How Grassley and Harkin voted on immigration reform bill and amendments

Using an unusual voting procedure reserved for very important legislation, the U.S. Senate approved a comprehensive immigration reform bill yesterday by 68 votes to 32 (roll call). Every senator who caucuses with Democrats voted yes, joined by fourteen Republicans. The rest of the GOP caucus, including the entire leadership team and Senator Chuck Grassley, voted no.

In the run-up to the vote on final passage, senators considered many amendments to the immigration reform conceived by the bipartisan “Gang of Eight.” After the jump I cover how Grassley and Senator Tom Harkin voted on the significant amendments, as well as reaction to the bill’s passage from both senators and other Iowa politicians. Representative Steve King (R, IA-04) has vowed to block any comparable legislation from passing the U.S. House. He opposes any path to legal status or citizenship, even for undocumented immigrants brought to this country as young children.

As the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Grassley was intensely involved in last month’s four-day mark-up of S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. The Judiciary Committee rejected most of the amendments Grassley offered. Maurice Belanger posted an excellent summary of the amendments considered during the mark-up at the National Immigration Forum’s website. Another pro-immigration reform group, America’s Voice, published a shorter summary of the committee’s important changes to S. 744. Three Republicans on the Judiciary Committee voted for the immigration reform bill, but Grassley wasn’t one of them. At the end of this post I enclose his closing remarks from the mark-up, which explain his reasons for opposing the bill.

As the full Senate began considering immigration reform this month, there was never any doubt that Grassley would oppose the final version. On June 11, he was one of only 15 Republicans to vote against cloture on the motion to proceed with considering S. 744. The same 15 Republicans then voted against the motion to proceed with debate on the bill.

On June 13, most Senate Democrats and a handful of Republicans voted to table a Grassley amendment designed to “prohibit the granting of registered provisional immigrant status until the Secretary has maintained effective control of the borders for 6 months.” On June 18, Grassley supported two other Republican amendments that would have required stronger fencing and other border control measures before any “provisional immigrants” could be granted legal status as U.S. residents. Senate Democrats joined by a few Republicans rejected both of those amendments (roll calls here and here). Harkin was absent, but I’m confident he would have voted against them too, because on June 19 he backed a motion to table a similar border security amendment offered by Rand Paul. Grassley and most of the GOP caucus supported Paul’s amendment.

It was the same story on June 20 when Harkin and other Senate Democrats passed a motion to table a different Republican amendment on enforcement procedures.

You can find details on all of the Senate roll call votes on immigration here.

Republicans John Hoeven and Bob Corker recently came up with new compromise language, which “could allow millions of immigrants to apply for a green card without most of the new border measures in place.” Supporters like John McCain hailed the amendment as providing for “beefed up border security” and the “most militarized border since the fall of the Berlin Wall.” The Corker-Hoeven amendment passed by 67 votes to 27 on June 24, with Harkin and all the Democrats present in favor. Grassley was one of the 27 Republicans to vote no.

At that point, it was all over but the shouting. On June 26, senators voted 68 to 30 to “waive all applicable budgetary discipline” regarding the immigration reform bill. That was necessary, because the new border fence provisions will cost billions of dollars that aren’t offset by new revenues or spending cuts. Harkin voted for waiving budgetary discipline, while Grassley was among the Republicans opposing that motion. Another Democratic-backed border security amendment passed 69 to 29, with Harkin and Grassley splitting the same way.

Republicans had wanted to offer many more amendments during floor debate. Some of the Gang of Eight hoped those amendments would bring more of the GOP caucus around to supporting immigration reform. But they couldn’t reach a compromise:

On Wednesday afternoon [June 26], Senator Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) objected to [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid’s attempt to hold votes on a selection of amendments. Grassley accused Democrats of being afraid to take tough votes, and complained that only nine amendments have received roll-call votes. Portman asked on the floor why the Senate couldn’t stay in session a couple of days to vote on more amendments.

If both sides continue to object to each other’s offers on amendments, Reid may decide to simply pass the bill as is on Thursday or Friday and go home.

