As the second week of debate on the Gang of 8 immigration bill got underway today, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, began his floor speech outlining the week ahead. As he said, “I hope we can make more progress on this vital legislation.”
Leahy went on to explain several of the amendments he expect to be offered by Republicans — and noted his intent to oppose several proposed by Senator Orrin Hatch. Here’s an excerpt:
Last week, Senator Hatch filed several amendments to deny or delay protections for the millions of people who will apply for Registered Provisional Immigrant status. I will oppose all of these amendments because they are not fair and they will deter people from coming forward to register, which will make us all less safe.
It is a cruel irony that when my friends on the other side of the aisle talk about border security, the high cost of implementing their proposed measures are absent from their discussion. Yet, when we are talking about programs that help kids who live near the poverty line, then suddenly, fiscal concerns are paramount. So if we are talking about a specific type of fencing or new expensive exit program, our concern is supposed to trump any hesitancy about government spending or dramatically increasing the boon that such proposals would be to government contracting firms. However, if we are talking about programs that literally feed the hungry or provide vaccinations to children, then we hear lectures about how we cannot afford those programs in the current fiscal environment.
Leahy concluded his floor statement:
The goal of this bill is to encourage undocumented immigrants to come out of the shadows so we can bring them into our legal system and so everyone will play by the same rules. If we create a reason for people not to come out and register, then it will defeat the purpose of this entire bill. Amendments that seek to further penalize the undocumented will encourage them to stay in the shadows. These steps will not make us safer and will not spur our economy.