Saturday, May 20, 2006

Senate Live - May 22, 2006

S.2611 - The Immigration Bill : May 22, 2006

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
Text of Amendments 4083 through 4084

Links to Debate

Congressional Record: May 22 Debate on S.2611 - Part I
Congressional Record: May 22 Debate on S.2611 - Part II
Congressional Record: May 22 Debate on S.2611 - Part III (Sessions)

  • May 15, 2006 (No votes)
    • Intro by Specter, Leahy
    • Debate Isakson
  • May 16, 2006 - Part I
    • Reject Isakson/no temp worker or amnesty until border is secure
    • Pass Salazar/counterpart
  • May 16, 2006 - Part II
    • Reject Dorgan/No temp worker [route to citizenship] unless in country > 2 years
    • Pass Bingaman/reduce annual level of H-2C to 200,000
  • May 17, 2006
    • Pass Sessions/fence
    • Reject Vitter/amnesty
    • Pass Cornyn/employer-certify no American for the job
  • May 18, 2006
    • Pass Kennedy/self-certify no American for the job
    • Tabled Ensign/Social Security
    • Pass both Inhofe & Salazar/English
    • Pass Cornyn/Additional application fee sent to states
    • Tabled Kyl/No route to citizenship unless in country > 5 years
  • May 19, 2006 (No votes)
    • Sessions speech

Summary of May 19 Action on The Immigration Bill

I've placed some of Senator Sessions' speech in "Selections from the Record" in the May 19 post. There was no voting action.

As usual, the "Selections from the Record" includes my comments and rants, set off by being red in color. If you're interesting in my take on immigration, click here and scroll down to the parts in red text.

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. I was.

Schedule for May 22 Action

UPDATE @ May 20, 19:10 howappealing reports that Judge Becker of the 3rd Circuit has died. Sigh.

A little bit at confirmthem, too.

UPDATE @ May 22, 10:00 - Another little ditty to consider, this relating to the failure to pass Ensign's amendment. Note the statement here is in the context of implementing a Social Security Totalization Agreement with Mexico, and action that can occur independently of immigration reform.

HEARING BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON IMMIGRATION
SEPTEMBER 11, 2003

PREPARED STATEMENT OF TREA SENIOR CITIZENS LEAGUE

In its recent report to the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security, the Inspector General stated that a 1999 audit estimated invalid Social Security numbers may have already cost the Social Security Trust Fund $287 million, and could cost as much as $63 million annually. Over the lifetimes of persons who claim benefits using the invalid numbers, the cost to the Trust Fund could exceed $1.7 billion. In 2000 alone, earnings were reported for more than a half a million persons using non-valid Social Security numbers.

The Inspector General, in its report, stressed that the policy of crediting wages to persons who worked illegally has great implications for the future of Social Security. TSCL supports the Social Security Inspector General's recommendation for legislation that would prohibit the crediting of non-legal earnings and work history for purposes of benefit entitlement.

Further, the existing totalization agreements are, in general, with nations that have close economic parity to the U.S. and where a limited number of workers are affected. We are concerned that in the case of Mexico--where poverty is endemic and where the economy is, at best, extremely fragile--a totalization agreement may be seen as a means for large numbers of Mexican nationals to obtain aid for their dependents through Social Security's disability and supplemental programs.

NumbersUSA notes that a US-Mexico Totalization Agreement was signed in June, 2004. Resolutions have been introduced in the House (H.Res.20 and H.Con.Res.20), but neither has passed beyond Committee.

Now I am wondering if President Bush has been "sitting" on the Totalization Agreement signed in June 2004, rather than submitting it to Congress.

UPDATE @ 10:45 - Indeed, President Bush has been sitting on this agreement. Note that the White House proposed it in January 2004, and the SSA drafted and signed such an agreement in June 2004. But as of April 2006, the President has not submitted the Totalization Agreement to Congress.

As you read the following pieces, keep these points in mind: All of the presidential candidates in Mexico are in favor of totalization, and Senator Dodd saw fit to publish a position statement so attesting, in the Congressional Record; Senator Ensign introduced three separate amendments dealing with the approval process for Totalization Agreements (the present system is "Silence is approval," Senator Ensign's three amendments each provide express Congressional approval; and there is NO AMENDMENT yet proposed to S.2611 that addresses the issue of a Totalization Agreement with Mexico.

