Senate Conference on Immigration
Thursday, May 17, 2007; 5:05 PM
SEN. EDWARD M. KENNEDY, D-MASS.: Good afternoon.
First of all, I want to thank all of our colleagues that are here for their extraordinary effort in terms of the helping to fashion national policy on an extremely complex, difficult, very emotional issue and where there's been a lot of divisions.
Here on this platform now are senators that come from different regions, different philosophical views on a wide range of issues, but we have at least tried, tried, tried to come together to deal with something that is of central concern to our country and to the country's future.
And I'm very personally appreciative and grateful to each and every one of them for all that they -- the time that they've taken, the efforts they've taken and their willingness to try and find some common ground on this extremely important issue.
Year after year, we've had broken borders that aren't secure and a system that is broken. Year after year, we've had people dying in the desert because they want a better life for themselves and for their families.
Year after year, we've had millions of people living in fear day after day worrying that they could be deported like the hundreds of people that were deported that lived in New Bedford, Massachusetts.
Year after year, we've had an underground economy that hurts American workers and abuses hard-working families.
Year after year, we've all heard talk about reforming our system. We've heard the bumper sticker solutions, the campaign ads, and we know how divisive it is.
Well, now, it's time for action. 2007 is the year we must fix our broken system. We must strike while the iron is hot.
I've been around here long enough to know that opportunities like this don't come very often. The American people are demanding a solution. The president is committed. Senator Reid has made this a priority. Senators from both parties are now determined to solve this crisis.
Politics is the art of the possible. And the agreement we just reached is the best possible chance we will have in years to secure our borders, bring millions of people out of the shadows and into the sunshine of America.
We all want to secure our borders and strengthen our national security. There is broad agreement on the doubling of border guards, securing our perimeters, increasing the number of inspectors, cracking down on smugglers and employers who break the law.
There's broad consensus that 12 million undocumented workers who are here should be offered the chance to earn their legalization. If this bill becomes law, it will provide an historic opportunity for millions of people right away.
On family immigration, as someone who comes from a large family, I couldn't be more committed to upholding our policy of supporting families that want to stay together. This proposal includes family backlog reduction in eight years for most of the 4 million in the family backlog, a backlog that currently stretches some 22 years.
It also maintains that more than a majority of future immigration will be based on family ties. That couldn't be more important. Family reunification has been the cornerstone of our immigration policy for decades and under this proposal it still will be.
KENNEDY: About 20 percent will be given to refugees who desperately need asylum in this country. And the remaining third will be based on a point system that factors in preferences for both high- skilled, low-skilled workers as well as extended family ties.
The bill includes temporary workers that will have strong labor protections. This will help people who risk their lives crossing the border for a job -- will have the chance to apply for good jobs in the United States and it helps strengthen the backbone of our economy.
This plan isn't perfect, but it's a strong bill and it is a worthy solution. Only a bipartisan bill will become law, and I believe we owe it to the American people to stop talking about immigration and start acting. We owe it to them to solve this crisis in a way that upholds our humanity and our tradition of a nation of immigrants.
We'll hear from our friend and colleague, Senator Specter, Senator Salazar, Senator Kyl, and others.
SEN. ARLEN SPECTER, R-PA.: It has been a prodigious effort over the past three months with two-hour meetings virtually every day consisting of some eight, 10 and 12 senators. Hard to get 10 senators in one room for two-and-a-half hours, but that has been done as we have molded a 380- page document which provides the core of what we believe will be a comprehensive immigration reform bill.
We have started off with the proposition of securing the borders, with fencing, with additional Border Patrol. We have moved to very strong employer sanctions to stop the magnets and so employers will be able to tell who is legal and who is illegal. You can have tough sanction if they hire illegals.
We have moved for a temporary workers' program, which is temporary, coming to this country, working and then returning. We have structured a plan to provide for the 11 million to 12 million undocumented immigrants. We will require that they earn the right to citizenship at the end of the line.
