IMMIGRATION REFORM; Congressional Record Vol. 160, No. 101
(Senate - June 26, 2014)

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[Pages S4127-S4129]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




                           IMMIGRATION REFORM

  Mr. BENNET. Mr. President, we say that America is a nation of 
immigrants, and, of course, that is true. There is no other country in 
the world for which immigration is so central to its history and its 
identity. Let's take a moment to reflect on what that really means.
  Here is a photo. I am afraid it is not a very good quality. I took it 
myself. It is a photo that I took at a naturalization ceremony held for 
Active Duty servicemembers in Fort Carson, CO. The 13 soldiers and 
spouses who became U.S. citizens on that day represented 11 different 
countries of origin even though they are wearing our uniform.
  They came from all over the world: Colombia, Haiti, Malaysia, Mexico, 
Nicaragua, China, the Philippines, South Korea, Togo, Ukraine, and the 
United Kingdom. They all came for this pursuit of the American dream, 
and they all came to serve this country. They are going to be the 
people who help us determine our future.
  The same is true with the refugees fleeing persecution from around 
the world. The parents seeking opportunity for their children and those 
stepping forward to serve and sacrifice for our shared values have made 
this country the America we love. But our existing immigration policies 
do not reflect this history or the values that shaped it. Instead, it 
is a mess of unintended consequences that hurts our businesses, rips 
families apart, and keeps us at a competitive disadvantage with the 
rest of the world.
  Tomorrow marks 365 days--1 year--since the Senate acted to fix these 
problems and passed bipartisan immigration reform. Yet here we are 
still waiting for the House of Representatives to do the same. The 
House's inaction is costing our Nation. It has cost us, among other 
things, $13.4 billion in lost revenue in this last year alone. With 
each additional day that passes, we lose another $37 million of 
revenue.
  What is most frustrating about this to me is that we agree--on both 
sides of the aisle--that our current immigration system is broken. We 
agree that our immigration system is critical for our economy and for 
our country.
  In June of last year we passed a bill in this Chamber with strong 
bipartisan support. It won the support of a broad coalition of 
Republicans and Democrats. It also has the support of countless 
organizations, from migrant workers to farmers and ranchers, from law 
enforcement agencies to the faith community, Latino leaders across this 
country, and the Chamber of Commerce to labor unions.
  Often I tell those who despair about the lack of leadership in 
Congress that there is a model we can learn from, and it is the 
bipartisan work that was done on this bill. I cannot say enough about 
the Republican Members of the Gang of 8 who negotiated a bill over 
seven or eight months, knowing what the base of their party might say 
about the fact that they were in that room but still willing to do it 
because it was right to do for their country and it was right to do for 
their party--in that order.
  In this job I have had the opportunity to meet with a diverse cross 
section of

