March 31, 2006

Salazar's Bloviations On Immigration

Full text of Salazar's Senate speech here.

Some highlights:
I believe that comprehensive immigration reform legislation must be:

TOUGH at the border and on employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants,

FAIR to those who agree to pay taxes and commit no crimes, and

PRACTICAL by providing solutions to today’s illegal immigration problems and addressing our future workforce needs. . .
No dispute there, amigo. No one would dispute any of those rather bland statements. But there are so many different points of contention that muddle up any thought of consensus on this issue for either side. Americans welcome immigrants from all over the world with open arms, provided they are here legally.
. . . I have also spoken with President Bush, and several Members of his Cabinet, about the need for changes to our immigration laws.

I share his belief that:

"Ours is a nation of law and ours is a nation of immigrants, we believe that we can have rational, important immigration policy that’s based upon law and reflects our deep desire to be a compassionate and decent nation."

Immigration is a vital component of our nation’s history. Our country has always been seen as a land of opportunity for immigrants who are willing to work hard for a chance at the American dream for their families.

Indeed, without the important contributions immigrants have made to our country, the United States would not exist as we know it today.

In my home state of Colorado, the first non-natives to explore our lands were the Spanish. They arrived nearly 500 years ago, and left their mark on the American Southwest and Colorado. Their presence is reflected in the names of my state and its cities, rivers, and mountains, and even in the food we eat.

More recently, immigrants came to Colorado to farm and ranch, to mine our state’s abundant natural resources, build the railroads, and forge steel. They came, and continue to come, out of desperation, but also out of hope—the hope of America.

In a recent local newspaper column, Bill Burnett, a former councilman of the little Colorado town of Minturn, summed up the sentiments of many Coloradans: "Without immigrants, we never would’ve built this place." The sentiment is echoed by many all across this great country of ours.

It can also be heard through the words of Emma Lazarus’ great poem, "The New Colossus," inscribed at the foot of the Statue Liberty,

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
Yes, this country was built by immigrants, yearning to share a slice of the American dream, of being their own master, having control over their own lives, choosing their own religions, and living in peace. But these immigrants came with the intention of becoming American, of enjoying the American ideal, even at a time when certain immigrants were banned outright (Chinese) or suffered discrimination (Jews, Catholics, Southern and Eastern Europeans, etc.) To contemporary eyes, they received a raw deal, but compared to where they had come from, fleeing religious or political persecution, such slights must have seemed tolerable--an argument made to me by my grandparents to explain their own discrimination stories, when being Italian and Catholic might mean a visit from the Ku Klux Klan, who had quite a presence in 1920s Colorado. Other immigrants came for work, made money and then went back home. Those who stayed learned English, assimilated into the cultural stew that makes America great, and after nearly a century, like my family, still enjoy their cultural roots. But we are Americans first.
. . . But there is no question that our immigration laws are not working. We have broken borders in America today. We must fix the problem for the sake of the national security of our nation.

The level of illegal immigration on our borders is unacceptable and has to change. Our borders are undermanned and overwhelmed. We must get far better control of the border.

In the past decade, we have seen the number of undocumented immigrants residing in our country rise from 4 million in 1986 to 12 million in 2006.

While the vast majority of these individuals have come to our country to work and provide for their families, the fact that we have permitted millions to cross our borders illegally is unacceptable.

Enforcement of our immigration laws has certainly not kept pace with the flow of both legal and illegal immigration, and the laws that deal with those who crossed the border are enforced so rarely in recent years that they might as well not exist. .
Thanks Captain Obvious. I wonder why Salazar keeps flipping back and forth between "illegal immigration" and "undocumented immigrants". Having documents does not prove one's legal status, as many illegal immigrants have "documents", as Michelle Malkin demonstrates. Possessing forged documents and phony IDs simply means you are illegal and possessing illegal paper. Only legally issued documents proving one's legal status as a resident alien, citizen, or tourist (or any other official status) removes the "illegal" from "immigrant".
. . .Solving our nation’s illegal immigration problems is a matter of national security. . .
Democrats wishing to appear "tough" on immigration and national security will talk a great game, but there is little of substance to their message.
. . . Some would have preferred that we wall off our country along our southern border. To the proponents of building a wall, I ask—what would Ronald Reagan say? We should not repeat the example of the Berlin Wall, one of the most shameful symbols of anti-freedom and oppression ever designed by man, designed solely to keep people from opportunity, hope and freedom. It was President Reagan who told the Soviet leader, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall. . ."
Salazar makes the same erroneous historical reference that columnist George Will makes here. The Berlin Wall was built to keep people in, not prevent people from coming over to East Germany. The only people denied "opportunity, hope and freedom" were the East Germans suffering under the political oppression of Communism.
. . . I am pleased that the Judiciary Committee bill does not call for the construction of a massive wall along our border and does not make criminals out of millions of Americans who come into contact with undocumented immigrants.