Immigration has become a third rail in American politics. It may be even more of a third rail than Social Security. And no matter what we craft, it's going to be attacked from both the right and the left. The bill hasn't even bill presented, and it has already drawn criticism as being amnesty -- although the critics don't know what is in the bill -- on one side, and on the other, not sufficiently humanitarian.
We have required that the undocumented immigrants earn their right to citizenship.
SPECTER: It is not amnesty. This will restore the rule of law. Without legislation, we will have anarchy.
Some 90 cities have tried to legislate to deal with the undocumented immigration problem, and they can't handle it. It is a national program. We have a point system which is balanced. It is balanced among high-skilled workers, low-skilled workers, and family considerations.
This is the best, I think, that can be done, with an enormous effort, on a bipartisan basis.
And I salute all of my colleagues who have worked so hard, and especially the staffs, which have been up really, around the clock, this past weekend, the weekend before. My chief of staff had an hour's sleep last night and five hours the night before. And we're all dragging. But I think we've produced a reasonably good product.
SEN. KEN SALAZAR, D-COLO.: I want to thank President Bush and Secretary Gutierrez and Secretary Chertoff for their work and all their staffs, along with my Democratic and Republican colleagues, because this truly has been an effort long in the making.
And at the end of the day, where we are today is to say that we have reached broad agreement on a very complicated bill. But it is a bill that addresses the fundamental questions that we have been discussing here in the United States Senate for the last year.
First, it will make sure that our borders become secure. We've had broken borders in this country for 20 years. It's time that we get them fixed, and this bill will do that.
Secondly, we need to enforce our laws here in the United States of America. We cannot afford to have a country that just looks the other way at the enforcement of our laws. This bill is strong on interior enforcement.
And thirdly, what we do in this legislation is move forward with a pathway for the 12 million people who are undocumented here in this country, to move from the shadows of society into the sunlight of society, by making sure that they pay a fine, by requiring that they learn how to speak English, and doing a number of other things so that, at the end of the day, if they are able to live through a very long, probationary period here, then they would be eligible for a green card some eight years on down the road.
I think this is tough, fair and practical solution to one of the most important national security issues that faces our country today. And I'm thankful that I have the colleagues behind me that were willing to work so hard on this for the several months.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: I'm here primarily to thank this bipartisan group of senators, who have worked long and hard, under the leadership of the president and Secretaries Chertoff and Gutierrez, who have done enormous work on this issue.
MCCAIN: I'm here to thank them, and I'm also here to reiterate, the American people expect us to work in a bipartisan fashion to resolve compelling issues that affect our nation. This is the first step, but important step, in moving forward with comprehensive, overall immigration reform.
Not only will this legislation finally accomplish the extraordinary goal of securing our borders, but it will also enhance interior enforcement and put employers on notice that the practice of hiring illegal workers will no longer be tolerated.
Before we can look at any program to deal with the undocumented workers currently in the U.S., or future workers wishing to enter, we must meet certain enforcement and security triggers that will let everyone know that we are serious about enforcing our laws and that we're not going to repeat the 1986 amnesty.
Senator Isakson, long ago, had a proposal that we had to take certain steps in order to make sure the American people know that our border enforcement is as complete as much as possible before we move forward with any other issues.
I want to thank you, Senator Isakson, and Senator Chambliss and others who are not here who've worked on the DREAM Act, who have worked on the Ag Jobs Act which will be included -- portions of which and most of which will be included in this legislation.
This is the first step. We can and must complete this legislation sooner rather than later. We all know that this issue can be caught up in extracurricular politics unless we move forward as quickly as possible.
This is a product of a long, hard trail of negotiation, and I'm sure that there are certain provisions that each of us would not agree with.
MCCAIN: But this is what the legislative process is all about. This is what bipartisanship is about. When there is a requirement for this nation and its security that transcends party lines, I'm proud to have been a small part of it.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN, D-CALIF. : Well, I've learned one thing about Senator Kennedy: When he's determined, he's really determined. And I've watched a very determined Senator Kennedy, Senator Specter, and virtually everybody standing behind us.
