EMERGENCY SUPPLEMENTAL APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2005 -- (Senate - April 19, 2005)
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Mr. CRAIG. Mr. President, the Senator from Arizona has come up with some fascinating and interesting explanations of why his is not and ours is amnesty. By that I simply mean there are a lot of people who believe that if people have broken the law and that you grant them any forgiveness whatsoever, that is amnesty. But now, according to Mr. Chambliss and Mr. Kyl, we have a whole new definition of why theirs is not, even though they grant those who have broken the law a blue card to continue to stay and work. They say there is a difference.
You know, there really is not a difference in this respect. If I am not amnestied by the Chambliss-Kyl amendment, there is no stretch of the imagination that would suggest otherwise about the Craig-Kennedy bill. I do not believe our bill has amnesty, because I think when you ask someone who has broken the law to pay back to society and to limit their rights, then recognizing that they have done so and allowing them to earn that legal status--and certainly that is what we do in the Craig-Kennedy bill. We demand, if you will, 360 days over 3 to 6 years in the field, working hard, so you gain the right to apply for a green card. I do not call that amnesty; I call that hard-earned, labor-paid-for, to get the ability to stay and work. You can have your own thoughts about amnesty, but nowadays I am finding out anyone can have his or her own definition of amnesty. Amnesty is in the eye of the beholder. The word is an epithet, like calling someone a communist.
In other ways, there is a very real difference between these two approaches. Let me outline it. We have 200-some-odd agriculture groups, part of a coalition of 509 groups, supporting our bill. It is very bipartisan. It is a significant reform of the H-2A program. It is not just crafted in the last minutes as a stopgap measure to block and divide. It is not so narrowly crafted that it delivers almost no real benefit. Most important, we say something that is fundamental to Americans who are concerned that our border to the south is now out of control and people are pouring over it. We say you had to be here last year, working for 100 days last year, not just here on April 1 of this year, like the other amendment. So regarding that problem we are all hearing about on our borders to the south, where people are pouring over, if they made it by April 1, the Kyl-Chambliss bill says: You get a blue card. You can stay 3 years, 6 years, 9 years, and in 9 years, if you are capable of developing your job into a supervisory position, you can stay permanently.
That is not amnesty? Again, I think I have well established, no matter who tries to interpret what amnesty is, that it is in the mind of the beholder.
The reason I am on the floor today and the reason we have been allowed to come to the floor is because in this particular bill we became germane by an action of the House. I know the Senator from Arizona talks urgency. We have been 3 months producing an urgent supplemental. It has been 3 months since the President asked us to respond. That is not the fault of the Senate. The House took 2 of those months. The House turned this appropriations bill into an immigration bill. We can take a few more hours to discuss AgJOBS.
Can't we take a day and a half to solve what Americans believe is the No. 1 problem in our country, or a problem that is in the top three, and that is uncontrolled immigration and uncontrolled borders? What we are trying to do with a segment of our economy and a segment of our workforce that works predominantly in agriculture is to gain control of the process, shape it, identify it, and stop the flood that is coming across our borders.
Let me show you some of the work we have done. I think it better explains to America the urgency of the problem. They hear the reports on the borders. Now let's look at the statistics as to what we have been doing since 9/11.
The morning of 9/11, we woke up to a rude awakening, that America had slacked off way too long on its immigration laws and that we had 8 to 12 million undocumented foreign nationals in our country--undocumented. That meant that they were here, by definition, illegally. Most were hard working, and most are hard working. Most are law abiding. But some were here to do us evil. Some were here to kill us. We found that out to our great surprise.
That was more than 1,300 days ago, and Congress has done nothing about the laws that were so slack as to create that problem. So over the last 5 years--prior to that and now after that--I have worked with a diverse bunch of groups across the country to come up with a significant change in policy specific to a segment of that larger group--about 1.6 million in that particular workforce. But on this chart is a good example of what we are attempting to do at this moment.
Here is 1994 through the year 2005: total funding level from all sources in the billions of dollars that we are spending on the borders of America today to try to control our borders, and on enforcement of our immigration laws within those borders. Here this red line on this chart goes. Starting in 2001 and up, you see this tremendous increase in what we spend on enforcement. We are now, today, spending $7 billion a year on the borders and on internal enforcement. That is ``b,'' $7 billion on enforcement. The Senator from Arizona would be the first to admit that the borders south of his State are still like sieves--people are pouring across them in an illegal way. Yet, today, for America's sake, we are spending $7 billion on our borders and on internal enforcement.
