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Judiciary Senators Warn Leahy Against Rushing Immigration Plan ‘Written Behind Closed Doors’
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
WASHINGTON—U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, issued the following statement today as he released a letter from Ranking Republican Member Chuck Grassley and Judiciary Committee Republicans Orrin Hatch, John Cornyn, Mike Lee, and Ted Cruz to Chairman Patrick Leahy on immigration reform. In their letter, the Senators warn against rushing a massive bill with far-reaching implications through committee without carefully examining the legislation through hearings and open public debate:
“We have an obligation to adopt an immigration policy that serves the national interest, not the special interests—whether those special interests are open-borders advocacy groups, large corporations, or the political establishment. In order to serve the national interest, it is imperative that the Judiciary Committee fulfill its responsibility to review, scrutinize, and independently judge any immigration bill we consider. We have heard many promises before only to see the text of the bill fails to live up to those promises.
The process must be open and the public must be heard. A sound process in committee will take months, not weeks. And we’d be better off taking a step-by-step approach than trying to deal with these complex and emotional issues in one massive piece of legislation. And, contrary to the wisdom in Washington circles, our first and highest priority must be to establish lawfulness at the border and within the country. The consequences are simply too profound for American workers and taxpayers to rush through some thousand-page amnesty bill to passage only to find out what’s in it later. Such an approach would violate the fundamental principles of our democratic Republic.”
Text of the Senators’ letter follows:
The Honorable Patrick J. Leahy, Chairman
Committee on the Judiciary
United States Senate
224 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Chairman Leahy:
We write regarding your statement at the March 12, 2013, Executive Business Meeting that the Committee would take up comprehensive immigration reform legislation when the Senate returns from recess in April. We presume this statement was in reference to legislation reportedly being drafted by the “gang of eight” Senators.
As you are aware, this bill potentially could be the most dramatic and consequential alteration of our immigration system in nearly 30 years, impacting nearly every aspect of our legal and economic structure, and increasing entitlement spending to historic levels. Before the Immigration Reform and Control Act was first introduced in the Senate in 1982, the Committee had 100 hours of hearings with 300 witnesses before marking up a bill. Congress continued to debate the bill for the next three years, and even then, the Judiciary Committee spent three months reviewing the bill before it was reported in August of 1985. Accordingly, we respectfully request that the public be given adequate time, consistent with past practice in handling complex comprehensive immigration legislation, to read and analyze the contents of any such bill before it is listed on the Committee’s Executive Business Meeting agenda. We further request that during this time, the Committee hold hearings on the overarching issues integral to the legislation.
The Committee has held only one hearing on comprehensive immigration reform on February 13th. While the Committee held a hearing on March 18th regarding the effect of reform on women and families, and a hearing is scheduled for March 20th on American values, we believe that hearings are necessary to examine implementation of the components essential to a workable system, especially given that 43 current members of the Senate were not here during the last debate in 2007. Some of those issues include future flow and a temporary guest worker program; border security metrics and solutions; interior enforcement, including worksite enforcement and employee verification; the impact of a large scale legalization on American workers and taxpayers; and the implementation of a biometric exit system, which the Government Accountability Office has determined to be the only method by which the government can accurately track visa overstays. Moreover, the last Department of Homeland Security Oversight hearing was in April 2012, and members are still waiting for Secretary Napolitano to provide answers to follow-up questions. Members should have the opportunity to question the Secretary on these and other important issues before being asked to cast a vote on such critical legislation.
We believe the process we have set forth is necessary not only to ensure that members are properly educated on this complex measure, but also to ensure a fair and open process so that the American people know what is in any such bill. The last time Congress considered legislation of this magnitude that was written behind closed doors and passed with no process, it resulted in sweeping changes to our healthcare system, the negative consequences of which are only now coming to light. As you have said in the past, if we bring these important issues to the Senate floor without them having been worked through committee, it is a prescription for a real problem.
We do not make this request lightly and hope the Senators drafting such legislation will support our request. If we are serious about protecting our national interest and the best interests of American workers, we must provide all members of the Senate, and, most importantly, the public, a full and fair opportunity to become adequately informed. We believe the process we have described is in keeping with your longstanding commitments to regular order and transparency. We appreciate your consideration and look forward to working with you on this important issue.
Very truly yours,
Michael S. Lee
cc: The Honorable Harry Reid
The Honorable Mitch McConnell
The Honorable John McCain
The Honorable Richard Durbin
The Honorable Charles Schumer
The Honorable Lindsey Graham
The Honorable Robert Menendez
The Honorable Michael Bennet
The Honorable Marco Rubio
The Honorable Jeff Flake
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