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Jared P.
Democrat CO 2

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  • Comprehensive Immigration Reform

    by Representative Jared Polis

    Posted on 2013-12-11

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    POLIS. I thank the gentleman from Florida. I will speak briefly, and then I will have more later.



    Mr. Speaker, there are so many activists in our country who are fasting, who are sitting in offices, who are writing their Congresspeople, who are demanding action--action to unite their families, action to stop the deportations of family members--and answers to emerge from this indefinite state of limbo that has frozen the lives of so many would-be Americans that H.R. 15 and comprehensive immigration reform would address.

    Today, I am disappointed that our Republican friends didn't show up to discuss and to debate the most pressing issue of our time-- immigration reform. We extended an invitation to our friends on the other side of the aisle to join us today and have a discussion. Sadly, there is no one here to yield to. There are no solutions from the empty Chamber on the right. Some responded that they were double booked. Others responded that they had other engagements. Some simply didn't respond at all. The American people, Mr. Speaker, are demanding a response.

    Just as House Speaker Boehner plans to close for business on Friday while hundreds of millions of Americans continue to have to work another week before Christmas, we have Reverend Samuel Rodriguez, who will mark the 40th day of his fast for immigration reform. He is chair of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. He will be 40 days and nights--approaching fast--without solid food.

    As the reverend said recently: There are 11 million people here right now who require intervention. We looked the other way when they came in. We use them on our farms; we use them in our hotels; and we use them in our restaurants. Then we have the audacity to deport them. It is morally reprehensible to play politics with 11 million people.

    So said Reverend Samuel Rodriguez in his nearing his 40th day in fast.

    Yet, in the entire first part of the 113th Congress--in the entire first session, in the entire year of 2013--there was only one vote on the floor on any measure relating to immigration. Was it a bill that would address even part of the immigration problem or any piece of the meal that was being promised? No. It was a bill to defund DACA, to defund the Deferred Action program, subjecting hundreds of thousands of DREAMers to deportation--a bill that Republicans voted for and that passed in this body.

    [[Page H7682]] Thankfully, it didn't become law. The Deferred Action program continues. Thank goodness that it provides at least a temporary reprieve for hundreds of thousands of aspiring Americans, but we owe to all Americans the restoring of the rule of law, allowing people to get on with their lives.

    I yield to my colleague from Miami (Mr. Garcia), the chief author of H.R. 15, the comprehensive immigration reform bill in the House.

    Mr. GARCIA. I would like to thank my colleagues for joining me here tonight.

    Mr. Speaker, we are here to discuss a vitally important issue. We need to pass comprehensive, commonsense immigration reform.

    {time} 1845 We feel the consequences of our broken immigration system every day. We may not agree on the best way to go about fixing it, but disagreement is no excuse for inaction.

    With every day that passes, millions continue to live in the shadows and jobs continue slipping away overseas. This is not simply just an issue of fairness. It is about ensuring America's economic prosperity.

    In Florida alone, legalizing those currently unauthorized to live would generate $1.3 billion in new tax revenue and create 97,000 new jobs. Fixing our broken immigration system will help small businesses expand, foster innovation, increase productivity, raise wages, and help create thousands of jobs. Comprehensive immigration reform makes all Americans better, makes our country richer, and creates opportunity for all.

    We must work together to find a solution that secures our borders, builds our economy, and provides a way forward for millions of undocumented individuals living in the United States.

    This week, a group of children dropped by my office. They were dropping by to express their wish for the new year. Their families have been ripped apart by our immigration system, and they came to deliver letters from a thousand children facing the same struggle. I would like to share one of those letters with you: Dear Congress, My name is Charlie Hoz-Pena and I am Anthony's brother. I'm 11 and I'm in fifth grade.

    I'm writing to tell you my worst nightmare became real. Last year our dad was taken away from us and was sent to Mexico. We fought really hard to get him out of jail. I went to church and prayed, we did protests, vigils, wrote letters, petitions and I behaved well in school. But Immigration did not listen. They don't care about us.

