(Senate - May 23, 2013)

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[Pages S3829-S3830]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []


  Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, after several hearings and five lengthy 
markup sessions, the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday evening voted 
with a strong bipartisan vote of 13-5 to report the Border Security, 
Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act to the full 
Senate. This vote demonstrated our commitment to bring millions of 
people out of the shadows and into American life by establishing a 
pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in 
this country. It addresses the lengthy backlogs in our current 
immigration system that have kept families apart sometimes for decades. 
It grants a faster track to the ``dreamers'' and to the agricultural 
workers who are an essential part of our communities and our economy. 
It makes important changes to the visas used by dairy farmers, 
tourists, and investors who create American jobs that spur our economy. 
It improves the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers so that the 
United States will remain the beacon of hope in the world.
  I am immensely proud of the process through which the Judiciary 
Committee considered this bill. The Committee held more than 37 hours 
of debate in five markup sessions spread over almost 2 weeks. We 
considered 212 amendments offered by Republican and Democratic 
Senators, and voted to accept 141 of those amendments. The committee 
accepted amendments from nearly every member of the Judiciary 
Committee. Every Republican member but one offered amendments the 
committee voted to accept by a bipartisan majority. Senator Cruz is the 
lone exception and his amendments were all defeated by bipartisan 
  Of the more than 300 amendments filed, more than 200 were debated. By 
contrast, during the committee's consideration of the Immigration 
Reform and Control Act of 1986, the number of amendments voted on was 
11. In 2006, the committee's consideration of the Securing America's 
Borders Act voted on approximately 60 amendments. The quality of the 
debate and the effort that went into it is a testament to the committee 
and each of its members, even those who ultimately voted against the 
  As Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I ensured more process 
and transparency than any previous committee consideration of 
immigration reform. Committee members filed their amendments 2 days 
before our first markup, giving members, their staffs and the public 
ample time to review those amendments so they could be thoroughly 
debated. For the first time in the committee's history, amendments were 
posted online on our committee website for the public to review. The 
markup meetings themselves were broadcast online and on public 
television so that they could be viewed across the country. Many 
members of the public also lined up early each morning to attend the 
meetings in person. Families, faith leaders, advocates and community 
leaders were present to witness the committee's deliberations. This was 
an open, thorough, and thoughtful debate.
  In real time, as members accepted and rejected amendments, the 
committee's website was updated to reflect which amendments were 
modified, accepted or defeated. In addition to the live webcast and 
gavel-to-gavel coverage on C-SPAN, I provided regular updates through 
the Judiciary Committee's website, Twitter and other means. I was 
heartened to see a Vermont editorial describe the Judiciary Committee 
markup as a ``lesson in democracy.''
  The committee unanimously approved my amendment to permanently 
authorize and further strengthen the EB-5 Regional Center Program which 
will benefit the economy. The United States Citizenship and Immigration 
Services, USCIS, estimates that the EB-5 Regional Center Program has 
created tens of thousands of American jobs and has attracted more than 
$1 billion in investment in communities all across the United States 
since 2006. Senator Sessions spoke in support of my amendment before it 
was adopted without a single vote in opposition.
  Another example of the Committee's bipartisan efforts to improve this 
legislation was offered by Senators Hatch, Coons and Klobuchar, to 
increase certain immigration fees and direct a portion of the proceeds 
to the States to

[[Page S3830]]