Yesterday Grassley and other Republicans made their final attempt to block the immigration reform. Only 32 GOP senators backed the filibuster attempt, so cloture was easily invoked to end debate on S. 744. The final vote on passage had the same 68 to 32 margin. Supporters had hoped for at least 70 votes in favor of immigration reform, but given the way things usually operate in the Senate, 68 votes is a solid majority.

Senator Tom Harkin’s office released this statement after S. 744 passed yesterday. It’s the first time I’ve seen an Iowa member of Congress send out a press release in both English and Spanish.

Harkin Statement on the Senate Passage of Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill

“When the Senate began to work in earnest on immigration reform earlier this year, I enumerated a number of principles that I believed should inform that process, including improved border security, requiring employers to verify work authorization, uniting families, and offering a practical, accountable solution to bring undocumented families out of the shadows.

“This immigration reform bill, while imperfect, seeks to address these core challenges.  As such, I voted for it.  The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 is a necessary and long-overdue change to the status quo.  This bill reflects a compromise between many parties in order to find common ground and a long-term solution to fix our nation’s broken immigration system.

“Over the years, I have always supported common sense measures to secure our border.  We have made much progress in improving the border in recent years.  The number of border agents has doubled since the Congress last considered comprehensive immigration reform, there have been a record number of deportations occurring annually and there has been an 80 percent decline in illegal border crossings.  This legislation goes further in providing more than $46 billion to further secure the border, build fencing, and hire more than 20,000 new border agents. The border buildup verges on excess, but if it allays the concerns of those who argue that the border security was insufficient, then it is a necessary compromise.

“In addition to fortifying the border, the legislation places numerous and rigorous checks in order for immigrants to gain legal status.  They will be required to work, learn English, and maintain a certain income level, pass rigorous background checks, pay fees, fines and penalties.

“The Senate passed immigration bill will also drive economic growth, create jobs, and increase revenue for Social Security and Medicare.  The independent Congressional Budget office concluded that the bill will also reduce the deficit by nearly $1 billion over the next two decades.

“I would like to commend the many parties that worked so hard to craft this compromise, including my colleagues in the Senate, the AFL-CIO, business groups like the Chamber of Commerce, and others.    

“Now that the Senate has passed this bill with strong bipartisan support, I am hopeful that the House will take up this measure or pass a similar one.  Families, businesses, and communities across the United States have waited long enough for a solution to our broken immigration.”

###

Harkin Sobre la Aprobación de la Reforma Migratoria

“Cuando el Senado comenzó a trabajar en serio sobre la reforma migratoria a principios de este año, yo identifique varios principios que yo pensé deberían informar el proceso, incluyendo mejorar la seguridad fronteriza, requerir verificación de empleo, unir a las familias, y ofrecer una solución práctica y  responsable al camino a la ciudadanía.

“Aunque esta legislación no es perfecta, intentará resolver estos problemas. Por eso, yo voté para aprobar la ley de la reforma migratoria. Esta ley bipartidista refleja un acuerdo entre varios partidos para encontrar una solución común y también sería una solución para arreglar  nuestro roto sistema migratorio.

“Durante varios años, yo siempre he apoyado medidas sensibles para asegurar nuestra seguridad fronteriza, y hemos hecho mucho progreso. Desde la última vez que el Congreso considero la reforma migratoria, el número de oficiales estacionados en la frontera fue doblado, hemos visto un gran número de deportaciones, y entradas ilegales en la frontera han bajado el 80 porciento. Esta legislación hará más;  la reforma migratoria que fue aprobada hoy incluye más de $46 billones para asegurar la frontera, y contratar más de 20,000 agentes de Aduanas y Protección Fronteriza y a la Patrullo Fronteriza.  

“Para los inmigrantes indocumentados que quieren ponerse del lado correcto de la ley,  no será fácil. Los inmigrantes que aplicarán por el estatus de Inmigrante Provisional Registrado (RPI) podrán hacerlo siempre y cuando no tengan antecedentes penales, no hayan cometido crímenes, paguen impuestos que deban las cuotas necesarias, y paguen una multa.

