Sen. Schumer: "Illegal Immigration Will Be A Thing Of The Past"


SEN. SCHUMER: I visited the border with Senators McCain, Flake, and Bennet. It is huge. We cannot station enough people on the border. There are no roads on large parts of it. But with the drones, we can see every single person who crosses the border day or night, and we can follow their path, so they can be apprehended when they are 10, 20, 25 miles inland. It is a huge improvement. Simple math tells us we have more than one Border Patrol agent for every city block of the southern border. Imagine how low crime would be if we had a police officer on every block. Imagine, once we deploy this technology, how effective it will be.

For those who say the American people do not trust the government to get the job done, I say let's look at the facts. Providing additional resources to DHS for border security has an incredibly proven track record of success. In 2010 Congress passed an emergency supplemental appropriations bill for border security. I worked on that with my colleague from Arizona, Senator McCain. It was $600 million. In 2009, according to the GAO, the national effective rate for the entire southern border was 72 percent. In 2011, a year after this was deployed, it went up to 82 percent.

Again, saying this will not improve border security at all or saying there is no security at the border is not fair, and it is not right. I urge my colleagues not to say it. Again, some may disagree with how or disagree with how much, but there is a heck of a lot of border security in this bill.

Most of the resources in the supplemental budget went to the Tucson border sector. In 2009 the effectiveness rate at the Tucson border sector was 71 percent. In 2011 it went up to 87 percent. Given that a mere $600 million supplemental appropriation was able to increase border security effectiveness from 72 percent to 82 percent, it is reasonable to assert that spending over 10 times that money on border security in the form of a $6.5 billion supplemental appropriation for personnel, infrastructure and technology will allow us to apprehend 9 out of every 10 people who try to cross the southern border illegally.

Second, visa overstays will be identified and apprehended when this bill passes. An estimated 40 percent of the 11 million people in unauthorized status are individuals who entered the United States legally but overstayed their visas. When a foreign national enters the country, he or she is fingerprinted and his or her passport or visa is electronically scanned against our data security databases. Amazingly, when this individual exits the country, no such scan occurs, leading to uncertain information as to who overstayed their visas. Forty percent of those who cross illegally do not cross the border; rather, they overstay their visas.

For individuals who enter the United States by air or sea, we will require those individuals to swipe their machine-readable passport visa on an electric scanner at the gate immediately before exiting the United States. To prevent identity theft when the person swipes their visa or passport, their picture comes up on a screen at the gate. The gate agent who is given the passport has to match the picture on the screen with the person giving their passport. The exit information will be given to all of the Department of Homeland Security components to generate an accurate overstay list of people who entered the United States by air or sea. Persons on this list will be apprehended, detained, and deported by ICE.

Persons entering the United States from the northern border will also be identified as exiting the country via the northern border when they are granted entry into Canada, and that is because the United States and Canada are willing to share entry information such that each country will be providing the other country with de facto exit information.

There is criticism leveled by opponents of immigration reform that the exit system must be biometric in order to prevent visa overstays and that using passport or visa pictures instead of fingerprints will not work. Although this criticism is not justified because we will be using picture-matching to prevent identity theft, our bill phases in biometric exit capabilities at our largest airports. During the first 2 years of enactment the bill will require the taking of biometrics for people leaving the United States through the 10 largest international airports. It will go to 20 more in 6 years. If it works better than the photo-match system, we will phase in the print system nationwide. We believe the photo system is just as effective and much, much cheaper. Why do we need to spend billions more to achieve the same result?

In any case, the key to our bill is that we will ensure, soon after passage--even as this biometric exit system is being deployed--we will be able to detect, detain, and deport individuals who enter the United States legally from Canada by airport or seaport and then overstay their visas.

We also make the completion of this entry-exit system a trigger for the path to citizenship. The path to citizenship cannot happen unless this entry-exit system is deployed.

Third, even if a small number of people are able to cross the border illegally or overstay their visa--neither system will be perfect--they will still not be able to find work legally in the United States due to our bill's mandatory employment verification system. Even if someone is able to get here illegally or overstays their visa, their main goal for being here--working--will be impossible after the bill is passed.