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Coloradans throughout the State, each struggling beneath the weight of 
a broken immigration system. I have spoken with peach growers on the 
Western Slope, vegetable growers in Brighton, and melon farmers in the 
San Luis Valley--farmers such as Philip Davis from Mesa Winds Farm and 
Winery in Western Colorado who cannot get the seasonal workers he 
needs. He will tell you how hard he and his family have had to work to 
fill these gaps, and how every single day they have to keep fighting to 
prevent their 36-acre farm from closing.
  A legal, reliable, competent workforce for our Nation's farms and 
ranches is essential for Colorado's $40 billion agricultural industry, 
and it is essential for our agricultural industry across the country. 
Maybe that is the reason why both the United Farm Workers union and the 
growers all across the United States of America endorsed this bill.
  I have heard from Colorado's high-tech companies such as Full 
Contact, a tech startup in Boulder, CO, that acquired a company 
overseas. They have been unable to hire the talented engineers they 
need to grow their businesses and add jobs.
  I have also heard from Colorado's dedicated teachers and 
administrators who work tirelessly to teach the next generation of 
entrepreneurs and innovators--teachers such as Mary Edwin from Colorado 
Springs. Mary, a graduate of Johns Hopkins with a master's degree in 
education, will likely be forced to return home to Nigeria, leaving 
behind the children she works with at Turman Elementary School, all on 
account of our broken, outdated visa system.
  This year on April 7, approximately 6 months before the 2015 fiscal 
year even begins, the government announced it had already reached its 
statutory cap on H-1B petitions for H-1B visas. It has also reached its 
exemption for 20,000 advanced-degree holders. These are exactly the 
type of workers our State and the national economy require.
  I will paint a picture of what our country would look like if the 
Senate's immigration bill were actually enacted. First, millions of 
people who came to this country for a better life, including young 
people whose parents brought them here as children, would have the 
opportunity to enter a tough but fair pathway to citizenship. With a 
path in place, we would see higher wages, greater consumption of goods 
and increased revenue. It would reduce our debt by nearly $1 trillion--
even in Washington that is real money--over 20 years, and increase our 
economic growth by roughly 5.4 percent over that period of time.
  Next, our bill would put in place an efficient and flexible visa 
system that would enable us to compete in a changing 21st century 
global economy. Talented entrepreneurs and innovators from around the 
world would have the opportunity to stay here in order to create jobs 
and fuel our economy. High-skilled workers in math and science, and 
lower-skilled workers in industries such as hospitality and tourism 
would come into the country to fill jobs where there are no available 
U.S. workers.
  We would provide stability for our agricultural industry with a new 
streamlined program for agricultural workers--one that is more usable 
for employers and protects our workers.

  Our borders would be more secure. There is one border security bill 
that has passed the Congress, and that is the bill passed by the 
Senate. It allows for new fencing, doubling the number of border 
agents, and increased spending on new technology. We would have full 
situational awareness on the border in order to allow us to intercept 
threats rapidly and successfully. And with the mandatory employment 
verification system and more effective entry-exit system, we would 
prevent future waves of illegal immigration.
  A huge number of people who are here entered the country legally; we 
just don't know where they are. We ought to have a system that tells us 
that. These are all changes that our Nation urgently needs.
  In the time since the Senate passed the bill, we heard a litany of 
reasons why it can't pass the House. They say the Senate bill doesn't 
have support in the House. If Speaker Boehner put the bill on the floor 
tomorrow, it would pass. They say the Senate bill is too long, too big, 
too comprehensive. I, for one, am willing to consider looking at this 
bill in smaller pieces as long as all the problems with the system are 
addressed. But the House has not produced--never mind voted--on a 
single bill, much less a series of smaller bills.
  They say they want more border security, but what do they know about 
the border that our Republican colleagues from Arizona, John McCain and 
Jeff Flake, don't know? What do they know about the border that Senator 
Flake and Senator McCain don't know? We have 21,000 border agents, and 
we are putting another 21,000 on the border if this bill were passed. 
We spend more money on the border than we do on all other Federal law 
enforcement combined, but they say there is not enough border 
security--not that they passed a border security bill. The only folks 
who have passed a border security bill are right here in the Senate. We 
should ask them how many more agents they need, and how many more 
billions of dollars we should spend.
  If the House wants to secure the border first, which the Senate bill 
does, let's see their legislation. We are waiting. I, for one, would 
like to see them think about customs agents and trade instead of adding 
more billions of dollars at the border.
  The most common excuse we have heard is that the House has not had 
time to pass a bill. The House was only scheduled to work 9 days last 
September. Ultimately, they came back for a few extra days to shut the 
government down.
  In the year since the Senate passed the bill, the House has found the 
time to vote 17 times to repeal, delay or dismantle the health care 
bill--54 times in total in the last 4 years. They voted to name 20 post 
offices and an assortment of 20 other government buildings. They have 
held five separate House committee hearings. They produced three 
different public reports and passed one resolution on the topic of 
Benghazi--a topic that has never come up in most of our town hall 
meetings.
  What I hear in Colorado over and over is we have to stop excuses, 
stop posturing, and pass a bill--a good bipartisan bill, and that is 
what the House of Representatives ought to be doing now. Fixing our 
broken immigration system is long overdue, and I believe that the 
bipartisan solution crafted in our Senate bill will fix it just fine. 
It is time for the House to act.
  With that, I yield the floor, and I thank my colleague, again, for 
his patience and kindness in allowing me to go first.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Alabama.
  Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. President, I appreciate my colleague. I would note 
he didn't mention and wasn't mentioned in the effort to pass the Gang 
of 8 bill, which was dead on arrival in the House, the American worker. 
The numbers just came out yesterday, a revision of the economic 
numbers--our gross domestic product showed a decline in the first 
quarter of 2.9 percent, a GDP decline of 2.9 percent, which is the 
largest we have seen since the recession hit--those dramatic days.
  We are not creating jobs in this country. Wages are not going up. We 
do not need to be surging the number of immigrants coming into the 
country. We don't need to be passing a law such as the Gang of 8 bill 
that would double the H-1B workers brought into America, increase by 50 
percent the annual flow, add another 500,000 so-called backlog workers, 
in addition to legalizing some 11 million-plus, at a time when 
Americans are having wages fall and jobs are very difficult to find.
  For example, I would note that workforce participation levels have 
fallen to their lowest point since the 1970s. This is a dramatic 
decline in the number of people working and the numbers continue to 
slide. Since 2009, we have had a decline in median income for families 
in America of $2,300.
  They suggest repeatedly that this legislation we have brought to the 
floor was focused primarily on melon harvesters, but that is not so. 
About 80 percent of the people who would be given legal status and 
would be allowed to come to America to work under the guest worker 
program would not be on the farms. They would be taking jobs in plants 
and factories all over America, reducing the need for businesses to 
increase wages for a change and try to attract people into some of 
these more