“La reforma migratoria será buena para la economía de nuestro país y reducirá el déficit por $1 billón durante las próximas dos décadas, creará trabajos y que contribuirán a Medicare y Seguro Social.

“Me gustaría felicitar a los varios partidos que trabajaron para crear este compromiso, incluyendo mis compañeros en el Senado, el AFL-CIO, grupos de negocio (por ejemplo la Cámara de Comercio), y otros.

“Ahora que el Senado aprobó la ley bipartidista para la Seguridad Fronteriza, Oportunidades Económicas y Modernización Migratoria, espero que la Cámara de Representantes apruebe una ley similar. Nuestras familias, negocios, comunidades en nuestro país han esperado bastante para encontrar una solución para nuestro roto sistema migratorio.”

Grassley’s office sent out a brief statement after final passage:

Senator Chuck Grassley, Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, made the following statement after the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill.  Grassley voted against the bill.  His statements throughout the debate can be found on his website, Grassley.senate.gov.  

“I came into this debate with an open mind, with the goal of offering amendments to improve the bill.  Unfortunately, the majority never allowed the fair and open process that we were promised. I still hope that if Congress sends a bill to the President it will be something I can vote for – a bill that secures the border before illegal immigrants are legalized, that fortifies interior enforcement, that strengthens criminal law, and that protects the American worker.  We need to send a bill to the President that will make America stronger, make our border more secure, and make our immigration system more effective.”

Here is the speech Grassley delivered on the Senate floor on June 26 (as prepared).

Prepared Floor Statement of Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa

Ranking Member, Senate Judiciary Committee

Comprehensive Immigration Reform, S.744

What’s In An Immigration Reform Bill Worthy of Support?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

There are 100 senators who believe the immigration system needs to be fixed.  I can guarantee that there are also 100 different ways to fix it.  And, nobody has the perfect solution.  But, I bring an experience to the table that very few others have.

My deep-rooted concerns with this bill stem from my strong belief that we made a mistake in 1986.  We allowed legalization before we secured the border.  We allowed legalization and ignored the laws on the books.  Another major shortcoming was that we allowed legalization without creating adequate avenues for people to enter, live, and work in this country legally.  These were crucial flaws that have led us to the debate we’re having today.  And, I’m not willing to pass that mistake on to a future Congress.

So, what will it take for somebody like me, a Senator who voted for amnesty in 1986 and wasn’t a part of the Group of Eight, or the Group of Ten, to vote for immigration reform in 2013?  Well, this is what I need to see in an immigration reform bill in order to support it and send to the President.

·         Legalization after border security

·         Meaningful interior enforcement, including allowing ICE to do its job and work with state and local people

·         Strengthening, not weakening current law with regard to criminals

·         Protecting American workers while enhancing legal avenues

1.  Legalization after border security

Most Americans contend that a legalization program is a compassionate way to help those who are unlawfully in the country.  However, those compassionate people who support such a program of legalization do so only on the premise that the government will secure the border and stop the flow of illegal migration.

We are a nation based on the rule of law.  We have the right to protect our sovereignty and a duty to protect our homeland.  Any border security measures we pass must be real and immediate.  We can’t wait 10 years to put more agents on the border or to implement a system to track foreign nationals.  We have to prove to the American people that illegal entries are under complete control and that visa overstays are being punished.

Unfortunately, too many people have been led to believe that the bill before us will force the Secretary of Homeland Security to secure the border.   It doesn’t.

A fundamental component of any legislation is border security first and foremost; not legalization now, and enforcement later, if ever.

There has to be pressure put on the executive branch to get the job done.  We must tie legalization to results. Only then will advocates and a future administration truly try to secure the border.

2. Meaningful interior enforcement, including allowing ICE to do its job and work with state and locals

Enforcement of the immigration laws has been lax and increasingly selective in the last few years.  As a result, States have been forced to deal with the criminal activity that surrounds the flow of people here illegally.

