Executive Sessionby Senator Richard Blumenthal
Posted on 2013-01-29
BLUMENTHAL. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the order
for the quorum call be rescinded.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.
Mr. BLUMENTHAL. Mr. President, I am here to speak first and very personally in support of the nomination of Senator Kerry to be our next Secretary of State. There is a time when the man and the moment come together in a profoundly historic way. Senator Kerry's nomination to be Secretary of State of the United States at such a time when his leadership can be pivotal in shaping America's role in the world, as a leader for human rights, as well as the use of its extraordinary strategic power for peace.
There is also a time when the woman and a moment come together and that has been so for Hillary Clinton, who has done such extraordinary work, incomparable in transforming America's role in world history. I believe that just as she has met the challenges in guiding American foreign policy and [[Page S348]] leading the dedicated men and women of our Foreign Service, so will Senator Kerry rise to the difficult challenges ahead. Senator Kerry's whole life has prepared him for this job, and I have every confidence he will help keep America safe and secure and build our capacity and alliances in pursuit of democracy and a more peaceful world.
Last week, I met with Senator Kerry to share my experiences from a recent visit to the Middle East and Afghanistan and to urge him to immediately take up the issue of the unfolding humanitarian catastrophe occurring within Syria and across its borders in Turkey and Jordan. My experiences came from a trip I took with Senator McCain and Senator Whitehouse, and others of my colleagues who share my impression that drastic and dramatic humanitarian aid must be provided for those refugees.
I am pleased the President has announced an additional $155 million for the Syrian people today. I believe we must also provide aid and assistance to the Syrian Opposition Council. It matters as much how we provide this aid as the total amount we provide. I am very encouraged by Senator Kerry's listening and hearing us, and I look forward to continuing our work with soon-to-be Secretary of State Kerry on this issue and many other vital security concerns.
Immigration Reform One of those concerns on which I also rise concerns and affects American immigration policy. We are truly at a moment when Secretary Kerry and the administration can transform this debate and national conversation with the leadership of Members of this body, including most prominently my colleagues Senator Schumer, Senator McCain, and the other members of their bipartisan group who recently unveiled a bipartisan blueprint for comprehensive immigration reform.
One of the things I do as a Senator and did when I was attorney general of our State is to visit the citizenship and immigration ceremonies where people become new citizens of our Nation. It is one of the most moving and powerful of experiences I have seen in public life. The tears in the eyes of these new citizens and their families, in celebration and joy and pride of their becoming citizens of the United States and looking forward to contributing, giving back to this country, reaffirmed my faith not only in this Nation--in its strength and decency and generosity--but also in the men and women who want to come here because they see it as a beacon of freedom and democracy. That is the tradition and ethos that should guide us in seeking comprehensive immigration reform. We have a unique opportunity now--and I will work to fulfill it, to reform our broken immigration system as a member of the Judiciary Committee and most particularly its Immigration Subcommittee. I look forward to playing a leading role in achieving this group's working blueprint for comprehensive reform.
Establishing a path to citizenship, securing our borders, making employers more accountable, ensuring that the DREAMers--young people brought to this country as infants and young children--can find a way to citizenship are all goals that are fulfilled by this blueprint.
We have an obligation, an opportunity that is compelling, absolutely historic, to change the discussion and debate, but also the outcome, and we should seize that opportunity, make sure this moment is fulfilled, I think, particularly for those DREAMers. For them, this moment and every moment is precious. They are young people who are in our schools, in our military, seeking a way to be citizens of the only country many of them know. They speak English. It is the only language most of them know. They have friends and a life here. It is the only life they have.
The administration, rightly and commendably, has provided an administrative route to temporary reprieve from the laws that would result in their deportation. But they need the certainty and security of a law that gives them a real path to citizenship, not at some point in the indefinite future but now.
The DREAM Act that Senator Durbin has fought so hard and valiantly over so many years to achieve deserves passage now. I will continue to come to the floor with photographs of the DREAMers, as I have done week after week, to make sure their fate and future is on our minds.
Today, I also want to speak about another related immigration issue-- the Immigration Innovation Act of 2013, known as the I-squared bill, which was introduced in the U.S. Senate today.
I am proud to be an original cosponsor of it. I know firsthand from talking to employers in the State of Connecticut, and all around not only our State but the country, how significant this measure could be to attracting and retaining people with the skills America needs to remain the greatest Nation in the history of the world.
I thank Senators Klobuchar, Hatch, Coons, and Rubio for their leadership on this issue. The I-squared bill has a very simple objective, which is to ensure that America's innovative companies are able to access high-skilled workers who would go back to their countries of origin when we need them here.
In some areas, such as computer science, the demand for workers greatly exceeds the labor pool available of U.S.-born workers. Senator Hatch described on the floor of the Senate how in this decade the American economy will create a demand for an estimated 120,000 computer science jobs requiring at least a bachelor's degree, but U.S. universities will generate only an estimated 40,000 graduates in that field.
So just to take that one example--just that one example--there is a gap we need to fill to keep our companies competitive. I have heard about this issue from Connecticut employers big and small. There are jobs. They exist. We need the people who have the skills to fill them.
The I-squared bill seeks to fill that gap, most importantly, by allowing high-skilled workers, who are foreign born but often U.S. educated, to fill some of those jobs in high-need areas. The legislation makes sense because it makes it easier for U.S.-educated holders of advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math to obtain green cards.
The bill also, importantly, generates new revenue through fees that visas and employment-based green cards will provide, and it directs funds to promote STEM education and worker retraining at the State level--STEM being science, technology, engineering, and math.
This measure is about American competitiveness. We ought to make a priority of STEM education for young people in our country who are born here and raised in the United States. But we must be open to creating jobs for American workers in the most innovative sectors of society and making it easier for those industries to thrive by attracting people from throughout the world to the United States as a beacon of opportunity, a land of unlimited potential accomplishment.
We are a nation of immigrants. We are great because of our diversity. We are strong because we have always attracted people who want freedom and the potential to do their best, accomplish the most, and realize the full extent of what they can achieve.
I again thank Senators Klobuchar, Hatch, Coons, and Rubio for their leadership. As a member of the Judiciary Committee, as well as the Immigration Subcommittee, I look forward to working with them on this important legislation in the months ahead.
I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.
The assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.