COMPREHENSIVE IMMIGRATION REFORM ACT


Harry ReidU.S. Senator
[D] Nevada, United States

Length: 10 minutes, 55 seconds


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Mr. REID. Mr. President, is immigration a problem? Of course, it is. But is immigration a problem that is limited to Texas, Arizona, California, the border States? No. Is immigration a problem only for big cities, such as San Antonio, New York, Chicago, L.A.? No. Immigration is a problem all over America.

As people know, I am from Searchlight, NV, a little town I was born in and the town where I lived. It is 60 miles southeast of Las Vegas in the southern tip of the State. Is immigration something people talk about in Searchlight? Of course, it is.

Take yesterday. I got back to my office, and there was a call from Tommy. I am not going to give his last name for fear somebody will look him up. Tommy called me--and I do have his last name--and he said: I have a friend here who is from Mexico, has been here quite a long time. What is this immigration bill you are working on going to do for him? Should I be in favor of it? Yes, Tommy, you should be because your friend will no longer have to be afraid of being arrested and deported. This bill will allow him to come out of the shadows.

The same day, yesterday, I received my mail from Searchlight. Somebody sends me my mail that comes addressed to me in Searchlight. A letter was addressed to me and said, among other things: You probably should go under the witness protection program because of your work on this immigration issue.

That is from Searchlight, NV. This doesn't take into consideration the letters and the calls my offices in Reno, Las Vegas, and here in Washington get filled with hate. I have, of course, turned the letter that I got from Searchlight over to the Capitol Police.

This situation is a problem not just in the border States and big cities, it is a problem all over America.

We are said to be the greatest deliberative body in the world. Shouldn't we do something positive regarding an issue that affects everybody in America, immigration? Some say it is the country's biggest problem. While that may be debatable, it is a significant problem, one of the top two or three problems facing us, and the problem is not going to go away. Is it right to wait until there is a new President? Should we wait until we get a new Congress? Of course not. Talk radio has had a field day, these generators of simplicity.

I want everyone to know, and I want the record spread, I do not believe anyone who is a Senator who votes against this motion to proceed is filled with prejudice, with hatred, with venom, as we get in our phone calls and our mail. I don't believe that. But I do believe we have an issue before us that we must resolve.

My family has been enriched by immigration. My father-in-law, Earl Gould, came to America from Russia when he was a little boy. When he came here his name was Israel Goldfarb. He assumed the name Earl Gould. When I met my wife, her name was Landra Gould.

I had the opportunity to talk with my father-in-law many times. Every one of his siblings who came to America had a different name. They all changed their name in this great melting pot.

My father-in-law died as a young man--he was 52 years old--from leukemia. I think of him often. My wife is an only child. I think of him often for the kindness that he showed me. This ring I wear he gave to me on his death bed. This watch that I wear he gave to me. When he was sick and knew he was going to die, he and my mother-in-law took a trip to the Middle East and brought me back this watch. They didn't have money to buy watches for me, but they bought a watch for me. I still wear the watch.

In this great melting pot we have called America, of which I am a part, my five children are eligible for Israeli citizenship because, with the Jewish [Page: S8650] tradition, lineage is with the mother, not the father. My children proudly know this.

My family has been enriched as a result of immigration. I knew my grandmother. I talked with her lots of times. As a boy, I listened to her stories. I talked with her. I can still hear her voice--oh, we had a grand time. That is how she talked. She was born in Katherine's Cross, England, and came over here as a girl, married my grandfather, had eight children, all of them raised in Searchlight, NV.

Those are two examples of what immigration is all about, two examples of what it has done to Harry Reid.

My skin is real white. We have African Americans. The Presiding Officer is of African-American ancestry. In the back of the room--we don't even have to look at the back of the room--we have Hispanics. But my skin is American skin, just as the Presiding Officer, just as Senator Salazar.

What is immigration all about? A number of years ago, one of America's great journalists, James Fallows, wrote a book called ``More Like Us.'' The thesis in this book was that everyone was saying we should be more like Japan.

Japan was at the zenith of its height and power, and we were in the doldrums economically. Everyone said we should be more like Japan.

James Fallows wrote this book, ``More Like Us,'' and he said: No, we should be more like us, like America, and the No. 1 issue he talked about being different from Japan, our strength, is immigration. I testify that is true; that is the strength of this great country.

Today in America we have a problem with immigration. We have porous borders that need to be fixed. We are Senators, I repeat, Members of the greatest deliberative body in the history of the world. With the honor of our office comes enormous responsibility. We must resist the ever-present temptation to do what is expedient at the expense of what is right. When short-term gain diverges from long-term good, we must choose the good. This is our challenge today.

I ask every one of my colleagues, Democrats and Republicans, not to shrink from this issue, to support us moving forward on this legislation for the good of our country, the greatness of our country.

There are 100 of us. If each one of us were given a few days to draft an immigration bill. We probably could do a better job than what has been done with this bill, in our own minds. But some of the greatest legislative minds in this body have worked long and hard to come up with this bill. Perfect? No. Good? Yes.

I hope we can do the right thing and move this legislation forward. I am not here to tell my colleagues this legislation is the greatest thing that ever came along, but it is something that is badly needed, and we need to continue this process.

Mr. President, there is $4.4 billion for border security. Is it going to help? Oh, it will help a lot. There are 370 miles of fencing, which we authorized and, of course, have done nothing about; 300 miles of vehicle barriers; 20,000 new Border Patrol agents; more than 100 ground-based radar and camera towers; and 31,500 detention beds.

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