They have stepped up efforts to control the effects of illegal immigration in their states.  The states should be able to protect their people and stem the lawlessness within their borders.  Yet, time and again, this administration has denied states the opportunity and tried to stop them from enforcing the immigration laws.

Federal immigration enforcement officers have also been handicapped from doing their job.  The bill would practically render these officers useless, since they are required to verify a person’s eligibility for legalization before apprehending and detaining them.  They need to be provided the resources to fulfill their mission, and not be told by Washington to sit idly by.

The unfortunate reality is that the bill does almost nothing to strengthen and enhance our interior enforcement efforts.  The bill does nothing to encourage federal, state and local law enforcement efforts to apprehend and detain individuals who pose a risk to our communities.  The federal government will continue to look the other way as millions of new people enter the country illegally.  Meanwhile, the bill gives the states no new authority to act when the federal government refuses.

I’ll be the first to say that border security is a must.  But, people who enter illegally and overstay their visas are residing in the interior of our country.  This cannot be ignored.

3. Strengthening, not weakening current law with regard to criminals

One of the major reasons why immigration is a subject of significant public interest is the failure of the federal government to enforce existing law.  Eleven million people have unlawfully entered the country or overstayed their visas because the federal government did not deter them or take action to remove them.  S. 744 significantly weakens current criminal laws and will hinder the ability of law enforcement to protect Americans from criminal undocumented aliens.

The bill weakens current law regarding passport fraud, only charging those who make and distribute illegal passports three or more times.  It allows a person to knowingly purchase materials for making illegal passports, but only charge the person with a crime if ten or more passports are made.

It also weakens current law for those who illegally enter the country, changing existing law by removing the crime of illegally attempting to enter the United States, essentially incentivizing foreign citizens to attempt to illegally enter the country as many times as they want.  Further, once they successfully enter the U.S. illegally, the aliens would only be subject to criminal punishment if they are removed from the country 3 or more times.

Taken together, the bill weakens current law and will make it easier for undocumented aliens to enter the country illegally by not criminalizing their attempts to enter, nor their actual illegal entry, unless they have been previously removed 3 or more times.  This is a drastic change that will encourage future illegal entries.    

Given the serious nature of criminal street gangs, we need to pass an immigration bill that prevents entry into the country if one is a gang member.  More importantly, we need to ensure that gang members are not being rewarded with legal status.  Regrettably, the bill is weak on foreign national criminal street gang members in several regards.

In addition to weakening current law, the bill does very little to deter criminal behavior in the future.  The bill ignores sanctuary cities, allowing criminals to seek safe harbor in jurisdictions where they have policies aimed to protect people in the country illegally.

It increases the thresholds required for actions to constitute a crime.  It punishes persons only if they have already been convicted of three or more misdemeanors on different days.  And, it only punishes undocumented aliens who are removed from the country three or more times.

I’m committed to making sure that any bill that is sent to the President makes a more serious effort to penalize those who attempt to enter or re-enter the United States.  It needs to be tough on lawbreakers and send a signal that fraud and abuse, including identity theft, will not be tolerated.  It needs to ensure that gang members are not granted legalization, but rather, made deportable and inadmissible.  We need to protect victims of crime, and ensure that child abusers and domestic violence perpetrators do not receive benefits under the immigration law.

Finally, we need to ensure that dangerous undocumented criminals are not released in our communities but are detained until they are properly returned to their home country.

4. Protecting American workers while enhancing legal avenues

While I support allowing businesses to bring in foreign workers, they should only do so when qualified Americans are not available.  There have been too many stories about U.S. workers who have had to train their replacements who come in through the H-1B visa program.   Foreign nationals are being hired, but then working in locations not specified on their application.  Other work visa programs are not free of controversy.

I agree with the creation of a temporary worker program, such as the W visa program created in S. 744.  I have long argued that we must enhance and expand opportunities for people who wish to work legally in the country.  Yet, as we do that, we cannot forget the American worker.  

