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Second Senate Judiciary “Hearing on Comprehensive Immigration Reform Legislation” (Updated 4/24/13)

Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 13041702 (posted Apr. 24, 2013)"

On 4/22/13 at 10:00 am (ET) the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing entitled: “Hearing on Comprehensive Immigration Reform Legislation.

Written congressional testimony by AILA President Laura Lichter (AILA Doc. No. 13042240.)

Live Summary of Hearing (See full witness list at the bottom of this page)
10:07am Committee Chairman Leahy (D-VT) kicks of the hearing on the importance of immigration. He also addresses Boston: "let no one be so cruel so as to use Boston to derail the dreams of millions of hardworking people."

10:10am Ranking Minority Member Senator Grassley (R-IA) delivers opening remarks. He calls on Congress to keep Boston in their thoughts as they consider immigration reform. He expresses grave concerns about the bill.

10:20am First panel begins.

10:35am Q&A Section begins
Sen. Leahy Q: How this bill will help protect workers from being exploited and whether this will be good for agriculture.
Connor A: Protects farmworkers' interests and also allows U.S. agriculture to produce low cost high quality products. It's the right balance.
Sen. Grassley Q: Goes over the legalization of agricultural workers in the bill-that border security doesn't have to be addressed before legalization, specifically citizenship. How do we avoid making the mistake of 1986?
Connor A: This is why we did the hard negotiations of the guest worker program that is both contract and at will to meet the future needs of American agricultural.
Sen. Feinstein (D-CA) Q: How will famers respond to the mandate for all famers to use E-Verify?
Connor A: It will be difficult, but we're going to do everything we can, especially for small farm owners, to make it the least cumbersome as possible.
Sen. Feinstein: Arturo, you were really outnumbered in these negotiations, but you held your own. I want to thank both of you for your efforts in these negotiations.
Sen. Sessions (R-AL) Q: Expresses concerns about the effect this bill will have on the wages of legal U.S. workers and unemployment. I don't believe these are jobs that Americans won't do. How many people would be legalized under the Ag "Blue Card" program?
Rodriguez A: Somewhere between 800,000 and 1.1 million people are estimated to be legalized and will be eligible for LPR status after five years. They will be able to stabilize their families and the agricultural industry.
Sen. Sessions Q: How long will guest workers be able to stay in the country in the future?
Rodriguez A: The new visa program would allow people to apply for three year visas that can be renewed once and they would not be allowed to bring their families. During that three year period they must spend at least 3 months in their home country.
Sen. Schumer (D-NY): We can't allow Boston to derail this immigration bill, in fact this bill will make us safer. The three witnesses here today that opposed to this bill do not represent the mainstream views of America.
Sen. Cornyn (R-TX): Expresses admiration for many portions of the bill, but grave concern for: the border security portions of this bill, including highlighting the "high priority" sectors identified in the bill, the need for more resources at the land ports of entry, the lack of a current exit-entry system and the ability of waivers for criminal aliens.
Sen. Klobuchar (D-MN): Why is important for the Ag Dept to oversee the program rather than the Labor Dept.
Connor A: There is a structure already in place for state level USDA and in every county in America who already deal with agricultural producers.
Sen. Lee (R-UT): The nature of agricultural worker can deter many workers. I introduced DASH Act to expand H-2A program.
Sen. Flake (R-AZ): What will the costs be if we can't reach an agreement here?
Connor A: The status quo means that a large percentage of the agricultural workforce will continue to be undocumented, this is untenable to the American producer. We do have labor shortages in this country, which results in crops going unharvested and agricultural moving overseas.
Sen. Cruz (R-TX): Any bill that includes a path to citizenship is too divisive to be able to be passed, we should focus on the issues that have broad bipartisan support like H-2A reforms.
Sen. Graham (R-SC): I think as a nation we've reached consensus that: the current system is not working, that what we have right now is amnesty, that trying to access legal labor is too difficult, that people want the border security, visa control for overstays, guest worker program, the 11 million are not going to go away and 70% of public are ok with a pathway to citizenship if it's earned.

12:05pm Second panel begins.

Question and Answer section begins.

