Menendez Votes To Move Forward With Immigration Debate, Will Attempt To Improve Deal On Senate Floor

Menendez Votes To Move Forward With Immigration Debate, Will Attempt To Improve Deal On Senate Floor

Key player in immigration negotiations says he will offer amendments to alter legislation

Washington - U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), a key negotiator in closed door Senate meetings on immigration reform, today voted to invoke cloture on the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007 and proceed with debate on the measure. Menendez, who has voiced strong opposition to the agreement, said he would be offering a series of amendments to improve the legislation and create tough, smart, and fair immigration reform.

"This vote is all about our nation's values," said Menendez. "Do we create the pathway to the American Dream for those who are contributing to our nation by allowing them to fully participate in our society or do we create a pathway to deportation despite their hard work and sweat? That is what is at stake this evening with this vote.

"It is my intention, working with my colleagues, through a series of amendments to help lead a charge to improve the deal by crafting tough, smart, and fair immigration reform on the Senate floor.

"I believe the 'Grand Bargain' has at least three serious flaws that must be fixedan anti-family bias that will clog the system, a temporary worker program that would create a permanent working underclass, and exorbitant fines."

Tonight the Senate voted 69 to 23 in favor of invoking cloture on the bill.


Senator Robert Menendez's remarks as prepared for delivery:

M. President, why should we invoke cloture on the motion to proceed?

If you vote yes on cloture, you are voting to give this Senate the opportunity to move forward with tough, smart, and comprehensive immigration reform that secures our nation's borders.

If you vote no on cloture, you are voting to maintain the status quo of failed laws and a broken immigration system that is weak on enforcement and leaves our borders and our citizens unsecured, while also allowing for continued exploitation and human trafficking.

If we have to wait a couple of years, states and municipalities will pass their own laws that often violate equal protection laws, can discriminate against those who are US citizens and lawful permanent residents, and create conflict within otherwise peaceful communities.

By invoking cloture, we have the opportunity to strengthen the screening process at our consulates and ports of entry, to better use technology along our borders, and to make sure that our agencies have both the necessary staff and the resources to do their jobs, thus effectively tightening our border security and workplace enforcement.

By invoking cloture, we have the opportunity to create an equal playing field and ensure that American worker's wages, benefits, and health and safety standards are not undercut.

By invoking cloture, we have the opportunity to realize the economic realities in our society in which undocumented workers are doing the work most Americans won't do such as picking the fruits you had for breakfast, cleaning the hotel and motel rooms for your stay, and plucking the chicken we had for dinner last night.

By invoking cloture, we have the opportunity to vote to create a pathway to EARNED legalization that will take many years, considerable fines, payment of taxes, and a new English standard that will be required for permanent residency for the first time.

My colleagues, this vote is all about our nation's values. Do we create the pathway to the American Dream for those who are contributing to our nation by allowing them to fully participate in our society or do we create a pathway to deportation despite their hard work and sweat?

That is what is at stake this evening with this vote.

We must move closer to once again controlling our borders, while restoring the rule of law and maintaining our long, proud history as a nation of immigrants.

Last Thursday, the administration and a bipartisan group of Senators announced agreement on the so-called "Grand Bargain". Unfortunately, there are a number of details in this deal that would create an unfair and impractical immigration system, undercutting the more sensible provisions.

It is my intention, working with my colleagues, through a series of amendments to help lead a charge to improve the deal by crafting tough, smart, and fair immigration reform on the Senate floor.

I believe the "Grand Bargain" has at least three serious flaws that must be fixedan anti-family bias that will clog the system, a temporary worker program that would create a permanent working underclass, and exorbitant fines.

If we don't improve the "Grand Bargain", we would tear at the fabric of family reunification by eliminating four out of five family-based green card categories and capping green cards for parents at 40,000 per year even though last year 120,000 visas were given. So much for family values not stopping at the Rio Grande River as the President has talked about.

If we don't improve the "Grand Bargain", we would enact a truly temporary worker program that labor doesn't support and that bars most temporary workers from any path to permanent residence. Without a chance at the American dream, these workers would be driven underground and could be exploitated while creating yet another underclass of undocumented workers.

If we don't improve the "Grand Bargain", we would require a family of four to pay up to $19,000 in fines and fees, which are far more than punitive, they are impractical to luring those in the shadows to come forward, be identified, and regularize their stays in this country.

M. President, I believe that what this country does on immigration represents the core of American values. We are a country of immigrants and how we treat these immigrants will either show the best or worst of America.

I urge Senators on both sides of the aisle to stand up and allow the debate on comprehensive immigration reform to start in the United States Senate. Vote to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to S. 1348 so we can fix some of the most flawed parts of this unworkable deal and turn it into sound policy that we can all support.

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