April 7, 2006

``MEXICO AND THE MIGRATION PHENOMENON'' DOCUMENT

Mr. DODD. Mr. President, yesterday I spoke about the need to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill. In the course of those remarks, I described a document signed by all five of Mexico's Presidential candidates in the run-up to this July's Presidential elections in that country, as well as leaders from every major party in Mexico. That document makes clear that leaders on both sides of the border understand that border security is a fundamental necessity. I ask unanimous consent that the document, ``Mexico and the Migration Phenomenon,'' be printed in the Record.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:

Mexico and the Migration Phenomenon

... Other mechanisms that should be developed are the establishment of a bilateral medical insurance system to cover migrants and their relatives, as well as the agreement of totalization of pension benefits, which will allow Mexicans working in the United States to collect their pension benefits in Mexico.


Background Briefing by Conference Call on Immigration Policy January 6, 2004

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Tomorrow the President will propose a new temporary worker program that will match willing foreign workers with willing U.S. employers when no Americans can be found to fill those jobs. ...

Next, it would provide incentives for return to the home country, such as totalization agreements, as we have with several foreign countries around the world, and would create -- call for the creation of savings accounts that could be used for the benefit of the participant for either retirement or for a nest egg to buy land or capitalize a business, or whatever. ...

Q I see. And when you were talking about these incentives, the savings accounts and all of this, how would that work? Would part of this be -- the one agreement you mentioned you used terminology I didn't understand. Did that have to do with the Social Security credit, so they'd be able to collect Social Security when they went back to their country? And what are the other particulars of these incentive type accounts you were talking about?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: There are two constants here. One is this totalization notion that we have with 20-some countries around the world, which basically recognizes retirement contributions made in both countries. So, for example, if I'm working for a particular number of quarters in the United States and move to Mexico, where I'm a citizen, I'll get credit for my service while in the American system, and vice versa. It recognizes kind of portability between the two nations' retirement accounts. That's the first --

Q So that means that wherever they retire and live, they can get their U.S. -- whatever they put into the U.S. system, whatever they'd be entitled to?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, it's based on the totalization agreement with the particular country and the terms of those --

Q Oh, so the two retirement plans are kind of merged together in that regard?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, essentially, yes. You get credit for -- if you have to vest, after 10 years you can get credit for the amount of time you worked in the United States. That's the first notion. The second is, consistent with the President's calls for, say, tax-sheltered savings accounts, temporary workers would also be eligible for those so that they could amass resources either to use for retirement or buy land or start a business, or whatever.

Q Are you talking about, so they would be eligible for things like the flexible spending accounts and IRAs and that kind of stuff?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, we haven't gotten down to that level of specifics. The notion is the tax-sheltered accounts.


April 4, 2006

Mr. ENSIGN. Mr. President, at the end of my remarks, I will ask to lay the pending business aside. Let me speak for a moment on the issue of immigration. ...

The promise of Social Security is for citizens and legal residents of the United States. It was not intended for individuals who enter our country illegally, purchase fraudulent green cards and documentation on the black market, and use them to get jobs. At a time when the solvency of our Social Security system is in question, it is wrong to allow those who have broken our laws to receive credit for their illegal work history.

In addition, I have serious concerns about the proposed Totalization Agreement with Mexico and its impact on the Social Security Trust Fund. The effects of the Totalization Agreement depend on the specific terms and language included in the agreement. We do not know the terms of the agreement and will not know the exact terms until the President submits the agreement to Congress. We also don't know the exact cost of a Totalization Agreement with Mexico. I am concerned that if this agreement were to go into effect, it could severely impact the Social Security Trust Fund and threaten the retirement benefits of hard-working Americans. This issue needs to be addressed in the context of this debate.

I believe there are many technical problems with this bill that must be debated on the Senate floor. These issues should be addressed out in the open so that the American people can see what is being discussed. Unfortunately, this process is not going forward because the amendment process is being blocked.

I ask unanimous consent that the pending amendments be laid aside, and that I would be allowed to offer an amendment at this point.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Is there objection?

Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, I object.