fund science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education and 
training that will help drive American competitiveness. Senator Schumer 
offered a second degree amendment to ensure that a percentage of the 
funding is used to promote STEM education in groups that are 
underrepresented in the sciences, such as women and racial minorities. 
Both amendments were accepted by the committee by unanimous consent.
  The committee considered 35 amendments to strengthen the bill's 
border security provisions offered by both Republicans and Democrats. 
Of the 26 amendments accepted to this section, 10 were offered by 
Republicans. Senator Grassley offered an amendment to expand the 
Comprehensive Southern Border Strategy to include all border sectors, 
not just high-risk sectors. The committee accepted amendments by 
Senators Flake and Grassley to increase oversight of DHS enforcement 
strategies, and amendments by Senators Sessions and Cornyn to protect 
border communities. These amendments add to, and strengthen, the strong 
enforcement provisions already included in the bill.
  These amendments are just a few of the amendments offered to 
strengthen provisions in the pre-Title and Title I border security 
provisions and promote jobs and innovation in the non-immigration visa 
provisions in Title IV of the bill. Other bipartisan proposals to 
provide assistance for American workers to apply for jobs in the 
technology sector and establish employee reporting requirements to 
address potential abuse of the visa system have also been adopted.
  The Judiciary Committee debated and accepted 48 amendments offered by 
Republican members. I was encouraged by the committee's open and 
respectful debate. In a time where partisan brinksmanship has become 
the norm, the Judiciary Committee was able to demonstrate the need for 
compromise and find common ground to stand on in pursuit of 
comprehensive immigration reform. The result of our committee's 
consideration is a stronger, more bipartisan bill, and I look forward 
to working with the rest of the Senate to ensure its passage.
  The bill is not the one that I would have drafted. I voted for 
amendments that were rejected and against amendments that were 
accepted. The bill mandates more than $1.5 billion of more southern 
border fencing, which I believe a mistake. My greatest disappointment 
is that the legislation that comes from the Senate Judiciary Committee 
does not recognize the rights of all Americans, including gay and 
lesbian Americans who have just as much right to spousal immigration 
benefits as anyone else. I will continue my efforts to end the needless 
discrimination so many Americans face in our immigration system. This 
discrimination serves no legitimate purpose and it is wrong.
  Since the beginning of this Congress, I have tried to make 
comprehensive immigration reform our top legislative priority in the 
Senate Judiciary Committee. In January at Georgetown University Law 
Center, I outlined my expectation that comprehensive immigration reform 
would be the matter to which the Judiciary Committee would devote 
itself this spring and announced an early hearing to highlight the 
national discussion. I followed through. The committee held three 
hearings on comprehensive immigration reform in February and March.
  I have said since the beginning of the year that I was looking 
forward to seeing principles turned into legislation. The Judiciary 
Committee has now advanced such a bill. We completed our work a month 
later than I had hoped, but we had to begin much later than I had 
hoped. We were able to make up ground by concentrating our efforts 
during the 5 weeks since the bill was introduced in which we held three 
more hearings and five extended markup sessions.
  I have favored an open and transparent process during which all 18 
Senators serving on the Senate Judiciary Committee had the opportunity 
to participate and to propose or oppose ideas for reform. The Majority 
Leader agreed that we needed regular order in the consideration of 
comprehensive immigration reform. The process took time and was not 
easy. There were strongly-held, differing points of view.
  I am encouraged that after two resounding presidential defeats, some 
Republican politicians are concerned enough about the growing Hispanic 
voting population that they are abandoning their former demagoguery and 
coming to the table. In what is being called its ``autopsy'' of the 
last election, the Republican National Committee wrote: ``Hispanic 
voters tell us our Party's position on immigration has become a litmus 
test, measuring whether we are meeting them with a welcome mat or a 
closed door.'' After slamming the door on our efforts for comprehensive 
immigration reform during the Bush administration, I welcome 
Republicans to this effort. I continue to fear that some merely want to 
talk the talk while looking for excuses to abandon what needs to be a 
bipartisan effort.
  Few topics are more fundamental to who and what we are as a Nation 
than immigration. The Statue of Liberty has long proclaimed America's 
welcome: ``Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning 
to breathe free. . . . Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I 
lift my lamp beside the golden door!'' That is what America has stood 
for and what we should continue to represent. Immigration throughout 
our history has been an ongoing source of renewal of our spirit, our 
creativity and our economic strength.
  In the course of our deliberations I have quoted my friend of many 
years, Ted Kennedy. In the summer of 2007, as our effort at 
comprehensive immigration reform was being blocked in the Senate, he 
spoke about his disappointment and our resolve. He said: ``A minority 
in the Senate rejected a stronger economy that is fairer to our 
taxpayers and our workers. A minority of the Senate rejected America's 
own extraordinary immigrant history and ignored our Nation's most 
urgent needs. But we are in this struggle for the long haul. . . . As 
we continue the battle, we will have ample inspiration in the lives of 
the immigrants all around us.'' I have taken inspiration from many 
sources, from our shared history as immigrants and as Americans, from 
the experiences of my own grandparents, and from our courageous 
witnesses Jose Antonio Vargas and Gaby Pacheco and from the families 
that can be more secure when we enact comprehensive immigration reform.
  The dysfunction in our current immigration system affects all of us 
and it is long past time for reform. I hope that our history, our 
values, and our decency can inspire us finally to take action. We need 
an immigration system that lives up to American values and helps write 
the next great chapter in American history by reinvigorating our 
economy and enriching our communities. Together we can work to pass a 
bill that repairs our broken immigration system.