WASHINGTON, D.C. – US Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), the Highest-ranking Latino in the U.S. Congress, today spoke on the Senate Floor about the debate to protect Dreamers from deportation after the Trump Administration ended the DACA program. Despite having serious reservations about some of the provisions in the latest Rounds-King bipartisan proposal, Menendez announced he would cast a vote in favor of the measure when it is put up for consideration on the Senate floor later today. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
I come to the floor today fully aware that time is running out for America’s Dreamers.
Their fates rest in our hands.
Their futures hang in the balance of our votes.
And what Dr. King called the fierce urgency of now is officially upon us.
If we fail to take action today, the dreams of 800,000 young people protected under the DACA program -- and thousands of others like them -- will turn to nightmares.
For it is truly a terrifying prospect that Dreamers face – the prospect that at any moment they could be snatched up by President Trump’s deportation forces, torn away from their families, and sent away to countries they consider foreign lands.
Well, I refuse to be complicit in that nightmare. I refuse to be complicit in the deportation of innocent children.
I refuse to be complicit in the deportation of 800,000 DACA recipients and the 22,000 Dreamers living, studying, and working in my home state of New Jersey.
It is only out of my compassion for them and commitment to them that I’m prepared to vote for the bipartisan deal reached last night.
Let me be very clear.
This is not the deal I would have drafted. I do not think it is a good deal…
But I know for fact that is the only deal with a shot at becoming law.
It’s the only deal with any hope of earning 60 votes, a simple majority in the House, and the signature of Donald Trump’s pen.
And therefore it is the only deal with any hope of protecting more than one million Dreamers across America from the President’s mass deportation agenda.
To my fellow Democrats, to my friends and fellow leaders in the Hispanic community, and to the millions of Americans in New Jersey and across this nation who’ve stood by Dreamers throughout this ordeal, I will not sugar coat things.
This deal is not fair. It is not fiscally responsible. And to be honest, if my Republican colleagues truly wanted to protect America’s Dreamers in good faith, they would have done so months ago.
Instead, they refused to address this crisis for months.
Republicans chose to treat Dreamers like bargaining chips…
Pawns that could be used to advance far-right restrictions on lawful, family-sponsored immigration to the United States…
And deliver Donald Trump a big, fat $25 billion kiss in the form of a border wall funding.
The only thing more preposterous than asking Mexico to pay for a border wall is asking the American people to pay $25 billion for a border wall.
That’s $25 billion that could be going to repairing the walls of our crumbling public schools, outdated airports, and aging highway tunnels.
That’s $25 billion that Americans will have to pay for Donald Trump’s broken promise that Mexico would foot the bill.
In case you couldn’t tell by now, I’m not the biggest fan of this deal. It is a bitter pill to swallow.
So if I hear any of my Republican colleagues say this legislation isn’t “tough enough,” I encourage them to take a closer look.
Look at the hard choices that I had to make to support this deal as the most senior Hispanic American in the Congress… As the son of immigrants whose thirst for freedom brought them to our shores… As the Senior Senator for New Jersey, one of the most ethnically and racially diverse states in America.
Many of the concessions Democrats agreed to were supposed to have died in the proposal that we in the Gang of Six brought to the President weeks ago – only to have him reject under the advice of the ethnocentric voices in his ear.
For example, green card holders will no longer be able to sponsor their adult children to join them in this country.
And that’s not the only hard choice we had to make in order to protect Dreamers from deportation.
For while we grant them the opportunity to earn a 12-year path to citizenship, we pay a dear price by limiting their right to sponsor the parents they love dearly.
I take solace in the possibility that someday in the future, Congress will return to our American values, and stand proudly for the principles of family reunification that have guided U.S. immigration policies for the past century.
I will fight for the parents of Dreamers – and the comprehensive immigration reform we need – when that day comes.
But for the moment I am under no illusions. The cold hard reality is that in two weeks, the dreams of hundreds of thousands of innocent children and promising young people will be extinguished.
That is why we must act.
To my friends in the immigration advocacy community, as well as my Democratic colleagues, I remind you that legislating is the art of the possible.
We are in the minority, in both chambers of Congress. The opposing party occupies the White House.
We may not enjoy this reality, but it is reality nonetheless. And in this reality, we do not have the power to make anything happen. We only have the power to try and stop terrible things from happening.
So I ask my fellow Democrats to please hold the line for the hundreds of thousands of innocent children and bright young people who belong in this country and need our votes to stay in this country.
We have to remember that compromise is the oil that keeps the wheels of Congress running, and without it, Dreamers who’ve become integral to communities across this nation will be forcibly removed.
We know they belong here with us, strengthening the diverse threads that bind us together as one people.
To my Republican colleagues, I ask you to remember the tough concessions I had to make, so that Dreamers have a chance to earn citizenship in the country they love and the only country they know.
I again close by quoting the always relevant and forever wise, Dr. Martin Luther King, who said “We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today.
We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now.
In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late.”
My friends, the fierce urgency of now looms over us today. The fate of our Dreamers grows more uncertain with each passing second.
And I refuse to let their dreams die here on the Senate floor.
So let’s pass this bill and pass it fast.
There’s no time for further delay. If we want Dreamers to have a tomorrow here in this country, then we must act today.