So I want to say thank you to the administration, Secretary Chertoff, Secretary Gutierrez, and to my colleagues on both sides of the aisle.
To the American people I'd like to say please, please, please don't let the good be -- the perfect be the enemy of the good. This is the most difficult arena in which to legislate because it's a highly emotional area of human endeavor, and people have strong, well- entrenched beliefs.
What we have tried to do here is listen to both sides, take into consideration arguments made by both sides, and try to come together in a bill that will not certainly please everyone, but a bill which will solve the basic problems that Senator Kennedy and others have enumerated here today.
They are strong border security, a stable border. Secretary Chertoff is dedicated to do that.
It is a certain trigger that these things plus adequate border patrol have to be in place, adequate employer sanctions in place before the legalization of the undocumented begin.
Every poll that I have seen in my state, California, which has approximately 3 million people in undocumented status, indicates that 80 percent of the people want to see a pathway so that people can come out of the shadows, work legally, work honestly, and prevent this sub rosa workforce.
I think we have it in this bill. Some of us have been very involved -- Senator Craig and I, Senator Leahy, House Member Berman -- in trying to see that we have a consistent labor force for agriculture, the one industry in America that almost solely depends on an undocumented workforce.
I believe we have achieved it in this bill. The ag jobs bill is part of this bill. We have a few things which some of us will get together later today to try to work out.
But this is a good bill. This is a deserving bill. This is a balanced bill. And I believe it is fair to the best interests of the United States of America.
SEN. JON KYL, R-ARIZ.: Everybody's said it, but not exactly the same way. So let me try another way. I just finished a tough campaign a few months ago. And if there was any message from Arizona voters, it was: Do something about illegal immigration.
Now, you get 100 people together and say what, and you'd have 100 different ideas. But they wanted us to do something, to act, to stop what has been a horrible, horrible problem for our nation and most especially for my state.
The second question they would always ask is, why should we believe that you're going to enforce some future law when the law today is not being enforced?
So we set out to try to ensure that the mistakes of the past, the fact that the 1986 law was not adequately enforced, for example, and the fact that the border has not been adequately protected, that employees are not required to ensure and to demonstrate that they're eligible to work when they're hired, that these kinds of problems would be resolved, that the rule of law would be restored. And we've tried very hard in a bipartisan way to achieve those results.
The administration is very committed to enforcing this new bill. And we have to demonstrate that to the American people if we are to gain their confidence that we have done the right thing with this legislation.
It is very easy to sit on the sidelines and say no, I want it my way. All of you know that in the legislative process, no one gets 100 percent of what they want if you're going to get something done.
So you can either get in the game and try to make it as good as you can, or you can sit on the sideline and complain.
There will be folks that have different points of view, that will complain about the legislation not being perfect, as Senator Feinstein said.
And from my perspective, it's not perfect. But it represents the best opportunity that we have in a bipartisan way to do something about this problem. And if we had not gotten together as Republicans and Democrats to develop this bipartisan consensus, we can be assured that there would not be a bill passed this year and probably not next year.
So, to my constituents who said do something about this problem, I can say I have tried my best to craft a bill that won't repeat the mistakes of the past and will deal with the problems of today so that we can all have a brighter tomorrow.
GRAHAM: The people, the process and the substance. About the people, we started off with Secretary Gutierrez and Secretary Chertoff. Now, it's Mike and Carlos. We have been in rooms together, this group and others, for hours.
GRAHAM: And I have never been more proud to be a member of the Congress, be a member of the Senate. This is what my ninth grade teacher told me government was all about, and I finally got to experience it a bit.
We've been in rooms together early in the morning, late at night, going line by line, trying to figure out what started to be how to deal with illegal immigration and wound up being what it means to be an American.
Everybody had a family story to tell that just -- I learned something about each person I didn't know before, because every time a problem would come up of "What do you do with this group or how do you award this amount of points based on the value this person has," someone would tell a story about their family that was very moving.
