Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Senate Summary - April 3, 2006

Senate Summary - April 3, 2006

The PRESIDENT pro tempore. Under the previous order, the Senate will resume consideration of S. 2454, which the clerk will report.

The assistant legislative clerk read as follows:

A bill (S. 2454) to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to provide for comprehensive reform, and for other purposes.


Specter/Leahy amendment No. 3192, in the nature of a substitute.

Kyl/Cornyn amendment No. 3206 (to amendment No. 3192), to make certain aliens ineligible for conditional nonimmigrant work authorization and status.

Cornyn amendment No. 3207 (to amendment No. 3206), to establish an enactment date.

Bingaman amendment No. 3210 (to amendment No. 3192), to provide financial aid to local law enforcement officials along the Nation's borders.

Alexander amendment No. 3193 (to amendment No. 3192), to prescribe the binding oath or affirmation of renunciation and allegiance required to be naturalized as a citizen of the United States, to encourage and support the efforts of prospective citizens of the United States to become citizens.

Isakson amendment No. 3215 (to amendment No. 3192), to demonstrate respect for legal immigration by prohibiting the implementation of a new alien guest worker program until the Secretary of Homeland Security certifies to the President and the Congress that the borders of the United States are reasonably sealed and secured.

The PRESIDENT pro tempore. Under the previous order, the time until 5:30 p.m. shall be equally divided between the Senator from Pennsylvania, Mr. Specter, and the Senator from Vermont, Mr. Leahy, or their designees.

The Senator from Pennsylvania is recognized.

Mr. SPECTER. Mr. President, I am advised that consent has been worked out so that at 5:30 today, the Senate will proceed to a vote in relation to the Bingaman amendment No. 3210, to be followed by a vote in relation to the Alexander amendment No. 3193; provided further that no second degrees be in order to either amendment prior to those votes; and further that there be 2 minutes equally divided for debate prior to each vote.

7 . SECURING AMERICA'S BORDERS ACT -- (Senate - April 03, 2006)

Roll Call Vote 84 : 84 - 6 Pass Bingaman amendment No. 3210.
GOP NAY Votes: Bunning, Coburn, Gregg, Inhofe, Thomas, Vitter

Roll Call Vote 85 : 91 - 1 Pass Alexander amendment No. 3193.
GOP NAY Vote: Thomas

Mr. CHAMBLISS. ... Another problem I have with the agricultural amnesty endorsed by the Judiciary Committee is that it does not seem to remedy the problem with fraud that was prevalent with the 1986 SAW program. Under the 1986 SAW program, illegal farm workers who did at least 90 days of farm work during a 12-month period could earn a legal status.

The illegal immigrants had to present evidence that they did at least 90 days of farm work, such as pay stubs or a letter from an employer or even fellow workers. Because it was assumed that many unauthorized farm workers were employed by labor contractors who did not keep accurate records, after a farm worker presented evidence that he had done qualifying farm work, the burden of proof shifted to the Government to disprove the claimed work.

The Government was not prepared for the flood of SAW applicants and had little expertise on typical harvesting seasons. Therefore an applicant who told a story like ``I climbed a ladder to pick strawberries'' had that application denied while those who said ``I picked tomatoes for 92 days'' in an area with a picking season of only 70 days, was able to adjust.

Careful analysis of a sample of SAW applications in California, where most applications were filed, suggests that most applicants had not done the qualifying farmwork, but over 90 percent were nonetheless approved. ...

Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. President, I wonder if the Senator will answer a question. We put in this bill--and Senator Mikulski offered a sense of this amendment last year and it won--to extend for 1 year these provisions. I thought in the bill that came out of committee we were dealing with it when we added 400,000 per year--more than doubling the number who would come in to work--who could be covered, I think, by this category. My question is, has the Senator been able to ascertain whether this would be in addition to the 400,000 who would be approved under the Judiciary Committee mark?

Ms. MIKULSKI. First of all, the answer is that this amendment will be the bridge until the Judiciary Committee legislation is actually up and running. The H-2B employers will use the H-2C visas you all created once the program is up and running. But it will not be up and running for October of this year, if, in fact, we get a bill. We don't know if we will get a bill. If we do get a bill--you know how sluggish that bureaucracy is in writing rules and regulations--this is a safety net.

Mr. SESSIONS. In effect, it would not continue as an addition on top of the expanded immigration provisions in the committee mark?

Ms. MIKULSKI. The Mikulski-Warner framework goes away when this bill is put into effect. ...

Mr. CORNYN. ... One of the areas where it does not resemble the 1986 amnesty is that the 1986 amnesty would bar felons and people who have committed at least three misdemeanors. As Senator Kyl and I pointed out by way of our amendment, we seek to add that requirement back in so that felons and people who committed at least three misdemeanors would not be given an amnesty under the committee proposal.

But in this bill--this enormously complex and important bill--details matter. Another example is I reviewed the committee bill over the weekend, and I have some concern that the bill text does not reflect how the bill is actually being described by its proponents.

For example, section 602 of the bill states that illegal aliens must comply with the employment requirements. Yet there are no specific requirements for them to meet. Future temporary workers must be continuously employed, but no such requirement exists for illegal aliens. The alien could potentially be employed for one day and still end up qualifying for a green card and then put on a path to citizenship.

I urge my colleagues to look very carefully at this bill and to study it because here we found at least two examples of where the bill does not meet the description offered by its proponents; and, No. 2, that those who say that what this bill does for those who are currently here in violation of our immigration laws is not an amnesty, we find that it bears remarkable resemblance to what everyone acknowledged to be an amnesty in 1986 and what everyone pretty much universally acknowledges was a complete and total failure. ...

If we actually believe we cannot enforce the law, if temporary doesn't mean temporary, if there is no distinction between legal and illegal, we are essentially raising a white flag and saying we will not enforce our own laws. I cannot imagine this great institution taking that position either affirmatively, expressly, or tacitly. ...

I supported Senator Kyl's amendment in the committee that would limit the number of temporary worker visas if unemployment reaches certain levels. But that amendment means nothing if all workers are on green cards or on a path to legal permanent residency or citizenship.

Everyone, it seems, describes their proposal as a guest worker or temporary worker program. But not all temporary worker programs--or at least those sold under the guise of a temporary worker program--are, in fact, temporary. ...

Mr. SESSIONS. ... Another problem we have is those who are ``other than Mexicans.'' It has been referred to now consistently as the catch-and-release policy. This is the deal: If you apprehend someone who is a Mexican, they can easily be taken back across the border, maybe that day or within a day or two. But what if someone is caught coming across the border from Brazil or the islands or China or someplace like that? It is a much more difficult problem. We have not done a good job of confronting it, and what has happened is, those people have been arrested at the border and many times they just turn themselves in to the agents. They take them 100 or so miles further inside the border, and they are released on bail and they are asked to come back to this hearing to explain why they are here illegally. Well, they don't come back. In fact, in one district, in one area, 95 percent of the people released after being caught didn't show up for their hearing.

Does that not make a mockery of the law? And they are not even putting their names into the National Crime Information Center--they haven't been. They say they are, but still only a small number are getting in the system so that if they are apprehended somewhere else in the country, they will be picked up.

7 . SECURING AMERICA'S BORDERS ACT -- (Senate - April 03, 2006)

Mr. FRIST. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, the Senate proceed to executive session and an immediate vote on the confirmation of calendar No. 600, Michael Chagares, to be a United States circuit judge for the Third Circuit; provided further that following that vote, the President be immediately notified of the Senate's action and the Senate resume legislative session.



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