Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act—Motion to Proceedby Senator Mike Lee
Posted on 2013-06-10
LEE. Mr. President, our current immigration system is a travesty.
It is inefficient, uncompassionate, and dangerous. It doesn't serve
America's economic or social interests, and it undermines respect for
the rule of law and for our Democratic institutions.
Fundamental reform is both badly needed and long overdue. That is why I [[Page S4033]] support immigration reform, and it is also why I initially joined a bipartisan group of Senators to try to find common ground on this issue. But it is also why I left that group and why today I must oppose the so-called Gang of 8 immigration bill.
At the outset of this debate, the gang promised a grand immigration bargain: strict border security in exchange for a pathway to citizenship for approximately 11 million illegal immigrants already here. Even before the bill was introduced, gang members distributed talking points that lauded the bill's beefed-up security provisions, new visa reforms, and measures that would make the pathway to citizenship long and tough.
But once the gang produced actual legislation, and Senators, the media, and members of the public began to read the bill, it was clear the talking points did not reflect the reality of the legislation itself. After pointing out glaring discrepancies between claims about the bill and the actual text, Senators were told they would have an opportunity to make changes during the markup in the Judiciary Committee.
But the four gang members on the committee banded together as a block with Democrats to defeat virtually all substantive amendments proposed to the bill. Congressional approval of the border security plan? No. Improve interior enforcement and strengthen workplace verification? Rejected. Manage the flow of new legal immigrants? Failed. Limit access to some of America's most generous welfare programs? Blocked.
As a result, the bill that will come to the Senate floor this week is essentially the same huge, complex, unpredictable, expensive, and special interest-driven, big government boondoggle it was when it first came to the committee.
The bill does not secure the border, it doesn't build a fence, and it doesn't create a workable biometric entry-exit system for immigrants to this country. What standards and benchmarks it does set, the bill simultaneously grants the Secretary of Homeland Security broad discretion to waive. It will, however, immediately legalize millions of currently illegal immigrants, make them eligible for government services, and put them on a pathway to citizenship.
Many critics compare the gang bill to the failed 1986 immigration law, which, similar to this one, also promised border security in exchange for amnesty but did not deliver on its promises. But the gang bill actually reminds me of a more recent piece of legislation: ObamaCare. Similar to the President's health care law, the gang bill was negotiated in secret by insiders and special interests who then essentially offered it to Congress as a single take-it-or-leave-it proposition.
The bill grants broad new powers to the same executive branch that is mired in scandal for incompetence and abuse of power. Total cost estimates are in the trillions, according to some. Rather than fix our current immigration problems, the bill makes many of them worse. However well-intentioned, the Gang of 8 bill is just an immigration version of ObamaCare.
That is why true immigration reform must be pursued on a step-by-step basis, with individual reform measures implemented and verified in the proper sequence. Happily for immigration reformers such as I, this appears to be the approach being pursued in the House of Representatives. It is the only one that makes sense.
First, let's secure the border. Let us set up a workable entry-exit system and create a reliable employment verification system, one that protects immigrants, citizens and businesses alike from bureaucratic mistakes. Then let's fix our legal immigration system to make sure we are letting in the immigrants our economy needs in the numbers that make sense for our country.
Once these and other tasks--which are plenty big in and of themselves--are completed to the satisfaction of the American people, then we can address the needs of current undocumented workers with justice, compassion, and sensitivity.
Since the beginning of this year, more than 40 immigration-related bills have been introduced in Congress between the House and the Senate. By a rough count, I could support more than half of them, eight of which have Republican and Democratic cosponsors. We should not risk forward progress on these other bipartisan reforms just because we are unable to iron out each of the more contentious issues.
The Gang of 8 bill is not immigration reform. It is big government dysfunction. It is an immigration version of ObamaCare. All advocates of true immigration reform, advocates on both the left and the right side of the aisle, should therefore oppose it.
I yield the floor, and I suggest the absence of a quorum.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
The assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.