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Schumer Brilliantly Makes the Case for the Immigration Reform Bill

America's Voice | Released on 06/12/2013 at 12:09am

The critics of the Gang of Eight immigration reform bill incessantly – and mistakenly – claim that the proposed legislation doesn’t have enough teeth, doesn’t guarantee border security and won’t work to stop a new wave of unauthorized immigration.  Well, today, they were schooled by Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

He took to the floor and made a compelling and persuasive case for why this bill represents a historic opportunity to fix our dysfunctional immigration system once and for all.  He explains in some detail how the elements of the bill work together to create a new paradigm in which enforcement, legal immigration and the path to citizenship work together reduce illegal immigration to a trickle.  We believe critics and proponents alike should take note. Here are our annotated excerpts:

Senator Schumer opens by stating the bill’s central organizing principle and highlighting the enforcement elements of the bill:

“OUR BILL IS BASED ON ONE SIMPLE PRINCIPLE — THAT THE AMERICAN PEOPLE WILL ACCEPT AND EMBRACE COMMONSENSE SOLUTIONS TO FUTURE LEGAL IMMIGRATION AND TO THE 11 MILLION NOW LIVING HERE IN THE SHADOWS IF, AND ONLY IF, THEY ARE CONVINCED THAT THERE WILL NOT BE FUTURE WAVES OF ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION.

FIRST, IT ENSURES THAT WE WILL NEVER AGAIN HAVE A WAVE OF FUTURE ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION. SECOND, IT FIXES OUR COMPLETELY DYSFUNCTIONAL LEGAL IMMIGRATION SYSTEM TO MAKE US THE MOST COMPETITIVE NATION IN THE WORLD FOR BOTH THIS CENTURY AND THE NEXT. AND THIRD, IT CONTAINS A TOUGH BUT REALISTIC PATH FOR MAKING SURE THAT THE PEOPLE CURRENTLY HERE ILLEGALLY ARE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR WHAT THEY DID, BUT IT  ALSO ALLOWS THEM TO JOIN AMERICAN SOCIETY ON OUR TERMS, IN A FAIR AND HONORABLE WAY THAN THE CURRENT AMNESTY BY INACTION THAT WE SEE TODAY.

WE WILL ACCOMPLISH THIS GOAL BY BUILDING A VERY STURDY THREE-LEGGED STOOL OF BORDER SECURITY, EMPLOYMENT VERIFICATION, AND ENTRY-EXIT….WE APPROPRIATE $6.5 BILLION UPFRONT IN THIS BILL TO BOLSTER OUR SECURITY EFFORTS THAT IS IN ADDITION TO THE ANNUAL APPROPRIATIONS MADE FOR EACH YEAR OF BORDER SECURITY.

Schumer talks next about the border security triggers that ensure the investment of up to $6.5 billion will produce results.  Underreported in the press (and unmentioned by Schumer), the prospect of the Southwest Border Commission stepping in represents a huge threat to DHS’s authority and as such, is a big stick with which to incentivize the accomplishment of the border security metrics by DHS:

BEFORE ANY LEGALIZATION CAN EVEN BEGIN, THE SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY IS REQUIRED TO COME UP WITH A PLAN ON HOW TO DEPLOY THAT $4.5 BILLION TO ACQUIRE NEW INFRASTRUCTURE, TECHNOLOGY AND PERSONNEL THAT WILL ENABLE THE BORDER PATROL TO CATCH 9 OUT OF 10 ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS THAT ATTEMPT TO CROSS OUR BORDER.

ONLY AFTER THIS PLAN IS PRESENTED TO CONGRESS AND DEPLOYMENT OF THE RESOURCES HAS COMMENCED MAY THE LEGALIZATION PROGRAM BEGIN TO ADJUST UNDOCUMENTED INDIVIDUALS TO REGISTERED PROVISIONAL  IMMIGRANT STATUS, WHAT WE CALL RPI STATUS. THEN ALL OF THE  RESOURCES IN THE PLAN MUST BE DEPLOYED ON THE GROUND AND BE WORKING BEFORE ANYONE IN RPI STATUS CAN EVER BE GRANTED A GREEN GUARD AND GAIN CITIZENSHIP.