    I even thought about killing myself because I is sad when bad things happen to good people and because I love my dad very much. I am very angry at Congress and Obama.

    It's really hard on me and Anthony and my mom. I love my mom too and she keeps us safe and comfortable but it's really hard for her too. Every time I hear her crying I feel sad, she cries because she misses him. She has to find a lot of jobs cleaning houses to support us.

    So Congress, please get your act together. I want immigration reform please. You can do it. Do your job.

    Obama, you have the power to stop deporting people. Congress, you are breaking families apart every day until you pass immigration reform. You have a chance to help families. So please do it now.

    What if immigration broke up your family? Would you like it? Now just close your eyes and imagine your family destroyed. It is not a happy thought. It is a horrible feeling. It is like when somebody you care about dies. It is sad because you may never see them again. I don't know how long I am gonna have to wait to see my dad back. No child and family should suffer like we did.

    Congress, we belong together. I hope you can understand what that means.

    Sincerely, Charlie Charlie is right: we can't wait any longer. The time is now to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

    Although the Senate has acted in a bipartisan way to pass comprehensive immigration reform, the House of Representatives has not passed an immigration reform bill in this Congress. It is unacceptable.

    Ultimately, all of us, Democrat and Republican alike, should want the same things: a secure border, a stronger economy, and more jobs for the middle class.

    We should have a vigorous debate about this important issue, but a sensible one also that moves us forward. Unfortunately, that has not always been the case.

    Just this week, my colleague from Iowa compared allowing the undocumented to earn their citizenship as letting bank robbers walk away with the loot. This type of rhetoric has no place in this debate.

    We can do better. Our country demands we do better. Let's get this done. The time is now for comprehensive immigration reform.

    I yield to the gentleman from Colorado.

    Mr. POLIS. I thank the gentleman from Florida.

    Mr. Speaker, what is particularly frustrating is that Congress is going home on December 13, not to work for the remaining 2\1/2\ weeks of the year. I think most Americans would love to get off a week early for Christmas. They don't have the opportunity to set their own schedule at work. So it is not like there is not time to do this, Mr. Speaker. We can stay here next week.

    It is not like there is not support on the floor to pass immigration reform, Mr. Speaker. There is. There is support today to pass H.R. 15, comprehensive immigration reform, brought to the floor. We could then send it to President Obama's desk. What a Christmas gift to our country that would make, a Christmas gift in the form of reducing our deficit by over $200 billion, creating over 6 million jobs for American citizens, restoring real security, and finally gaining operational control over our southern border and stemming the tide of people who are immigrating here illegally, requiring workplace authentication to make sure that employers no longer hire people under the table for cash outside of our system, strengthening Social Security and Medicare by making sure that people working here pay into our important programs that retirees stand to benefit from.

    Immigration reform is not only demanded, but widely popular. Six in 10 Republicans support a path to citizenship for immigrants currently living in the United States; and a vast majority of every group--age, gender, ethnicity--here in this country knows that our immigration system is broken.

    When we look at ourselves in the mirror at night, Mr. Speaker, how can we be proud of a system that betrays our values as a Nation of laws and a Nation of immigrants, a system that rewards lawbreaking, a system that encourages illegal activity, a system that, as my good friend and colleague Ms. Lofgren from California likes to say, effectively places two signs at our southern border: one says ``help wanted'' and the other says ``keep out''? That is the state of our current immigration system: confusing, expensive, job destroying, companies can't acquire the men and women they need to remain competitive so they are forced to expand overseas in other countries in offshore jobs rather than expand here in the United States.

    Thankfully, Mr. Speaker, the answer is simple. Groups from across the spectrum--faith-based groups including evangelical and Catholic Americans, businesses including small family farms to large international companies that employ hundreds of thousands of people, law enforcement--all support H.R. 15. Based on the Senate bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill, that would solve all of these issues that we have before us, create jobs for American citizens, and reduce our deficit.