Sen. Franken (D-MN) Q: Speaks on the current situation of unaccompanied children being forced to represent themselves in immigration court hearings and is glad that the bill addresses this issue. He also expresses concern that same-sex couples are forced to choose between their careers and lives in the U.S. and the people they love.
Sen. Grassley Q: Why is the business industry against the provisions of good faith recruitment requirements included in the Grassley-Brown pending bill?
Hira A: I don't know, it's a good idea to protect American workers.
Sen. Klobuchar Q: How would the Supreme Court decision on DOMA effect UAFA?
Kolbe A: UAFA would not affect DOMA at all, or same-sex marriage. It would only apply in the context of immigration.
Sen. Sessions: Immigration reform will weaken Social Security and Medicare by millions of dollars.
Sen. Graham Q: I want American businesses to have access to a labor we can't find here at home after they've tried to find an American worker at a competitive price. From the Microsoft perspective do you prefer to hire an American worker?
Smith A: We do 85% of our research in the United States, but key to having a world class center in the U.S. is being able to recruit worldwide.
Jacoby A: The majority of businesses hiring essential workers would rather hire American workers.
Judson A: All things being equal, yes, we would hire American workers.

1:50pm Third panel begins.

Senator Durbin personally thanks Gaby Pacheco for her advocacy and work to pass the DREAM Act.

Question and Answer section begins.

Sen. Leahy Q: Gaby, what inspires you to do the work you do for immigration reform?
Pacheco A: Love.
Sen. Leahy Q: Is the legalization proposal in this bill straightforward and achievable?
Murguia A: This bill modernizes our legal immigration system.
Sen. Leahy: Do you think this will pull people out of the shadows?
Lichter A: Absolutely, people want to come forward and be a part of their communities.
Sen. Grassley: This president has taken more advantage of the authority given to him under the law, so I want to be careful about the waivers included in the bill.
Sen. Klobuchar Q: Focuses on the U Visa.
Lichter: This is an important tool for law enforcement as immigrant victims of crime can step forward and help prosecute their abusers.
Sen. Klobuchar Q: The U.S. is facing a daunting shortage of doctors, especially in rural and inner city areas. In the last decade alone my state has recruited 200 doctors to serve our community-can you talk about how important this is?
Lichter A: We have a high number of foreign born graduates.
Sen. Klobuchar Q: Can you talk about the provisions in the bill that combat fraud in the visa process.
Lichter A: These are very important provisions that needs to be fair and balanced.
Sen. Sessions Q: What is the number that will be legalized under this bill? The amnesty itself will be 11 million, clearing the backlogs will be 4.5 million, and future flow provisions will be 15 million over the next 10 years. That doesn't include chain migration or other family migration.
Sen. Durbin Q: Mr. Kobach, as a matter of principle, justice and fairness, do you think the DREAMers deserve a chance to become legal in America?
Kobach A: I was going to go the Biblical metaphor, but we shouldn't reward the children for the sins of the parents, we should treat them neutrally. We shouldn't allow them to jump the line, so they should go back to their home country, we could talk about getting rid of the 3 and 10 year bars for DREAMers.
Sen. Durbin: What you are suggesting is punishment when they've never done anything wrong. To suggest they are guilty or should pay a price for what they did wrong just defies basic compassion. This notion we heard of "self-deportation," overlooking the obvious, America will be a stronger country when we recognize who we are. People who resist immigration are ignoring America's birthright. This notion that immigrants are negative or bad for America. When it comes right down to it, we're talking about Gaby Pacheco. We're a better nation when these 11 million come forward.
Kobach A: Arizona has proven that when you ratchet up the penalties, illegal immigrants leave-this is not a radical idea.
Sen. Cornyn Q: Is there anything short of removal that you would consider not to be called amnesty?
Krikorian A: No, it's a legal term.
Kobach A: Not only that, but declining to remove an unlawful alien is amnesty plus.
Sen. Cornyn Q: Does the status quo represent defacto amnesty?
Krikorian A: Yes, the current administration has failed to enforce the laws.
Kobach A: The DACA directive is ignoring the immigration laws.
Sen. Cornyn Q: Do you believe the bill will ensure that the borders will be secure and we will address visa overstays?
Lichter A: In order to avoid the disenchantment with enforcement going forward, the real reason is the lack of legal immigration options. We've had three hours of testimony why our current legal system is inadequate, the current bill will provide people alternate options that will help ease the pressure on our enforcement systems.
Sen. Franken Q: The bill we're debating will make E-Verify mandatory for almost everyone within the next 5 years, but it rejects a legal worker 1 in every 141 times. I'm worried about how it will affect Minnesota small businesses. In Feb. AILA issues a press release that E-verify should protect the interests of small businesses.
Lichter A: We continue to stand by those recommendations, this is not only an issue for the employer, but also for the workforce. It does sound like a small percentage, but we are talking about millions of people who are told they are not eligible. We have a good chance to look at slowing this down, to readily reporting and correcting errors. This sort of regulation has a disproportionate effect on small businesses.
Sen. Coons Q: More than 80% of detainees do not have access to counsel which makes it harder for immigration to do their job and the harmfulness of aggravated felonies for minor crimes.
Lichter A: This is one of the most complicated areas of law and we throw people who don't have a legal background into the system. Legal Orientation Programs advises people for general information have been extremely successful for both fairness and efficiency. We have individuals coming to removal proceedings because of old, minor crimes. Aggravated felonies can involve something for which the individual never spent a day in jail, for a crime that was 40 years ago, but the current system does not provide a way out for these individuals.
Sen. Blumenthal: I will be very proud to vote for immigration reform. Mr. Kobach, do you believe in birthright citizenship?
Kobach A: Some of the bills introduced in Congress have merit, for example, requiring at least one parent is LPR or USC.
Sen. Schumer Q: Mr. Krikorian, you want the legal level of immigration to be lower?
Krikorian A: Yes.