AFTER FIVE YEARS, IF THE BORDER PATROL IS NOT CATCHING 9 OUT OF EVERY 10 ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS THAT ATTEMPT TO CROSS THE BORDER, A COMMISSION MADE UP OF BORDER STATE GOVERNORS AND ELECTED OFFICIALS WILL BE EMPOWERED TO MAKE RECOMMENDATIONS ON HOW BEST TO SPEND AN ADDITIONAL $2 BILLION THAT THIS BILL HAS ALREADY PREAPPROPRIATED IN ORDER TO ACHIEVE THIS 90% EFFECTIVENESS RATE.

NOW, WITH MINIMAL RESOURCES, WITH MANY FEWER RESOURCES…THE EFFECTIVENESS RATE HAS GONE UP FROM 68% TO 82%. IMAGINE WHAT WILL HAPPEN WITH THE RESOURCES WE PROVIDE IN THIS BILL, ALL OF WHICH — ALL OF WHICH — IS PAID FOR BY PROVISIONS IN THE BILL, BOTH FEES FOR THOSE WHO WISH LEGAL WORKERS TO COME WORK FOR THEM, AND FINES ON THOSE WHO HAVE CROSSED THE BORDER ILLEGALLY.

THOSE WHO SAY THE AMERICAN PEOPLE DO NOT TRUST THE GOVERNMENT TO GET THE JOB DONE, I SAY, LET’S LOOK AT THE FACTS HERE. PROVIDING ADDITIONAL RESOURCES TO D.H.S. FOR BORDER SECURITY HAS AN INCREDIBLY PROVEN TRACK RECORD OF SUCCESS. IN 2010, CONGRESS PASSED AN EMERGENCY SUPPLEMENTAL APPROPRIATIONS BILL FOR BORDER SECURITY. I WORKED ON THAT WITH MY COLLEAGUE FROM ARIZONA, SENATOR MCCAIN. IT WAS $600 MILLION. IN 2009, ACCORDING TO THE G.A.O., THE NATIONAL EFFECTIVE RATE FOR THE ENTIRE SOUTHERN BORDER WAS 72%. IN 2011, A YEAR AFTER THIS WAS DEPLOYED, IT WENT UP TO 82%….MOST OF THE RESOURCES IN THE SUPPLEMENTAL BUDGET WENT TO THE TUCSON BORDER SECTOR. IN 2009, THE EFFECTIVENESS RATE AT THE TUCSON BORDER SECTOR WAS 71%. IN 2011, IT WENT UP TO 87%. GIVEN THAT A MERE $600 MILLION SUPPLEMENTAL APPROPRIATION WAS ABLE TO INCREASE BORDER SECURITY EFFECTIVENESS FROM 72% TO 82%, IT’S REASONABLE TO ASSERT THAT SPENDING OVER TEN TIMES THAT MONEY ON BORDER SECURITY IN THE FORM OF A $6.5 BILLION SUPPLEMENTAL APPROPRIATION FOR PERSONNEL, INFRASTRUCTURE AND TECHNOLOGY, WILL ALLOW US TO APPREHEND 9 OUT OF EVERY 10 PEOPLE WHO TRY TO CROSS THE SOUTHERN BORDER ILLEGALLY.

The Senator then moves to describe the entry/exit system, the second leg of the enforcement stool, which also is a trigger on the path to citizenship:

SECOND….40% OF THOSE WHO ARE HERE ILLEGALLY DO NOT CROSS THE BORDER. RATHER, THEY OVERSTAY THEIR VISAS. NOW, FOR INDIVIDUALS WHO ENTERED THE UNITED STATES BY AIR OR SEA, WE WILL REQUIRE THOSE INDIVIDUALS TO SWIPE THEIR MACHINE READABLE PASSPORT VISA ON AN ELECTRIC SCANNER AT THE GATE IMMEDIATELY BEFORE EXITING THE UNITED STATES. TO PREVENT IDENTITY THEFT, WHEN THE PERSON SWIPES THEIR VISA OR PASSPORT, THEIR PICTURE COMES UP ON A SCREEN AT THE GATE, AND THE GATE AGENT, BEING GIVEN THE PASSPORT, HAS TO MATCH THE PICTURE ON THE SCREEN WITH THE PERSON GIVING THEIR PASSPORT. THE EXIT INFORMATION WILL BE GIVEN TO ALL OF THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY COMPONENTS TO GENERATE AN ACCURATE OVERSTAY LIST OF PEOPLE WHO ENTERED THE UNITED STATES BY AIR OR SEA. WE ALSO MAKE THE COMPLETION OF THE SYSTEM A TRIGGER TO THE PATH TO CITIZENSHIP. THE PATH IS CITIZENSHIP CAN’T HAPPEN UNLESS THIS ENTRY-EXIT IS DEPLOYED.

