Thursday, March 16, 2006
Opening Statement by Senator Patrick Leahy, Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee today:
Yesterday, the Chairman was right to indicate that we should turn our attention this morning to the fundamental issue of whether our bill will include a path toward citizenship for the many undocumented immigrants in the country. Senator Kennedy agreed, as do I. This should be the focus of the Committee’s attention today, and we should seek to make progress and vote.
It will be difficult today because some do not want resolution of this matter, nor do they want a comprehensive approach to immigration. It will be complicated by the votes scheduled by the Republican leader on the budget resolution and amendments to the proposal to provide for the unprecedented debt and deficits that have been created during the Bush-Cheney Administration.
I am here to join in what I hope will be a bipartisan effort to make real progress on the fundamental issues that need to be considered if we are to have comprehensive immigration legislation this year. The President has talked about a guest worker program for years, but there has been no action by the Republican Congress. Farmers in Vermont and across the country need help. Immigrants are hopeful that we will reaffirm the promise that America has long represented with our Statue of Liberty and its inspiring words of hope and comfort to the oppressed and downtrodden.
Yesterday, we also spoke in a bipartisan way about the importance of not being circumvented by an arbitrary deadline for Senate floor action. I joined Senators Kennedy and Feinstein in a letter to the Majority Leader urging him to work with Chairman Specter and this Committee so that we may complete our work on a bipartisan bill. I ask that a copy of our letter be made part of the record.
I am disappointed that the Republican leader has decided to circumvent the Committee.
Yesterday, The New York Times published an editorial entitled “Immigration’s Moment,” in which it quite rightly noted that this is a “pivotal week in the search for answers for the nation’s immigration problems.” This is the pivotal day and pivotal morning in that search. I ask that a copy of that editorial be included in the record.
Mr. Chairman, I hope that this morning we follow through on the discussion we signaled and began yesterday. You said, and I believe you, that you do not want to create a permanent underclass. Many of us have spoken about the need to bring people out of the shadows. Today is the day for us to amend the Committee bill to make those purposes a reality. Thousands are watching and listening, and thousands more depend on our following through on those commitments.