Thursday, May 18, 2006

Senate Live - May 19, 2006

S.2611 - The Immigration Bill : May 19, 2006

Congressional Record: Today's Debate on S.2611

List of Proposed Amendments

Text of Amendments 3960 through 3993
Text of Amendments 3994 through 4036
Text of Amendments 4037 through 4065
Corrected Text of Amendment 4052
Text of Amendments 4066 through 4082


Summary of May 18 Action on The Immigration Bill

  • S.Amdt.4066 - Kennedy: restoring the self-petition facility for workers in country on temporary visas to obtain permanent legal residency (undoing S.Amdt.3965 - Cornyn, that was passed in a 50-48 vote on May 17), was PASSED on a 56 - 43 vote
  • S.Amdt.3985 - Ensign: To reduce document fraud, prevent identity theft, and preserve the integrity of the Social Security system by ensuring that persons who receive an adjustment of status under this bill are not able to receive Social Security benefits as a result of unlawful activity, was TABLED on a 50 - 49 vote
  • S.Amdt.4029 - Akaka: children of Filipino WWII who earned naturalized citizenship added to Section 201(b)(1) (8 U.S.C. 1151(b)(1)) "Aliens not subject to direct numerical limitations", was PASSED on a voice vote
  • S.Amdt.3964 - Vitter: To tighten "proof of residency" documentation, e.g., burden is on the applicant to provide a preponderance of evidence, was PASSED on a voice vote
  • S.Amdt.4064 - Inhofe: Making English the official language of the US government, was PASSED on a 63 - 34 vote
  • S.Amdt.4073 - Salazar: notes English is a unifying language, but that the amendment will not diminish any present affirmative obligation of the US to provide material in a language other than English was PASSED on a 58 - 39 vote
  • S.Amdt.4072 - Clinton: To transfer a fraction of federal immigration fees to states to reimburse local education, health care and law enforcement was REJECTED on a 44 - 53 vote
  • S.Amdt.4038 - Cornyn: adding a surcharge for application for temporary worker status, and provide those funds to states to reimburse local education, health care and law enforcement was PASSED on a 64 - 32 vote
  • S.Amdt.3969 - Kyl: to eliminate the route to permanent residency and citizenship for individuals in the 2-5 year group (who otherwise have that right under this bill) was TABLED on a 65 - 30 vote
  • S.Amdt.3998 - Nelson (FL): increase one time construction of detention beds from 10,000 to 20,000 was PASSED on a voice vote

No roll call votes are scheduled for today. There may be some housecleaning in the form of voice votes on non-contentious amendments, but I expect the day to much quieter than the past three have been.

Monday is set up to involve debate and votes on at least two amendments.

Update @ 23:40 - President Bush nominated two more Circuit Court Judges, Kimberly A. Moore for the Federal Circuit (not the same as the D.C. Circuit), and Bobby E. Shepherd for the 8th Circuit. The Circuit Court Nominations Summary has been updated. I don't know much about either of these nominees, and the folks at confirmthem are "on the case," as it were.


On a slightly different, but timely subject, the Congressional Research Service has published a summary of statutory provisions that apply to the analysis of the legality of any NSA Data-mining activities, i.e., the wholesale obtaining of call records from all telephone companies, then performing pattern analysis on the data.

Government Access to Phone Calling Activity and Related Records: Legal Authorities: CRS-RL33424

Interestingly (or maybe not) the authors of the report agree with my general attitude on the subjects of NSA Terrorist Surveillance Program, and Data-mining Program, my attitude being, "As for mischaracterizing NSA programs, all sides do that. I have little patience for it. We don't know the facts, so any outrage or support is based on imagination and supposition."

The authors of the CRS report say,

The factual information available in the public domain with respect to any such alleged program is limited and in some instances inconsistent, and the application, if at all, of any possibly relevant statutory provisions to any such program is likely to be a very fact specific inquiry.
Hat-tip to the Federation of American Scientists.
Update @ 10:50 - Senator Frist opened the day noting that much progress had been made, and that no votes were scheduled for today. Nonetheless, he encourages Senators to come to the floor to discuss amendments, in preparation for a busy week next week. He intends for the immigration bill to be completed next week.

Senator Frist went on to a speech relating to the passage of S.193 on a unanimous basis (LOL, the Senate was near empty when this was passed on a voice vote), which increases in fines to broadcasters for indecency offenses, where the fines have been increased 10 fold.

Update @ 11:15 - Senator Sessions is still loaded for bear. He is recapitulating the amendments that have been addressed during the week. Just for fun, here is his opening from last night, railing against the opposition to the Kyl amendment 3969 that was tabled late last night.

