(Senate - April 25, 2013)

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[Pages S3018-S3020]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []


  Mr. RUBIO. Madam President, I wanted to speak for a few minutes here 
on the floor as we finish the business of this work period and we 
return to our home States for about a week. We will be back here on May 
6. At that time, I will continue this important conversation we are 
having on a number of issues. But one of them is this issue of 
immigration, which was recently back in the news as a result of some 
efforts we have had here.
  Let's begin by describing the reality the United States faces today. 
First and foremost, this is a country that does not need to be 
convinced of the benefits of legal immigration, because virtually every 
single one of us, including those watching here now, the people who 
work in this building and across this country, are all but a generation 
or two removed from someone who came here from somewhere else. So we do 
not need to be convinced of the virtues of immigration, because we have 
lived them. We see them every single day. In fact, we read about them 
as well in terms of great innovations that have changed the American 
economy and made this country different from any in the history of the 
  There may be some debate, but not much, about the value, the 
importance of legal immigration to the United States. The problem we 
face is we have a legal immigration system right now that is broken. It 
has not worked well in a very long time. Efforts to reform it over the 
last 20 to 30 years have failed.
  Let me describe what is wrong with our immigration process. No. 1, it 
is bureaucratic and complicated. It is very difficult to navigate the 
legal immigration process, the result of long backlogs and a 
bureaucracy that has to be dealt with.
  You have to lawyer up just to legally come here. That comes with its 
own set of problems.
  The second problem is the illegal immigration system, quite frankly, 
isn't based on the 21st century. It is actually based on the middle 
part of the last century and a very different economic time in our 
world and certainly in our country.
  That is why you are not going to get a lot of debate from people when 

[[Page S3019]]