3:50pm Fourth (and last) panel begins.

Question and Answer section begins.

Sen. Leahy Q: Is this going to help local law enforcement?
Shurtleff A: Absolutely. People need to feel safe that they can work with law enforcement. They must have trust.
Sen. Grassley Q: Mr. Grover, I usually agree with you, but I'm surprised that you are backing a bill that has emergency funding.
Norquist A: This isn't actually amnesty, there are fees and fines and hoops to jump through. We need to move forward and encourage these people to continue to work, protect them from exploitation and get control of the border.
Sen. Cornyn Q: What about border security?
Norquist A: The best thing you can do is implement a legal temporary guest worker program so the officers on the border can focus on the bad guys coming across the border, rather than those who are just coming to work. This reform is a jobs program, this is how our country grew. More people don't make us poorer, people are an asset, not a liability.
Sen. Lee: I am very concerned about the discretion that will be granted to the DHS Secretary, specifically on the border security aspects.
Sen. Flake: Mr. Norquist, what are you hearing as you travel the country?
Grover A: Regan Republicans and the center-right understand that this is something that will make Americans stronger. In the 1980s the Heritage Foundation released a set of myths about immigration that focused on the reasons why people didn't like the Irish or the Jews or the Asian, why they would use welfare benefits, how they were criminals and they didn't want to work. It wasn't true, and it's not true now.
Sen. Schumer: Would you support giving a green card to STEM Master's graduates?
Cararota A: I would do it for Ph.Ds, but not Masters.

Witness List

Panel I

Arturo Rodriguez
President, United Farm Workers
Keene, CA

Charles Conner
President & CEO, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives
Washington, DC

Alyson Eastman
President, Book-Ends Associates
Orwell, VT

Panel II

Megan Smith
Commissioner, Vermont Dept. of Tourism & Marketing
Montpelier, VT

The Honorable Jim Kolbe
Former United States Representative (R-AZ-5)
Washington, DC

Brad Smith
General Counsel and Executive Vice President, Legal and Corporate Affairs, Microsoft
Seattle, WA

Tamar Jacoby
President & CEO, Immigration Works USA
Washington, DC

Rich Judson
Chairman of the Board, National Association of Home Builders
Washington, DC

Professor Ron Hira
Associate Professor of Public Policy, Rochester Institute of Technology
Rochester, NY

Neeraj Gupta
Chief Executive Officer, Systems In Motion
Newark, CA

Fred Benjamin
Chief Operating Officer, Medicalodges, Inc.
Coffeyville, KS

Panel III

Gaby Pacheco
Immigrant Rights Leader
Director, Bridge Project
Miami, FL

Janet Murguía
President and CEO, National Council of La Raza
Washington, DC

Dr. David Fleming
Senior Pastor, Champion Forest Baptist Church
Houston, TX

Mark Krikorian
Executive Director, Center for Immigration Studies
Washington, DC

Laura L. Lichter, Esq.
President, American Immigration Lawyers Association
Denver, CO

The Honorable Kris Kobach
Secretary of State, State of Kansas
Topeka, KS

Panel IV

Mark Shurtleff
Partner, Troutman Sanders LLP
Former Utah Attorney General
Washington, DC

The Honorable Bill Vidal
Former Mayor of Denver
President and CEO, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metro Denver
Denver, CO

Janice L. Kephart
Former Counsel, September 11 Commission
Principal, 911 Security Solutions
Washington, DC

Chris Crane
President, National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council 118
Of the American Federation of Government Employees
Washington, DC

Dr. Steven Camarota
Director of Research, Center for Immigration Studies
Washington, DC

Grover Norquist
President, Americans for Tax Reform
Washington, DC