Washington, DC — With comprehensive immigration reform nearing passage in the U.S. Senate, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid today delivered the following speech on the Floor of the Senate. Though there is much to celebrate in the Senate’s actions up to this point, today’s vote is not the final victory for comprehensive reform. President Bush must still exercise his leadership to convince Republicans in the House of Representatives to accept this bipartisan compromise.
The text of Senator Reid’s speech, as prepared, is below.
When this debate began two weeks ago, I referred to it as our own summer blockbuster – Immigration Part II. Today, I’m pleased to report as far as the Senate is concerned, the Sequel has a happy ending.
For the past two weeks, this has been the Senate I used to know. We’ve debated amendments in an orderly, serious fashion, Senators have reached across the aisle, and we’ve held a number of votes. My side didn’t always prevail, but we appreciated the opportunity to record our position.
As a result of this bipartisan cooperation, we have good, comprehensive immigration reform legislation before us today. It will help my state, Nevada, as we deal with the complex security and economic issues surrounding immigration.
By any measure, Mr. President, immigration in the United States is broken. There is no single solution. The Senate legislation reflects this fact. It deals with security, by providing new agents and new resources to secure our porous borders. It deals with employers who break the law, by making sure employee sanctions are tough and real – a big difference from the last five years. And–just as important–this bill deals with the 12 million undocumented immigrants living in our shadows. It gives them a reason to declare they are living here, to pay a fine, and to learn English.
Mr. President, this three-pronged approach to immigration reform is really the only responsible way to fix our broken immigration system. I’m pleased that–after much debate–the Senate has arrived at this solution, and I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting this bill today.
But before I finish, I would caution everyone from confusing victory in the Senate with victory overall.
Today is not the day to celebrate. We’ve won a big battle, but not the war.
After all, any legislation we pass in the Senate can be gutted by the House in Conference. It happens all the time. It happened to the Tax Bill the President signed last week. Many items the Senate supported were stripped in Conference, and there is nothing to prevent the same thing from happening to an immigration bill.
We should all take note that dark clouds are forming on the horizon. Influential Republicans in the House are still pushing the draconian bill they passed – - a bill that will make felons out of millions of immigrants and those who assist them. The House Majority Leader John Boehner yesterday was quoted as saying “trying to find a pathway that is acceptable to the House and Senate is going to be very difficult.”
That is not an encouraging quote.
Now, I fought to negotiate a fair balance on the Conference committee. However, it may not be enough to protect comprehensive immigration reform. The only person with the power to absolutely protect the Senate bill is President Bush. The prospects for comprehensive immigration reform lay in his hands, not ours. He needs to publicly rebuke the House approach and tell them it is “dead on arrival.” Such action by President Bush is the only way we can guarantee comprehensive immigration reform this year.
Mr. President, in any great action movie, there’s a final scene where the leading man or woman saves the day.
It’s now that time for President Bush. The Senate has worked its will.