Leahy Reports To Senate On Judiciary Committee’s Progress Toward Starting Markup On Comprehensive Immigration Reform Legislation

WASHINGTON (Wednesday, April 24, 2013) – U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) made the following report to the Senate Wednesday on the panel’s work on comprehensive immigration reform -- the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013, the bipartisan bill that was the subject of three public hearings over the last week and which will soon be marked up in Committee.  The Judiciary Committee this year has held six hearings on immigration reform, an issue that Leahy said in January would be a top focus of the Committee this spring.  

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Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.),
Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee
Report To The Senate On
Hearings On Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act, S.744
April 24, 2013

I report to the American people and to the Senate today on an extraordinary series of hearings that concluded this week before the Judiciary Committee on comprehensive immigration reform. Since February, we have held six days of hearings and heard testimony from 42 witnesses about the need for meaningful immigration reform.

We heard from “dreamers,” farmers, business people, religious leaders, economists, government officials, practitioners, law enforcement, advocates and others.  We heard from those who oppose comprehensive immigration reform and those who support it.  Since the bipartisan legislation was introduced one week ago, we have held three days of hearings with live testimony from 26 witnesses.  I have accommodated many member requests and worked with Ranking Member Grassley to ensure that all viewpoints were heard.  No witness he suggested was denied the opportunity to appear and testify.  I also prevailed upon Secretary Napolitano to return to testify, again, even though she just did so in February.   

This year, we have held more hearings, heard from more witnesses and had more process than the Committee and the Senate provided in 2006 when we passed the Kennedy-McCain comprehensive immigration reform bill.  Three times as many witnesses have testified before the Committee than testified during its consideration of the Immigration Reform and Control Act in 1986. 

In 2006, as now, there were some who were opposed to the immigration reform effort for whom no amount of hearings or witnesses or information or time would have been enough and who were never going to be persuaded.  I trust that even opponents of comprehensive immigration reform will concede that the hearings this year have been open, fair, and extensive.

Tomorrow, the Senate Judiciary Committee will meet, and I expect that a member will exercise his right under our rules to hold over the immigration reform bill, now listed on our agenda, for a week.  Next week is a recess week, so we will be able to turn to marking up the legislation in May.  By that point, the bill will have been publicly available for three weeks before we vote on any aspect of it or consider any amendments offered to it. 

The legislative proposal we are examining is the result of significant work and bipartisan compromise. I have commended Senator Schumer, Senator McCain, Senator Durbin, Senator Graham, Senator Menendez, Senator Rubio, Senator Bennet, Senator Flake and Senator Feinstein for their extraordinary effort.  I urge everyone on both sides of the aisle to consider this example of bipartisanship as we move forward on this most important endeavor.

I do not want to see comprehensive immigration reform fall victim to entrenched, partisan opposition. In the course of our hearings I quoted my friend of many years, Ted Kennedy.  In the summer of 2007, as our effort at comprehensive immigration reform was being blocked in the Senate, he spoke about our disappointment and resolve.  He said:

A minority in the Senate rejected a stronger economy that is fairer to our taxpayers and our workers. A minority of the Senate rejected America's own extraordinary immigrant history and ignored our Nation's most urgent needs.

But we are in this struggle for the long haul. Today's defeat will not stand. As we continue the battle, we will have ample inspiration in the lives of the immigrants all around us.

From Jamestown, to the Pilgrims, to the Irish, to today's workers, people have come to this country in search of opportunity. They have sought nothing more than a chance to work hard and bring a better life to themselves and their families. They come to our country with their hearts and minds full of hope.

He then urged us to “begin anew to build the kinds of tough, fair, and practical reform worthy of our shared history as immigrants and as Americans.”  That is what we have done this year.

I urge all Senators to consider the recent testimony of Jose Antonio Vargas, Gaby Pacheco and the families that can be made more secure by enacting comprehensive immigration reform. The dysfunction in our current immigration system affects all of us. I hope that our history, our values, and our decency can inspire us finally to take the action we should to reform our immigration laws.  

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