Look at the green line that represents apprehensions in millions of individuals. Last year we apprehended more than 1.2 million individuals and sent them back across the border. These are dramatic increases. Did it stem the tide of illegality? No, it didn't. The
Senator from Arizona is sitting there agreeing with me. They are pouring over the border. Seven billion dollars later, with thousands more new law enforcement people on the borders and with apprehensions up, more people are coming. What is wrong with that picture?
Let me show you what is wrong with that picture. We could build a fence along the border. We could build it high and dig it deep, and we could man it with people every few feet, but if the laws that backed up the fence were not working, somebody would come through. Somebody would get through. They would dig under it. They would go around it. There are more than 7,000 miles of land borders in our country and more than 88,000 miles of tidal shoreline and water inlets. They would come. The reason they would come is that the law is not effective, nor is it deterring them. They would come because our economy and our way of life are a powerful magnet and because our laws provide no reasonable way to match those willing workers with jobs here that would go begging.
Here is another interesting graph. There was a time in our country when the laws did work. Starting in the 1950s we had a program for guest workers to come into our country and work. They were identified and the worker matched to the work. They came and worked, and they went home. As a result of that, this green line represents the developing of the Bracero Program, which did just that.
From a humanitarian point of view, it was not a good program. Many of these people were not well treated. But the side of it that worked was the side that identified the worker and the work, and here is the result. The red line represents apprehensions, those illegally crossing the border who were caught. Look at the drop, the dramatic drop in illegal activity going on in our country in the 1950s. Illegal immigration dropped more than 90 percent stayed low for a long period of time.
Here we are in 1954: over 1 million apprehensions. What did I say about last year? Over a million apprehensions. Millions were coming across the border illegally before we changed the law. We changed it and, in 1953 and 1954, and we implemented it. These crossings stayed law all through the 1950s and into the 1960s, until somebody did not like it anymore because of the way people were being treated, and they repealed it. Eventually we wound up with the law we have today, the H-2A program. Guest workers in the 1950s, you can see, remained relatively constant at a few hundred thousand, but those numbers dropped and flattened out because there were those in Congress who did not like the old law. They repealed it and up went the number of illegals again. Why? The system did not work. Over the years, the government and the people knew it. We watched it. We ignored it. That is why we are here today, because Americans are asking us not to ignore it any longer. It is almost the same scenario--my goodness, 40 years later, 50 years later.
Did we learn lessons? History has a way of repeating itself, and it appears it is repeating itself today--1954, apprehension of illegals, 1.2 million; last year, 1.2 million. But in the interim we had laws working for a period of time that clearly demonstrated that if this Congress has the will to deal with the problem, it can. My legislation, the Craig-Kennedy legislation, clearly does so. We would dramatically changed the underlying H-2A program in a way that has produced support of over 500 organizations, 200 of them agricultural organizations, and we do so in a bipartisan way and a broad-based way.
The Kyl-Chambliss bill is very narrow in who benefits from limited changes in the current program, and it does not reflect that bipartisan approach, nor does it reflect a national approach in large part on this issue. Their bill would benefit a few employers and a few labor contractors in some parts of the country. We have brought all stakeholders, all communities of interest to the table with our bill. That is why it is significant for all of us to understand that there are very real differences in these bills. Besides, as long as you just made it here by April 1 of this year, you can stay under the Kyl-Chambliss bill. You get a blue card, and you can stay 3 years, 6 years, 9 years, and if you elevate yourself to a supervisory position, you stay forever.
Under our legislation you have to have been here last year. By January 1, 2005, you will have to have proved you worked 100 days and then you get a temporary card, and then you continue to work, and meet a higher standard of good behavior under the law than other, legal immigrants, to pay for your right to stay to work, to pay for your right to eventually apply for a green card, to be able to move back and forth in a continuum and to be, if you will, a permanent employee in this country.
