Immigration: Senate is trying again.

Via The Chicago Sun Times
05/02/2006

Will the Senate get back on track on immigration?

from Senate Dems

REID: DEMOCRATS STAND READY TO PASS COMPREHENSVIE IMMIGRATION REFORM

“Every day we wait to fix our immigration system, the situation gets worse.”

Washington, DC—Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid today delivered
the following Floor remarks on the need to pass comprehensive
immigration reform in the Senate. Democrats are urging Republicans to
put aside their internal party differences and work for comprehensive
reform for America’s broken immigration system.

Remarks of Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid

As prepared

Tuesday, May 2, 2006

Mr. President, yesterday marked another day of peaceful, dignified
rallies across the country in support of comprehensive immigration
reform. These rallies underscore the need for Congress to pass a strong
and effective immigration bill this year.

Last Friday, I had the privilege of discussing this subject with
Roger Cardinal Mahony, the Archbishop of Los Angeles, and Theodore
Cardinal McCarrick, the Archbishop of Washington.

It was a very moving meeting for me, and I appreciated the chance to
speak with two such kind and thoughtful men. Both of them have been
tremendous leaders on the issue of immigration reform. We all agreed
that it is of the utmost importance for Congress to move forward with
an immigration bill as soon as possible.

Last week, I also met with President Bush at the White House, along
with many of my Democratic and Republican colleagues. As I said after
that meeting, I am not in the habit of patting the President on the
back, but he really deserved credit for calling us together and for
hosting a good, bipartisan meeting.

I made clear to the President that Senators on this side of the
aisle are committed to comprehensive immigration reform. I pledged to
work with him and the Majority Leader in a bipartisan way on this
important issue.

Every day we wait to fix our immigration system, the situation gets worse.

As I have said many times, our current immigration system is broken.
We must have a cohesive, coordinated effort to strengthen border
security, create legal mechanisms for American companies to hire
essential temporary employees and encourage the 11 million undocumented
immigrants in the United States to come out of the shadows. We need to
know who these people are and make sure they are productive,
law-abiding, tax-paying members of the community. We must also have
proper employer sanction enforcement, so that employers do not hire
undocumented individuals with impunity.

But the question remains: how will we move forward here in the Senate?

Over the Easter recess, I sent a letter to the Majority Leader
urging him to bring the immigration bill back before the full Senate at
the earliest opportunity. I expressed my view that the Senate should
resume the immigration debate immediately after we complete work on the
supplemental appropriations bill.

The supplemental bill will be completed this week. Therefore, I
continue to believe that such a schedule makes sense. Few other issues
are as important, and no other issue is as ripe for Senate debate.
Surely we can pass a good comprehensive immigration bill before the
Memorial Day recess.

To accomplish that goal, I want to reach an agreement with the
Majority Leader on a process for completing debate. There are two basic
elements to such an agreement: the number of amendments and an
understanding about how the bill will be handled in Conference with the
House.

Opponents have filed hundreds of amendments to weaken or kill the
compromise bill. We are prepared to debate and vote on some of those
amendments, but there must be some finite number. I have made clear to
the Majority Leader that I am flexible about the number we will vote
on.

Earlier I suggested three amendments per side. Today, I suggest we
vote on ten amendments per side, for a total of twenty amendments. With
potential second degree amendments, we could have as many as forty
votes. I am willing to have that many votes if that is what it takes to
move this legislation forward. But this bill will take many days to
finish.

As important as the number of amendments is what happens in Conference.

With Republicans in the House having passed a bill making all
undocumented immigrants felons, with the House majority leader publicly
dismissing the Senate’s bill, and with the House Judiciary Committee
Chairman serving as the sponsor of the felon provision in the House
legislation, it is imperative we have a firm agreement on who the
conference participants will be before moving to the bill.

I have said in the past the most equitable membership would consist
of the Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee.
However, if the distinguished Majority leader has an alternate proposal
that will protect the completion of a fair Conference, I will listen,
as will Senator Leahy the ranking member of Judiciary.

We cannot allow the House to hijack this bill and destroy the Senate
Judiciary Committee’s bipartisan work. Under these unusual
circumstances, conference protections are indispensable.

There are many kinds of possible conference protections. But the
most straightforward way is to appoint the members of the Judiciary
Committee as conferees. They understand this complex subject, and they
are committed to the Senate approach. The Committee ratio is 10-8, so
the majority has a two vote margin.

The concept of sending the full committee to conference is hardly
unprecedented. The Appropriations Committee and the Armed Services
Committee typically send their entire membership to conference. The
Judiciary Committee has done this on prior occasions. One way or
another, it is crucial that this bill be the product of ­bipartisan
consensus.

I hope that we can work together toward adequate assurances that the
Senate’s delicate compromise will not be filibustered by amendments or
blown up in conference.

Immigration reform is vital to America’s national security. We have
an obligation to act, and I look forward to the Senate resuming this
important debate in the very near future.

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