    And as we talk about the budget, at least frankly, Mr. Speaker, this week we are debating something very important for our country. In other weeks, my colleague, Mr. Garcia, and I have taken to the floor when there has been nothing that has even been done that entire time that had any consequence to anybody. At least this week, Mr. Speaker, we are discussing something important. I don't bemoan that. I think it is legitimate to discuss the budget of our country this week. That is why I think we should stay here another week and discuss immigration next week.

    This is an important discussion. But as we look for what we call ``pay-fors''--how do we pay for making sure the Medicare reimbursement rate doesn't go down as scheduled at the end of the year, how do we pay for reducing the sequester, how do we pay for the investments that we want to make--guess what, comprehensive immigration reform would fill our coffers [[Page H7683]] with over $200 billion of revenue. Now, how about that as a pay-for for what we call the ``doc-fix'' and making sure we don't reduce Medicare reimbursement rates or any of the other items that are on the budget table this week? That is the kind of contribution that H.R. 15 and immigration reform can make.

    Mr. GARCIA. Mr. Speaker, I agree with the gentleman from Colorado. By the way, I love the fact you refer to me as the gentleman from Miami. I always thought we should have our own State.

    Let me just mention that there is a very good article that was written last year in July by Jennifer Rubin in The Washington Post. It sort of listed all these phoney arguments that we have.

    The first: the Senate bill is dead on arrival. We have heard this from the Speaker before. We have heard no agreements, no comprises. We heard that VAWA, the Violence Against Women Act, was going to be dead or, as they said, they were going to write their own. Well, of course, nothing came and we passed the Violence Against Women Act, which we should have passed earlier on.

    The second argument: the Senate bill isn't strong enough on border security. Well, the Senate bill spends more money on border security, almost an insane amount. That is why we took it out of our bill, because we didn't think that this House would look at such an expensive bill. But the question is: Is what we have better than what we are looking at? Of course, the answer is, no, we are not moving forward.

    This one is the one I love, but it is more of a Herman Cain type argument: the bill is long. This is a very complex issue and, of course, it is long because we are trying to solve worker issues, we are trying to solve innovation issues, we are trying to solve a lot of important things that affect us all.

    The fourth argument: the Obama administration won't enforce it. Well, here I have to say that Obama must be one of anti-immigration's favorite Presidents because he has deported more people than any President before. In October, I think we reached 2 million people being deported. That is thousands upon thousands of families destroyed; that is workers being taken out of the economy. That is what the President did.

    Mr. POLIS. Will the gentleman yield for a moment? Mr. GARCIA. Yes, of course, I will yield to the gentleman.

    Mr. POLIS. Each of those deportations, Mr. Speaker, cost you and I, cost American taxpayers, approximately $15,000. So guess who is paying for the 2 million deportations? Guess what is one of the growing causes of our deficit spending? Our broken immigration system.

    Mr. GARCIA. That is exactly right.

    Another argument: you can't bring in low-skilled workers. Well, the bracero program proved that when you had a functioning program illegal immigration went down, not up. We know that for a fact. Here is what we also know. When President Reagan had an immigration bill, we know that the salaries for the middle class and working class went up for 5 years in a row because it worked.

    The seventh argument: there aren't enough high-skilled workers being allowed in. All right, so let's write legislation that increases the high-skilled labor.

    ``Republicans don't need to pass immigration reform to keep their House seats.'' Well, if it doesn't affect their House seats, then why are they opposed to it? And, more importantly, this is, of course, the silliest of arguments when you understand the demographics. I know I have spoken to this with the gentleman from Colorado. When you look at the high water mark of a Republican Presidential race, it was achieved by George Bush, a pro-immigrant President; but when you look behind those numbers, and you look at the 44 percent that he achieved nationally, what you realize is he didn't receive those numbers from second- and third-generation Americans. He received it from first- generation Americans voting, and voting over 50 percent for George Bush for President. This is something that is a commonsense thing and makes sense for it.