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difficult jobs. It is not that people won't do this work; it is that 
the wages aren't sufficient to take care of them and their families.
  We need wages to rise. We have a loose labor market, not a tight 
labor market. People are having a hard time finding jobs. We are 
talking about a dramatic increase in the number of workers at a time 
when the economy is struggling, workers are hurting, wages are down, 
and unemployment is up.
  I just want to dispute that. I want to push back on it. That has been 
my analysis from the beginning.
  Oh, we need more high-tech workers, they say, and businesses say that 
too. But what do the numbers show? Professor Harold Salzman at Rutgers 
did a report that said we are actually graduating about 500,000 STEM 
graduates--science, technology, engineering, mathematics--about 500,000 
graduate a year, but we only have jobs for fewer than half of them. 
Most STEM graduates are not working in their fields. They haven't been 
able to find the kind of work for which they trained. One of the 
reasons is that a substantial number of those jobs are taken by H-1B 
workers who are brought in not to immigrate to America to create jobs, 
I say to my colleagues; they come in on the H-1B visa, which is a 
limited period of time, they work at lower wages, and they return to 
their country. They are not on a path to be permanent citizens. But it 
is a great asset to businesses that don't want to hire, perhaps--it 
seems--people and put them on a career path where they might be 
expected to get pay raises in the years to come.
  So I will challenge even that fact. I talked to a business person 
recently about a factory they have. The work sounded pretty good to me. 
He wants to bring in foreign workers to Alabama. Well, we have 
unemployment in Alabama. We have people on unemployment insurance. We 
have people on welfare and food stamps and assistance who need to be 
taking those jobs.
  So the first responsibility of a congress, a senate, when they 
consider an immigration bill is what is in the interests of the 
American people. I don't believe it is wrong to discuss that. We have 
to ask what is in our national interests, the interests of our people, 
and this is not a time to be doubling the H-1B workers into America. It 
is just not. And more and more scientific, peer-reviewed, excellent 
studies are coming out on that.
  I see my colleague, Senator Durbin. I know he is exceedingly busy. My 
intention is to make a unanimous consent request that we actually do 
something about the crisis we have on the border.

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