Update: According to the DRM Action Coalition, Sen. Heller is liking the Gang of 8 immigration bill so far:
— DRM Action Coalition (@DRMAction) May 16, 2013
Today on the Senate floor, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid spoke about the need to pass immigration reform this year, saying, “I pledge that as soon as it is ready, I will bring immigration legislation to the floor in June.” Invoking long-time immigration champion Ted Kennedy, Reid committed to do “everything in my power to help this bill become law.”
Here are the remarks:
Six short years ago, the prospects for a bipartisan solution to reform America’s broken immigration system seemed bleak. Despite support from Congressional Democrats and a Republican president, an immigration reform proposal had been defeated on a procedural vote in the United States Senate.
But one man, Senator Ted Kennedy, reminded us all that the reform for which he fought so hard would pass one day – and that that day could not be far off. This is what he said: “America always finds a way to solve its problems, expand its frontiers, and move closer to its ideals. It is not always easy, but it is the American way… I believe we will soon succeed where we failed today, and that we will enact the kind of comprehensive reform that our ideals and national security demand.” Ted Kennedy said that in 2007, and I can still remember his booming voice.
I believe my friend was right. And I believe the time for common-sense immigration reform has come. I am only sorry Senator Kennedy is not alive to see the widespread, bipartisan support for the legislation being considered today in the Judiciary Committee – legislation that I will shortly bring before the full Senate.
Senator Kennedy would be proud of the efforts of the Gang of Eight – four Democrats and four Republicans – to set aside partisanship and address a critical issue facing our nation. And he would applaud the diligent work of the Senate Judiciary Committee, under the leadership of Chairman Patrick Leahy, to refine and perfect the Gang of Eight’s reasonable proposal. It is gratifying to see the momentum behind common-sense reforms that will make our country safer and help 11 million undocumented immigrants get right with the law.
Although neither Republicans nor Democrats will support each and every aspect of this legislation, it is reassuring to see the diverse coalition that has formed in support of real reform – common-sense reform, reform that improves our dysfunctional legal immigration system, reform that continues to secure our borders, reform that requires 11 million undocumented people to pass a criminal background check and pay fines and taxes to start on the path to citizenship.
We can’t do this piecemeal. And we can’t do it without a pathway to earned citizenship.
The thorough and open process underway in the Judiciary Committee is exemplary of how the Senate should work. So far, the committee has considered 62 amendments to the original proposal – some from Democrats and some from Republicans. In fact, the committee has adopted 12 Republican amendments, including measures to strengthen the border and improve our legal immigration system.
The Senate completed work on important water resources legislation yesterday and will begin consideration of a crucial agriculture jobs bill this week. But I pledge that as soon as it is ready, I will bring immigration legislation to the floor in June, regardless of whether we have completed action on the farm bill. Although immigration is a complex and controversial issue that deserves ample time for thoughtful debate and consideration, it is also too important to delay action any longer.
As a Senator from Nevada, I have witnessed firsthand the heartbreak our broken immigration system causes for immigrants and their families. This issue is personal to me. And it is personal to every immigrant family striving to build a better life here in America.
The time has come for permanent solutions – solutions that are tough but fair; solutions that fix our broken legal immigration system; solutions that punish unscrupulous employers who exploit immigrants and drag down wages for every worker in America; solutions that pull 11 million people out of the shadows so they can pay taxes, learn English and get right with the law; solutions that put them on the path to citizenship, so they can contribute fully to their communities and to this country.
I will do everything in my power to help this bill become law. And I am confident that the time is finally right for, as Senator Kennedy put it, the kind of comprehensive reform that our ideals and our national security demand.
Meanwhile, we’re still waiting to hear whether the other Senator from Nevada, Dean Heller, will support the path to citizenship.