Senator Lincoln gave a brilliant speech on the Senate floor on 3/30.
Here is the full transcript:
Mr. President, I rise today to add my voice to this debate on
reforming our immigration system. While many of us here may have our
differences, I think one thing on which we all agree is that the
current system is broken and something must be done now if we are ever
to get this situation under control.
There does seem to be a consensus in this body, and I think it is
appropriate, that we absolutely must strengthen our borders. I
personally believe that securing our borders has to be a priority in
what we achieve in this legislation. Our borders have been porous for
years and we must take adequate steps to secure them, and we must do
This is a homeland security issue, first and foremost, but it is
also a good government issue. American taxpayers continue to see their
tax dollars spent on securing our borders without the results they
deserve. While traffic from areas where we have placed more
enforcement has decreased, border crossings in total have risen by 43
percent, despite tripling patrol personnel. The cost of an arrest has
increased from 1992, when it was $300, to the cost of $1,700 in 2002.
Americans cannot afford this type of performance from a security
standpoint or an economic standpoint. At a time when America is facing
its most serious threat and dealing with record deficits, having our
borders remaining unsecured as we spend more on them is simply
unacceptable. It is unacceptable to the American people in terms of
security and economics.
But securing our borders without dealing with the over 12 million
undocumented immigrants who are in this country is not the solution
either. One without the other is not going to achieve the results we
want in the cost-effective way we must do it.
Many in this body are probably somewhat unaware that my State of
Arkansas had the largest per-capita increase of its Hispanic
population of any State in the Nation during the last census. Arkansas
has become what is referred to as an emerging Hispanic community, with
largely first-generation immigrants. These immigrants have a dramatic
impact on our communities and on our economies. They are hard working,
they are active in the religious community, they are law abiding, and
they are putting their children through school. Whether they came here
legally or illegally, they are establishing roots and we cannot
dispute that. The majority of immigrants in my State came to the
United States because they wanted good work and a better way of life
for their families. A good number of them are educated and wanted to
take advantage of the opportunities afforded to them in the U.S.
economy. This is why a plan based on ripping these roots out of the
ground and deporting over 10 million people is simply not realistic.
First, we couldn't afford it. Second, I am not sure we could
implement it. And then think of what it would do to our economy.
While these people may have come here illegally, many of them have
been here long enough now to have become part of the fabric of our
communities. Removing them will break up families and it will hurt our
I am not saying we should grant amnesty, and neither does the
amendment Senator Specter has offered. It is critical to know that
amnesty is not the answer. No reform should grant amnesty. Total and
immediate forgiveness for past crimes--these are not things we believe
in this country. The rule of law is critical. To do so would severely
undermine the rule of law in this country.
As I stated, it is impractical to believe, though, that we can
simply round up and deport all illegals in this country. It is also
unlikely we can coax illegals out of the shadows by offering them a
limited period to remain in this country before we eventually deport
them. They will continue to hide and move around in the same networks
that have protected them thus far.
I believe the solution is earned legalization, and that is why I
have supported the McCain-Kennedy bill and the similar bill that was
passed out of the committee, offered as a substitute by Senator Specter.
Some have characterized these bills as amnesty. Amnesty is a
general pardon for a previous crime. By contrast, this reform plan
includes serious consequences for those who remain in our country
Under the committee bill, an illegal immigrant faces an immediate
$1,000 fine, a security background check, application for a work visa,
and an 11-year path to citizenship. Most immigrants who apply for
citizenship now achieve that in 5 to 6 years. After staying
continuously employed for 6 years, paying all back taxes, learning
English--as my colleague from Oklahoma has expressed as being a very
important part of this--learning U.S. history and government, and
paying another $1,000 fine in application costs, the worker could then
apply for a green card and legalization.
That is not going to the front of the line, but it is going to the
end of the line after those who have already chosen a legal path to
begin with. Their green card application, as I said, will go to the
back of the line behind all the legal applicants who are waiting for
those green cards. Finally, this path is only available to the illegal
immigrants who were here before January of 2004.
This does not sound like amnesty to me. It sounds like a challenge
but a challenge that presents excellent rewards instead of the dire
consequenceswe would suffer if we took an irrational reaction to this
enormous problem that is growing in our Nation.
The other path for an illegal immigrant would be to continue trying
to hide. But now, under increased enforcement measures and stiffer
penalties as we have seen that we would put into place under this
bill, I believe the majority of the people who have come here
illegally but came to make a better life for themselves, will emerge
from those shadows to become legal residents of their communities, to
engage in what we came here to seek, because we have provided for them
a pathway to become legal.