The Senator from Arizona is talking about a quick pathway to citizenship in our bill. I would not suggest that 10 to 15 years of hard work, standing in line and making application is a quick path to anything. Most Americans would never stand in line for 10 years for anything, let alone work at least 360 days in temporary, seasonal farm labor, over several years in 100-degree heat in fields in Yuma, AR, or Twin Falls, ID. There are some who will, and they work very hard to earn that right. But they will work to earn the right, it will not be given to them unconditionally.
There is one thing the Craig-Kennedy and Chambliss-Kyl bills have in common. We do not make a free gift, of citizenship regardless of circumstance, unconditionally. I would call that amnesty. We give people--our legislation gives people--the right to come here and work, to earn the right to stay, and the right to continue to work. So there is a very real difference. Don't fall off on the idea of this quick fix in the substitute amendment that was just produced in the last few weeks because they know that I knew I was going to be here on the Senate floor with a bill that has been 5 years in the crafting and has literally a nationwide base of support from all groups--from labor, from agriculture, from Hispanic groups, from taxpayer groups, from religious and community groups, and has strong bipartisanship.
Last year, it was cosponsored by 63 Republicans and Democrats alike. This year, we are again building the numbers, and cosponsorship is now nearly 50--again, Democrats and Republicans alike--supporting this. That is why we are here on the Senate floor. Americans are demanding that we control this immigration problem. We are offering an approach, a solution to a portion of that.
I hope the Congress will then continue to work its will to get to a much broader based, comprehensive program.
I retain the remainder of my time.
Mr. KYL. Mr. President, let me respond to a couple of comments which my colleague just made. He characterized his legislation as enabling people to earn the right to stay. This is the earned amnesty provision. But the point is, there is no difference between coming across the border illegally and working here illegally and working under the Craig-Kennedy bill. You are working in the field, and after a period of time you get permanent legal residency. Between 2 1/2 weeks and 3 1/2 months, you get legal status. Then a year later you get legal permanent residency by doing the very same thing you are illegally doing today.
Mr. CRAIG. Mr. President, will the Senator yield?
Mr. KYL. I am happy to yield.
Mr. CRAIG. There is a difference. If you come forth and say, I have been here and have worked 100 days and I want to get a temporary green card, we do a background check.
Mr. KYL. The green card is permanent, not temporary.
Mr. CRAIG. The temporary card is for people working 360 days over 3 to 6 years, and then you apply for permanency. It is at least 3 years, and maybe 6 years before you can even apply for permanent residency. Then that processing and adjudication takes about 2 to 3 additional years, because there are backlogs. It is not immediately permanent. It is at least 5 years, and maybe 9 years before you have permanent residency. Then it takes another 5 years before citizenship, if you qualify. Do you do a background check? And do you make those who have a blue card--those whom you are giving the right to stay here legally--go through a full background check in full compliance with immigration law today? Are they drug dealers, felons, three-misdemeanor conductors? We do that. We do a thorough background check to make sure we have the right people working here and not have criminals slipping through our borders. Do you do the same?
Mr. KYL. Will the Senator yield 2 minutes to me on his time?
Mr. CRAIG. I would be happy to yield.
Mr. KYL. The answer is yes. We have a much more effective way because we have biometric identifiers, a fingerprint check, or other kinds of biometric identifiers so the individual identifies himself both as being in legal status for employment and being the person he says he is. That, of course, requires documents to demonstrate legality, in the first instance, so we can absolutely confirm that the only people who are being hired are here legally. You can make the card whatever color you want to, but under today's law, legal permanent residency is called green card status. Everybody knows you get a green card when you have legal permanent residency.
Under your legislation, it is, in fact, the case that with as little as 2 1/2 weeks but no more than 3 1/2 months a status of legality is granted. After 1 year an application can be made for legal permanent residency. The only question is how much time it takes to complete that application process. That is when you can apply for it, 1 year. It may take several more months to gain the status. Once the application has been made, you are a legal permanent resident in this country.
Mr. CRAIG. If the Senator will yield, then we both have identification with the background check. We would require a Homeland Security identifier program. They are working on those kinds of efforts now. We would require the same.
The real difference is your folks could work 1 hour and get a blue card. Ours have to work at least 100 days and have been here prior to January 1. I think we agree on that. I do not know where the Senator gets his reference to 2 1/2 weeks. No one last year worked in agriculture one hour a day for 100 days. That was before AgJOBS was even introduced. That kind of employment arrangement would be irrational. If someone did show up and claim they had worked 1 hour a day for
100 days, that would be a reason to investigate them for fraud.