So this started out as a process to deal with illegal immigration, and I think we've got a bill that reflects who we are as Americans.
And the people who will get to participate in this program will get a chance to be American on our terms, not their's. And we will have a labor force in the future to make this country competitive with the world. America needs an immigration system that can compete for the best minds that exist in the world. The new system does it better than the old system.
America needs hardworking people, Ken Salazar, who come here with big eyes and big hearts and big hopes and strong backs. America is going to make sure that those hardworking people just like all of our ancestors, have a chance to experience the American dream. From the Ph.D. to the landscaper, there is a chance for you to participate in the American dream on our terms in a way that will make this country better.
As to Senator Kennedy, I promise never to work with you again for the people of South Carolina.
I have enjoyed our time together. You have a reputation of being a serious legislator, as Dianne says, who knows how to get things done. That has been absolutely true.
To my friend Jon Kyl, without him there would have been no bill. Jon opposed last year's legislation, and he came this year to solve the problem, and he has made all of this possible.
To my friend Johnny Isakson, you gave this pathway forward. The DREAM Act is in. Ag Jobs we hope to be in. This is not about 12 million people...
(UNKNOWN): Ag Jobs is in.
FEINSTEIN: Ag Jobs is in.
GRAHAM: Is in. Is in.
GRAHAM: OK. I stand corrected because I didn't want to put words in her mouth.
GRAHAM: I've been waiting to hear that. AgJobs is in. The DREAM Act is in. And I'll shut up here.
The bottom line is, this is no longer about 12 million people. This is about America being competitive. It's about a lot of issues facing real people, with big hopes and dreams. It's about the law that works.
And if the law has any purpose at all, it's to render justice. We have a bill that will render justice.
SEN. JOHNNY ISAKSON, R-GA.: When I came to Washington two and a half years ago, there was really one message from the people of Georgia. And that is, "We have got to fix our broken border. It's the number one domestic issue."
And so last year I offered what became known as a trigger: measurable, achievable things that had to be done to trigger the reform of immigration.
I'm very thankful that the members of this working group have agreed to precisely the triggers that it will take to secure our border.
And equally, you should understand the pressure is on us. Because if we don't do the funding -- if the secretary doesn't install the barriers, doesn't hire the agents, doesn't get the unmanned aerial vehicles, doesn't get the ground-positioning radar -- if we don't have a verifiable, biometric identification for all people coming in, you have no bill.
This bill is a two-step process. And the first step is cure the problem: Stop the insecurity on the border. And stop the leak on the border. And let's return to respect America's dream of a legal immigration system that works.
And lastly, out of respect for my grandfather Anders Isakson, who came to America in 1903 because of the potato famine in Scandinavia, worked 23 years to become a citizen. We've always had a pathway to citizenship. And it's called legal immigration. And this bill restores that if you want to become a citizen or get a green card, you're going to get at the back of the line. You're going to do everything else everybody's had to do. And it respects the legal immigration system of the United States of America.
And for those two differences between this year's bill and last year's bill, we have found a broad agreement that can be the foundation for a meaningful change, and for security of our borders and respect for our immigration process.
SEN. MEL MARTINEZ, R-FLA: Well, I have a unique perspective on this issue, because I am an immigrant and have a great respect for what this nation means and what it stands for -- which I believe is a nation of laws and also a nation of immigrants.
And I have been delighted to have had the opportunity to work with colleagues on both sides of the aisle. I also want to commend the members of the Cabinet and the president for their steadfast support of this process, to move it forward to get to a conclusion.
I'm delighted to have had a part of it -- part in it. I know there's much work that still lies ahead of us, as we try to move this bill through the Senate and then through the House and get it to the president's desk for signature.
But I cannot tell you what a joy it is for me to be able to stand here today and say, "We've got a deal."
MARTINEZ: I have always been very, very optimistic in thinking that we would get there. Because I knew there was a lot of good will in this room, if we could just harness all that good will into moving in the same direction.