It comes at cost. It comes at great cost to them, both financially
as well as the time they have to spend to engage themselves in
becoming legal residents of this great Nation. But it is worth it to
them and it is worth it to us to set this issue straight, to begin to
reform a problem that is growing desperately out of control.
Many of them already pay local taxes in the communities where they
are. Some of them are paying into Medicare and Social Security with no
promise of receiving any of the benefits. But think how we could
strengthen those programs if we put them on a pathway to legalization.
We know who these 12 million undocumented workers are and we put them
into the system to strengthen Social Security and Medicare by assuring
that their withholdings are coming out and going into the system as well.
I am reminded of an incident in my home State of Arkansas.
Recently, we saw law enforcement officials who were acting on a tip
from an informant. These were national law enforcement officials. They
did not contact the local law enforcement in our small communities
there in Arkansas, but the folks from Washington swooped into a
poultry processing plant and they arrested approximately 120 workers
who were carrying forged or illegal identification documents.
What occurred there does not make what those illegal immigrants did
right. It doesn't make it right at all. They were there illegally.
They were there with forged documents. Actually, it was a local U.S.
citizen in the community who had helped produce those documents for
them. But I want you for a moment to think about what occurred after
these Washington law enforcement officials swooped into a community
without notifying the local law enforcement and seized 120 workers.
Most of these workers were parents. They are parents who were not
allowed to call home to tell their children what was happening. We had
children who were left behind in the care of the Catholic Church, or
friends, or anybody who would take care of these children. Some of
them were as young as 12 months old--kids abandoned because the
parents were not allowed to call.
It was a sudden and brutal act and it separated families and left a
community divided. Not because people wanted to defend the illegals
who were there, the undocumented, or those who were there with false
documents, but because of the way it was handled. That is what we are
here to debate. Not that we differ about that. I don't think anybody
in this body wants amnesty. They don't. What they want to do is to
make sure we handle this issue in the right way.
I would imagine most of my colleagues in this body learned, as I
did, at an early age from their parents that there is a right way and
a wrong way to do everything. We have an opportunity to come together,
to figure out the right way that is consistent with the American
values we all hold dear, to figure out a solution to this enormous
problem that continues to grow. It reflects on who we are as Americans
with respect for the rule of law, making sure that people know they
have to follow the law and they have to act within the confines of the
law, but with the kind of encouragement that every human being should
be allowed to reach their potential.
You can pay those fines, you can take the initiative and
learn English and learn about this great country. You can get back
at the end of the line after having tried to break into the line in
front and still have the ability to reach that potential if you are
willing to pay for your mistakes. That is what this bill is about.
When I think of the calls for the arrest and the deportation of 10
to 20 million undocumented immigrants in this country, I think of that
frightful night in Arkansas where children and parents were severed in
an unruly way. Their families were destroyed. Children were left by
themselves without anyone to care for them because law enforcement had
not thought that out.
I think of that frightful night in Arkansas and then I see it
multiplied thousands of times across this country. That is not the
right way to handle this issue. As Americans, we can be smart. Yes, we
can be diligent and we can even be tough. But we can be tough in a way
that reflects the values of who we are and how this Nation was
created--by giving people opportunity and requiring responsibility.
We stand at a crossroads in this country. Over the last decade and
a half, the Latino population has expanded in every area of our
country, many of them coming here legally but some illegally. We are
faced with a decision that gets to the heart of what values we hold
dear as Americans. We have always said: If you work hard and you play
by the rules, there is a place for you in America to raise your
children and contribute to our great melting pot, to strengthen our
communities, to be a part of this great land.
We are faced now with what to do with some who have broken the
rules to come here but have since worked hard to provide for their
families. I hope the Senate will give this very difficult question the
reasoned and thorough debate it deserves, but that we will not forget
the balance, the very intricate balance of American values that brings
out the rule of law and the importance of the rule of law but also the
desire and the compassion we feel. That is what the American spirit is
I believe the Senate will agree to welcome those who came here
illegally if they are willing to show another American value, and that
is sacrifice. We all know a great deal about sacrifice as we see
incredible Americans, men and women in the Armed Forces and all over
this country, whether it is our emergency responders or others. If we
see those who have come here illegally showing that willingness to
exhibit that American value of sacrifice, then I think we as a body
will be able to produce something to welcome them into our great
society and our great Nation.
I urge my colleagues, as we continue in this debate, that we keep
our heads calm and our minds open.
I yield the floor.
I suggest the absence of a quorum.
