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May 11, 2011

Immigration Reform

[Page: S2816]  GPO's PDF 

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Mr. REID. Madam President, briefly, first to comment on immigration reform, we have spent a great deal of time on the Senate floor the last two Congresses dealing with immigration reform. We worked hard in coming up with a solution, and we have a solution. We were working with President Bush toward coming up with a solution to immigration reform. The problem was that even President Bush--even President Bush--could not get his Republican colleagues to join with us in doing something about immigration reform.

Our immigration system is broken, and it needs to be fixed. But it is so important that the President in El Paso today talks about the need for immigration reform because he knows and we all know, as even President Bush knew, that immigration reform is necessary. The problem is that we can't get Republicans here in the Senate to help us. It is quite simple.

We know we have to do something about border security. We have done a lot in that regard. Have we done enough? No. There is more that can be done, but we have done a lot in that direction, and rightfully so. Just within the last year or so, we provided $650 billion for more border security. That was on a bipartisan basis. We passed that. That was important.

We also have to do something about our guest worker program. At any one given time, we have thousands and thousands of guest workers here. Why? Because it is necessary, and it has been for a long time. Take the Chesapeake Bay. We have learned that we have people who come in--seasonal workers--who can do the work on the clams and the stuff on the great Chesapeake Bay. We have about 1.5 million agricultural workers in our country, and we have a system that doesn't work even for them. We have to do this. Our agricultural industry depends on it.

We also have in our country today 11 million people who are undocumented. There isn't anybody with an ounce of common sense who thinks we can deport 11 million people. We can't do it fiscally, and we can't do it physically. Therefore, we should do something about the 11 million people who are here. How should we do that? Put them on a pathway to legalization. It doesn't mean amnesty. It means that they would pay penalties and fines, that they would go to the back of the line, not the front of the line. They would have to learn English. They would have to stay out of trouble. They would have to pay taxes. There are certain things they would be required to do.

Finally, we have to do something about the unworkable employer sanction provision that was put into the 1986 law. It hasn't worked. Prior to that time, the burden was on the government to make sure people who came to work throughout America were legal. We shifted that responsibility to employers. They can't do that. It is a catch-22 now. The way the law is set up now simply doesn't work. We have, since 1986, computerization which has taken over much of the world, and through that we can work toward having an employer sanction program in our country that will work.

My point is that President Obama should be commended for talking about immigration reform. It is necessary.

My friend the Republican leader should also understand that we have tried, and for our Republican people to talk about immigration reform and not vote accordingly is something the people of America have witnessed now for many years.

(Senate - May 10, 2011)

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