    The ninth argument: it was passed too quickly in the Senate. Well, unlike the House, they have had long debates on this. They had weeks of hearings, they had bipartisan meetings for over a year before, they had the commitment of the President of the Senate, the majority leader of the Senate to get this done.

    Look, I could go on and on; but I think what is clear is that we can make a lot of silly arguments, but the time has come to act. We were promised by the Speaker that this would be taken up and it hasn't. The time has come to move forward. This is the time for immigration reform. It is good for the country, it is good for these folks, it is good for everyone.

    I yield to the gentleman from Colorado.

    {time} 1900 Mr. POLIS. I would like to point out that my friend from Miami, Florida, placed out some of the arguments that we hear our friends making as to why immigration reform is not happening. We did not present those as a straw man. We invited our friends from the other side of the aisle to come make the arguments themselves. There is no one here in this Chamber, despite our invitation, to represent why we are not staying here next week to vote on immigration reform. So we are guessing why. We are guessing, saying maybe it is because they don't like long bills. I don't know. A short bill can be pretty bad, too, if it is a bad bill. You can have a good short bill or a bad short bill, a good long bill or a bad long bill. I mean, you know, when you want to address border security, you need to make sure that you devote enough of the bill to border security to do it.

    So we are here guessing at their reasons because our friends on the Republican side of the aisle are not here to explain, despite our invitation, why they are not bringing immigration reform up. And if they are not ready for H.R. 15 or comprehensive, why at least we are not making some kind of down payment on it next week, why we are not doing something, for instance, for the DREAMers, the kids that are currently in a deferred action program so that they can have some degree of certainty to get on with their lives. Why we are not making sure that we have working permits for the people who are already here and already have jobs and are an important part of our economy. We could be doing any of that next week. But instead, Mr. Speaker, the House is being sent home on vacation while most Americans have a full additional week to work before Christmas.

    Mr. GARCIA. Mr. Speaker, I would like to yield to the gentleman from California (Mr. Caardenas), who is a hard fighter for these issues.

    I want to first relate a story. I was debating, the other day, a friend on this issue. He made what he thought was a commonsense argument. He said, Joe, if somebody broke into your house, you would like them to be arrested, right? I said: Well, the truth is, if somebody broke into my House and filled my refrigerator with fresh fruit and vegetables, if they took care of my mom and got my kid to school, if they then went outside and cut the lawn and painted the house, worked on the roof, I think I might owe them money.

    The reality is these folks are an essential part of our country. They make us work and they make us better.

    With that, I yield to the gentleman from California.

    Mr. CAARDENAS. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding.

    I just wanted to say a few words on this floor that I am so blessed to be a part of this great Congress of the United States of America. Yet at the same time, we are a country that talks about how we believe in the big picture, yet at the same time we focus on the little things. We focus on the plight of a child. We focus on the plight of a family. We focus on the ability of people to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. That is what we are proud of in this great country.

    But what I am not proud of is being a part of a Congress where the Speaker, Speaker Boehner, is not allowing comprehensive immigration reform to be voted for on this floor. I believe that today, if we had the opportunity to vote on comprehensive immigration reform in this Chamber, I think we have the votes to pass it. And I think if we did so, it would be much more consistent for us to do that than to do nothing, and that is what this House has been doing. We have been doing [[Page H7684]] nothing on comprehensive immigration reform.

    And if we did pass comprehensive immigration reform, it would be the biggest economic boom that our country has seen in over 60 years. There are too many Americans out of work. But if we pass comprehensive immigration reform, what we are going to see is, for every 100,000 people in this country who are legalized, it is very likely that we will have 262,000 jobs occur. Do the math, ladies and gentlemen. If 100,000 people are legalized, a certain percentage of them are going to create businesses, and in those businesses they are going to hire American citizens. Americans will go to work. That makes sense. That sounds like the American Dream for Americans, not just for immigrants who come to our country.

