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Statement on the Vitter Amendment #1157

Senator Michael B. Enzi

May 24, 2007


Mr. President, I rise in strong support of the amendment introduced by the Senator from Louisiana. I am proud to be a cosponsor of this amendment.

I am disappointed in the way the substitute amendment to S. 1348 was brought before the Senate. I do not believe Senators have had adequate opportunity to fully understand all the impacts this legislation will have on our nation. Over the next two weeks, Senators and staff will continue to study the language. I hope that the Senate leadership will ensure that all members have the opportunity to have their amendments considered by the full Senate. I am pleased an agreement was reached to vote on the Vitter Amendment.

If this was the first time the Senate was considering offering amnesty to illegal aliens, I think this debate would be under a different tone. When the 1986 legislation was enacted, members of the House and Senate had the best of intentions to improve our border situation and decrease illegal immigration by offering permanent status to those in the United States illegally. Those good intentions, however, were not without fault. We can see that now, 21 years later, and we cannot ignore the problems caused by that legislation.

Our goal here is to make an immigration system that works one that meets the economic needs of our nation and allows for legal immigration and legal workers. We need to make it less complicated to immigrate legally rather than illegally. The status quo is just the opposite. It has become so difficult to follow the legal path that many look for the easier route of crossing our border without paperwork, without filing fees, and without bureaucratic delays. It has become so difficult for employers to hire legal temporary workers, that many hire illegal immigrants without legal Social Security numbers, without labor certifications, and without bureaucratic delays. Our laws should not be a deterrent to themselves.

Our immigration system is complicated. Our borders remain open. Border security must be the top priority of the debate. We cannot have immigration reform without strengthening the security of our borders. This is why I am pleased that the language the Senate is considering includes triggers that must be met before certain provisions can be enacted.

There are some positive ideas in this legislation, but there remain many problems. The Senate should not pass flawed legislation merely for the sake of voting on something.

Amnesty is one of the main concerns of my constituents in Wyoming. Amnesty sends a message to illegal immigrants that if you break our immigration laws and avoid being detected for several years, the United States will not only forgive you, but reward you with permanent resident status. Amnesty encouraged illegal immigration. In 1986, seven million immigrants were granted amnesty. Today we are facing an illegal population of over 12 million. The 1986 legislation did not stop illegal immigration. We should not repeat this policy without ensuring that we are not making the same mistake.

I continue to closely examine bill language as new developments unfold and will make decisions keeping in mind what concerns Ive heard from the people and businesses of Wyoming. We expect to spend the first week of June continuing to debate and amend the bill. I am concerned about where we will be in two weeks on this legislation. This issue is too important to refuse to consider amendments for members of either party.

Again, I state my strong support for Senator Vitters amendment to remove the amnesty provisions from this legislation. I hope my colleagues in the Senate will join me in taking a strong stance against amnesty.

I yield the floor.