Schumer then talks about the most underreported and most important aspect of the Senate bill’s enforcement expansion – making mandatory an electronic employment verification system that is the most important enforcement strategy to end illegal immigration and control our borders:

THIRD, EVEN IF A SMALL NUMBER ARE ABLE TO CROSS THE BORDER LEGALLY OR TO OVERSTAY THEIR VISA – NEITHER SYSTEM WILL BE PERFECT – THEY WILL NOT BE ABLE TO FIND WORK LEGALLY IN THE UNITED STATES DUE TO OUR BILL’S MANDATORY EMPLOYMENT VERIFICATION SYSTEM. EVEN IF SOMEONE IS ABLE TO GET HERE ILLEGALLY OR OVERSTAYS THEIR VISA, THEIR MAIN GOAL FOR BEING HERE — WORKING — WILL BE IMPOSSIBLE AFTER THE BILL IS PASSED.

THAT’S WHY WE HAVE ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION. THE PEOPLE WHO CROSS OUR BORDERS…THEY WANT A JOB…WE HAVE 11 MILLION PEOPLE HERE TODAY, AND WE DON’T HAVE A PROBLEM WHEREBY THESE FOLKS ARE BESIEGING US WITH TERRORIST ACTS. THEY ARE SIMPLY WORKING AND FEEDING THEIR FAMILIES. IF WE ELIMINATE THE JOBS MAGNET, WE’LL ELIMINATE ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION. UNDER THIS BILL,  EVERY EMPLOYER SEEKING TO HIRE A WORKER MUST DETERMINE, USING OUR EMPLOYMENT VERIFICATION SYSTEM, WHETHER THAT PROSPECTIVE EMPLOYEE IS HERE ILLEGALLY AND CAN WORK. EMPLOYERS WHO DO NOT USE E-VERIFY OR WHO HIRE ILLEGAL WORKERS WILL BE GIVEN SEVERE PENALTIES AND BE JAILED FOR REPEATED VIOLATIONS, AND I KNOW MANY ON THE OTHER SIDE HAVE SAID, MAKE E-VERIFY MANDATORY AND PERMANENT. WE’VE HEARD THAT FOR YEARS. NOW ALL OF A SUDDEN THAT WE’VE DONE IT, IT’S NOT GOOD ENOUGH?

Schumer moves on to discuss how the three legs of the enforcement stool interact with the legal immigration reforms related to low-skilled immigration.  The main point is that a smart legal immigration system is part of the solution to illegal immigration:

FOURTH, THIS BILL WILL ALSO FUNDAMENTALLY ALTER THE COST-BENEFIT ANALYSIS FOR COMING TO THE UNITED STATES ILLEGALLY BY CREATE BEING A NEW W VISA WORKER PROGRAM TO ENCOURAGE PEOPLE TO COME HERE LEGALLY. BECAUSE OF THE BILL’S SIGNIFICANTLY BORDER SECURITY AND EMPLOYMENT VERIFICATION, ANY PERSON INTENDING TO COME TO THE U.S. ILLEGALLY WILL HAVE TO TAKE GREAT SAFETY RISKS AT GREAT PERSONAL AND FINANCIAL COSTS TO COME HERE. ONCE THEY’RE HERE, THEY WILL FIND THAT THERE ARE NO JOBS AVAILABLE HERE TO SUPPORT THEMSELVES. ALTERNATIVELY, THEY CAN CHOOSE TO COME LEGALLY AND WORK AS PART OF OUR W VISA WORK PROGRAM THAT IS CREATED FOR INDIVIDUALS TO WORK IN JOBS WHERE EMPLOYERS CANNOT FIND AMERICAN WORKERS BUT ONLY IF THEY CAN’T FIND THEM. UP TO 200,000 VISAS A YEAR WILL BE AVAILABLE AS OUR ECONOMY GROWS AND CREATES MORE JOBS…IN ADDITION, A NEW AGRICULTURAL PROGRAM WILL BE SET UP TO REPLACE THE PREVIOUSLY ILLEGAL FLOW OF AGRICULTURAL WORKERS. GIVEN THAT THE CENSUS BUREAU AND THE PEW HISPANIC CENTER HAVE ESTIMATED THE ILLEGAL FLOW TO BE AROUND 400,000, THERE SHOULD BE ENOUGH VISAS TO MEET ANY DEMAND FOR ADDITIONAL WORKERS THAT MIGHT EXIST. IF MORE WORKERS ARE NEEDED, THE NEWLY FORMED BUREAU OF IMMIGRATION AND LABOR MARKET RESEARCH CAN PROVIDE ADDITIONAL VISAS TO PERMIT MORE WORKERS TO ENTER IN OCCUPATIONS THEY FIND HAVE SHORTAGES  OF WORKERS.