We need to fight for them and ensure they are not disadvantaged, displaced, and underpaid because of our immigration laws.

S.744 makes a move in the right direction by increasing worker protections for Americans and providing more authority to the Executive Branch to investigate fraud in the H-1B visa program.  Unfortunately, the bill is slanted to ensure that only certain employers undergo more scrutiny.  All employers who bring in visa holders should be held to the same standard.  All employers, not just some, should be required to make a good faith effort to recruit U.S. workers.

All employers, not just some, should be required to attest that they did not or will not displace a U.S. worker within 180 days of applying for an H-1B worker.  All employers, not just some, should be required to offer the job to a U.S. worker who is equally or better qualified.

Our employment-based immigration programs, including the H-1B program, have served and could again serve a valuable purpose if used properly.  However, they’re being misused and abused.  They’re failing the American worker and not fulfilling the original purpose that Congress intended when it created them.  Reforms are needed to put integrity back into the programs and to ensure that American workers and students are given every chance to fill vacant jobs in this country.

Again, how I vote on a final bill coming out of a conference with the House is undecided.  I want to be able to support something that will make Americans proud, and will stand the test of time so that future generations can benefit.  But I need to see at least these four key changes before I can cast a vote in support.

I’ve said to Iowans and to my colleagues that the bill before the Senate is pre-cooked.  But, I have faith that a better bill is achievable – a bill that can gain more votes, including mine.  

Scroll down for Grassley’s comments at the end of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s consideration of S. 744.

On June 21, King and several other conservative Republicans held a six-hour press conference on immigration. His office released this statement afterwards:

“We are here today to have what I think will be the longest press conference, maybe in the history of the United States Congress,” said King. “The reason for this is because there’s been an accelerated debate that has moved through to the United States Senate to move an immigration policy that I believe is at its heart and core, amnesty. I’ve always believed that was a mistake. In 1986 it was a mistake; it would be a mistake today. So we want to make sure that the American people understand the components of this debate — the politics of it, and the policy of it — and have an opportunity to weigh in to each one of us, to Members of the House and to the Members of the Senate.”

King strongly opposed the Corker-Hoeven border security amendment, issuing this press release on June 24:

Washington, DC- Congressman Steve King released the following statement in response to the Corker amendment to S. 744, The Senate’s Gang of Eight Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill. The 1,190 page Corker amendment was unveiled this afternoon and is expected to be voted on at 5:30pm on Monday.

“The Corker amendment is full blown amnesty,” said King. “Its border security provisions will never be enforced by the Obama Administration. No Senator should vote for this amendment, and no citizen should be confused about what it does. It does not protect our border, it does not require border security before amnesty can take place, and it does not restore the Rule of Law to the abysmal Gang of Eight bill. Even if the Corker amendment is adopted, the Gang of Eight bill will remain ‘the always is, always was and always will be amnesty act.’

The trigger mechanism within the amendment is not to be trusted- it includes an exception that allows the Secretary of Homeland Security to proceed with amnesty after ten years regardless of implementation of any border security measures. Further, the amendment allows the Secretary to grant ‘registered provisional immigrant’ status upon commencement of the border security strategy. Registered provisional immigrant status is a form of legalization that allows illegal aliens to work, affords them a social security number and a passport, and allows them to legally bring in their relatives. Even worse, the amendment adds additional amnesty provisions not in the underlying bill that allow future visa overstayers to become legal residents- amnesty in perpetuity.”

Shortly after the Senate approved that amendment, King’s office sent out this statement:

King: The House Now Stands at Dramatic Crossroads

Washington, DC- Congressman Steve King released the following statement after the Senate invoked cloture on the Corker-Hoeven amendment to S. 744, the Senate’s Gang of Eight Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill by a vote of 67-27.