say we need to have a legal immigration system that reflects the modern 
era, that reflects our global economy, that reflects our knowledge-
based economy. We need a legal immigration system that is good for 
America's economy. That means a lot of different things.
  For agriculture, it means the ability to find workers when they need 
them, and that is usually most of the time--foreign workers who come as 
guests and work on a temporary basis or even on a year-round basis but 
a way to access those workers in a legal way. It also means to continue 
the flow of legal immigrants to the United States through a safe but 
reliable and nonbureaucratic process that is cost-effective and 
encourages people to come here legally. It also means, by the way, that 
in some industries and some sectors from time to time you will need 
guest workers, people who are not going to stay permanently but people 
who fill in the gaps, particularly in times of very low unemployment 
when you cannot find a domestic worker to do that work. You need a 
legal way to be able to do all these things.
  Perhaps the most important initiative we need is a legal immigration 
system that is based on merit and on skill. Right now the legal 
immigration system is based on whether you know someone who lives here. 
If you know someone who lives here as a family member, they can bring 
you with them. It is this term you hear a lot about: ``chain 
migration.'' There is nothing inherently wrong with that. The problem 
is today our economy has changed, and our immigration system has to 
change with it.
  I think there is a growing consensus around the country that we need 
a legal immigration system that is no longer solely based on whether 
you know a family member who lives here but, rather, having one that is 
built on whether you are going to bring a special skill, talent or fill 
a certain void that exists in our economy today.
  The second problem with our legal immigration system is that our laws 
are not being enforced. I can tell you that in the last 9 or 10 days 
since we introduced a bipartisan bill that we are working on as a 
starting point for this debate, if there is one thing that has become 
abundantly clear, it is the complete lack of trust people have in the 
Federal Government and its ability or willingness to enforce our laws.
  I want you to know that of all the impediments that stand in the way 
of immigration reform, none looms larger than that lack of trust in the 
Federal Government. I would say that lack of trust in the Federal 
Government is pervasive across every policy, but it is especially 
pronounced on the issue of legal immigration.
  Too many people simply do not believe the Federal Government is 
enforcing the law or is willing to enforce the law. As a result, it is 
going to make efforts for immigration reform very difficult, unless we 
are able not just to convince people but to show people that the 
measures we are pursuing in immigration reform are efforts that once 
and for all will begin to deal with this problem effectively.
  The third problem we have is this reality that we have millions of 
human beings living in this country illegally. Some came legally and 
overstayed the visa. They came and they were supposed to be here for 90 
days and they stayed. Others crossed the border illegally.
  The point is, by the way, of the people who overstayed, that is about 
40 percent. In my home State of Florida it is much larger. The point is 
we have millions of people living in this country right now who are 
illegally here, people who do not have a right to be here legally. No 
one has the right to violate the immigration laws of the United States.
  On the other hand, the decisions that created that problem were made 
in 1985 and in 1986, when I remind people that I was in ninth grade. As 
a policymaker, what I now confront is this reality that we have 9, 10, 
11 million human beings living in the United States in violation of our 
immigration laws. To add to that, most of these people have been here 
more than a decade. They have children who are U.S. citizens. They may 
even own property. They work, they are here, and they are never going 
to go back. We have to deal with that fundamental reality as well.
  With all that in mind, this is how I decided to get involved in this 
immigration reform debate. Let me explain. There is very little 
political benefit to this issue, believe me.
  No. 1, I would rather be on the floor debating issues such as taxes, 
debt, and the impediment they place on our economy and its growth. I 
hope we can get to those issues. This is also an important issue, and 
it was an issue that was going to come up.
  I remind Members of my party we are not the majority here. I wish we 
were, and we will continue to make that happen. But we are not the 
majority, and this issue is going to come up on the floor of the Senate 
with or without us.
  It is a legitimate problem the country faces. Therefore, I decided it 
was best for us to be engaged and try to come up with something that 
works. That is why I endeavored to get involved in this issue, and that 
is why I continue to be involved.
  As a result, I have laid out some pretty clear principles about what 
I think immigration reform should look like. It should modernize our 
system. It should create real systems for enforcement so we never have 
this problem again. It deals with the people who are here illegally in 
a way that is compassionate and humane, true to our heritage as a 
compassionate people but also in a way that ensures it is not fair to 
the people who did it right and doesn't encourage people to do this 
wrong in the future. Those are my principles.
  Based on those principles, I entered into negotiations with seven 
other Senators to work on a bill that begins as a starting point of 
this debate. I have heard criticism about that process. People say, 
well, it is a secret process; it is behind doors.
  Let me clue everybody in on something. Every bill around here is 
drafted at the beginning in someone's office. Most people here, when 
they draft a bill or an amendment to bring to the floor, they don't do 
it in some auditorium. They are working on it in their office with 
their staff. That is just the starting point. That bill has to be 
filed. We are not voting upon a sheet of paper. We are voting on a bill 
that people read and analyze.
  That is what this bill is. It is a starting point. It is eight 
Senators, four Democrats and four Republicans, who spent 2 to 3 months 
working on a bill that we present to our colleagues and say this is 
what we were able to come up with. Now it is your turn to make it 
  We actually have a process to do that, and here is how this process 
works. I don't mean to be patronizing, but it is important to remind 
people of that process.
  Here is how that process works. You file a bill. Committees hold 
hearings on that bill. Then they do what they call markup. Basically, 
what it means, for those watching at home, is a bunch of Senators sit 
around and they literally vote on changing the bill. People offer ideas 
about how to make it better and how to change it. That is an important 
process. That has to happen, and it has to happen with this bill. Two 
weeks from today they will begin that process.
  I have heard my colleagues come to the floor some and express 
concerns about different provisions in the bill. I don't have time to 
rebut every point but, frankly, they raise some very valid points too. 
Suffice it to say, some of the concerns they have are not valid, and I 
think we can address that with them. Others are just disagreements, and 
they need to be worked out through the legislative process.

  Here is my encouragement to my colleagues who don't agree with the 
bill we have crafted. Change it. Let's work on changing it. If you 
believe that what we have today is broken, if you believe the status 
quo on immigration is chaos and a disaster, if that is what you 
believe, as I do, then let's solve it. The way we solve it is by 
working together. In essence, don't just be against it. Offer ideas to 
change it.
  For example, if you don't think the border security provisions of the 
bill we have drafted are strong enough or enforceable enough, offer 
some ideas to change them. Right now I stand on the floor of the Senate 
and I ask any of my colleagues who have a bill to guarantee border 
security to please bring it to my office. Please offer it as an 
amendment. I continue to extend that offer. I am looking for ideas to 
improve what we have drafted.