SA 3299. Mr. ENSIGN submitted an amendment intended to be proposed by him to the bill S. 2454, to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to provide for comprehensive reform and for other purposes; which was ordered to lie on the table; as follows:

At the appropriate place, insert the following:

SEC. __. PROTECTION OF THE INTEGRITY OF THE SOCIAL SECURITY SYSTEM.

(a) Transmittal and Approval of Totalization Agreements.--
(1) In general.--Section 233(e) of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 433(e)) is amended to read as follows:
``(e)(1) Any agreement to establish a totalization arrangement which is entered into with another country under this section shall enter into force with respect to the United States if (and only if)--
``(A) the President, at least 90 calendar days before the date on which the President enters into the agreement, notifies each House of the Congress of the President's intention to enter into the agreement, and promptly thereafter publishes notice of such intention in the Federal Register,
``(B) the President transmits the text of such agreement to each House of the Congress as provided in paragraph (2), and
``(C) an approval resolution regarding such agreement has passed both Houses of the Congress and has been enacted into law. ...


April 6, 2006

SA 3443. Mr. ENSIGN submitted an amendment intended to be proposed by him to the bill S. 2454, to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to provide for comprehensive reform and for other purposes; which was ordered to lie on the table; as follows: [snip same text as S.Amdt.3299]

SA 3444. Mr. ENSIGN submitted an amendment intended to be proposed by him to the bill S. 2454, to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to provide for comprehensive reform and for other purposes; which was ordered to lie on the table; as follows: [snip same text as S.Amdt.3299]

And I repeat, the issue of totalization is absent from the debate on S.2611. The more one peeks behind the curtain, the murkier things become.

UPDATE @ 13:20 - I've done a bit more research into totalization agreement with Mexico, and found that H.R.3010 - Labor, Health and Human Services ... Appropriations Bill, FY 2006 contains an amendment, H.Amdt.365 by Rep. Hayworth, passed on a voice vote on June 24, 2005, that, according to Rep. Hayworth, "ensures that a proposed Social Security totalization amendment or agreement with Mexico now fully subscribes to what has been signed into law, H.R. 743, the Social Security Protection Act. And this ensures that any proposed totalization agreement would not have funds going to anyone from our neighbor to the south employed here illegally."

Now I'm wondering how this law (H.R.743) compares with S.Amdt.3985 - Ensign which was tabled on a 50-49 vote, on the 18th. Was not the object of Ensign amendment to deny Soc. Security benefits to be obtained for work conducted while in the United States country illegally? Perhaps S.2611, as written, results in changing the law that was formed by H.R.743.

Senator Frist opened the Senate with a summary of the activity he intends to have completed this week. S.2611 (of course), the Supplemental Appropriations Conference Report (which is still in conference), then the Kavanaugh nomination.

Senator Frist noted that other nominations might come up too, but said that all nominations of interest this week ARE HELD UP IN COMMITTEE (what about Boyle and Myers? They aren't held up in committee) - in particular, Senator Frist noted nominations for Secretary of the Interior, General Hayden to head the CIA, a news head for the Food and Drug Administration, and Mr. Portman to take over the Office of Management and Budget.

Senator Reid asked about the conference report relating to the Defense Authorization bill, and Senator Frist indicated that he was working with GOP Senators with the objective of entering into time agreements on each proposed amendment.

Senator Reid gets onto an jag relating to Iraq. Too many Americans being killed, oil production, electricity production and fresh water projects are in worse condition that before the war (Huh? Somebody's lying - those statistics are tough to parse into opposite meanings).

Senator Domenici is going to introduce several amendments. The first, S.Amdt.4023, is to improve cooperation between the US and Mexico, where the Secretary of State (and others) will work with appropriate officials in the government of Mexico to improve cooperation with the objectives to reduce human and drug trafficking, and other crimes. Sounds like a feel-good amendment, that may actually run afoul of the Constitution in that it is giving specific orders to officers under the executive, as to how to handle foreign affairs.

Senator Domenici's second amendment , S.Amdt.4022, is to increase the number of judges, in order to speed the handling of backlog for repeat offenders who must appear before a Court. He notes that immigration related filings represent 60-65% of the cases before courts in southern districts of Texas and Arizona, with the number of cases being in the several thousand (high 2 thousands to high 3 thousands) in each affected district. Senator Feinstein supports this amendment, and Kyl, Cornyn and Hutchison are co-sponsors. A related amendment, S.Amdt.4024 increases the number of Marshals.