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Mr. CRAIG. Will the Senator yield?
Mr. CHAMBLISS. I am happy to yield.
Mr. CRAIG. I ask you to respond on my time. I appreciate that.
I understand what you are saying, ``greening'' versus ``blueing,'' but if you give someone a blue card and he becomes a supervisor, he may not be a permanent resident but he is permanently in this country by your legislation.
We all identify with the green card today because it has been around a long time. When you get a permanent green card, you can become a permanent resident and not a citizen. I suggest, and you may disagree, if you become a supervisor after 9 years of being here with a blue card, it is permanent, is it not?
Mr. CHAMBLISS. I appreciate the question of the Senator from Idaho. That is exactly the opposite from what is the truth. The truth is, he is always a temporary employee, and if he has a supervisory position and if he is granted additional time after 9 years, his temporary status never changes.
Mr. CRAIG. But he is permanently here if he wants to be.
Mr. CHAMBLISS. That is not true because if his employer ever released him from his employment, he has to notify the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Labor, and that individual must go back to where he came from. Or if he secures a----
Mr. CRAIG. So I am right, but under certain conditions I am wrong. Thank you.
Mr. CHAMBLISS. You are wrong, but there are exceptions to everything.
Mr. CRAIG. I thought so.
Mr. CHAMBLISS. He is never a permanent citizen as he becomes under your bill after about 2 1/2 weeks.
Mr. CRAIG. Mr. President, I have to come back on that. Not after 2 1/2 weeks.
He gets a temporary green card for 360 days or 5 years. Then he applies for permanency. That is the way the bill reads. That is an additional 2 years. Math is math and it adds up and that is 6 years. I am sorry, that is not 2 weeks. It does not work that way. That we disagree on.
Mr. CHAMBLISS. Will the Senator yield?
Mr. CRAIG. I am happy to yield.
Mr. CHAMBLISS. Is it not true, under your bill, an individual can get the temporary adjustment status after working 100 hours?
Mr. CRAIG. As of 2004, not in 2005. January 1, he had to be here last year working, cannot come across the border through Arizona.
March 29, before April 1 of this year.
Mr. CHAMBLISS. Is it true that 1 hour is defined in the Fair Labor Standards Act, or 1 day's work is defined as 1 hour, and it is actually 100 days?
Mr. CRAIG. I understand it is kind of the semantics we played a few moments ago. Temporary is not permanent, even though they are permanently here temporarily. I understand those semantics, yes.
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, 1 hour is a day. But I do require not 1 hour, I require 100 days. You require 1 hour.
Mr. CHAMBLISS. Is it not true this is a fundamental difference in our two amendments? Under your amendment, the employee or the illegal alien comes in and says: I worked here for those 100 hours last year or 2 years ago.
Mr. CRAIG. And must demonstrate through tax returns----
Mr. CHAMBLISS. Where under our bill they come in and an employer says: I need this employee, and I want to make application for the H2-A or the blue card.
Mr. CRAIG. That employee must demonstrate tax records and an employment record during that 100-hour period by an employee prior to January 1, 2005.
Mr. CHAMBLISS. Would the Senator not agree a fundamental difference is, under your bill, the employee is the one who makes that attestation. Whereas, under our bill, it is the employer--the American employer--says: I need you.
Under your bill, the employee says: I have been here for this period of time, and therefore I deserve to receive this adjustment.
Mr. CRAIG. In my situation, they must have worked and, of course, they must do that full background check we all go through.
It is a time-consuming thing. One of the things the American people want that we are both doing is to control the current illegal population, to identify and find out who they are, to make sure they are not bad people, if we are going to grant them the right to stay and work. That we both accomplish.
It is not just, oh, get a card because you got 100 hours or, oh, you get a card because you got 1 hour, in your circumstance. It is because you have submitted yourself to a full background check. That is 14 pages in the current code of this country as it relates to immigration. That is very significant for all of us.
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Mr. CRAIG. Mr. President, I believe the Senator from Massachusetts will be arriving soon. His time and my time are for the same purpose. He has given me the ability to use up some of that time. I will not, at this moment, ask unanimous consent for those purposes because there is no one on the floor from the other side to visit with about that.