[[Page S3020]]

  Quite frankly, I think we can get it to be even better. I think those 
of us who worked on it would agree. If people disagree with the way we 
modernized the legal immigration system--let's say they think we don't 
bring enough high-tech workers or enough farmworkers--change it. File 
an amendment to change it.
  Here is what I would say. Unless you actually believe we don't need 
to do anything--and listen, if you believe that is valid, that is 
fine--if you believe that what we have is OK, if you believe we don't 
need to do anything about immigration, just leave it the way it is, 
then that is fine. I respect that view. I disagree with it, but I 
respect it.
  If what you think that what we have is a disaster--and I think that 
is most of us--then let's work on it together to change it. In essence, 
don't view the bill we drafted as something that is being shoved down 
your throat, because it is not. View it as a starting point product 
upon which we can build something that I hope most of us can support.
  If you are opposed to this bill or elements of it, try to change it. 
Try to improve it. That is why we have something called the amendment 
process. By the way, that is just in the Judiciary Committee. Beyond 
that, it has to come to the floor of the Senate, where I expect there 
to be open debate, where I expect there to be an open amendment 
process. If it passes here, then it has to go to the House and we have 
to work with them to get a product we all agree on.
  Here is my point. If you are going to be against anything no matter 
what we file or, no matter what, you just don't want to do immigration 
reform, then that is fine. If you believe, as I do, that our legal 
immigration system is broken and needs to be modernized, then let's 
work to change it. If you believe we need to be realistic about the 
fact that we have 11 million human beings in this country who are going 
to be here for the rest of their lives, whether we deal with them or 
not, and that it is not good for America to have that many people here 
whom we don't know, have no idea who they are, where they are, and many 
of them are not paying taxes, then let's work together to find a way to 
deal with it.
  If you believe our laws are not being enforced and we need to pass 
laws that force the administration--this one and a future one--to 
enforce our law, let's change it. Let's work on something that comes up 
with that.
  I am all ears. I am open-minded about that and so are my colleagues. 
Let's not leave it the way it is. The way it is is chaos. It is bad for 
our country. What we have today is not good for the United States. Our 
job as policymakers is not just to come and criticize, our job is to 
come and to make a difference. Our job is not just to come to the floor 
and make speeches or go back home and give speeches or do television 
interviews, our job is not just to poke holes, our job is to plug holes 
too. Our job is not just to criticize but to make better. What we have 
now doesn't work. It is not good for our country. We can't leave it 
this way.
  We have a chance now to truly improve it. This is not an effort to 
force anything down anyone's throat. This bill we have worked on is a 
starting point. It is not a take-it-or-leave-it proposition. It never 
has been. To pretend it is isn't fair. To pretend that somehow 
something is being crafted that is being forced down someone's throat 
with no options to amend it or make it better, that is not true. You 
know that.
  I have talked to almost all of my colleagues here and extended an 
open hand and said let's work together to make this better. I truly 
think we have to.
  Is this the most important issue America faces? No. We owe $17 
trillion, and we have no idea how we are going to pay it back. We have 
an economy that is not growing, and we need to do something about it. 
This is an important issue and, by the way, it is related to that 
issue. There actually is a growing consensus that we have a chance to 
do something about it once and for all.
  Let's work together. Let's work together to come up with a solution 
that modernizes our legal immigration system so it is good for our 
economy, that once and for all forces the administration, this one and 
a future one, to enforce our immigration laws. Once and for all this 
will deal with the 11 million people who are here illegally in a way 
that is fair and compassionate but also fair to the people who did it 
right and also in a way to ensure this never, ever happens again.
  I hope when we come back in a few days we will begin to work on that 
together for the good of our country and the future of our great 
  I suggest the absence of a quorum.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
  The legislative clerk proceed to call the roll.
  Mr. REID. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for 
the quorum call be rescinded.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.