GIVEN THESE NEW PROGRAMS, IT WILL NO LONGER MAKE ANY SENSE FOR INTENDING ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS TO SPEND TENS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS TO COME HERE ABC NEWS RISK THEIR LIVE – AND RISK THEIR LIVES TO COME HERE. ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION WILL BE A THING OF THE PAST.

Schumer takes on the most controversial issue in the debate – legalization with a path to citizenship – and makes the case that a tough but fair path to citizenship, following the meeting of the bill’s triggers, is the American way to solve the problem of 11 million undocumented immigrants in America.  He also makes is clear that he and others will accept no backdoor effort to thwart the path to citizenship:

AND PERHAPS THE DIVIDING LINE BETWEEN SOME IN THIS CHAMBER AND THE REST OF US, WE GIVE THE 11 MILLION PEOPLE HERE A CHANCE TO COME OUT OF THE SHADOWS AND EARN A PATH TO CITIZENSHIP, AFTER SPENDING TEN YEARS ON PROBATION WORKING, KEEPING THEIR NOSE CLEAN, LEARNING ENGLISH AND CIVICS, PAYING THEIR TAXES.

OUR BILL REQUIRES ALL OF THESE IMPORTANT REINFORCEMENT RESOURCES I HAVE DESCRIBED TO BE PUT IN PLACE BEFORE WE GIVE THE INDIVIDUALS A PATH TO CITIZENSHIP. THAT IS A FAIR THING TO ASK. WE IN THE GROUP OF EIGHT AGREE. THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT SHOULD HAVE TO PUT THE RESOURCES IN PLACE THAT WE PROMISED, AS NECESSARY, TO GET THE JOB DONE. THAT IS ENTIRELY WITHIN OUR CONTROL, AND WE WILL LIVE UP TO OUR WORD.

BUT, BY THE SAME TOKEN, WE WILL NOT LEAVE THESE 11 MILLION PEOPLE IN IMMIGRATION LIMBO FOREVER. IT MAKES NO SENSE TO HAVE PEOPLE LIVING HERE PERMANENTLY WHO ARE NOT INVESTED IN AMERICA. THIS IS THE HUGE MISTAKE THAT EUROPE HAS MADE. WE SEE THE ILL EFFECTS EVERY DAY ON THE NEWS OF WHAT HAPPENS IN EUROPEAN COUNTRIES WHO HAVE NOT INTEGRATED THEIR IMMIGRANT POPULATIONS. THOSE POPULATIONS BECAME AFFECTED BY A SENSE OF ALIENATION, A LACK OF OPPORTUNITY, A LACK OF UPWARD MOBILITY.

WELL, THAT IS NOT AMERICA. HERE WE GIVE PEOPLE THE CHANCE TO BE ALL THEY CAN BE THROUGH THEIR HARD WORK. WE WANT PEOPLE HERE TO BE SERVING ON JURIES, SERVING IN THE MILITARY, AND SAYING TO PEOPLE THAT THEY ARE JUST AS AMERICAN AS ANYBODY ELSE. TO THOSE WHO SAY TO HAVE SOME SECONDARY STATUS, TO THOSE WHO SAY, LET’S PUT IN THE BILL AN EXCUSE SO THAT SOMEONE THREE YEARS FROM NOW CAN SAY, NO ONE CAN BECOME A CITIZEN, WE SAY, NO. WE HAVE SOME BASIC PRINCIPLES WE WILL NOT COMPROMISE, AND THAT IS AT THE TOP OF THE LIST.

