U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, on the floor of the U.S. Senate, discussed the negotiations over the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program (DACA). He said that Republicans good faith offers have been consistently rejected by Democratic leaders.
The transcript of Grassley’s remarks is below as prepared for delivery:
Madame President, I rise today with my colleagues to offer remarks about the current status of negotiations on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA program. Unfortunately, this body still isn’t closer to a legitimate and fair deal that promotes and protects the interests of the American people in a lawful immigration system, and provides a fair and equitable solution on DACA.
Back in December, I introduced a bill, along with Senators Cornyn, Tillis, Lankford, Perdue, and Cotton. This bill, the SECURE ACT of 2017 was the product of months of discussion between myself, these Senators, and the White House. Our plan, simply put, had five pillars.
First, based off of the hard work and leadership of Senator Cornyn, our bill provided real, robust border security by mandating the construction of tactical and technological infrastructure at the border.
Second, our bill took meaningful steps to end the lawlessness of dangerous criminal aliens by cracking down on sanctuary cities, ending the misguided catch and release policies of the previous administration and finally taking real steps to address intentional visa overstays.
Third, our bill took steps to eliminate many of the “pull” factors that encourage people to immigrate illegally by permanently authorizing the e-verify program and taking meaningful steps to reduce immigration court and asylum adjudication backlogs.
Fourth, thanks to the leadership and advocacy of Senators Graham, Perdue, and Cotton, our bill eliminated the phenomenon known as ‘chain migration’ and made a major down payment towards transitioning to a merit based immigration system.
Finally, our bill provided a bi-partisan solution to protect undocumented young people brought to the United States as children by adopting Senator Durbin’s Bar Removal of Individuals who Dream and Grow our Economy, or the BRIDGE Act.
Our plan was fair, serious, and bi-partisan. Most importantly, it was and is pro-American. As I’ve continually said since the bill’s introduction, this group of Senators is ready and willing to negotiate with our counterparts in good faith, and to find an equitable solution to the DACA situation that incorporates our bill’s five pillars of reform. Sadly, our good faith offers have consistently been rejected by Democratic leadership. Instead, they’ve decided to engage in a game of brinkmanship.
Why won’t Democratic leadership negotiate with us? Because we refuse to simply pass the Dream Act, as is, with no proportional border security and interior enforcement measures. As the Democrats see it, it’s take it or leave it, their way or the highway.
That isn’t good faith. That isn’t negotiation. And that approach is doomed to failure.
Madame President, I have to ask. Why do my colleagues in Democratic leadership refuse to even consider measures that would beef up border security and interior enforcement? Do they want people to continue to immigrate to this country illegally? Do they want sex offenders and human traffickers to continue to manipulate our porous border and enter our country unchecked? Do they want criminal illegal immigrants, people like Jose Zarate, who murdered Kate Steinle, and Eswin Mejia, who killed Sarah Root, to roam free in our country? Are they comfortable allowing criminal alien gangs like MS-13, whose motto is “kill, rape, and control,” to continue to terrorize immigrant communities?
I’m assuming, in fact I’m hoping, the answer to all of these questions is a resounding no. If that’s correct, then why does Democratic leadership refuse to discuss the border security and interior enforcement provisions in the SECURE ACT?
Madame President, despite the hysteria and hyperbole you may hear from pro-amnesty, open-borders immigration advocates, the SECURE ACT does not contain draconian enforcement measures.
If anything, our bill contains the common sense security and enforcement measures this body has been debating, discussing, and considering for years.
Our bill adds new border patrol agents, U.S. Attorneys and judges to make it easier to apprehend, prosecute, and deport illegal entrants and criminal aliens. We authorize money for critically necessary port of entry and exit improvements, so we can know who’s here, for how long, and when they’ve left.
Our bill increases criminal penalties for human smuggling offenses that are committed by repeat offenders, result in death, result in human trafficking or include sexual assault. We also increase penalties for criminal aliens who commit a crime of violence or a drug trafficking crime.
Our bill makes clear that individuals who engage in acts of terrorism, criminal gang members, and aggravated felons and drunk drivers are not admissible to our country, and makes clear they can be put into expedited removal if they somehow make it in.
Finally, our bill permanently authorizes the voluntary e-verify program, and provides incentives for employers to participate. It doesn’t make e-verify mandatory, it just provides employers certainty by making the program permanent.
These are common sense measures. Why would my colleagues on the other side ever want to oppose them? It wasn’t that long ago that many of them supported border security and interior enforcement.
In his 1996 State of the Union Address, then President Clinton championed his actions to crack down on illegal immigration. He proudly noted his Administration was “increasing border patrols by fifty percent… [and] increasing inspections to prevent the hiring of illegal immigrants . . .”
In 2006, then Senator Obama spoke in favor of enhanced border security and enforcement measures. He acknowledged that even then “we need tougher border security, and stronger enforcement measures . . .[w]e need more resources for Customs and Border Agents, and more detention beds.” When speaking in favor of the Secure Fence Act, he said it would “certainly do some good” and would go a long way in “stem[ing]… the tide of illegal immigration in this country.”
Do my colleagues no longer agree with former Presidents Clinton and Obama? Do they no longer believe we need to stem the tide of illegal immigration?
My colleagues on the other side consistently talk about how DACA kids shouldn’t be used as bargaining chips for any potential ‘deal.’ What about the innocent American citizens they’re using as bargaining chips? What about the thousands of victims every year of crimes committed by dangerous criminal aliens? Don’t their lives matter too? Doesn’t their safety, happiness, and wellbeing deserve to not be bargained away?
Madame President, this group of Senators remains ready and willing to negotiate in good faith, and to make tough sacrifices in order to find common ground on this issue. Our counterparts need to be willing to do the same.
So I’m asking them, I’m pleading with them in all sincerity, let’s sit down and have an honest conversation. Let’s strike a deal that’s fair to all, including to the law-abiding American people.
But any deal cooked up by this poor man’s version of the Gang of 8 that doesn’t have real border security, doesn’t have real interior enforcement measures, and doesn’t have the other pillars of reforms in the SECURE ACT… Well, that’s no deal at all, and I can’t, and I won’t support it.
Madame President, I yield the floor.
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