--- In firstname.lastname@example.org
, Greg Cannon <gregcannon1@...>
> Senate Cuts Part of House Immigration Bill
> Mar 27, 4:03 PM (ET)
> By SUZANNE GAMBOA
> WASHINGTON (AP) - As immigration rights activists
> rallied outside the Capitol, senators broke Monday
> from the House's get-tough approach by refusing to
> make criminals of people who help illegal immigrants.
> The Senate Judiciary Committee adopted an amendment by
> Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., that would protect church
> and charitable groups, as well as individuals, from
> criminal prosecution for providing food, shelter,
> medical care and counseling to undocumented
> "Charitable organizations, like individuals, should be
> able to provide humanitarian assistance to immigrants
> without fearing prosecution," Durbin said.
> The committee also approved more than doubling the
> current force of 11,300 Border Patrol agents in an
> effort to stem the tide of new undocumented workers
> arriving daily. It voted to add 2,000 agents next year
> and 2,400 more annually through 2011.
> In December the House voted to make offers of
> non-emergency aid a felony. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas,
> proposed Monday requiring humanitarian groups
> providing aid to illegal immigrants to register with
> the Department of Homeland Security but withdrew the
> idea in the face of opposition from the Senate panel.
> The immigration bills have sparked protests around the
> country, and with the committee's action on Monday,
> demonstrators at the front of the Capitol claimed to
> have already had an impact. Among the more than 1,000
> demonstrators were at least 200 clergy members, dozens
> of them wearing handcuffs to protest the House's
> "This is not about legislation any more," said Jorge
> Medina, an immigrant from Honduras now living in
> Charlotte, N.C. "This is about feelings now. We are
> Americans, too. We are not from Mars and we are not
> from the moon."
> President Bush used a naturalization ceremony Monday
> for swearing in 30 new citizens from 20 countries to
> warn critics of his proposal to let some illegal
> immigrants remain in the United State against stoking
> anti-immigrant feelings.
> "The immigration debate should be conducted in a civil
> and dignified way," the president said as lawmakers
> began tackling the hot-button election issue of what
> to do with the nation's estimated 11 million illegal
> More than 500,000 people rallied in Los Angeles on
> Saturday, demanding that Congress abandon the
> House-passed measures that would make being an
> undocumented immigrant a felony and would erect a
> 700-mile fence along the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico
> Similar but smaller protests were held in Dallas,
> Phoenix, Milwaukee and Columbus, Ohio, over the
> weekend. On Monday, thousands of demonstrators, many
> waving U.S. and Mexican flags, marched through
> Detroit. And hundreds of students walked out of high
> schools Monday in Dallas and Huntington Park, Calif.
> The committee faces a midnight deadline for completing
> a bill with a version of the "guest worker" program
> that Bush wants for illegal immigrants. The House
> rejected that program and Majority Leader Bill Frist
> has said the Senate will start debating a bill Tuesday
> without it if the committee fails.
> Overhauling the nation's immigration laws "is not
> going to be easy," Bush said at the naturalization
> ceremony at Constitution Hall two blocks from the
> White House.
> "No one should play on people's fears or try to pit
> neighbors against each other," Bush said. "No one
> should pretend that immigrants are threats to
> America's identity because immigrants have shaped
> America's identity.
> "No one should claim that immigrants are a burden on
> our economy because the work and enterprise of
> immigrants helps sustain our economy," the president
> said. "We should not give in to pessimism. If we work
> together I am confident we can meet our duty to fix
> our immigration system and deliver a bill that
> protects our people, upholds our laws and makes our
> people proud."
> Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, calls for
> tougher border security have dominated debate over the
> knotty problem of controlling immigration.
> But a tough immigration-enforcement bill passed by the
> House last year has galvanized forces that want worker
> programs for illegal immigrants already in the
> "We will not accept enforcement-only approaches," said
> Cecilia Munoz, vice president of the National Council
> of La Raza, a Hispanic advocacy group.
> Senators up for re-election this year are being forced
> by the debate to juggle the demand from voters for
> tighter borders to keep out terrorists and businesses
> who look to the tide of immigrants to help fill jobs.
> Employers and immigration advocates prefer a bill
> drafted by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Edward M.
> Kennedy, D-Mass., that would allow illegal immigrants
> to become eligible for permanent residency after
> working for six years. Both McCain and Frist are
> likely candidates for the Republican presidential
> nomination next year.
> Another approach offered by Cornyn and Sen. Jon Kyl,
> R-Ariz., would let illegal immigrants get temporary
> work permits for up to five years. They would have to
> leave the United States but could then apply for legal