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January 12, 2007

Statement Of Sen. Patrick Leahy On The Introduction Of A Bill To Provide For Comprehensive Immigration Reform

U.S. SENATOR PATRICK LEAHY
CONTACT: Office of Senator Leahy, 202-224-4242 VERMONT
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Senator Patrick Leahy,[D-Vt., the incoming Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, called on the Senate Thursday to enact comprehensive immigration reform. Below is Senator Leahy’s statement, as prepared, and the text of the immigration legislation introduced as part of the Democratic Leadership package.

Senate Floor, 110th Congress, January 4, 2007

As the new Congress begins, we have a tremendous opportunity before us to enact fair, comprehensive immigration reform. It is time for bipartisan action. Accordingly, I join with Senators from both sides of the aisle to call for Comprehensive Immigration Reform and will work to enact it. We need to put aside the mean-spiritedness and short-sighted policies driven by fear and recognize the dignity of those whose work contributes to reinvigorating America. Consistent with our heritage as a nation of immigrants we need to bring people out of the shadows.

Through comprehensive immigration reform, we can increase the opportunities for American businesses to obtain the workers they need while ensuring that priority is given to willing domestic workers -- from dairy farms in Vermont to multi-national corporations. We have been told of the plight of American farmers from New York to California and have seen the photographs of piles of rotting fruit that have gone unharvested. We hear American technology companies lamenting the lost opportunities and the loss of skilled innovators to other countries. In Vermont, dairy farmers are yearning for more available legal workers, while others have watched families in their employ be torn apart through piecemeal, inconsistent and sometimes heavy-handed enforcement efforts. No American farmer or other business should be put in the position of having to choose between obeying the law or losing their livelihood.

Where American workers can fill available jobs, they should be given priority. Where these jobs are available and unclaimed by American citizens, it makes no sense to deny willing foreign workers the opportunity to work. Through our collective efforts we can strike the balance to protect our domestic workforce while meeting the needs of a productive economy.

We must streamline and reform our visa system for low-skilled workers so we can help reduce the crippling backlogs that affect American businesses. And we must increase the number of low-skilled work visas issued each year to keep up with the needs of our economy. We should enact stronger, consistent employer verification procedures. We should impose penalties for those employers who flout the law and exploit those who have no voice. We can do this by working together and enacting comprehensive reform.

Through comprehensive and smart reforms, we can also increase our security. Let us work to focus enforcement efforts on protecting us from those who seek to do us harm. Let us put an end to the conditions that end in too many needless deaths in the deserts of the Southwest.

We must take a smarter approach to dealing with the millions of people already here—one that does not divide families and make instant criminals out of millions of people, but rather honors our nation’s best traditions. When we enact reforms to bring the millions of undocumented people in this country out of the shadows, greater accountability will follow. When we provide incentives for undocumented people to enter a path to citizenship, we will encourage them to live up to our traditions of citizenship and civic responsibility. When we endow those who seek to better their lives—and the lives of their families—with the tools to do so legally, we help instill in them a sense of belonging, of patriotism, and of opportunity. Those who decry this aspect of immigration reform must carefully consider the alternative path. By driving more people underground, we foster a culture of lawlessness and mistrust.
We cannot wall ourselves off from the world. A 700-mile fence on a 2000-mile border is not the answer. Last fall, the Republican Congress rushed through a bill to build 700 miles of fencing and did so against the advice of the Department of Homeland Security. That fence bill was neither fair nor comprehensive. I share the disappointment of tens of millions of Americans who had hoped President Bush would have exercised his constitutional authority to veto that costly, cobbled-together and mean-spirited law. Instead, the President seemed to have abandoned his principles in signing the Secure Fence Act that will cost between $2 billion and $9 billion and fail to perform as advertised to seal our southern border. Scarring our southwestern landscape with a symbol of fear, pandering and intolerance offends the great heritage of our nation while sending the wrong message to our neighbors and to the world about American values. It was a pricey ‘bumper sticker’ law passed to curry favor in certain quarters before the elections. Instead, by focusing on technology, innovation, and personnel rather than partisan politics and divisive walls, we can do a better job of securing our border.

The President has said many times that in order for the United States to achieve real security, we must have comprehensive immigration reform, which must include a realistic solution to bring out of the shadows the millions of undocumented immigrants in the country and to meet the pressing needs of employers for willing workers along with border security. In numerous statements, including a speech in Mission, Texas, in August 2006, he recognized that without all components of comprehensive reform working together, immigration reform will not work.

I will continue working to enact legislation that will secure America’s borders, strengthen our economy and bring about a realistic solution to the millions of people who want to work and live legally in our country. I will continue to support fair and comprehensive immigration reform and to respect the dignity of those who seek to join mainstream American society and to better their lives in the United States. Today, we join together in the hope that common sense and bipartisanship will prevail. I ask unanimous consent that a copy of the bill be inserted into the Record.

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(Text of the Legislation)
S.9
To recognize the heritage of the United States as a nation of immigrants and amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to provide for more effective border and employment enforcement, to prevent illegal immigration, to reform and rationalize avenues for legal immigration, and for other purposes.

110th CONGRESS, 1st Session, January 4, 2007

IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES
MR. REID (for himself and MR. Leahy and _____ ) introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on Judiciary.

A BILL
To recognize the heritage of the United States as a nation of immigrants and amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to provide for more effective border and employment enforcement, to prevent illegal immigration, to reform and rationalize avenues for legal immigration, and for other purposes.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
SHORT TITLE- This Act may be cited as the `Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007'.
SECTION 2. SENSE OF CONGRESS.
SENSE OF THE CONGRESS- It is the Sense of Congress that the Senate and the House of Representatives should pass, and the President should sign, legislation to recognize the heritage of the United States as a nation of immigrants and to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to provide for more effective border and employment enforcement, to prevent illegal immigration, and to reform and rationalize avenues for legal immigration.
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Posted by VisaLawyer at January 12, 2007 07:06 AM

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