Mr. SESSIONS. Mr. President, I thank the Senator from Texas for his hard work on this amendment and his thoughtfulness.

The Senator from Arizona just tells us that he and a few masters of the universe have met somewhere in some room to which I wasn't invited--I am not sure many other Senators were invited--and they have decided that this bill as written is the compromise and if any of it is changed, well, the compromise collapses and the bill fails. So, if I am hearing the Senator from Arizona correctly, he thinks we should all just give it up and quit offering amendments. But I don't think that is the way the Senate does business. I know the Senator from Arizona is a smart man and so are some of the others who have worked on this bill and worked out all of these compromises with Senator Kennedy.

When they were working out these compromises did they consult the American people? I submit they haven't consulted the American people. The American people, when they find out what all is in this bill, they are going to be more upset with it than they are today.

More is wrong with this piece of legislation than can be explained. I took an hour or so Friday, not condemning the philosophy of comprehensive immigration reform, not condemning steps to make the legal system work properly in a way that we can be proud of, I talked about why the legislation is insufficient and flawed and is unable to do what the sponsors say.

Senator McCain doesn't back down from a challenge, and I don't intend to back down either. I am not going to just hide under my desk because he and Senator Kennedy have worked out a compromise. They think we shouldn't even make an argument against it, I suppose.

Update @ 11:40 - Senator Wyden interrupts Senator Sessions, and asked for a few minutes. Senator Session said that he has another half an hour or so, but that because he expects to be closing down the Senate for the weekend, he would be happy to yield, then resume.

Senator Sessions and Senator Byrd are two of the best opponents to the Hagel/Martinez compromise and McCain/Kennedy shamnesty proposals. Senator Sessions is discussing the testimony before the Judiciary Committee, from experts. Readers of this blog will have insight to the substance of the expert testimony of those hearings because the subject was covered here, in late April.

Darn tooting, this is a complex issue, covering cultural, economic and other aspects of immigration that aren't discussed. I think this failure to have substantive discussions is pervasive. Intellectuals we aren't, emotionals we are. This is the era of sound-bite politics and drive-by argument.

Update @ 12:40 - Senator Sessions is reviewing some of the Testimony from the April 25th Hearings Relating to the Economic Impact of Immigration. I see a collision between the country acting in a "selfish" fashion, looking out for the best interest of its current citizens, and "compassionate conservatism." In the end, as has been asserted by globalists in general, the standard of living in the US must be reduced, in order to keep the US competitive in a global marketplace. It may make the Country a stronger competitor, but as lower cost (and lower skill) labor enters, the effect is to depress the wage level for those already in the country.

Update @ 14:10 - I was poking around Senator Sessions' web site for press releases or other summaries relating to the comprehensive immigration bill. His website includes this link of immigration material, and a link to a useful summary of daily Senate action. The daily action link is produced by The U.S. Senate Republican Policy Committee, which maintains a rather useful set of resources on its own right.

From that website, the U.S. Senate Republican Policy Committee Summary of S. 2611 - Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act contains a reasonably detailed list of proposed amendments and what they stand for, as well as excellent summary of the various proposed new immigration policies.

Update @ May 20, 11:15 - The entire text of a number of outstanding speeches from Friday, May 19 can be read by clicking on the links below. I urge you to at least start reading each one, and see whether or not you are drawn in.

Selections from the Record

COMPREHENSIVE IMMIGRATION REFORM ACT OF 2006

Mr. SESSIONS. ... We are here to do the right thing. We are here to confront one of the big issues of our time, and to do it in a way that is consistent with our laws and our values and the values of the American people. That is what we should do. That is our responsibility to our constituents, to our posterity, to the heritage we have been given. That is absolutely our responsibility.

I will tell you, and I will say it plainly, and others may not, but this legislation fails miserably in that regard. It is unworthy of the Senate. It should never pass, it should never become the law of the United States of America. It does not meet our highest ideals. It does not create a system that is consistent with the national interest of the United States. ...

Senator Session is correctly pointing out an overarching principle. The Senate is not undertaking the very serious matter of immigration reform, with an appropriate degree of inspection and reflection.

He goes on to detail some of the positive and some of the negative votes that occurred during the week.

Without the Isakson language, the amnesty provisions in the bill take effect the day the bill is signed. But we didn't accept that amendment. Instead, we will remain in the position where we hope that we will have immigration enforcement in the future. We accepted the Salazar trigger amendment that simply requires the President to determine that the bill's amnesty and guest worker provisions will ``strengthen the national security of the United States.''

