Transcript: Sen. Chuck Schumer on the Gang of Eight’s comprehensive immigration reform bill

Partial transcript of remarks by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on the Gang of Eight’s immigration reform bill “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act”. The press briefing was held on April 18, 2013:

We are here to announce that eight Senators from opposite sides of the political aisle are coming together on a common sense immigration reform proposal that we believe can pass the Senate. I want to thank my seven other colleagues here today. Each one of us is strong willed. Each one of us has strong beliefs – differing beliefs. But when you see – if you would have seen that room in any of our 24 meetings and seen everyone argue strongly but then come together to realize that we have to pass a bill and not everyone was going to get each thing he wanted. It was a sight that would give you some faith in the future of our democracy, especially on a morning like this.

Now, we all know our immigration system is broken and it’s time to get to work on fixing it. Immigration reform is vital to securing our borders, jump-starting our economy, and ensuring fuller access to that great American dream.

The current status quo on immigration makes no sense. We turn away people from entering the country who could create thousands of jobs and let people cross our borders who take away jobs.

Our approach is balanced. The border security triggers are strong but achievable. The path to citizenship is tough but it is accessible. Yes, our bill does secure the border first but it treats the situation of those living in the shadows an equally urgent priority. This is by design. We believe that Americans will support sensible solutions to dealing with the undocumented and future legal immigrants but only if they are convinced there will not be future waves of illegal immigrants. When the 11 million who are here come out of the shadows it will not only improve their lives and their families’ lives, it will strengthen our country and its economy.

In fact, conservative economist Douglas Holtz-Eakin has found that immigration will save taxpayers $2.7 trillion.

Now, we want this legislation to meet the highest possible standards of openness and transparency. To that end, the bill has been online since Tuesday night. We will not begin mark-up until the first week of May, giving everyone three weeks to read this bill and prepare amendments. Chairman [Patrick] Leahy has pledged an extensive mark-up in the Judiciary Committee, [which] includes some of the leading opponents of immigration reform who will have their ample opportunity to challenge our ideas. This ensures the bill will emerge from committee battle-tested.

And then we anticipate a full and fair debate on the floor. Senator has pledged to take it up no later than June.

Now, as with any compromise, no one got everything they wanted. There were moments when it looked like an agreement would not come. The negotiations over a future flow program were particularly intense.

But realizing the high stakes, the business community and organized labor rose to the occasion. When Tom Donohue from the [U.S.] Chamber [of Commerce] and Rich Trumka from the AFL-CIO got on the phone together on a Friday night in late March and signed their names to the effort, it became clear that an agreement was possible.

Other stakeholders came together as well – many of them are here today and we thank you all for helping us make this dream become a reality.

So if you’re wondering why we are confident we can be successful in passing immigration reform this time around, look right behind me. These folks here. An unprecedent[ed] coalition has formed in favor of immigration reform – growers and farm workers, high-tech business leaders, the faith community, some of the most well-known conservative activists in Washington, and some of the most progressive. Powerful outside forces have helped defeat certain other initiatives in Washington. But on immigration, the opposite is proving true.

I am convinced this issue will not fall victim to the usual partisan gridlock. And we are mindful that we approach our task at a moment when the public has never been more fed up with Congress. But in a week when disillusionment with politics is being acutely felt, this bipartisan breakthrough offers a degree of hope.

Despite strong personalities and even stronger disagreements on many issues, we met in the middle for the common good. The bill is proof the art of political compromise is not dead.

So in conclusion, today is just the beginning of our voyage. It’ll be long and arduous. There will be perils we can’t even anticipate. But we start off with optimism because this bipartisan agreement gives us a sturdy ship to ride out the stormy seas ahead.

Lastly, I’d like to mention someone who couldn’t be here but is on the minds of all of us today: the late Ted Kennedy. He’s a hero to many of us on both sides of the aisle and especially on this issue. In many ways, our work picks up where he left off.

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