Prepared Senate Floor Statement by Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa
Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee
“The Security, Enforcement, and Compassion United in Reform Efforts (SECURE) Act of 2017”
December 5, 2017
I rise today to offer brief remarks regarding the introduction of the Security, Enforcement, and Compassion United in Reform Efforts, or SECURE Act, of 2017. This bill promotes and protects the interests of the American people in a lawful immigration system, and provides a fair and equitable solution on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. It’s the product of several months of hard work between myself and Senators Cornyn, Graham, Tillis, Lankford, Perdue, and Cotton.
Before I discuss what exactly this bill does, let me talk about the process we used to reach this point.
On September 5, 2017, Attorney General Sessions announced that President Trump had decided to rescind former President Obama’s unlawful executive amnesty program.
Because almost 700,000 young people relied on President Obama’s false promise, the Trump Administration called on Congress to find the only real type of long-term solution to this issue—a legislative one.
Starting in September, I’ve held multiple meetings with Senators Cornyn, Graham, Tillis, Lankford, Perdue, and Cotton to determine how best to fix DACA.
Our aim was to find a solution that not only is fair for DACA recipients, but also promotes the interests of the American people.
The immigration policies of the previous administration carried consequences that weren’t always in our best interests. For example, President Obama allowed thousands of people to illegally cross our borders and stay in our country, including dangerous gang members, sex offenders, and violent criminals. Robust border security is crucial to bring integrity back to our nation’s immigration enforcement.
The enforcement policies of the previous administration enabled dangerous unauthorized criminals, individuals like Kate Steinle’s killer, to have free reign in our country, risking the safety of innocent Americans.
The flagrant disregard of so called “sanctuary” jurisdictions unfairly take tax dollars from hardworking Americans, only to ignore the rule of law and their own people’s public safety.
In crafting our bill, we also considered the inherent unfairness in our nation’s immigration court and asylum adjudication systems, and how hundreds of thousands of aliens wait in backlogs for years at a time. That’s wrong, it hurts the people who are stuck in that backlog, and it’s unfair to ask the American people and legal immigrants to bear the burden of supporting these people why they wait.
And finally, thanks to the leadership of Senators Graham, Perdue, and Cotton, we discussed the need for a merit-based immigration system, one where we bring people to this country based on what they can contribute, and not simply because they have some attenuated family relationship to a legal immigrant who’s already here.
So, after having these discussions, and after meeting with the President to get his input and his support, we’ve come up with a plan. This plan is fair to all parties. It’s pro-American. And it’s a solution to DACA.
Our plan, the SECURE Act of 2017, provides a solution to all of the issues we discussed. First, building off of the hard work and leadership of Senator Cornyn, we’re putting the days of porous, uncontrolled borders behind us.
We’re doing this by mandating the construction of tactical and technological infrastructure at the border. We’re also beefing up our law enforcement and judicial resources, and putting more boots on the ground in Border States, so that we can better apprehend and prosecute those who enter our country illegally.
Our plan takes meaningful steps to end the lawlessness and tragedies at the hands of dangerous criminal aliens throughout our country. We do this by cracking down on sanctuary cities, ending the misguided catch and release policies of the previous administration, and finally taking real steps to address intentional visa overstays.
In recognition of the many Americans who’ve lost their lives to criminal aliens, we included Kate’s law, named after Kate Steinle.
This legislation enhances penalties for repeat illegal border crossers, and expands the inadmissibility and expedited removal of terrorists, gang members, aggravated felons, and drunk drivers.
We also provide a fix to the disastrous Zadvydas decision so that the government doesn’t keep releasing dangerous criminals onto our streets because of their home countries’ refusals to take responsibility.
Our bill takes steps to eliminate many of the “pull” factors that encourage people to immigrate illegally.
We do this by permanently authorizing the e-verify program and providing immunity and other incentives to encourage small businesses to participate.
We also take meaningful steps to reduce immigration court and asylum adjudication backlogs by hiring more judges and personnel, limiting the number of continuances an immigrant can receive, and imposing new safeguards to combat well-documented fraud and abuse.
Again, thanks to the leadership and advocacy of Senators Graham, Perdue, and Cotton, our bill eliminates the phenomenon known as ‘chain migration.’
From the day this bill becomes law, immigrants will only be able to bring their spouses and minor children into the country.
This bi-partisan pro-American worker reform, which the President strongly supports, is an important first step towards creating the merit-based, economically productive immigration system that both Democrats and Republicans want to see.
Finally, and most importantly, we provide a bi-partisan solution to protect undocumented young people brought to the United States as children by adopting the Bar Removal of Individuals who Dream and Grow our Economy, or the BRIDGE Act.
Senator Durbin called the BRIDGE Act “an opportunity for supporters and critics of DACA to come together and address a compelling humanitarian issue on a bipartisan basis.” We agree.
The BRIDGE Act is supported by Senators Graham, Durbin, Gillibrand, Heller, Murkowski, Feinstein, Nelson, Flake, Schumer and Harris. It would provide relief from deportation and work authorization to DACA recipients, allowing them to continue to fulfill their dreams and contribute to our economy.
As you can see, our plan has fair, bi-partisan, and serious provisions. By listening to colleagues, and adopting solutions that both sides can agree on, we’re providing a real solution to the immigration issues our country is facing.
Our plan protects the DACA kids, it cracks down on the criminal illegal aliens, and it provides real long-term reforms to our nation’s immigration system that benefit the American people. And it does so through the proper legislative process, which provides greater certainty for Americans and immigrants alike.
Importantly, it is also supported by the President. That’s all the more reason to pass this bill and fulfill our promises to the American people and the DACA recipients.
Again, I want to thank the hard work of Senators Cornyn, Graham, Tillis, Lankford, Perdue, and Cotton, and their staffs, in developing this solution. I’m looking forward to considering this measure in the new year, and to seeing President Trump sign it into law.