SENATOR McCAIN STATEMENT ON THE SECURE BORDERS, ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY AND IMMIGRATION REFORM ACT OF 2007
May 25, 2007
“Mr. President, immigration reform is long overdue and I am proud to support this historic overhaul of our immigration system. This bill represents weeks, months and in some cases years of work by the proponents of this bill. The President shown tremendous leadership on this issue and has dedicated countless hours to this process. While I may not be in agreement with each and every provision in this bill - likely no one is - it offers a very good starting point for this debate.
“The proponents of this bill have come together to try to fix one of the most serious issues facing out country. We have put partisan politics aside in order to forge a consensus proposal to allow us to start a full floor debate on immigration reform. Others need to do the same.
“Those of us from
“Throughout this debate, we will be reminded that immigration is a national security issue, and it is. It is also a matter of life and death. We have hundreds of people trying to cross our borders every day and an estimated 12 million people living in the shadows of our country. While we believe that the majority are hard working people contributing to our economy and society, we can also assume there are some people who want to do us harm hiding among the millions who have come here only in search of better lives for themselves and their families. We need new policies that will allow us to concentrate our resources on finding those who have come here for purposes more dangerous than finding a job.
“Last year the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration bill, but it never even got to conference. This year, we realized that we had to take a different approach if we wanted to enact real reforms. New ideas and concepts were incorporated into the bill that help to enhance the comprehensive nature of the bill and ensure that the strongest tools were in place to enforce our laws and secure our border.
“First and foremost among our priorities was to ensure this bill included strong border security and enforcement provisions. We need to ensure that the Department of Homeland Security has the resources it needs to secure our borders to the greatest extent possible. These include man power, vehicles, and detention facilities for those apprehended. But we also need to take a 21st century approach to this 21st century problem. We need to create virtual barriers as well, through the use of Unmanned Aerial Systems, ground censors, cameras, vehicle barriers, advanced communications systems and the most up to date security technologies available to us.
“This legislation mandates that before we can move forward with a program to address the undocumented workers currently in the US or future workers wishing to enter, we must meet certain enforcement and security benchmarks that will let everyone know that we are enforcing our laws and that we are not going to repeat the 1986 amnesty. These triggers include the hiring of 20,000 Border Patrol agents, the construction of 300 miles of vehicle barriers and 370 miles of fencing, the establishment of 150 ground-based radar and camera towers along the southern border, and the deployment of 4 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles and supporting systems. It also includes the end of catch-and-release, the ability to detain up to 31,500 aliens per day on an annual basis, the use of secure and effective identification tools to prevent unauthorized work and the ability receiving, processing and adjudicating of applications for the undocumented workers that are applying for legal status. Every one of these items must be in place and fully funded before a single temporary worker enters our country or a single undocumented immigrant receives a permanent legal status in the
“Not only will this legislation finally accomplish the extraordinary goal of securing our borders, but it will also greatly improve interior enforcement and put employers on notice that the practice of hiring illegal workers simply will not be tolerated. “Business as usual” is no longer acceptable and neither is a defacto amnesty. This legislation would put in place an effective and practical Employment Verification System to replace the outdated I-9 system that all employers use today. In the 21st century it is unacceptable that employers are still recording important employment eligibility information with a pen and pad. We need real time answers that will tell employers if the person sitting in front of them is not only eligible to work here but the person they are actually claim to be. Employers will no longer be put in the position of judging documents that are presented to them at face value. The employment verification system in this bill will allow employers to electronically verify identity and work eligibility through both DHS and the Social Security Administration while also protecting the personal information of all
“We need the ability to have additional legal workers in this country. There are certain jobs that Americans are simply not willing to do. For example, today in
“At the same time, we have seen time and again under the current law that as long as there are jobs available in this country for people who live in poverty and hopelessness in other countries, those people will risk their lives to cross our borders. Our reforms need to reflect that reality, and help us separate economic immigrants from security risks. This legislation does just that.
