Transcript: Sen. Robert Menendez’s remarks on the bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform proposal

Transcribed and edited by Jenny Jiang

Partial transcript of Sen. Robert Menendez’s (D-N.J.) statement on the Gang of Eight’s bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform proposal at a press conference on Jan. 28, 2013: 

…As someone who has worked on this for years – both in the House when I was there and in the Senate – I am the most optimistic that I have been in quite some time, and I’m not Pollyanna about that at all. I recognize there are difficult challenges ahead. But I just get the sense of a spirit and commitment that is far beyond what I’ve seen in some time.

The American people support this. In poll after poll, when you take the elements of our principles, they have said, this is what we want to see – a reform of a broken system. And there is a reason for that.

If I want to secure the nation, I cannot secure the nation unless I know who is here to pursue the American dream versus who might be here to do it harm. And if I have millions of people in the shadows without coming forth and registering with the government, I don’t know what their ultimate purpose is here. And so when we talk about the nation’s security, reform is necessary for security as it is for the elements of our principles as it relates to enhancing [border security]…

When I talk about the nation’s economy, reform is critical to the nation’s economy. The reality is that even in a very tight economy, there are all types of industries in our country which have used the work of immigrants every day to achieve the economic goals of those industries.

If you got up this morning and had fruits for breakfast, it was probably picked by the bent-back of an immigrant worker.

If you, in fact, had vegetables – chicken for lunch, you probably had it de-plucked by the hands – cut-up hands – of an immigrant worker.

If you slept in a hotel or motel of the nation, you probably had your room done by immigrant worker.

If you are looking at some of the cutting-edge technologies in our country, you probably saw the ability of making America a more prosperous, competitive place in the world by the intellect of an immigrant worker.

So in so many dimensions, this is about the economy of our nation as well.

And finally, two elements of this, I think, are incredibly important within all the principles which I support is the fact that we have seen in other countries around the world where there is no pathway to citizenship that there is instability.

The reality is that this will be an arduous pathway but it will be a fair one. It will be one in which those who have come to this country to achieve the American dream will come forth, must register with the government or they’ll lose their opportunities, will have to go through a criminal background check, will have to pay any previous taxes they did not pay although many do pay through taxpayer ID numbers or Social Security number but nonetheless they will have to pay anything they didn’t pay before. They will have to – for the first time in U.S. history – learn English to be able to even become a permanent resident. We require that for U.S. citizenship; we have never required that for permanent residents – it’s a higher standard.

So those are some of the elements of a more arduous path but a real opportunity at the end of the day.

And lastly, as someone who is a big advocate of making sure our economy is strong as a result of immigration reform but also that we preserve a core value of our society and our history in our immigration law, which is family reunification and how do we do that in a way that is smart and that promotes legal immigration versus that has families divided for so long and that pressures them to make choices about how to become reunified. I believe we can take care of all those issues.

[Remarks in Spanish]


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3 Comments on “Transcript: Sen. Robert Menendez’s remarks on the bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform proposal

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