And it's a very, very complicated piece of legislation. I'm delighted that we are going to secure the border. I'm delighted that we -- some of us who have previously didn't include it as part of our thinking saw the light for the need for triggers, and what confidence that builds on people about knowing that we're serious about enforcing the border.
I think it's essential to have a worker verification ID -- and then, beyond that, to have a guest worker program that actually is a guest worker program, while, at the same time, looking to the people that are here today and allowing them to know that they are going to have a future, that they need not fear the migra (ph) is going to come get them anymore.
And I think that is a tremendous accomplishment, for us to be able to let those people know that they will have an opportunity to live lives that are outside the shadows and not to have the fear of having to be deported.
Now, some will call this amnesty. I want to define amnesty in a way that I think is different.
When people that are here will have to get a probationary period of time and will pay fines, I believe that ceases to be amnesty. And when those people will have to return to their country before they can apply for citizenship and apply outside the country, in the legal process, and then go to the back of the line, I don't call that amnesty.
So I believe it is a balanced bill. It is a bill that is going to, I think, going to get through both houses of this Congress and go to the president's desk.
And on that day, I think we can all truly celebrate. Because you know, I have been, probably -- I don't want to call myself the poster child for the division of this country, but I have been assailed from both sides.
I've been attacked from those who sent countless bricks to my office a year ago, and also from those who believe that we've not gone far enough. And so I believe there's always a sweet spot.
And you know, as an old baseball player, the bat has a sweet spot, and in legislating, there's also a sweet spot. And I think we've about hit it here.
So I think we've struck it down the middle. It's a good bill. And I hope that we'll have the support of members of both sides of the aisle, and then move it down the hall to the House, and we can get it to swift passage.
It is a problem that America must deal with, and we need to resolve it. And the time to resolve it is now. Thank you.
(UNKNOWN): In my now going on 13 years in the United States Congress, I've never seen a more emotional, more sensitive, a more politically charged issue than the issue of immigration reform.
You know, when I came to the United States Senate, I wanted to try to have the opportunity to make good laws. And the way you make good laws is to have people on both sides of the aisle come together in a bill that none of us would think would be perfect, but a bill that is perfect for the American people.
(UNKNOWN): And that's exactly what has happened here.
I didn't support the legislation last year. I did not think it was appropriate. I didn't think it was in the best interest of the American people.
But now, thanks to the leadership of Senator Kennedy, Senator Kyl, Senator Graham, Senator Specter and others, I think we've seen a bill that is truly good for the American people.
One major difference is there is no guaranteed pathway to citizenship for anybody in this bill, but anybody who is going to become a citizen is now going to have to have a real appreciation for what it means to be an American and why it's important to be an American.
That is a critically important issue for me and has been since we began these discussions.
Senator Feinstein, we still have some language to work out on Ag Jobs, but we're going to get there, because I have never seen...
(UNKNOWN): It's in.
(UNKNOWN): Your language is in.
(UNKNOWN): My language is in. Thank you.
I appreciate that, Dianne.
FEINSTEIN: That's not entirely true.
(UNKNOWN): I have never seen a more committed group than this group to making sure that something was done. And the reason everybody has been so committed is because it's not in the interest of Republicans or Democrats, it is in the interest of the American people.
KENNEDY: There's rules about administration officials being in the Senate press gallery, but those have been waived today. And I don't know whether Secretary Chertoff might want to tell us a little bit how someone downtown's looking at this bill.
Have we got any news?
SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY MICHAEL CHERTOFF: Secretary Gutierrez and I had the opportunity shortly before we came here to talk to the president to tell him that an agreement had been reached on this very historic bill, something the president has advocated for several years now publicly, and a real testament to the bipartisan, very hard, detailed and passionate work of everybody who stands here.
CHERTOFF: The president described this as a historic moment. And he looks forward to signing this bill when it makes its way through Congress.
Speaking for myself, I would say this is a bill that is strong on the border, tough on enforcement in the interior, fair with respect to those who are here and realistic. It gives an honest solution to a problem that has bedeviled this country for decades. And I think the members of Congress here deserve a lot of credit -- as do others who are not currently on the podium.