“The Senate just invoked cloture on a 1,200 page amendment to a bill that not even one Senator has had the time to fully digest,” said King. “I heard the debate firsthand on the Senate floor today. This Corker-Hoeven amendment promises border security soon and legalization immediately thereafter- but it’s just not true.  Amnesty mercenaries are both teasers and appeasers. The trigger mechanism within this amendment should not be trusted by the American people. Included within it is an exception that will allow the Secretary of Homeland Security to proceed with amnesty after ten years regardless of implementation of any border security measures.

The House now stands at a dramatic crossroads. It will be up to conservative members who stand for the Rule of Law to defend our future. Speaker Boehner has given his word that he will block any immigration policy that does not have the majority support of the House Republican Conference. I will not allow this amendment to destroy the Rule of Law.”

Statement from Representative Steve King, June 27 (emphasis in original):

Washington, DC- Congressman Steve King released the following statement after the Senate voted to pass S. 744, the Gang of Eight’s 1,200 page immigration reform legislation. The final vote was 68 – 32.

“This artificial victory for the Senators in the Gang of Eight marks a very disappointing day for our country,” said King. “There are absolutely no benefits for Americans in this bill. It will not secure our nation’s borders; it will make it harder to do so. It will incentivize employers to hire non-citizens instead of citizens, and contains dozens of pet projects added to the bill to buy extra votes. Welfare benefits will be guaranteed for illegal immigrants, and wages for American citizens will decrease as the number of guest workers doubles and the number of immigrants granted lawful permanent residency triples. The bill is, in many ways, a repeat of the 1986 Reagan Amnesty bill – which, as we know now, failed to accomplish the many promises in that bill.

Seventy percent of Republican Senators voted no, which means no momentum for amnesty in the House, even with border security. The bill does not promote or ensure any of the principles that we know will ensure a safer and more stable nation. Those who voted for this bill sacrificed the Rule of Law for a meaningless political trophy. Now, we are left with a choice in the House. Conservatives who truly understand the direction that our nation is headed must lead our conference, and prove that the pillars of American exceptionalism will not collapse.”

I have not seen any press release about this issue from Representative Tom Latham (R, IA-03), but he told the Des Moines Register yesterday that the U.S. House “will not pick up  the Senate bill.”

Latham said all immigration measures in the House will come through the House Judiciary Committee. The chairman of that committee, U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, has said that any immigration policy measures that will be advanced to the House floor for a vote would take smaller bites at the problem rather than a comprehensive approach.

Ranking Member Grassley Closing Remarks at Immigration Reform Mark-Up

Statement of Senator Chuck Grassley

Ranking Member, Senate Judiciary Committee

Closing Remarks

S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Mr. Chairman, tonight we bring to a close an open and transparent process on legislation to reform our broken immigration system.  You’ve surely kept a promise and I hope that promise is maintained by our leadership as the bill moves to the floor of the United States Senate.  I appreciate the way that the process has gone, and the willingness of members to debate many amendments and discuss the provisions in the bill.  It was a productive conversation focused on getting immigration reform right for the long-term.

Coming into the debate, my position was clear.  I voted for amnesty for 3 million people in 1986, and it didn’t solve the problem.  And, today, we’re right back at the same place, talking about the same problems, and proposing the same solutions.  

I accept the sincerity of the group of eight when they said in the preamble of their working paper that they were proceeding that they were proceeding in a basis that would fix this problem once and for all, and in their words so it wouldn’t have to be revisited.  I hope we reach that point, but at this point we have not.

The sponsors of this bill want you to believe it’s different than the 1986 legislation.  They say it will be a tough and expensive road, and it would be easier to just go home than to go through this process.  They say the bill will make us safer and that a legalization program will be different this time around.  

The bill includes very little, if anything, to improve the executive branch’s ability to enforce the law.  No one disputes that this bill is legalization first, enforcement later.  And, that’s unacceptable.  And, I think if you read the polls, yes, immigration reform is very much desired by the American people, and it ought to be because the system is broken, but that’s pretty much based on us securing the borders.

