Menendez Floor Remarks on Prospects of Immigration Reform

Menendez Floor Remarks on Prospects of Immigration Reform

WASHINGTON, DC - U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez today delivered remarks on the Senate Floor to address Speaker Boehner's limited amount of time to permanently fix our nation's broken immigration system. Today marks the one-year anniversary since the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to report the Gang of 8's bipartisan immigration reform legislation - S.744:The Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013.

Below is a video of his remarks and a transcript, as prepared for delivery:

"One year ago, the Senate Judiciary Committee reported out a piece of legislation that would do more than increase the Gross Domestic Product, do more than reduce the deficit, do more than promote prosperity, and do more than create jobs.

"It passed legislation that would take 11 million people out of the shadows in America, prevent anyone from being a second class citizen in this country, and finally establish comprehensive, common-sense immigration reform.

"And today, one year later, it sits languishing in the House of Representatives and 11 million people wait. And wait. And wait.

"And while they wait, while they hope that we come to our senses and govern as we should - the toll from inaction compounds. Families suffer. Children suffer. Deportations continue and injustice prevails.

"M. President, there is a cost to our inaction, a cost that those in the other body who are forcing upon us as we wait for them to act.

"They claim they are for fiscal responsibility and yet their inaction is costing us each year - on average:

$80 billion of real GDP, $40 billion in higher deficits,
  • 40,000 STEM grads who earned Master's or a PhD in STEM fields from US universities,
  • 50 billion in the Social Security Trust Fund,
  • almost 50,000 fewer jobs,
  • and $13.5 billion in lost revenue.

"I hope our Republican colleagues in the House understand exactly what the cost of their inaction is. I hope they understand that every minute we waste passing common-sense immigration reform is costing American taxpayers more and more - and the cost is on them and the losses are Republican losses.

"The fact is the Republicans are acting as if nothing is at stake. As if there is no cost. As if the lives of people and families are not in the balance. They are wrong! They could not be more wrong.

"Beside the economic cost of inaction, there's a very real human cost.

"Franklin Roosevelt once said citing Dante that: "Better the occasional faults of a government that lives in a spirit of charity than the consistent omissions of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference."

"Let us not be frozen in the ice of our own indifference. Let us act. Let us govern. I call on my Republican colleagues to warm their hearts and think about the cost of inaction - not only in dollars and cents, but in the lives of families and the future of this nation.

"The legislation that we are waiting for is a comprehensive way to tackle our immigration problem.

"We are on the verge of historic change, and I'm proud to have been part of the Gang of 8 that hammered out a strong bipartisan effort.

"Now I say to my friends in the other body: Do the right thing for America and for your Party.

"Find common ground. Lean away from the extremes. Opt for reason and govern with us.

"In my view, the leadership in the other body has a chance to be American heroes, a chance to bring both sides together in an alliance that will ensure passage of this bill, and I believe a vast majority of Americans who want immigration reform to pass will thank them for doing the right thing.

"I hope they have the political will. I hope they have the political courage to unite the nation and send this bill to the President's desk. I hope they will pass a bill that will increase the GDP, reduce the deficit, promote prosperity, and create jobs.

Chart One

"As I've pointed-out on this floor many times - this chart shows cumulative economic gains of the legalization over 10 years after passage of this legislation.

"Fixing the broken immigration system would increase America's GDP by over $800 billion over ten years.

"It will increase wages of all Americans by $470 billion over ten years and increase jobs by 121,000 per year.

"Immigrants will start small businesses. They'll create jobs for American workers. It's time to harness that economic power.

"The CBO Report also tells us we reduce direct spending and the deficit by $158 billion over the next decade and by another $685 billion more between 2024 and 2033.

"Let's remember that we're talking about almost a trillion dollars in deficit spending that we can lift from the backs of the next generation - exactly what our Republican friends demand, and yet they're balking in the face of achieving one of their fundamental principles.

"What other single piece of legislation increases GDP growth, increases wages, increases jobs and lowers the deficit?

Chart Two

"The Center for American Progress found that fixing the broken immigration system would increase wages of all Americans by $470 billion over ten years and increase jobs by 121,000 per year.

"Immigrants will start small businesses and they'll create more jobs for more American workers.

What we realize now - and what the numbers tell us - is that giving 11 million people a clear and defined pathway to citizenship is, in effect, an economic growth strategy that lowers the deficit and creates jobs - and that is exactly what we're looking to do to move the economy forward.

