signs at the southern border. One sign said, ``No Trespassing,'' and the other sign said, ``Help Wanted.''

Those farmworkers who are here picking the vegetables that we will enjoy at our meals responded to that ``Help Wanted'' sign.

Sometimes people say you should do it in the legal way. Get to the end of the line. And this is from someone who was a former immigration lawyer. I used to teach immigration law at the University of Santa Clara. The truth is, there is no line to get into. We have created a dysfunctional system that does not serve American interests.

H.R. 15 is not a perfect bill. No piece of legislation is. But it was a bill that attracted broad bipartisan support in the United States Senate.

This discharge petition says just one thing: Let's have a vote. Why would the Speaker of the House and the Republican leadership refuse to allow this body to have an up-or-down vote on that bill?

A discharge petition is something that has been in the rules of the House for many, many decades. It has been used occasionally in the past to actually un-bottle-up bills that the leadership didn't want the body to vote on. Most recently, campaign finance reform came to the floor of the House because of a discharge petition.

A lot of Members of the House say that they favor immigration reform. Here is an opportunity to hold every Member of this House accountable. If you favor reform of the immigration system, you should favor having an up-or-down vote on H.R. 15. If you favor an up-or-down vote, we expect you, no matter what your party designation, to sign this discharge petition so the House of Representatives may have an opportunity to address this question and vote ``yes'' or ``no'' on this bill.

I hope that members of the public who are aware of the need for immigration reform to reform a system that is not serving our economic interests, that is breaking up families and leaving children in foster care while their parents are deported, will call their Members of the House of Representatives and ask them to sign this discharge petition. It is in the rules. It is what we expect.

We need a vote.

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