Washington, DC — Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid today sent the following letter to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, urging him to bring immigration reform back before the Senate for debate at the earliest opportunity. Republican opposition may have derailed reform once, but the American people are calling on their government for action. Democrats remain committed to the comprehensive reform needed to secure our borders, and fix our broken immigration system.
The text of the letter follows below.
April 12, 2006
The Honorable William Frist, M.D.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader
S-230 The Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20510
I am writing to urge that you bring the immigration bill back before the full Senate at the earliest opportunity. In my view the Senate should resume the immigration debate immediately after we complete work on the supplemental appropriations bill.
The peaceful, dignified rallies across the country earlier this week underscore the need for Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform this year. Our current immigration system is broken. We must strengthen border security, create legal mechanisms for American companies to hire essential temporary employees and allow the 11 million undocumented workers in the United States to come out of the shadows.
Last week, Senate Democrats twice voted to move forward on such a comprehensive immigration bill, but not a single Republican backed our efforts. Your own position was very confusing. Initially, you set a deadline for the Judiciary Committee to report a comprehensive bill to the full Senate, but after the Committee met that deadline you insisted that the Senate instead take up your bill modeled on the harsh enforcement-only bill passed by the House last year. You then said you favored comprehensive reform, but when Chairman Specter offered the bipartisan committee bill as an amendment you voted against my motion to consider that approach in a timely fashion.
It was especially baffling when you voted against your own cloture motion on the Hagel/Martinez substitute amendment last Friday. The only reason to file cloture is to limit debate and amendments, so it was illogical for you to file cloture and then complain that Democrats were not allowing a sufficient number of amendments. In any event, we were in an unusual procedural posture in which a successful cloture vote would have simply placed the Hagel/Martinez amendment before the Senate for further amendments.
Your decision to defeat your own cloture motion delayed the Senate’s consideration of immigration reform for no apparent reason. I can only conclude that you had second thoughts about Hagel/Martinez after right-wing members of your caucus made known their strong opposition to it.
Similarly, President Bush’s support for comprehensive immigration reform seemed to wilt in the face of right-wing opposition. The President expressed general support for the Hagel/Martinez compromise, but to my knowledge made no effort to persuade Republican Senators to forego weakening amendments. We cannot achieve comprehensive immigration reform in the absence of presidential leadership.
Immigration reform is vital to America’s national security. I look forward to the Senate resuming this important debate in the very near future.