Senator Chambliss mentioned year round work in the nursery and landscape industry. The nation's premiere nursery and landscape association is the co-chair of the vast coalition supporting AgJOBS. Why? Because they know AgJOBS will work. It will provide the workers they need. The blue card system in the substitute amendment will not. It is written so narrowly that there will be little incentive for workers to come forward and it will be cumbersome to use.
The Senator mentioned misdemeanors. AgJOBS goes beyond current law in the good behavior it requires. We would deport for a single felony, for any three misdemeanors, however minor, and for any one serious misdemeanor, which involves 6 months jail time. But if you say deport for any misdemeanor, you are talking about some truly minor things, like loitering, jaywalking, parking a house trailer in a roadside park, depositing trash from a home or farm in a roadside trash can, having untethered animal stock on a highway, or making known in any manner what library book another person borrowed. These are misdemeanors in different states. We do tighten up the law. We do require better behavior than current law and better than that of other, legal immigrants. But the punishment should be proportional to the offense. We provide for that.
I want to go through one thing again in some of the time we have left because what Americans are frustrated about today--whether it is the solution we have offered up or the solution our other colleagues have offered up--is that history has shown us what works and what does not work. For border security alone--and I know I have been corrected by the Senator from Arizona for the language I have used, and appropriately so--my guess is, if we did not put $7 billion on the border and into internal enforcement, if we put $14 or $15 or $20 billion on the border, we could probably finally do a fairly good job of locking that border up. Of course, the more persons we lock out, the more undocumented persons we lock in. We need to deal with that, too.
Americans are frustrated. They want that border controlled, as do all of us. But what we know works well is the coupling of more security with a law that provides for a legal work force. And that is what we are offering today, some $7 billion a year worth of certification and better internal enforcement. We are putting law enforcement money on the ground in the local communities. And because there is a segment of our economy that needs this particular type of employee, we have a guest worker program that faces up to the economic reality of our country.
That is what we are talking about. We did that some time ago. We did that in the 1950s, and it worked. We were, here on this chart in 1954, apprehending nearly 1.2 million illegals a year and taking them back across the border. Then we created the Bracero Program. Now, the program worked because it matched employee and employer. It received a lot of criticism, and I will not step back from being very clear about it in the way the employee was treated. That is partly what brought the program down. But we literally saw numbers of illegals drop almost to nothing and flat-lined from through the 1950s into the early 1960s, as the Bracero Program worked.
What had we done? We matched Border Patrol along with effective law enforcement along with a guest worker program that worked. Along came the 1960s. We changed it and eventually wound up with the current law. We flat-lined, by bureaucracy, the number of guest workers we allowed legally into the program on an annual basis.
You can see what happened. Here it is, as shown on this chart. Apprehensions of illegals and illegal entry began to rise. What happened last year, as this very dysfunctional program all but broke down? We were back at 1.2 million apprehensions. America has asked for a solution. We have brought a solution to the floor. The only experience our country has had on a broad basis with the a legal guest worker program is the one I have outlined.
AgJOBS is a groundbreaking, necessary part of balancing a realistic approach to solving this problem. American agriculture has boldly stepped forward and admitted they have a problem.
They are not hiding behind lobbyists saying: Lift the lid in a certain program, allow more people in. They are almost in a panicked way saying to us: We have a 70-plus-percent illegal problem that we are dependent upon for the harvesting of our fruits and vegetables, for the supplying of the American food shelf with its food. Please do something about it. Please provide a vehicle that allows these people to be legal, and we will agree to work with you in setting up the necessary mechanisms to make sure they are treated right, the housing is there, they are paid well, and all of those kinds of things.
If we don't have a legal work force in place, and we continue to lock up the border--and we should--and we do all of the other things such as uncounterfeitable ID cards, we literally could collapse American agriculture. That is something this Congress should not be responsible for doing simply by being negligent.
That is why for the last 5 years and more I have worked on this issue. We have worked cooperatively, Democrat and Republican alike--Congressman HOWARD BERMAN, who is on the floor at this moment from the House, Congressman CHRIS CANNON, Senator TED KENNEDY, and I--for hours and hours, with all the interested groups, now 509 groups, over 200 of them in agriculture. We have come up with this approach. We didn't come up with it, as my colleagues have, as a blocking measure to stop this legislation by throwing at the last minute something into the mix, by changing the color from green to blue and suggesting that it is new because it is blue. They do a few of the things we do, but ours is a much broader program and bipartisan. That is significant as we try to move legislation forward to solve this problem.