That is not sufficient. That doesn't go to the meat of the issue like Senator Isakson proposed. And why was it rejected? Why was it rejected? I have had a suspicion and a growing suspicion over the years that this Congress is always willing to pass some bits of legislation dealing with immigration. But if any piece of legislation hits the floor of the Senate that will actually work, that is when the system pushes back and, for one reason or another, one excuse after another, it never happens. So I think this would have worked, and that is the reason it got rejected. ...

Border enforcement first, before creating a new class of visa, was rejected.

Fair enough -- I can live with implementing revisions to permanent residency and citizenship rules, and adding a new class of visa for TRULY temporary workers, and adjusting visa quotas -- provided we are concurrently making an effective effort to secure the borders.

The issue, and I hold it as legitimate, is that the government has demonstrated that IT is not trustworthy. Given a menu of options as outlined above, there is a real possibility that "secure the borders" activities would be neglected, while relaxed immigration and increased quotas would be implemented. In the bureaucracy, it would the easiest path, and the least amount of work.

I don't reject the possibility that President Bush personally feels a brotherly and Christian kinship, "compassion," that inclines him to open the country wide. If not compassion, then a sense of impending globalism.

Well, do you trust the government to do what the law lays down? Is it effective, albeit inefficient? Or does it lack the will to effect what the law requires? I think it lacks the will. See this discussion regarding English as the official language that concludes it is the President who chooses to adhere to the "law" that reduces the pressure on immigrants to assimilate. The "law" is an Executive Order that President Bush could rescind tomorrow, if he wanted to. The same princliple applies to enforcement of immigration law.

Back to Senator Sessions, as he outlines some of the votes. I've emphasized the parts that got my attention.

Amusingly, I saw in the paper--I wasn't there when the final vote was counted, but I saw in the paper that 17 Senators changed their votes, mostly on the other side, the Democratic side, after it became clear the amendment was going to pass. Many Senators, for months, have been rolling their eyes and said we don't need fences. That is not very good. That is not a good thing to do. Fences will work, trust me. They will work. But that, of course, begets the objection, I suspect. But when we voted, it was interesting that we ended up with a vote of 83 to 16, suggesting that the American people are beginning to have their voices heard a little bit in Congress. ...

However, this bill, S. 2611, still enacts a four- to fivefold increase over the current levels of legal immigration into America over 20 years. Current law would bring in 18.9 million over 20 years. Did you get that? This bill, if passed today, even after the Bingaman amendment passed by a substantial majority, would still bring into our country three, four, five times--at least four times, I suggest--the number of people who can come into our country legally today. ...

The Senate rejected the Vitter amendment by a substantial amount--66 people voted against it--which would strike the bill's provisions that adjust the illegal alien population to lawful permanent residents, the so-called amnesty provision. ...

Vitter's S.Amdt.3963 would strike the so-called "temporary worker" provisions, the "Subsection A" that Senator Sessions discusses in more detail below.

The Senate narrowly accepted the Cornyn amendment, 50 to 48, which protects U.S. jobs for workers by making sure the H-2C visa holder can only apply for green cards if they have actually worked--they are supposed to work--if they actually worked for 4 years and their employer attests they will still have a job after they are given a green card, and the Secretary of Labor determines there are not enough U.S. workers available to fill the job position.

Then the very next vote, a companion amendment by Senator Kennedy which was adopted with 56 votes, gutted that protection, in effect, and it no longer requires that the employer promise to continue to employ an H-2C alien.

Federal benefits was a key vote yesterday. The Senate shockingly rejected the Ensign amendment 50 to 49--close, close vote--that would have prevented aliens from collecting Social Security benefits as a result of their illegal entry into the country, their illegal work, and their illegal presentation of a Social Security number. Fraudulent presentation of a Social Security number and criminal entry into the United States, and this bill provides they can draw Social Security. We had an amendment to clarify that issue, and the Senate voted to keep the provision in the bill. ...

Ross Kaminsky discusses the Ensign amendment fiasco, but there's more ...

The following is a big point that I hope registers with the public. Temporary is not temporary when it turns into permanent. A permanent resident is not a guest worker. But the Senate seems determined to increase the number of citizens, while saying it is admitting guest workers.

Why more citizens? I believe there is a global real-politik at work here - countries rise and fall based in part on raw numbers. But historically, not entirely on raw numbers. My belief is that the elite see a world of countries merging into a one-world government, where what is now countries will become what is now like our states - and in order to facilitate that transition, it is necessary that the countries have approximately equal standards of living and similar government structures.