    One of the things that I would like to point out is, if comprehensive immigration reform were passed, then what would happen is the Federal deficit would go down by $200 billion just over the next 10 years; and over the subsequent 10 years, it would go down by another $700 billion. I think that is good for America. I think that any American, when you look at those numbers, would say why don't we pass that law, because when the economy improves, more Americans go to work.

    As was mentioned earlier by my colleague, when you have a young boy who is an American citizen who writes a letter to his Congressperson, who writes a letter to the President of the United States as an American citizen who is in tears by telling us, exclaiming, I miss my mother, I miss my father, and they have been deported, that is not an America that we can feel proud of. That is an America that doesn't live its values.

    What I say is, you know what, if in 2014 we don't vote on comprehensive immigration reform, why don't we just go ahead and dismantle the Statue of Liberty, because that is something I think, as your average American, we are very proud of. Bring me your huddled masses, your poor.

    You know what is great about this country, whether you are Italian, whether you are Russian, whether you are Mexican, whether you are English, whether you are Irish, Canadian, when you come to the United States of America, you make dreams come true, not just your dream, but you employ Americans. You create jobs for American citizens, American- born people.

    Comprehensive immigration reform, if you try to couch it as ``those people,'' comprehensive immigration reform is not about ``those people.'' Comprehensive immigration reform is about us, Americans. It is about us improving our economy. It is about us doing the right thing. It is about us welcoming the men, women, and children who come to this country and work as hard as any human being will dare to do, and that makes our economy stronger. That makes America great.

    Ladies and gentlemen, I don't speak to you as though comprehensive immigration reform is an emotional issue. I speak of comprehensive immigration reform as an American values issue. As my colleague said earlier about that silly analogy, what if somebody broke into your house, then what would you do. I think he actually put it very well. If somebody painted your house, they cut your grass and took care of your children and your grandmother, don't you think that you owe them something? Don't you think you should extend your hand and say, Welcome. Thank you. I like what you're doing for me.

    And that is what immigrants do for our United States of America. They make our country stronger. This country was built on immigrants. Why in the world would we, as Americans, want to support the idea that they are ``those people'' and they are not part of who we are? I am only one generation away from being an immigrant myself. My parents came from another country. I was born in this country, and I do live a better life than my parents were raised in, and so do my children. I am proud to be an American-born citizen. And I think as Americans, we should be proud and expect our United States Congress to have a vote on comprehensive immigration reform and to give that opportunity to the people that you have elected to do our job. And our job is to make our economy stronger. Our job is to make laws that make this country better. Our job is to be making laws that are true to our values.

    Mr. GARCIA. I thank the gentleman from California for those wonderful words.

    I yield to the gentleman from Colorado (Mr. Polis).

    Mr. POLIS. We have the chair of my committee to file a rule here on the floor the House. Sadly, it is not a rule for comprehensive immigration reform, but it is a rule for something very important, the budget, which hopefully we will be able to agree on in the next 2 days. And as we discussed earlier before the chair of the Rules Committee joined us, I think we all agree that passing the budget is a very good use of our time here on the floor.

    Some of us, Mr. Speaker, in this hour, have talked about the need for immigration reform. We have in the past criticized the apparent urgency with which asbestos bills were somehow rushed out of committee and brought immediately to the floor when we weren't able to move forward on immigration, but this week we are working on something more important.

    We need to continue our work to bring up immigration reform. I am speaking from the side of the Chamber traditionally used by Republicans. I had hoped to give this spot up to a member of the majority party, a Republican, who we hope to continue to extend this invitation to debate immigration reform and bring forward an immigration reform bill.

    Mr. GARCIA. Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.

    ____________________

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