Washington, DC – Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid delivered the following floor statement on the Kyl-Cornyn Amendment to the Judiciary Committee comprehensive immigration reform bill:
“Senators Kyl and Cornyn claim the Judiciary Committee bill would allow criminals to become permanent residents. This simply isn’t true. The Judiciary Committee bill, like the McCain Kennedy bill upon which it’s based, denies earned legalization to broad categories of aliens who committed crimes or are security risk to our country.
“Immigrants denied legalization include — and this is just a partial list: immigrants convicted of crimes of moral turpitude, aggravated assault, fraud, larceny, forgery; immigrants convicted of controlled substance offenses — sale, distribution of drugs; immigrants convicted of theft offenses, including shop lifting; those committed of public nuisance offenses; those with multiple criminal convictions; those convicted of crimes of violence; those convicted of counterfeiting, bribery or perjury; immigrants convicted of murder, rape or sexual abuse of a minor; immigrants believed to have engaged in terrorist activity which is broadly defined; immigrants with any association of terrorist activity or representatives of terrorist organization; spouses or children of individuals who are inadmissible as a terrorist; immigrants known to have acted in ways deemed to have adverse foreign policy consequences.
“What the Kyl-Cornyn amendment really does is undermine the earned citizenship program in the committee bill. It would prevent millions of Mexicans, Central Americans, Irish and other nationals from applying for legal status because of status violations, not crimes. The vast majority of undocumented immigrants who would be affected by this amendment are not criminal aliens, but rather the exact classes of immigrants intended to be covered by title 6 of the judiciary committee bill. Our analysis shows that over 95% of the people potentially affected by this amendment are individuals whose only crime — and crime is very loosely construed for purposes this have discussion — is being in the United States out of status. 95%.
“If the Kyl-Cornyn amendment passes, the United States will still confront a crisis of illegality and it will deny the will of the American people. Three out of four whom favor earned legalization for immigrants, who work, pay their taxes, learn English and stay out of trouble.
“Mr. President, the bill before this body is a very fine piece of legislation. It sets a very strict standard to protect our national security. Our borders will be protected better than they’ve ever been protected. And it will allow places like Las Vegas, Nevada — and Las Vegas isn’t the only place, who is going they are going to build within the next few years, four to five years, 50,000 new hotel rooms. They need a minimum of 100,000 new workers. This legislation will allow that to happen. And there are places all over America that are faced not with those numbers that are as huge as that, but with big, big numbers.
“And finally, Mr. President, what this legislation does that is now before the senate, it allows 11 million-plus people not to have to live in the shadows of America. A path of earned legalization, not like the old amnesty that was done when i served in the House of Representatives, but a path toward legalization. Stay out of trouble, pay your taxes, have a job, learn English, go to the back of the line. That’s why we’re here. We’re here trying to protect the integrity of a bill that is bipartisan in nature and one of the best things to happen to this partisan atmosphere we find ourselves. A bipartisan bill.
“Just last week we stood on this floor, and I don’t think boasted is the right word, but talked about how good it was that we were able to pass a bipartisan bill that improved the situation dealing with the ethics of this body and this country. Why can’t we continue on a bipartisan basis on this committee-reported bill? So for individuals to come to this floor and think we’re doing something that’s anti-Senate, anti-American because we don’t want to vote on an amendment that I think guts this bill. That doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with those of us who believe this is what we should not do, and it doesn’t take away from the good faith of my friend from Arizona. He thinks he’s doing the right thing. I just disagree with him a lot. I think what he’s doing is wrong. I think it hurts this bill. And I’m going to do everything that I can to protect this bill.”