Finally I'd like to observe, just as a citizen, it has been a privilege to participate in this process. As Senator Graham said, this is pretty much what I was taught in grade school about the way the process works -- not that everybody gets what they want, but that everybody works together to achieve the best result for the most people.
And I think what's been produced here really is a testament to that.
GUTIERREZ: Thank you.
I want to thank first and foremost our president, who had a vision and a -- and saw the need for immigration reform back from the days when he was governor of Texas. And I'm just so proud to be here today knowing that we have a very important step forward.
I also want to thank the senators who have been part of this process. I have been in awe at the way they have rolled up their sleeves, taken the time, paid attention to detail and at every moment tried to do what was good for their country. And I think any American who was in that room would be awfully proud to have these members of the Senate representing the country.
Secretary Chertoff, who has been just absolutely great at this whole process -- it has been an honor for me to be his partner, the members of the White House staff, the members of the staff. This is a great moment.
Every country in the developed world in the 21st century is going to have to address immigration. And every country who wants to grow and prosper is going to have to embrace immigration.
By moving forward with this initiative, we can do this right and we can have an advantage -- not just for the next five or 10 years, but for the next century.
That's what's at stake here, and that's what's at our grasp. So, again, I'm extremely thankful for the opportunity to just contribute a bit to making this not just continuing to be the best economy in the world, but without question, the best country in the world.
KENNEDY: We're going to rotate back and forth in answering some questions.
QUESTION: Senator Kennedy, could you tell us what the agreement is on the H1B visas that is in the bill?
KENNEDY: Well, there's provisions in here for H1B, and there's been others that have indicated that they wanted to see an expansion of that program. There have been some members who have been concerned about the fact that some of the existing H1B now that are in existence have been more involved in shipping jobs overseas rather than creating jobs here.
And there's been some concern about whether there's been a depression about workers that have gotten the H1B on American workers.
But we understand, I think, all of us do that we're going -- this is an evolving issue. I'm not sure that we've sort of reached our final position on it. There's still a few items such as this, but I think Senator Kyl and others, all of us have talked about this, and I expect that there will be probably -- perhaps a proposal will be offered on behalf of those of us that are here on the floor.
It's being sort of being reviewed at the current -- at the time. I think there's a sense that there's going to be an enhanced, obviously, traction and an enhanced posture and position for very skilled workers to enter the United States under this legislation...
KENNEDY: Want to talk about H1B?
KYL: Sure. I'm sorry.
QUESTION: H1B visas...
KYL: In the legislation itself, it goes from the 65,000 a day to 115,000.
QUESTION: How does this process work for illegal immigrants to be here legally working, whether or not they become citizens? For all the 10, 12 illegal people living here and working, what's next for them?
KYL: You're talking about the illegal immigrants here today.
QUESTION: Right. What's the process?
KYL: To make it very succinct, all of the people who are here illegally today will have an opportunity to present themselves to our government. And if they have not committed serious crimes, will be able to receive a probationary document which enables them to be in the United States legally.
When the triggers that Senator Isakson mentioned are achieved, at that point, they can then apply for and would receive a four-year temporary visa which is renewable every four years assuming they have met the conditions for that visa.
At the end of eight years, for those who wanted to make application for green cards under the procedure outlined, I believe, my Senator Kennedy and Senator Martinez, they would be able to apply for a green card under this merit-based system, and depending upon how that application went, then, if they receive that, after five years if they wanted to become a citizen, they would then be eligible for their citizenship.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: After five years, if they wanted to become a citizen, they would then be eligible for their citizenship.
QUESTION: How confident are you that this is going to pass both of your caucuses? How confident are you that you are going to get a majority...
KYL: I'll let others address that. I was just -- you know, when you try to summarize 800 or 900 pages in a few words, you're going to leave a lot of things out.
There are many other requirements to get to the end stage before the green card that I discussed.
For example, like any other applicant for green card, you have to wait in line. You can't cut in line.
