Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada made the following statement earlier this morning on the floor of the U.S. Senate:
Mr. President, we all agree that our immigration system is badly broken. Twelve million undocumented immigrants live in constant fear. Employers face a quandary over who they can and cannot hire, while raids by immigration agents regularly disrupt and even shut down their businesses. Produce is dying on the vine because farmers can’t hire enough workers to harvest their crop.
Under the current system, there are no winners. Everyone loses.
Next Tuesday, the Senate will have an opportunity to vote on whether to begin debate on the complex and critical challenge of immigration reform. The bill we debate and eventually pass will give us the chance to:
- Strengthen border security.
- Put in place an effective and efficient employer verification system.
- Design a new worker program to take pressure off the border.
- And give those 12 million undocumented immigrants the opportunity to come out of the shadows and into the light.
Over the past several months, many Senators from both sides of the aisle have spent countless hours negotiating a bipartisan solution to this critical challenge. These senators have been bargaining in good faith, they are working hard to reach a deal, and we all hope that they will do so. But if they are not able to reach a new bipartisan agreement, we have an opportunity to move forward on a previous bipartisan agreement.
The bill I have placed on the calendar is the same bill that the Senate passed last year by a vote of 62-36, with 23 Republicans voting in favor. Last year’s bill was imperfect. Many of us had misgivings about it, myself included. But it is a solid and comprehensive package that can serve as a good start to this year’s debate.
Several of my colleagues have said we should not move forward at this time. In fact, some have threatened to filibuster the motion to proceed. I hope they will reconsider this threat. Members who have put so much time and effort working on an immigration bill should embrace our motion to start debate.
The 20 Republicans currently in the Senate who voted for final passage of last year’s bill should certainly vote to consider an identical bill this year.
My purpose is simply to move forward. I want this Congress to accomplish immigration reform, and we are running out of time to do it. The House of Representatives is waiting for us, and our schedule is about to get crowded with appropriations and other bills that must be passed prior to October. I urge my colleagues to support the motion to proceed so we can start working on this issue that is so important to our nation.
A vote to proceed is a vote to open debate, not shut the door on it. If a new agreement is reached, it can be offered as a substitute amendment to this bill on the floor. And if a new agreement is not reached, we can legislate the old-fashioned way. We can offer amendments to the existing bipartisan bill to make it even better than the one we passed last year.
Either path leads to progress that is long overdue.