As I have said, the agricultural sector is facing its worst problems ever. Fifty to 75 percent of its farmworkers are undocumented. As internal law enforcement has stepped up, farms large and small are going out of business because they can't get the workforce at the right time to plant the crop, to tend the crop, to harvest the crop. This mighty machine we call American agriculture, which has fed us so well for hundreds of years, is at a very dangerous precipice, perhaps the most dangerous it has ever seen in its history.
This year for the first time since records were kept, the United States will be on the verge of becoming a net importer of foodstuffs. Hard to imagine, isn't it? The great American agricultural machine, and now we are at a point of being a near net importer of foodstuffs. We did that with energy. When I came to Congress in 1980, we supplied the majority of our own energy. Now we are a net importer. We did that with minerals. When I got here, we were supplying most all of our minerals. Now we are a net importer. Are we going to let this happen with food because we can't agree on a reasonable program to have one of the most valuable inputs into agriculture stabilized, secured, and legal, and that is the workforce?
No, we have all come together, Democrats and Republicans, labor, farmworker organizations, Hispanic groups. That is what you have before you in AgJOBS. That is why it got 63 cosponsors last year. We are nearly at 50 today, and building. Its time is now. It is important we have this vote that will occur this morning. It is a critical piece of legislation.
Aside from that, every year on the Arizona border, the California border, New Mexico, Texas border, over 300 people die trying to get into this country to earn a wage. They do that because of a dysfunctional H-2A law, because of a system that does not provide for a legal work force, and because of bad people who prey upon them as victims, and they are literally victims of a law and victims of a broken process. We ought not stand idly by and allow that to happen, either. Control our borders? You bet. Create a legal work force? Absolutely. Apprehend illegals after we have created this system that works well? Absolutely. The integrity of a country is based on the control of its borders and the ability to openly and fairly assimilate into its culture immigrants who come here for the purpose of benefiting not only from the American dream but by being a part of us. That is one side of it.
The other side is the realistic understanding that there will be those who simply want to come and work and go home. There are types of work that they can qualify for that Americans cannot do or choose not to qualify for, and they ought to be allowed to do that. American agriculture depends on it, as do many other segments of our economy. It is critically important that we respond accordingly.
Last year under the program, the broken law, about 40 plus thousand H-2A workers were identified and brought in legally by that law. Yet, in the same agricultural group, there are a total of 1.6 million workers. That is how we come up with those numbers of some 70-plus percent undocumented workers or somewhere in that area. There has been a great effort by the other side to confuse the argument. We believe in the Department of Labor Statistics. The Department of Labor statistics show that, under the Craig-Kennedy provision, about 500,000 workers would be eligible to apply for adjustment, to start the process, and they have about 200,000, maybe 300,000 dependents who would qualify, not millions and millions and millions. That is so unrealistic when we are looking only at a field of 1.6 million to begin with. That is the reality. That is the honest figure. We didn't come up with it just in the dark of night. This has been 5 years and more of study, working with the Department of Labor and analyzing and understanding what the workforce is, who would stay and who would go home, who would not come forth to be identified and who would.
That is why it is time now that we allow this legislation to move forward for the purpose of it becoming law. America demands that we respond. Thirteen hundred days after 9/11 and we have not yet responded to the reality that is probably one of the most significant challenges the United States as a nation has ever faced--to control our borders,
control our destiny, recognize our needs, understand our economy, be humane and fair to people, and do all of those things within the law. That is our responsibility to make that happen. It is without question a very important process.
I ask unanimous consent that time under the quorum call be equally divided.
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Mr. CRAIG. I will continue to consume time of the Senator from Massachusetts. I understand he is en route to speak on behalf of AgJOBS. We will continue to do that. Over the course of the last day, I have sent to the desk and provided to my colleagues a comprehensive list of over 509 organizations nationwide, some 200 of them in agriculture, that have been a part of this growing broad coalition of Democrats, Republicans, liberals, conservatives, labor, employer, and other groups that have recognized the very critical nature of American agriculture today and the importance of stabilizing its workforce and causing that workforce to become legal. That is exactly why the Senator from Massachusetts and I are here.