Under this bill, under that rubric of big print language, ``Nonimmigrant Visa Reform, Subsection A, Temporary Guest Workers''--what it really says is if you come into this country under this work visa you get to convert your status to a green card holder--a legal permanent resident that can then become a citizen. Somebody said last night: Why are people afraid to discuss this issue? I say to the supporters of the bill: Why are you afraid to tell the truth about your bill? Why do you title the section one thing and then write it to actually do another?

Why are you putting in here ``temporary guest workers'' when there is nothing ``temporary'' or ``guest'' about them. Why? Are they afraid the American people will find out what is really in that provision which would have brought in, had it not been amended by Senator Bingaman, perhaps 130 million new people into the country permanently? What kind of temporary program is that?

How does it work? This is the way it works: You come in, get a job; you come in under this guest worker proposal, and within the first day you arrive, your employer can seek a green card for you. If you qualify--and most will--then that green card will be issued, and you are then a legal permanent resident. You are a legal permanent resident within weeks or months of entry into the country, and within 5 years of being a legal permanent resident and having a green card, you can apply for citizenship. If you know a little English and don't get arrested and convicted of a felony, you will be made a citizen by right under that provision. So it is not a temporary guest worker program. We need one in the bill. It is not there. That is what the President says he supports. ...

President Bush is being coy. He says "guest worker." I don't buy it, I believe he wants more citizens, or more specifically, more non-skilled immigrants from Mexico and Central America who will work for wages lower than the US prevailing wage. Population enhancement and an increase in the supply side of labor. Actions speak louder than words. This from the White House Comprehensive Immigration Reform page:

4. We Must Deal With The Millions Of Illegal Immigrants Already Here

The President Opposes Amnesty. President Bush opposes giving illegal immigrants an automatic path to citizenship because it would be unfair to those who are here lawfully, would compromise the rule of law, and would invite further waves of illegal immigration. The President supports increasing the annual number of green cards that can lead to citizenship, but for the sake of justice and security, the President is firmly opposed to amnesty.

President Bush Believes That Deporting Every Illegal Immigrant Is Neither Wise Nor Realistic. There is a rational middle ground between granting an automatic path to citizenship for every illegal immigrant and a program of mass deportation.

President Bush Believes Illegal Immigrants Who Want To Stay Should Have To Pay A Meaningful Penalty For Breaking The Law, Pay Their Taxes, Learn English, And Work In A Job For A Number Of Years. The President also believes that there are differences between an illegal immigrant who crossed the border recently and someone who has worked here for many years, and has a home, a family, and an otherwise clean record. Those who meet our conditions should be able to apply for citizenship but approval will not be automatic, and they will have to wait in line behind those who played by the rules and followed the law.

I'm sure the country can accomodate these people, but giving citizenship or permanent residency to a person who has violated our immigration laws is inherently unfair. I think that has to be admitted, rather than trying to sell granting any path to citizenship to an illegal alien as "fair."

There is a conundrum in "Those who meet our conditions should be able to apply for citizenship ... and they will have to wait in line behind those who played by the rules and followed the law." I haven't quite got my finger on it, but the conundrum is rattling around in my brain, seeking clear definition.

I know this comes off as defeatist, but I honestly think individual freedom is on an irreversible decline. The people have themselves to blame. Government is not the solution, and strong societies don't draw their ultimate strength from law. Their ultimate strength comes from a deeper moral underpinning. A strong society sees law as supporting its deeper moral sense. A weak society sees law as capable of MAKING and IMPLEMENTING a proper moral sense. In two words, "secular humanism." In three words, "Doomed to failure."

Senator Sessions goes on to give an example of the shortfall in serious reflection and inspection on the part of the Senate. I prepared for the hearing he is describing, and found the proffered evidence to be quite pertinent to the matter of setting immigration and admission policy. Me, Senator Sessions, and 4 other Senators, it seems.

Here is the rubber meeting the road, and the public, while i-g-n-o-r-a-n-t on the details, seems to "get it" very well, intuitively. Yet the same public keeps electing politicians and leaders who say one thing and do another.

I asked the Judiciary Committee to hold a hearing on April 19 to examine the full impact of the legislation and what we could do about it. I asked that we examine what the estimated numerical impact is of the immigration proposal and how does the future chain migration of family members impact the total immigration numbers under the proposal. I asked that we have hearings on what will be the legislation's estimated fiscal impact on the Federal Treasury as well as State and local governments; how will the entitlement programs such as Medicaid, TANF, and food stamps be affected; what level of immigration in the future is in our best national, economic, social, and cultural interests; and what categories of immigrants in terms of skills and education should compose the overall level of annual immigration. I stated that we need to have a national discussion on this issue. The American people need to be involved.

