Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee
On the introduction of the Secure and Succeed Act
February 12, 2018
I rise today to announce the formal introduction of an amendment to H.R. 2579, the vehicle for immigration. This amendment, which is co-sponsored by Senators Cornyn, Tillis, Lankford, Perdue, Cotton and Ernst, is the product of several months of hard work between these Senators and the White House.
Since this past September, I’ve held more than two dozen meetings with interested Senators in an attempt to craft a fair and permanent solution to the DACA program. I’ve also met with the President on four separate occasions to figure out exactly what he needs to see in a legislative package so that it can be signed into law. But, most importantly, I’ve been continuously listening to what my colleagues have said they need to see in any immigration deal.
As a result of our meetings and conversations with colleagues, the Senators sponsoring this amendment have attempted to develop a simple, common-sense framework that can address everyone’s concerns, while also providing the necessary and critical changes to our nation’s immigration laws.
So, what does our amendment do? Working off of the broad bipartisan framework agreed to earlier this year at the White House, our amendment has four key pillars.
First, and most importantly, our amendment fully funds the President’s border security requests. Other plans we’ve heard about claim they fund the President’s border security requests by “authorizing” money. But anyone who knows Washington knows that just an authorization can be a gimmick, a promise and an I.O.U to maybe fund something at a later date.
We went down the road in 2006 when Congress authorized money for border fencing, much of which Congress never actually funded. Our amendment rejects that approach. Instead, we actually appropriate $25 billion dollars into a border security trust fund. This trust fund will allow Homeland Security to use between $2.5 and $3 billion dollars a year for infrastructure, technology and personnel recruitment and retention.
By setting up a border security trust fund, we ensure that DHS will actually have the money it needs every single year to secure our border, while also retaining Congress’s ability to exercise oversight. But, unlike other plans, we also recognize that real border security is more than just throwing money at the border. This group of Senators realize that real border security means we have to close the legal loopholes in current law that allow dangerous criminals to enter and remain at large in our country. Our amendment ends these dangerous loopholes, and makes it easier for our law enforcement to apprehend, detain and speedily remove sex offenders, drug smugglers, human traffickers, international terrorists, criminal gang members, repeat border crossers, drunk drivers and other dangerous individuals.
Second, our amendment provides a generous and permanent solution for up to 1.8 million DACA or DACA-eligible recipients. Our plan contains an earned path to citizenship for these young people. Provided these young men and women have no criminal record and either serve in the military, attain a college or vocational degree or maintain fulltime employment, they can eventually gain citizenship. This represents a major concessions for many Republicans, including me, but this concession is necessary to provide a permanent and fair solution to this issue.
Third, our proposal reforms family-based immigration to place greater emphasis on the nuclear family. Moving forward, we limit family based immigration to the nuclear family, meaning the spouses and minor children of citizens and lawful permanent residents. This change doesn’t end family-based immigration, it simply recognizes that extended family immigration doesn’t serve the American people or our American economy’s interest.
It’s important for all of my colleagues to recognize these family-based changes are prospective. This means that all 4 million immigrants who are waiting in line for a family-based petition will continue to have their petitions processed under the old rules. This group of Senators understands that we can’t penalize the millions of people who actually followed the law, and did the right thing.
In addition to rewarding those who did the right thing, by grandfathering all pending petitions in the pipeline, it will take years, by some estimates more than a decade, for Congress to debate and enact merit based immigration reforms.
Finally, our plan reallocates the 55,000 visas in the Diversity Visa Lottery program to clearing backlogs in the family-based and employment-based backlogs. By reallocating these visas, we not only promote faster family renunciation, but also speed up the immigration of skilled workers in the EB-1, EB-2, and EB-3 categories.
As you can see this is an eminently fair plan that closely mirrors the President’s framework. This plan is a true compromise, and supporting it will require concessions from all Senators: conservatives, liberals, Democrats, Republicans and everyone in between. This Senator is ready and willing to make a major concession and once again vote for a path to citizenship. Other Senators need to be willing to do the same, to make sacrifices when it comes to border security and chain migration.
But at the end of the day, in spite of everything else, the simple fact remains that this amendment is the only Senate plan that the President supports. This plan is the only Senate plan that has any possibility of passing the House of Representatives and becoming law. So, I have to ask my colleagues who oppose this proposal, are you interested in actually getting something done, in actually providing a path to citizenship for these DACA kids or are you interested in a political issue?
If you’re actually interested in getting something done, in getting a bill signed into law and in fixing the DACA problem, well, the choice is obvious. You’ll vote to support this plan. But, if my colleagues are more interested in grandstanding, in passing a bill that will never become law, and that won’t actually protect DACA kids, well that choice is pretty clear too.
To all my colleagues, I urge you support this amendment. Let’s fix this issue. Let’s demonstrate that we can find solutions to the challenging problems that Americans are calling on us to solve. And let’s show the world that we’re serious about finding a long term solution instead of kicking the problem to a future date.
I yield the floor.