“The most effective border protection tool we have is establishing a legal channel for workers to enter the
“Under this legislation, workers could participate in a new “Y” visa program and would be allowed to come for 2 years at a time to fill positions that no American worker wants. They will be able to renew this visa twice, but must wait outside of the country for one year between each renewal. We need temporary workers that are truly temporary, coming to fill gaps in our economy and earn enough money to better the lives of their family back home. This program needs to be flexible to meet our labor market needs on a short term bases without creating a surplus of low skilled labor that could drive down the wages of US workers. The temporary worker program in this bill will help to strengthen our economy and provide legal avenues for workers to enter, encouraging them to be open to new opportunities that maximize their earning potential while they are guests in our nation.
“For those workers that would like to come on a permanent bases and become citizens, the reforms in this bill establish a process by which our country will finally have a system that emphasizes immigrants that contribute to the economic and cultural growth of our nation, ending the practice of "chain migration" and allow America to compete with other nations for the best and the brightest the world has to offer. As David Brooks wrote in The New York Times on Tuesday (5-22-07):
Let’s look at how this bill would improve incentives almost every step of the way.
First, consider the 10 to 12 million illegal immigrants who are already here. They now have an incentive to think only in the short term. They have little reason to invest for the future because their presence here could be taken away.
This bill would encourage them to think in the long term. To stay, they would have to embark on a long, 13-year process. They’d have to obey the law, learn English and save money (to pay the stiff fines). Suddenly, these people would be lifted from an underclass environment — semi-separate from mainstream society — and shifted into a middle-class environment, enmeshed within the normal rules and laws that the rest of us live by. This would be the biggest values-shift since welfare reform.
Second, consider the millions living abroad who dream of coming to the U.S. Currently, they have an incentive to find someone who can smuggle them in, and if they get caught they have an incentive to try and try again.
The Senate bill reduces that incentive for lawlessness. If you think it is light on enforcement, read the thing. It would not only beef up enforcement on the border, but would also create an electronic worker registry. People who overstay their welcome could forfeit their chance of being regularized forever.
Moreover, aspiring immigrants would learn, from an early age, what sort of person the
“In essence, we are rewarding people for working hard and showing potential. These are not all high skilled workers, but are the kind of workers and people that we should want to become citizens of our country. By combining family ties with economic realities, we can build a stronger immigration system that will help to build a stronger, more competitive economy and nation.
“In addition to a future immigrant and non-immigrant workers, we have to address the fact that 11-12 million people are living in the
“The opponents of our proposal to address undocumented workers in this country decry as amnesty our proposal to bring them out from their shadows and into compliance with our laws. No, Mr. President, it is not. Amnesty is, as I observed, for all practical purposes what exists today. We can pretend otherwise, but that doesn’t make it so. Amnesty is simply declaring people who entered the country illegally citizens of the
“Under the provisions of our legislation, undocumented workers will have incentives to declare their existence and comply with our laws. They may apply for a worker visa. They would be subjected to background checks. They must pay substantial fines and fees totally approximately $7000, learn English, enroll in civic education, remain employed, and if they choose to get a Green Card, go to the end of the line behind those that waited legally outside of the country to come in. I believe most undocumented workers will accept these requirements in order to escape the fear, uncertainty and vulnerability to exploitation they currently endure. And while those who have come here to do us harm won=t come out of hiding to accept these conditions, we will at least be spared the Herculean task of finding and sorting through millions of people who came here simply to earn a living.
“Mr. President, we are aware of the burdens illegal immigrants impose on our cities and counties and states. Those burdens, which are a federal responsibility, must be addressed. And we need also to face honestly the moral consequences of our current failed immigration system.
“I am hopeful that at the end of this debate, we can show the American people that we addressed a serious and urgent problem with sound judgment, honesty, common sense and compassion. I hope we can show that we reached across the aisle to try and solve a serious problem in a serious way.
“It seems almost trite at this point to once again state that our nation’s immigration system is broken and is badly in need of repair, but without comprehensive immigration reform, it is a fact that our nation’s security will remain vulnerable. We must act immediately or face the consequences of another summer of people dying in our deserts, businesses shutting their doors because they don’t have the man power to stay open, and criminals hiding in the shadows of our society mixed in with hard working people that are the back bone of our economy.
“The US Senate must have the courage and will to solve this crisis facing out nation. The American people are demanding action. I say the time is overdue and we are failing the citizens of the