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For Immediate Release
May 9, 2013

Comprehensive Immigration Reform

Grassley Opening Statement

Prepared Statement of Senator Chuck Grassley
Ranking Member, Senate Committee on the Judiciary
Executive Business Meeting
The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, S. 744
Thursday, May 9, 2013

During this committee’s mark-up of the immigration reform bill, I will invoke the themes that the President outlined that day when he pledged to the American people that “Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones” of his presidency.

I plan to ask many questions throughout this process.  I want to help the American people understand what’s in this 867 page bill.  I want to discuss the details and understand the thinking of the authors with regard to many provisions.  I want to know how the bill doesn’t repeat the mistakes of our past.  I want to know how it will benefit generations for years to come.   And, I want to know how the bill preserves the rule of law.  

Since we only do comprehensive immigration reform once every 25 years or so, we have to get it right.  As the authors of S.744 hoped, a bill must ensure that the reform is successful so we don’t have to revisit the problems again.  

The bill before us has some of the same concepts of the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act.  Title two of that act provides a legalization program.  Instead of calling it Registered Provisional Immigrant status, the 1986 bill allowed the undocumented population to come forward and register with the government for Temporary Resident Status.  A person had to prove they resided in the United States prior to January 1, 1982, and had to remain physically present in the United States until they adjusted to Permanent Resident Status.  

Like the bill before us, the 1986 law required individuals to learn English, but allowed people to meet that requirement by simply taking a class.  Like the bill before us, those in temporary status were authorized to travel and work.  Any information in one’s application would be considered confidential, and could not render the person removable.  Applicants had to pay a fee, and there were no numerical limits.  There were weak documentation requirements, and it allowed for sworn affidavits.  

There were waivers of the grounds of inadmissibility.  There was a provision that required the Attorney General to give people here illegally with an opportunity to apply for legal status if apprehended during the application period.  Nor could people be deported during this time.  To top it off, like the bill before us, the government was to undertake a campaign to disseminate information about the legalization program.  

This ought to sound very familiar.

The sponsors of the bill want Americans to believe that people will wait 10 or 13 years until citizenship is granted.  They say it will be a tough and expensive road, and it would be easier to just go home than go through this process.  I disagree with that sales pitch.   Unfortunately, this bill looks too much like the 1986 bill which failed to take care of the problems we’re now trying to solve.  It falls short of what I want to see in a strong immigration reform bill.  

You’ll hear me say many times that we shouldn’t make the same mistakes that we made in 1986.  You’ll hear me say many times that we want to move ahead with a bill that does it right this time as the authors of the bill said in their preamble.

I have several amendments that will improve the bill.  

For instance, I have an amendment to hold the administration accountable for how they spend $7.5 billion in taxpayer money.  I have an amendment to improve the new grant programs created by the legislation.  I have another amendment to limit who can take advantage of the generous legalization program, eliminating the ability for some to apply while in removing proceedings.  I will offer amendments that undo provisions that weaken current law.  And, I will offer amendments that strengthen existing visa programs.  

What’s hard for me to swallow is a provision on page 10.  The triggers in the bill that kick off legalization are weak.

No one can dispute that this bill is legalization first, enforcement later.

I will have an amendment to require the Secretary to certify to Congress that the Secretary has maintained effective control over the entire Southern border for six months before processing applications for Registered Provisional Immigrant status.

If we pass the bill as is, there will be no pressure on this administration or a future administration or those of in Congress to secure the border.  There will be no push by the legalization advocates to get that job done.  We need to work together to secure the border first.  People don’t trust the enforcement of the law or secure the border.  

That’s why it’s important that Congress legislate, not delegate.  There are hundreds of provisions that grant waivers and discretionary authority to the Secretary of Homeland Security.  This is following in the footsteps of Health Care Reform. We are learning a lesson every day that this administration is pushing the envelope and overstepping its authority to the maximum extent possible.  

It’s been three years since the health care law has passed.  The Executive Branch has just begun to develop the exchange markets that will remain for years to come.  There’s so much uncertainty and unknown.  And, the same can be said of this immigration bill.

This bill is complex.  Any of us can read 900 pages, but it’s another thing to understand it all and to know the consequences of such an undertaking.  

This bill intersects with the jurisdiction of several other congressional committees.   

    S. 744 amends or refers to at least 52 other laws, including:
•    the National Environmental Policy Act
•    the Foreign Service Act
•    the United States Housing Act
•    the Military Selective Service Act
•    the Fair Labor Standards Act
•    the National Science Foundation Act
    

…just to name a few.  

By the looks of this list, Mr. Chairman, the Judiciary Committee may be the most powerful committee in the Senate.  

I look forward to a thoughtful and thorough debate on this bill.

 

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Laws Amended by the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act

The Travel Promotion Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Homeland Security Act, the Consolidated Natural Resources Act, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the Privacy Act of 1974, the Higher Education Act of 1965, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the Military Selective Service Act, the E-Government Act, the Class Action Fairness Act, the Social Security Act, the Internal Revenue Code, the Foreign Service Act, the Departments of Commerce, Justice, and State, the Judiciary, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 1996, the Legal Services Corporation Act, the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, the United States Housing Act, the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006, the Child Status Protection Act, the Refugee Crisis in Iraq Act of 2007, the Department of State Authorization Act, the Chinese Student Protection Act of 1992, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, the Afghan Allies Protection Act of 2009, the REAL ID Act of 2005, the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, the Critical Infrastructure Protection Act of 2001,  the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act of 1994, the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Statutory Pay as You Go Act, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs Appropriations Act of 1990, the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970, the State Department Basic Authorities Act of 1956, the Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991, the American Competitiveness and 21st Century Act of 2000, the National Science Foundation Act, the Equity in Educational Land-Grant Status Act of 1994, the Nursing Relief for Disadvantaged Areas Act of 1999, the Irish Peace Process Cultural and Training Program Act of 1998, the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act, the Investment Advisors Act of 1940, the Commodity Exchange Act, the Investment Company Act of 1940, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act, and – last but not least -- the Immigration and Nationality Act.