That is why we have illegal immigration. The people who cross our borders are very poor people. Most of them are living in poverty and they want a job. They want some money. If they can send $10 a week home to their wife, father or children, they will cross the border to do it. But if they can't get jobs, they are not going to come.

We have 11 million people here today, and we do not have a problem whereby these folks are besieging us with terrorist acts. They are simply here working and feeding their families.

If we eliminate the jobs magnet, we will eliminate illegal immigration. Under this bill, every employer seeking to hire a worker must determine, using our employment verification system, whether that prospective employee is here legally and can work. If the prospective employee is either a noncitizen with work authorization, a U.S. citizen with a passport or a resident of a State that agrees to share a driver's license with DHS--and all 50 States now have driver's licenses--then the prospective employee will have to produce that form of identification to their employer that matches the photo pulled up on the E-Verify database in order to work legally. This will eliminate the identity theft problem that plagues the current E-Verify system.

If the prospective employee is a U.S. citizen who does not have a passport or is not from a State that shares driver's licenses with DHS, then that individual--it is a very small number--will have to answer questions about their identity, generated randomly from their Social Security number, in order to prevent identity theft. Credit card companies have used this system to huge and positive effect.

Employers who do not use E-Verify or who hire illegal workers will be given severe penalties and be jailed for repeated violations. I know many on the other side have wanted to make E-Verify mandatory and permanent. We have heard that for years. Now, all of a sudden when we do it, it is not good enough.

Fourth, this bill also fundamentally alters the cost-benefit analysis for coming to the United States illegally by creating a new W visa worker program to encourage people to come here legally. Because of the bill's significantly enhanced border security, entry-exit, and employment verification, any person intending to come to the United States illegally will have to take great safety risks, at great personal and financial costs to come here. Once they are here, they will find there are no jobs available to support themselves.

Alternatively, they can choose to come legally and work as part of our W visa work program that is created for individuals to work in jobs where employers cannot find American workers but only if they can't find them. Up to 200,000 visas a year will be made available for this purpose. We start with a program that can grow as our economy grows and creates more jobs and is flexibly related to the rate of unemployment.

In addition, a new agricultural program will be set up to replace the previously illegal flow of agricultural workers. Given that the Census Bureau and the Pew Hispanic Center have estimated the illegal flow in past years to be around 400,000 people per year, there should be enough visas to meet any demand for additional workers that might exist.

If more legal workers are needed, the newly formed Bureau of Immigration and Labor Market Research can provide additional visas to permit more workers to enter in occupations they find have shortages of workers.

Given these new programs, it would no longer make any sense for intending illegal immigrants to spend tens of thousands of dollars and risk their lives to come here illegally. Illegal immigration will be a thing of the past.

Fifth, the bill will protect American workers in four ways: Because of the new employment verification system Americans will no longer have to compete for jobs with unauthorized workers who can easily be exploited. I say to so many of my colleagues who are worried about this, I ride my bicycle around Brooklyn early in the morning. I see on various street corners congregating young men, mainly, and some guy on a truck comes over and says: I will give you $15 to work on roofing on a few houses I am building. I guarantee he doesn't say he will pay them $2 above minimum wage and give them an hour off for lunch. Those illegal immigrants are driving down the wage base, particularly in lower skilled places. That will end.

Second, in the bill's legal worker programs, Americans must be recruited first before any foreign worker will be hired.

In addition, all foreign workers will be required to be paid the same wage as an American would be paid for that job, meaning that a foreign worker will never be hired to undercut an American worker's wage.

All foreign workers will be given portability to change employers if they don't like their current employment situation. This means employers will no longer choose foreign workers over American workers because they have more control over those workers.

Finally, this is also a very fair bill--and we have, of course--I don't go into it here for lack of time--an H-1B system and a system that says if you are a foreigner who studies in an American college and gets an M.A. or Ph.D. in STEM--science, technology, engineering, and math--you will get a green card. These are the very people who in the past have created new companies and created tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of new jobs in America. Now, if they want to come to America after they study here or stay in America, we send them away and they go to Canada and Australia. That would not happen anymore under this bill.