UPDATE @ 14:00 - Senator Feinstein does not like the Hagel/Martinez compromise. She is introducing what she calls an "orange card" amendment. I assume it is a fairly comprehensive amendment, and eliminates what Feinstein calls "UNWORKABLE," the three-tier system of Hagel/Martinez.

All undocumented aliens immediately register with the Department of Homeland Security and submit to fingerprinting. The amendment includes facilities to process the registration electronically (I assume this is a capital investment). Petitioner submits an application, in person, demonstrating work history in the US. They must pass criminal and national security background check in order to obtain the orange card, plus pay back taxes, plus pay $2,000 fine.

The oompa-loompa card!

This card and system does provide a guaranteed place in queue to obtain a green card, permanent residency, but no person holding an orange card would be considered for a green card until after all current applicants for green card have had their applications processed to conclusion.

I wonder what happens if a person fails to apply for the orange card? At some point I think we're going to have to deal with people in the country illegally - unfair it may be, but those are the breaks. Any time new rules are made, somebody obtains an advantage.

UPDATE @ 14:15 - Senator Feinstein makes a good point, that having the tiers creates a field for documentation fraud, but her system does too - she set a date certain that a person has to be in the country, in order to qualify for the orange card. The trade-off in her proposal is NO DEPORTATION. None. Well, none for people in country as of (I think) January 2006. So, yeah, if there is no penalty, there is no incentive to obtain fraudulent documentation. And she misses the point that H-2C is not guest worker, it is a path to green card at the end of 6 years. This is what Sessions has been shouting for a few weeks now.

UPDATE @ 14:45 - Senator Grassley apologizes for having voted for amnesty in 1986, as well as for neglecting immigration law over the past 20 years. "I've been burned once, and don't want to be burnt twice on amnesty." He is inclined to vote against S.2611. So, that's Grassley, Byrd, Nelson (NE), Cornyn, Kyl and Sessions. I wonder if Feinstein would vote for S.2611 if it contains the Hagel/Martinez system.

UPDATE @ 15:30 - Senator Sessions doing a repeat, more or less, of his speech from last Friday. This bill is unworthy of the Senate. His opinion is that the bill does not represent the will of the people, nor is it consistent with the principles that made country what it is. He calls out those who assert the so-called "anti-immigration" lobby wants to deport all the illegals. First, they aren't anti immigration, and second, there are many options between doing nothing and engaging in mass deportation.

Senator Sessions is planning to introduce 4 amendments. These are "new," in that their numbers and text aren't yet printed in the Congressional Record.

  • A numerical limit, capping number of immigrants to the number asserted by the White House and Congressional Budget Office. 7 million of the estimated 11 million currently in the country, plus increase current immigration levels by about 8 million over the next 10 years. This would increase the annual green card grantings by just under 1 million per year.
  • Earned income tax credit to be eliminated for those who obtain permanent residency under this bill, to be restored upon the person obtaining citizenship.
  • Chain migration to be curtailed (he intimated something about requiring skill, another avenue is to limit admission to immediate family)
  • Mystery amendment

Link to February 2006 CBO Report on US Immigration Policy
Link to May 16, 2006 CBO Report on S.2611

Senator Sessions anticipates that his amendments won't be considered (Frist or Specter or DEMs will block), due to an urge to move the bill forward quickly.

Senator McConnell make a UC request to have Richard Stickler, to be Assistant Secretary of Labor for Mine Safety and Health (IMSA); after noting that he has asked this previously and has been met with objection. The request is met with objection by the Democrats today, as well. Mr. Stickler was reported out of committee on March 8, and his nomination seems to be held up as hostage to bringing up another bill.

Senator Bingaman notes that he plans to introduce two amendments, one of them being S.Amdt.4055, to extend rights to limited legal aid (to pursue employment rights complaints) to H-2B forestry workers, as are now extended to agricultural workers under H-2A.

The other amendment relates to the number of employment-based visa immigrants to be admitted each year. Looking at immigration as being either employment based or family-based. As an aside, his chart is striking! It shows that 4-fold radical increase in the numbers, to about 2 million per year, as a result of S.2611. His amendment refers to ONLY the employment based immigration. The current cap is 140,000 per year for "employment based" LPR (legal permanent resident), where spouse and children are included in this 140,000 cap. Specter's markup increased this 140,000 to 290,000 per year, and excludes the spouse and children from the limit.

