Senate Democrats

Reid: Unconstitutional Arizona Law Should Not Be A “Model” For Immigration Reform

Washington, D.C.Nevada Senator Harry Reid spoke on the Senate floor today regarding the Supreme Court’s decision on Arizona’s SB 1070. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:

Today, the Supreme Court correctly struck down the vast majority of the mean-spirited Arizona immigration law.

And while I agree with the Court’s decision to invalidate three troubling provisions of Arizona’s flawed law, I am concerned that the Court would leave any part of this law in place.

The justices upheld a measure that allows police to conduct immigration checks on anyone they suspect of being in the country illegally – even if their only evidence is an accent or skin color.

Allowing Arizona to keep its “papers please” system of immigration checks invites racial profiling.

And it gives Arizona officials free rein to detain anyone they suspect of being in the state without documentation.

As long as this provision remains, innocent American citizens are in danger of being detained by police unless they carry immigration papers with them at all times.

However, it is reassuring that the court left the door open to further challenges of this unsound provision.

I am optimistic that once that portion of the law is implemented, it will be discarded by the court as well.

Laws that legalize discrimination are not compatible with our nation’s ideals and traditions of equal rights.

So it is disturbing that Mitt Romney has called the Arizona law a “model” for immigration reform.

Anyone who thinks such an unconstitutional law should serve as a “model” for national reform is clearly outside the mainstream – and the U.S. Supreme Court agreed today.

Today’s partial victory affirms the Obama administration was right to challenge this awful law.

And it is a reminder that the ultimate responsibility for fixing our nation’s broken immigration system rests with Congress.

Instead of allowing 50 states to have 50 different enforcement mechanisms, we need a national solution that:

  • Continues to secure the borders,
  • Punishes unscrupulous employers who exploit immigrants and undercut American wages,
  • Improves our dysfunctional legal immigration system,
  • And requires the 11 million people who are undocumented to register with the government, pay fines and taxes, learn English and then go to the end of the line to legalize their status.

Democrats are ready for this challenge – to craft a common-sense, legislative solution that is tough, fair and practical.

We have been for years. The problem has always been that Republicans unwilling to vote for immigration reform.

A good first step would be to pass the DREAM Act, which would create a pathway to citizenship for children brought to the country through no fault of their own.

If upstanding young people stay out of trouble and work hard in high school, they should have the chance to serve their country in the military, go to college and work toward citizenship.

Unfortunately, Mitt Romney has said he would veto the DREAM Act.

President Obama, on the other hand, took decisive action in halting deportation of the DREAMers.

His directive will protect 800,000 young people and focus law enforcement resources where they belong – on deporting criminals.

As we all know, it’s not a permanent solution.

But President Obama’s decision to defer these deportations was necessary precisely because Republicans have so far refused to work with Democrats on a solution.

Congress must consider a long-term resolution that protects the DREAMers, and tackles comprehensive immigration reform that addresses all 11 million undocumented people living in this country.

But that will take cooperation from our Republican colleagues.

We have a lot to accomplish this week – and getting it all done before the July Fourth holiday will also take cooperation.

By Friday the Senate must:

  • Pass flood insurance legislation that will allow millions of Americans to close on new homes.
  • Send to President Obama’s desk a bipartisan bill to ease drug shortages.
  • And protect 3 million American jobs with an agreement on transportation legislation.

And the deadline to stop student loan rates from doubling for 7 million students looms at the end of the week as well.

I am putting my colleagues on notice that the Senate will stay as long as it takes – into the weekend if necessary – to complete this substantial workload.