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May 11, 2011

Immigration Reform

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Mr. DURBIN. Madam President, let me say a word very quickly about the President's speech today in El Paso.

I have said on the Senate floor many times, because it is a source of pride to me, I am a first generation American. One hundred years ago, my mother was brought to this country as an infant, 2 years of age. My grandmother brought her over from Lithuania, and they landed in Baltimore in 1911--100 years ago. How they made it--the four of them, at that point: my aunt, uncle, grandmother, and mother--how they made it from Baltimore to East St. Louis, IL, I do not have a clue because I am sure they did not speak but a handful of words in English.

They made it like other immigrants made it: because they were determined to come to this country. They were prepared to leave everything behind in their lives--their homes, their churches, their relatives, their friends, their languages, their cultures--and come to this great Nation and take the risk, the risk of opportunity. Think about that story and multiply it millions of times, and that is the story of America.

The people who hate immigration are turning their back on the heart and essence of this great Nation. We are an immigrant nation of people of extraordinary courage who picked up and moved and said: We are going to try our best in a new place with a new language. When most of them arrived--I am sure it was the case with many who were on the boat with my mom--there were folks standing on the shoreline saying: No, not more of those people. Don't we have enough of them? They don't speak our language. They don't look like us. They don't dress like us. They eat funny food. They hang out with one another. We don't need more of those people.

For as long as immigrants have been coming to these shores, there have been people standing on the shores saying: Please, pull up the ladder. We don't need any more of those folks. But we do. We need them not only because they work hard, we need them because they have a spirit and a determination which makes us a different nation.

The DNA each of us shares from those immigrant parents and grandparents gives us a drive and a determination to make this a better nation. When we close the doors to immigration--orderly, legal immigration--we are closing the doors of opportunity in this country.

The President will speak to immigration today. He has been a loyal friend of mine for a long time. He was a cosponsor of the DREAM Act, which I introduced 10 years ago, and I would not be surprised if he brought it up today in El Paso. He did last week in the White House. I know he is committed, as I am, to make sure children who were brought to the United States as infants and youngsters, who had no voice in the decision to come here, who have lived a good life here, worked hard and went to school, said the Pledge of Allegiance every morning in the classroom and know no other flag but the U.S. flag, children who want to become tomorrow's adults and tomorrow's leaders deserve a chance. The DREAM Act will give them that chance. They can choose to enlist in our military and become citizens of the United States, or they can choose to complete college, at least 2 years of it, and find a path to citizenship. That is reasonable, it is compassionate, and it is fair. I hope as part of immigration reform we include it.

I plead with my colleagues on the other side of the aisle: Do not turn your back on America's heritage. Do not turn your back on fairness and compassion. Join us in real immigration reform. Join us in passing the DREAM Act.

Madam President, I yield the floor.

The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. The Senator from New York.

Mr. SCHUMER. Madam President, first, I commend my colleague and friend from Illinois for his outstanding remarks on both subjects, the deficit and on immigration. I am here to talk about the deficit, but I will just touch on immigration.

People are saying, well, why is the President going to El Paso when we

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have not made enough progress on immigration? They bring up a point, but the President's point is the right one. He is bringing the message to the country on why we need real immigration reform.

I think there is one point on which 100 Members of this Chamber would agree: our present immigration system is broken, badly broken. We turn away lots of people who should be here. We also do not have a rational system for who should come here, and America is the lesser for it. As the Senator from Illinois pointed out, immigration is part of our proud heritage, and immigrants help America.

One of the reasons we are doing a lot better than Europe is we have welcomed new people into this country, and we integrate them and say: As quickly as you can, become Americans. We all came from somewhere else originally.

Now, I am still very hopeful that as the President sets the table and let's America know how important this is, we can get bipartisan immigration reform done in this Chamber, on the floor of the Senate, and even over in the House. It is hard, no question, but I believe, first, to get comprehensive reform we need bipartisan support. That is obvious. But, secondly, that people see enough need to do it that we can actually get it done, particularly if the President goes around the country, as he is beginning to do today in El Paso and as he has done in the past, and talks about the need for immigration reform, setting the table so we can actually get something real done.

(Senate - May 10, 2011)

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