We have obviously had other colleagues of ours come forward with legislation proposing another approach. It is nowhere near as broad based, nor does it solve the kinds of very real problems all of us want to solve; that is, clearly creating a legal workforce.
Here are some of the frustrations I wish to talk about for a few moments that are important. There is an opinion in this country that if you just throw money at it, the problem will go away. Let me suggest right now that that is what we are doing. We are throwing a lot of money at it. In so doing, we are throwing about $7 billion a year at the border and at internal enforcement, $7 billion well spent. In part, it is beginning to build systems that are getting better as they relate to controlling dominantly our southern border, but our northern border, as well, and our shoreline.
We did it for two reasons. Actually, we started doing it after 9/11 for terrorist purposes because we were fearful that we would see terrorists coming up through Mexico and into the southern part of the United States or across our southern border or, for that matter, across our northern border. At the same time we were recognizing a near flood of people coming across those borders attempting to identify with work in our country. As you can see, the number of apprehensions of illegals peaked in about the year 2000. It was dropping. We started pushing heavy money at it. But it has begun to climb again.
The reality is, we are now putting about $7 billion a year into it and last year apprehended approximately 1.2 million illegals. We are stepping up to that plate now and stepping up aggressively, and we will do more.
I have just joined with the Senator from West Virginia, Mr. Byrd, to take money out of this supplemental in areas where we didn't think it was needed to put more into Border Patrol.
But as I have said earlier, there is not just a single solution to this problem. We have to be able to control the numbers of people coming across by stopping their belief that if they get across the border, there is a job. We have to provide a legal work force system that works. You do that by identifying the employees and the employers, and doing so as we did historically in the past, and as AgJOBS clearly does in the major reform of the existing law, the old H-2A program, which has allowed these problems to occur and is totally not functional today.
That is what we have offered. We think it is tremendously important. It is not without criticism, and we certainly know that. Any time you touch the immigration issue, it is not without criticism because there are those who simply don't believe anybody ought to be allowed into the country under nearly any circumstance, even though we are a nation of immigrants. Our strength, energy, and dynamics have been based on the phenomenal immigration from all over the world that has produced the great American story as we know it. That immigration, to keep our economy moving, to keep our culture where it is, strong and vital, is going to need to continue. But we need to control it in a way that allows the reasonable kind of assimilation that successful cultures have been able to accomplish down through the centuries, as we have allowed controlled, managed immigration into our country. We are not doing that, and we have not done it for 2 decades.
As I have said several times on the floor in the last day and a half, awakening from 9/11 was a clear demonstration of that reality, that there were 8 million to 12 million undocumented foreign nationals in our country whom we were ignoring. No longer can that happen, we say. Well, it is happening. We have let it happen for more than 1,300 days since 9/11. That is why we are on the floor at this moment. That is why we should not wait for a better day and push this back. Several Senators have been saying: Oh, we will get something done by late this year or early next year. There is nothing on the drafting table. There are some hearings being held. No comprehensive work is going on that will identify the broader picture and the very important, specific segment of our economy. Meanwhile, there will be crops in the fields, and we need a legal work force, identified and trusted, to put that food on the tables of American families.
The authors of this legislation, AgJOBS, recognize this is not a comprehensive piece but it is a piece that deals with a segment of our economy that is in the most critical need of their problems being solved today--the economy that feeds us, puts the food on the market shelves for consumers in a safe, reliable, healthy fashion. That is what we are talking about today. We are talking about the need of American agriculture to be able to respond to what is so very important on a seasonal basis--planting, tending, harvesting of America's food supply.
So that is why I am here, and I am not taking it lightly. We are most serious about our effort to try to respond to this problem. We have been attempting to gain access to the floor for well over a year for this debate and not to deny it as something we simply put off. That is the importance of what we do. That is why the Senator from Massachusetts--who is much different from I politically--and I have come together, as that broad-based coalition demonstrates. All politics have come together on this issue--left, right, and center, Democrat, Republican, labor, employer. Why? Because of the very critical nature of the problem before us and the importance that we effectively respond, for the sake of America, to control our borders, to identify the undocumenteds who are within, to provide American agriculture with a safe, identifiable and, most importantly, legal labor supply. I see my colleague from Massachusetts has joined us on the floor. With that, I retain the balance of our time.
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