The amendment aims to eliminate an increase in immigration levels attributable in part to Hagel/Martinez, where the number of non-exempted was increased from 290,000 per year (plus their spouses and children) to 400,000 per year (plus their spouses and children).

Bingaman's amendment proposes a capping the non-exempt aspect instead of an open-ended system. He also proposes to exclude from this employment-based category, those people in the 2-5 year group under Hagel/Martinez.

UPDATE @ 18:05 - voting to TABLE the Chambliss amendment is completed.

S.Amdt.4009 - Chambliss: setting a wage floor for temporary workers, in order to prevent an influx of foreign workers from depressing the local wage rate below the prevailing wage in the occupation in the area of intended employment, was TABLED on a 50 - 43 vote.

UPDATE @ 18:30 - voting on the Ensign amendment is completed.

S.Amdt.4076 - Ensign: which relates to the use of National Guard on the border. The Border Patrol sees National Guard as a means to multiply its force, where Border Patrol wouldn't have to do, for example, rescues, building and repairing of roads and fences, etc., was PASSED on a 83 - 10 vote.

First order of business tomorrow, when the Senate resumes at 9:45, is one hour of debate on S.Amdt.4087 - Feinstein: the "orange card" program described above, eliminating the 3-tier system of Hagel/Martinez. I hope this gets McCain's knickers in a knot.

Senator Gregg asks about getting an hour (or two) of debate on an amendment that he and Senator Cantwell wish to bring up. Senator Specter thinks that one hour can be accommodated sometime tomorrow. I take this as S.Amdt.4054 - Gregg: relating to diversity visas, and visas for immigrants with advanced degrees. It sets the annual quota for each category.

UPDATE @ 19:30 - Senator Frist filed a couple of cloture motions. The second one was on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh. The Democrats were not forthcoming with a time agreement, and "it's time for the Senate to fulfill its constitutional duty of voting." It is maddening, because Senator Frist utters "do the duty" while the Senate is shirking the very same duty as it applies to Haynes, Boyle, and Myers.

The other cloture motion was on S.2611 - filed in order to cause the bill to be completed before the Memorial Day recess. The deadline for filing pre-cloture amendments is 2:30 tomorrow afternoon.

Senator Specter is up in a brief memoriam to Judge Becker, and segues that into a plug for funding medical research, "If the President had declared a war on cancer, and fought it with the same vigor he has fought other wars, Judge Becker would not have died of cancer." His complaint is funding, but he also gets in a plug for funding embryonic stem cell research.

Senator Sessions thanks Specter for bringing up Judge Becker, and then goes on to comment about the course of the immigration bill. He notes that cloture will probably be obtained. But that the bill as coming out of committee was so flawed that it can't be amended. He reiterates that he has four amendments, and doubts he'll get a vote on even one of them.

But he is going to talk about them, and the people should talk about them, and the questions raised thereby ought to be settled before a bill is passed.

The chairman's mark (Specter's version) had no automatic path to citizenship, for example. With one hour of debate, the McCain/Kennedy substitute was adopted by the Committee. Colossally huge increase in immigration levels, overreaching in amnesty.

Another good wrapping up speech by Senator Sessions.

UPDATE @ 20:00 - Mystery amendment revealed. It is a cap on the number of H-2C visas. The language in the bill, according to Senator Sessions, contains no limit on the number of H-2C visas, although it does provide quotas for other categories of immigrant.

  • Numerical limits (quotas) on immigrants, to the level expressed in the CBO report of May 16, 2006
  • Eliminate earned income tax credit for people who are guest workers or permanent residents under S.2611. If a person is willing to immigrate for the wages offered, it is not sensible to offer them a "bonus" in the form of an earned income tax credit, to induce them to immigrate
  • Chain migration adjustment - other countries put a premium on work skills over familial relationship. Limit extension to nuclear family, exclude married adult children, parents, adult bothers and sisters
  • Green cards for "future flow" H-2C workers. H-2C workers not in the country are subject to the numerical limits established in the bill -- the current bill says "the Secretary SHALL give the green card," which results in absence of numerical cap on H-2C (so-called "temporary worker") immigrants

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