Without ensuring adequate border security or holding employers accountable, the cycle is destined to repeat itself.  I used the Committee process to attempt to strengthen border security.  My amendment to fix the trigger was defeated.  We used the committee process to try and track who was coming and going from our country.  Amendments to require a biometric exit system at all ports of entry — which is current law — were defeated.   We tried to hold employers accountable and stop the magnet for illegal immigration.  My amendment to speed up the implementation of the employer verification system was defeated.

At the end of the day, the majority argued against securing the border for another decade.  The triggers in the bill that kick off legalization are inefficient, ineffective, and unrealistic.   All while amendments that managed to make the bill bigger and costlier were accepted.  

So, this bill falls short of what I want to see in a strong immigration reform bill.  We need to be fair to the millions of people who came here the right way.  At my town meetings in Iowa, some of the resentments of immigration reform is that people who have come here legally and gone through the process, resent others who came here illegally, jumping ahead of the line.  So we have to take into account those views as well.

I remain optimistic that on the floor we can vote on common sense amendments that better the bill.  Serious consideration must be given to amendments that strengthen our ability to remove criminal gang members, hold perpetrators of fraud and abuse accountable, and prevent the weakening of criminal law.  We must seriously consider how the bill works to the detriment of American workers, and find consensus around measures that require employers to recruit and hire from homegrown talent before looking abroad.  We must be willing to close loopholes in our asylum process, prevent criminals and evildoers from gaining immigration benefits, and ensure that we’re improving our ability to protect the homeland.  

Again, I respect the process that we had here in this Committee.  It was a useful conversation and brought real issues to the forefront.  We had an open process, which isn’t new or unexpected.  As done in the past, this committee works diligently through an extensive and transparent process when working on immigration reform.  I’m glad we continued that tradition.  

But, now, the real work begins to see if we can reform this bill before we send it to the House of Representatives.  We need a bill that truly balances our national security with our economic security.  

The bill sponsors, the group of eight, have all said they want a product that can garner around 70 votes to send a message to the House that they should just rubber stamp the bill and send it to the President.  Well, my message to the Senate and the House is that absent significant changes on the Senate floor, the House should take up their own process, develop their own product with input from their constituents, and work toward a conference on this bill.  That will ensure that the bill benefits from the various checks and balances we have within the legislative process to reach the proper outcome.  

I thank the Chairman for working constructively on this legislation.  But, as one who was here the last time we voted for legalization without border security, I cannot support this bill at this point.  

We need a common sense approach that goes step-by-step and makes sure that every line, every provision, and every detail makes America stronger, our border more secure, and our immigration system more efficient and effective.  That’s what Americans deserve, and what we have a responsibility to deliver.

Having said that about the substance of the legislation, I believe we have to move this bill along.  I think in the final analysis, I won’t know if I’m for this bill or not, until it gets to that final product.  If this system is broken, we all ought to make every effort we can to make sure that this system is fixed and fixed right.

  • Robert Reich says Immigration Reform will save our economy

  • Immigration

    The immigration debate was hilarious.  Jeff Sessions praising Bernie Sanders’ economic theories.  I thought for a minute there Sessions might switch parties.  (:  So much concern for the lack of private sector jobs for the average worker out there all of a sudden.

    For a minute there I thought he was going to start quoting Eugene Debs or Woody Guthrie.  Another funny thing is that he is actually to the right of his colleague Richard Shelby as well most of the time, so it was even more of a shock to me.

    I doubt Mr. Sessions will be voting against the next round of trade agreements as he starts this crusade in defense of low skilled, American born workers.

    • Sessions is among the worst

      of the worst. This week after the Supreme Court tanked Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, I caught part of an interview where some journalist asked Sessions whether he thought any part of the country deserved special scrutiny to protect the rights of minority voters. He said something like well, I don’t know, but definitely not Shelby County.

      I’m thinking, if anyplace in the country warrants “pre-clearance” scrutiny of voting rules and procedures, it would be someplace like Shelby County.

      I remember when the Senate didn’t confirm Sessions to the federal bench. Liberals celebrated, but little did we know how long we’d be stuck with him in Congress.

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