Secondly, you'd have to apply not here in the United States, but from your country to get that green card.
You have to pass an English test. You have to have paid your fines. There are other fees that would have to be paid and so forth.
So I -- you know, when you answer a question like that about a complex bill, you run some risk of leaving some things out. And I'm sure that none of our answers are going to be totally complete.
GRAHAM: It'll be overwhelming. As long as the agreement holds together -- it's got to be drafted. The language does matter.
But the consensus that we've reached on a variety of issues -- I think it'll be overwhelming. I think when our colleagues listen to the product -- and many of them have been involved that are not here -- that there will be an overwhelming view that this is the last, best chance to pass immigration reform on our terms as a nation to make us competitive, to deal with 12 million people living in the shadows and not repeat it in the future and to be competitive with the world.
And to my colleagues, this is the last, best chance we'll have as a Congress. If this somehow collapsed, it would be years before you could recreate this.
So I think it's going to be overwhelming.
SPECTER: Let me add an attendant to what Senator Kyl -- or Senator Graham just said.
SPECTER: You have among this working group senators from all parts of the political spectrum. And the positions that have been taken from all parts of the political spectrum I think will draw support from the Senate as a whole.
So I think that Senator Graham is right. We'll have very substantial support.
KENNEDY: Let me just add to that. It's very important that this legislation get on the floor of the United States Senate, because different members have read different stories and have different understandings and then different interpretations.
And language will be available, we're hopeful, by mid- or late afternoon or first thing in the morning. We had set that so Friday, so people will be able to go on over that, and we start in on Monday.
But as someone who's been involved in immigration, when we get out on the floor of the United States Senate and we have an opportunity to go through these various provisions and to emphasize and stress, respond to the questions that are out there, my own sense is that this is going to be -- our position is going to be enhanced immeasurably.
I think it will be.
The question was about stakeholders. This is extraordinary. This is extraordinary, for example, in the ag jobs area. I mean, I remember being here at the time we had the bracero program, for 22 years, and the difficulty we had freeing -- getting away from it.
And I remember being out there with Cesar Chavez. And I understand the complications and the difficulties that they're having even today.
The idea that you have 800,000 workers, farm workers, primarily in California, half of them undocumented and that kind of thing, are going to continue to have to work and work and work and work, but are going to be protected and are going to have some opportunity for the American dream is a change that is breathtaking.
The idea that we have a DREAM Act in here that's going to permit the outstanding young students, when only less than half of all Hispanic students are graduating from college today, and those individuals are going to be able to go on in and continue -- and it will be the sons or daughters of those who were brought here or been here for a period of years -- have an opportunity to go in the service of the United States and then have a path for citizenship or continue their education. What that offers for young Hispanics is breathtaking.
And let alone the -- whatever the number, the 12 million people, that today are living in fear -- they're living in fear. And I can tell you from what we saw in New Bedford, Massachusetts, and to know that they're legal and they can continue to work.
And they have to follow -- they can get the status and --they have to follow the process and procedure that's in it. But they know that tonight they go to bed and they're safe and secure, an they know their children are safe and secure -- I think it is breathtaking.
KENNEDY: And I think the facts that we have a more secure border, something that we've agreed on, I think the Isakson projections in terms of the triggers makes sense. I think this is a strong -- this is a strong bill. And we look forward to making the case on the floor of the United States Senate.
GRAHAM: I just would like to build -- the question maybe should be asked a different way: What happens if we fail?
If we fail to pass this bill then the 12 million continue to live in fear, not less fear, but more fear. Our borders continue to be broken in a time when we need to secure our country. We lose ground against the world because we're going to lose the best and brightest minds because they can't come here in a rational way.
So I hope any member of Congress that would think about voting against this bill would understand that a failure to reach an agreement and deal with illegal immigration the way we've done means a disaster for future generations of Americans.
SPECTER: There will be a staff briefing to be announced later this afternoon where you'll be able to get the specifics on all the semicolons.
Thank you, all.