Transcript: Sen. Robert Menendez on the Gang of Eight’s comprehensive immigration reform bill

Partial transcript of remarks by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) 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:

Well, let me start off by saying it was an extraordinary experience to work with my seven other colleagues and having the benefit of the tenacity of Chuck Schumer and John McCain to get us to the finish line. But also to have members like Lindsey Graham, who overall have very little to gain from taking on a tough challenge like immigration reform but willing to do so because he knows it is in the national interest, the national security, the national economy, and what is right. And that really epitomizes, I think, all of my colleagues’ efforts in this.

You know, at the very beginning, I wasn’t sure of the commitment of all of my colleagues but I must say that very shortly after the first few meetings, it became clear to me through very tough negotiations – and there were very tough moments – that in fact there was a real desire to solve a problem that has for too long gone unsolved. So I want to salute each and every one of them, and it’s one of the highest moments that I’ve had certainly in the Senate but even in the 20 years between the House and Senate that I’ve been in the Congress. And I’m looking forward to keeping that same tenacity and commitment to a final goal, which is send the President a law that he could sign.

…Our system of immigration is broken. Americans know that. They want to see it fixed. This is about preserving the national security. It is about enhancing the national economy. And it is about preserving an American tradition that has had an exceptional reality of the greatest experiment in the history of mankind – bringing people from across the globe ultimately driving to some of the best that America has to offer and preserving that but in a way that recognizes our laws.

As part of that, I have said that one of the key issues is making sure that we find a way to bring people out of the shadows and into the light, to have the 11 million who are undocumented in our country come forth – register with the government, go through a criminal background check, and if you pass that criminal background check then prospectively get a temporary permit to be in the United States, pay your taxes, learn English and then ultimately have a pathway to becoming a permanent resident and after that a United States citizen and fulfilling your dream and contributing to the nation.

Now, this is a long pathway. It is a tough pathway. But it is an achievable pathway and in that it creates a real opportunity for these individuals.

Now, there are some who will argue that we don’t need immigration reform.

Well, I can’t secure America unless I know who is here to pursue the American dream versus who might be here to do it some harm. And unless I get millions out of the shadows and into the light and register with the government, I won’t be able to ascertain that.

I can’t secure the nation unless we do some of what our colleagues have sought in an overall border security and interior enforcement and entrance-exit strategy, which this bill does.

If I care about an American worker – and I certainly do – I want to see any American who has the desire to do any job in America first and foremost, but the reality is if I don’t want to depress his or her wages the last thing I want is millions of people as an underclass that can be exploited and at the end of the day through that exploitation create downward pressures on the wages of all Americans.

And the reality is even in this economy where there are some tough opportunities to try to find a job, there are some jobs in our country where we can’t get anyone but immigrant labor to do it.

So if you have fruits and vegetables for breakfast or dinner last night, it was probably picked by the bent back of an immigrant worker under a hot sun.

If you had chicken for lunch today, it was probably de-plucked by the cut-up hands of an immigrant worker.

If you have a loved one who is infirm, they’re probably being taken care of by the strong heart and tender hand of an immigrant worker.

If you have some of the greatest high-tech companies of this nation, many of them were created by an immigrant to the United States.

So this is about ensuring that the national economy is further promoted by making sure we don’t depress wages and that we have people fully paying their taxes, paying their way and at the same time promoting the opportunities for even greater jobs. Because you can’t be the hotel manager, you can’t be the concierge, you can’t be the chef, you can’t be the restaurant manager if you can’t be able to do some of the fundamental things that those businesses need. And we ensure that in this way.

And finally, we are a nation of immigrants. My parents came to this country in search of freedom. The reality is they came to the greatest country on the face of the Earth. And to have their son be one of 100 United States Senators growing up poor in a tenement and going to public schools is an enormous part of the American experience.

We have some of the brightest and best in America that Dick Durbin was talking about. Young men and women who came to this country through no choice of their own, who came here because their parents brought [them] here when they were children. The only flag they pledge allegiance to is that of the United States. The only national anthem they know is the Star Spangled Banner. The reality is that for them, America is their home. And yet after enormous investments in them in public education, when we have the opportunity for them to contribute to America’s growth, wealth, and competitiveness, we turn our backs on them. And that’s why Dick Durbin’s efforts on the DREAM Act – this is the best DREAM Act that will have ever appeared before the Senate.

So this is a moment to meet one of America’s tough challenge in a way that is smart, that secures our borders, that promotes our economy, and at the end of the day, preserves our history as a nation of immigrants under the law.

Remarks in Spanish.


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One Comment on “Transcript: Sen. Robert Menendez on the Gang of Eight’s comprehensive immigration reform bill

  1. Pingback: Transcript: Press briefing Q&A on the Gang of Eight's comprehensive immigration reform bill | What The Folly?!

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