But these security and enforcement efforts alone cannot be our sole means to confront this challenge.

In the past, Congress has focused exclusively on this critical component. Over the last decade, we have tripled the number of Border Patrol agents who spend eight times as many hours patrolling the border.

During this same period, the undocumented population was doubled in size, and the per-apprehension costs have skyrocketed nearly 500%.

The reality is regardless of how much money we dedicate to border and interior enforcement; there are economic forces that spur immigration.

Our country’s current workforce is continuing to age and our newer workers have become more educated and less interested in taking important jobs that our growing economy keeps creating. . .
At least Salazar acknowledges that the Democrats' canard about President Bush about losing jobs and ruining the economy is nothing but garbage. If the economy stank, there would be no jobs to risk life and limb, and suffer the economic depredations of the trafficking "coyotes". Too bad liberals despise the "McJobs" that our economy creates, attacking companies like Wal-Mart for providing substandard employment opportunities.
. . . Instead, I believe the way we deal with these realities is to create an orderly system requiring illegal immigrants to come forward, register, and pay a fine for their illegal conduct-- just as citizens are fined for unlawful activity.

In exchange for coming forward, these individuals will be given a temporary and conditional visa. After six years, if they meet numerous requirements, including proving they are integrating into our country by learning English, U.S. history and government, pay back taxes, commit no crimes, and pay more fines, they can get to the back of the line behind those who are currently waiting to become U.S. citizens.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, if our economy continues to grow by 3 percent, the economic growth will increase the number of U.S. jobs by 14.6 percent between 2002 and 2012. Moreover, because of turnover and retirement, BLS projects there will be 56 million job openings during this same time. There will be many Americans who are ready and willing to fill these jobs. Immigrants will play a critical role in bridging the gap between our labor force needs and available American workers.

The Judiciary Committee bill also establishes a new program that will provide our economy with an orderly and limited supply of worker visas. Under the bill’s provisions, businesses cannot hire foreign workers through this program unless they can prove to the U.S. Department of Labor that they actively recruited American workers and advertised jobs at fair wages, but still found no American workers. These "temporary workers" would have to undergo security checks before they would be allowed into the county. . .
Once again, Salazar notes the growing economy, and the projected job creations over the next decade. The citizenship requirements, including learning English and learning basic U. S. history and civics, should be mandatory. Unfortunately the plan still calls for basically amnesty with a catch, a waiting period and unenforceable fines. No doubt many illegal immigrants will hesitate to come forward, or simply deem it not worth the hassle, instead banking on some future Congressional amnesty under the Democrats.
. . . I want to today, in this period of morning business as we enter into this debate, to simply read from one of my favorite prayers from a person who understood importance of immigration especially in the context of this debate. That is Cesar Chavez.

He wrote this prayer and it's something that I think that all of us in this chamber should keep in mind as we move forward in this debate:

Show me the suffering of the most miserable;
So I will know my people's plight.
Free me to pray for others;
For you are present in every person.

Help me take responsibility for my own life;
So that I can be free at last.

Grant me courage to serve others;
For in service there is true life.

Give me honesty and patience;
So that I can work with others workers.

Bring forth song and celebration;
So that the Spirit will be alive among us.

Let the Spirit flourish and grow;
So that we will never tire of the struggle.

Let us remember those who have died for justice;
For they have given us life.

Help us love even those who hate us;
So we can change the world.
Interesting that Salazar would quote Chavez, considering he protested using illegal immigrants to replace native farm workers in the late 1960s.


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