We had one committee hearing, and it lasted about 2 to 3 hours and three or four Senators came. The individual provisions of the bill have never been examined by any committee. Let me state that again. The individual provisions of the bill on the Senate floor have never been examined by any committee. But every witness who came to that one hearing acknowledged that high-skilled immigrants are good for the economy and that low-skilled immigrants are a net drain on the economy--on average, not every single one. Many of them turn out to be productive and go on and be productive. But on average, from an economist point of view, based on the data we have, they tend to take out more in taxes than they pay in taxes. ...

If we are going to do a comprehensive plan, why don't we think first and foremost about what our Nation needs, what the implications are for immigration, how it has enriched us in so many ways in the past, how many wonderful, decent people come here. But we also need to ask ourselves, what are the limits of immigration? What are the aspects of it that could be better handled? We need to think these things through in a careful, legitimate way, focusing on the legitimate national interests of the United States of America, because it is not our policy and cannot be the policy of any nation to allow immigrants into their nation solely on the basis that it is good for the immigrant. ...

One point from the hearings on the economic impact of immigration. I submit that Senator Session is missing the broader point, that labor is a market like others, and that wages tend to follow supply/demand curves. When an employers says there is a shortage of labor, it's shorthand for "shortage of labor at such-and-so price," not complete and utter shortage. Employers want to reduce the cost of labor, and employees want to increase it.

Let me share a few more points on that subject from another individual. The Washington Times, on May 8, published a column by Alan Tomlinson. He is an official with the U.S. Business and Industry Council Educational Foundation. He went back and did some studies and dealt with this allegation that without ever increasing flows of immigrants, representatives of numerous industries have warned their sectors will literally run out of workers and the economy will collapse. He was not so impressed after he did some studies. He said:

Most statistics available show conclusively that far from easing shortages, illegal immigrants are adding to labor gluts in America.

Think about that. He says that we don't have a shortage, we have a glut.

Specifically, wages in sectors highly dependent on illegals, when adjusted for inflation, are either stagnant or have actually fallen. When labor is genuinely scarce and too many employers are chasing too few workers, businesses typically bid wages up in the competition to fill jobs. When too many workers are chasing too few jobs, employers typically are able to cut wages, confident that beggars can't be choosers.

Then he checked the Department of Labor statistics. He says this:

The Labor Department data revealed that the wage-cutting scenario is exactly what has unfolded recently throughout the economy's illegal immigrant heavy sectors.

Then he talked about restaurants. We hear there are not enough people to work in restaurants. Illegal immigrants comprise 17 percent of the food preparation workers, 20 percent of cooks, and 23 percent of dishwashers. What did he find?

According to the data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, through inflation-adjusted wages for the broad food services and drinking categories, wages fell in real terms 1.65 percent between 2000 and 2005.

If there is a crisis to get cooks and dishwashers, how are they able to cut salaries?


BORDER IMMIGRATION (House of Representatives)

Mr. KING of Iowa. ... And Lord knows when it stops. So I have to submit this question. And that is to the people that are advocating for open borders, is there such a thing as too much immigration? And, you know, you cannot get them to say yes to that question. They will not say yes, because they know the next question is, then how much is too much?

They will not put a number on that, because they do not want to discuss the numbers that they are legalizing and authorizing now. I will submit that there is such a thing as too much immigration. And 11 or 12 million is too much. We have our doors open to more than 1 million a year, the most generous of any place in the world. We have 66 also, well, this is actually a number that is not quite correlative, 60.1 million nonworking Americans between the ages of 16 and 65.

Now what country in their right mind, when they looked around and said we need the labor, and in fact if we do need the labor, would they go to a foreign country and bring in people that were illiterate and unskilled to do the work for people that have 60.1 million people that were sitting around not working?

And we would pay a good chunk of them not to work as American citizens and bring in other people to do our work for us. How rational is that? And they argue that there is work that Americans will not do? What is the most difficult, hot, dirty and dangerous job in all the world? I would say it is rooting terrorists out of Fallujah.

And what do we pay a young marine in 130-degree heat with a flack jacket on, his life on the line for you and me? $8.09 an hour if he gets in a 40-hour week. But it is more like a 70-hour week, so he is down to about $2.75.

There is no job Americans will not do, Mr. Speaker. And Americans will do the hot, dirty and dangerous work. We can seal this border. We can end birthright citizenship. And we can shut off the jobs magnet. We need to do all of that. Then and only then can we have a legitimate debate on whether or not we ought to have guest workers.

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