"The new Americans who follow the pathway we lay out will have to have played by the rules. They will have to pass background checks, pay a fine, and pay their taxes. But, if they do, there will be no obstacle they cannot overcome to the day when they raise their right hand and take their naturalization oath.

"Too many families have waited too long for that day. Too many have waited too long to say those words that will change their lives. They changed my mother's life and, in turn, gave me the chance to stand here today and vote for a pathway to citizenship that can change the lives of millions of others.

"But it's not just the economics of that increases the urgency to pass this legislation. It's the human toll - the toll on millions living in the shadows, and the shadows, M. President, can be dark and frightening.

"Last year, over 150,000 people were deported just for paperwork violations. Hundreds of thousands have been deported despite having U.S. citizen children. They are not criminals. They are hard-working families trying to make ends meet.

"For many years, I have asked the Administration to stop deporting fathers and mothers, stop separating families, stop taking parents away from their U.S.-citizen-resident children.

Chart Three
Carlos Oliva-Guillen

"Let me tell you about the case of Carlos Oliva-Guillen who was about to be deported away from his three US citizen children including his 7 month old infant son who is suffering from a life-threatening disorder.

"The baby was on the verge of a coma and facing potential brain damage while his dad was in detention and about to be deported.

"The doctors needed to do a blood test on Carlos, the baby's dad, to see if the baby's illness is genetic.

"Thank God Carlos was released and brought back to New Jersey so that the doctors could pursue these life-saving tests and treatment.

"These tragedies will continue as long as we do not have comprehensive immigration reform.

"With all of these economic benefits and the tremendous human suffering at stake, what are we waiting for? We're waiting for the House leadership to stand up to their caucus.

"We're waiting for Speaker Boehner to schedule a vote.

"We're waiting for reason to prevail - for our Republican friends in the other body to once and for all do what's right and think about the cost of inaction - not only in dollars and cents - but in the lives of families and the future of this nation.

"We're waiting for the Speaker to stop letting the most radical voices - like Stephen King - dictate the future of immigration reform.

"Mr. Boehner himself has publicly denounced King for his, and I quote, "hateful language." Yet the only, the only immigration-related votes that the Speaker of House of Representatives has allowed in the past year was for radical proposals to end DACA and deport our nation's DREAMers.

"It is time for Speaker Boehner to stand up for the majority of the Republican Party and remove Steve King's undeserved carte blanche on immigration policy.

"M. President, if we had a vote in the House, this bill would pass. It would pass today.

"We have the votes in the House to pass the Senate bill, we just don't have the will of the Republican leadership behind a bill that reduces the deficit, increases the GDP, and creates jobs - and I can't for the life of me understand why they won't act.

"Considering there are enough votes in the House to pass the Senate bill and send it to the President, we deserve action. 11 million people deserve - at the very least - the political courage to face-down the extreme minority and do what's right and govern from the common-sense center.

"Time is not on our side. There is a limited window of opportunity.

"We only have about another month for the Speaker to act. So it is in the Speaker's hands.

"Does he want reform or doesn't he?

"Speaker Boehner is questioning the President's commitment to enforce the law, even as the Administration is deporting more people than the Bush administration.

"The Administration has deported almost 2 million people!

"By saying the President isn't enforcing enough, the Speaker is really arguing for more deportations and has done nothing to stop the deportations.

"The only conclusion we can draw is that my friends on the other side support the current dysfunctional system. And they do so, at the cost of the country. They do so at a cost to families. And they do so at a cost to their own political futures.

"The road to the White House goes through the barrio, as my friend in the other body, Rep. Luis Gutierrez says. Their own futures are at risk.

"But more importantly, our country is at risk - a risk that we'll hinder our own economic growth and leave millions in the shadows as second class citizens. A risk that deportations will continue to tear parents away from their infants, despite the parents desperately seeking to register, get right with the law and pay their taxes. A risk that we won't address one of the greatest civil rights issues of our time.

"M. President, not only are Republicans tone-deaf to the priorities of the nation's fastest and largest-growing minority, but they are ignoring the will and interests of their own party, and acting against their own stated goal of reducing the deficit.

"They keep finding excuses for inaction. There are no excuses. Enough is enough! Enough is enough!

"I call on my colleagues in the other body: Do what's right and help us govern. Enough is enough!"

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