Finally, it is a very fair bill for legal immigration and resolving the status of the people who are here. We create a system, as I mentioned, that allows America to attract and retain the best and brightest minds from around the world in science, math, finance, technology, the arts, and more, fundamental to maintaining America's preeminence in a an increasingly competitive global marketplace. We also provided a JOLT--J-O-L-T--to our travel industry by making it easier for foreign nationals to come to the United States and spend their lucrative vacation dollars here instead of somewhere else.

Of great importance, and perhaps the dividing line between some in this Chamber and the rest of us, we give the 11 million people here a chance to come out of the shadows and earn a path to citizenship after spending 10 years on probation, working, keeping their nose clean, learning English and civics, and paying their taxes. It is a tough path to citizenship, but it is a fair path, and it is a path we make sure will happen, providing the specific metrics in our border security provisions are met.

Our bill requires all of these important enforcement resources I have described to be put in place before we give the individuals a path to citizenship. We in the Group of 8 agree that is fair to ask. The Federal Government should have to put the resources in place that we promised, as necessary, to get the job done. That is entirely within our control and we will live up to our work. But by the same token, we will not leave these 11 million people in immigration limbo forever. It makes no sense to have people living here permanently who have not invested in America. This is the huge mistake Europe has made. We see the ill effects every day on the news of what happens in European countries that have not integrated their immigrant populations. Those populations become affected by a sense of alienation, a lack of opportunity, a lack of upward mobility. That is not America. Here we give people the chance to be all they can be through their hard work. We want people here to be serving on juries, serving in the military, and saying to people that they are just as American as anybody else.

In my city--the city in which I was raised and in which I live--there is that beautiful lady in the harbor with that bright torch. That has been America, and that lady has said through the centuries: If you come here and work hard, stay clear of the law, no matter who you are and what your economic level is, we welcome you. We want you to become an American.

We are not going to take that away. That would be just as dramatic a change in this country we love so much as tearing up the Bill of Rights. It has been part and parcel, warp and woof, of America.

To those who suggest having some secondary status, to those who say let's put into the bill an excuse so someone 3 years from now can say no one can become a citizen, we say: No. We have some basic principles we will not compromise and that is at the top of the list.

In conclusion, I wish to send this message loudly and clearly to all who might be listening today. We are interested in compromises that will make this bill even stronger and more secure. Our group does not claim to have a monopoly on wisdom. We will hear out any of our colleagues from either side of the aisle who have good-faith suggestions on how to improve this bill.

I have heard some say we should not consider any further changes to the bill and dare the other side to vote against it. I reject that approach. We are not interested in scoring a political victory to help one party; we are interested in passing a law that changes the awful status quo, solves the problem, and makes America an even greater and better place. Just because the process has been, to date, so encouraging does not mean we can take anything for granted. So we welcome constructive input from our colleagues and we want to work with them. But the one thing none of us will do is condition the path to citizenship on factors that may not ever happen in order to appear tough.

We are committed to border security. We are committed to ending illegal immigration. But we are equally committed to allowing people the right to earn their way to become an American citizen if they work hard, play by the rules, learn English, and avoid criminality.

Just as I believe to my core that border security should not be a bargaining chip, I also believe to my core that leaving people in immigration limbo, uninvested in America and its successes, is also something we should not do just to pass a bill.

I commit in good faith to every one of my colleagues in this Chamber who wants to work with me to improve the bill that I am open to any ideas. But for those of my colleagues who will not support this legislation, I simply ask the question: How would you solve this problem? The answers are not simple. That is why it has taken us months to get to where we are today.

This bill represents our best chance for a broad bipartisan compromise on a complex issue that we have had for decades.

I hope all of us take this opportunity very seriously. I hope we all do what we can to show the American people that their lawmakers do still have the ability to solve difficult problems that affect every one of our daily lives.

With that, I ask that my colleagues will agree to work with us in good faith to improve this bill and to give a resounding vote--from both sides of the aisle--of support for this bill when it comes to final passage.

I yield the floor.

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