Schumer ends with an invitation to improve the bill, but reiterates neither border security nor the path to citizenship should be a bargaining chip:

HEAR IT TODAY: WE ARE INTERESTED IN COMPROMISES THAT WILL MAKE THIS BILL EVEN STRONGER AND MORE SECURE. WE’RE NOT INTERESTED IN SCORING A POLITICAL VICTORY TO HELP ONE PARTY. WE’RE INTERESTED IN PASSING A LAW THAT CHANGES THE AWFUL STATUS QUO, SOLVES THE PROBLEM, AND MAKES AMERICA AN EVEN BETTER AND GREATER PLACE. JUST BECAUSE THE PROCESS HAS BEEN, TO DATE, SO ENCOURAGING DOES NOT MEAN WE CAN TAKE ANYTHING FOR GRANTED. SO WE WELCOME CONSTRUCTIVE INPUT FROM OUR COLLEAGUES, AND WE WANT TO WORK WITH THEM.

BUT THE ONE THING NONE OF US WILL DO IS CONDITION THE PATH TO CITIZENSHIP ON FACTORS THAT MAY NOT EVER HAPPEN IN ORDER TO APPEAR TOUGH. WE’RE COMMITTED TO BORDER SECURITY. WE’RE COMMITTED TO ENDING ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION. BUT WE ARE EQUALLY COMMITTED TO ALLOWING PEOPLE THE RIGHT TO EARN THEIR WAY TO BECOME AN AMERICAN CITIZEN IF THEY WORK HARD, PLAY BY THE RULES, LEARN ENGLISH, AND AVOID CRIMINALITY. JUST AS I BELIEVE TO MY CORE THAT BORDER SECURITY SHOULD NOT BE A BARGAINING CHIP, I ALSO BELIEVE TO MY CORE THAT LEAVING PEOPLE IN IMMIGRATION LIMBO, UNINVESTED IN AMERICA AND ITS SUCCESSES, IS ALSO SOMETHING WE SHOULD NOT DO, JUST IN ORDER TO PASS A BILL.

WE RECOGNIZE THAT THERE IS ALWAYS MORE THAT CAN BE DONE. I COMMIT IN GOOD FAITH TO EVERY ONE OF MY COLLEAGUES IN THIS CHAMBER WHO WANT TO WORK WITH ME TO IMPROVE THE BILL THAT I AM OPEN TO ANY IDEAS, BUT FOR THOSE OF MY COLLEAGUES WHO WILL NOT SUPPORT THIS LEGISLATION, I SIMPLY ASK THE QUESTION, HOW WOULD YOU SOLVE THIS PROBLEM? THE ANSWERS ARE NOT SIMPLE. THAT’S WHY IT’S TAKEN US MONTHS TO GET WHERE WE ARE TODAY. THIS BILL REPRESENTS OUR BEST CHANCE FOR A BROAD BIPARTISAN COMPROMISE ON A COMPLEX ISSUE THAT WE HAVE HAD IN DECADES. I HOPE ALL OF US TAKE THIS OPPORTUNITY VERY SERIOUSLY. I HOPE WE ALL DO WHAT WE CAN TO SHOW THE AMERICAN PEOPLE THAT THEIR LAWMAKERS DO STILL HAVE THE ABILITY TO SOLVE DIFFICULT PROBLEMS THAT AFFECT EVERY ONE OF OUR DAILY LIVES. WITH THAT, MR. PRESIDENT, I ASK THAT MY COLLEAGUES AGREE TO WORK WITH US IN GOOD FAITH TO IMPROVE THIS BILL AND GIVE A RESOUNDING VOTE FROM BOTH SIDES OF THE AISLE OF SUPPORT FOR THIS BILL WHEN ITCOMES TO FINAL PASSAGE. I YIELD THE FLOOR.

As the debate becomes highly focused on policy, we lift up the remarks by Senator Schumer because he so deftly explains and connects the key components of reform.  Better than most, he sheds light on the fact that in the reform proposal before the Senate it is the interaction of elements that makes the whole greater than the sum of its parts.  We will continue to lift up other excellent speeches and quotes as the debate unfolds as a means to raise the level of understanding and analysis of this complicated and important piece of legislation. 

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