[Congressional Record (Bound Edition), Volume 152 (2006), Part 4]
[Pages 4279-4282]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office, www.gpo.gov]

                           IMMIGRATION REFORM

  Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, I want to thank my colleague from Alabama 
for coming to the floor and addressing one of the most important bills 
we will consider this year, the question of the immigration system in 
America. My colleague and I may disagree--and we do disagree--on the 
substance of this bill, but I thank him for engaging the Senate in this 
conversation and dialogue. It is important that the American people 
know what we are about, and they should also know that we are taking 
our time to do it right.
  I am a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee with the Senator from 
Alabama. We spent a lot of time on this bill, as we should have. It is 
a big challenge. I am not sure it is perfect. I think we can make it a 
better bill. But I am certainly pleased that the bill we brought to the 
floor is a balanced approach.
  The one thing I like about it is it starts in the same place as many 
of its detractors want us to start, and that is to make sure that we 
have enforcement in this country. There should be laws; they should be 
enforced. That means we should do more, put more resources and more 
effort into making certain that our borders are not porous. It is a 
challenge. During the course of any given year, I am told that 300 
million people pass between the United States and Mexico. The vast 
majority of them are doing it legally. But at the same time, there are 
people crossing that border into the United States illegally. We need 
better border enforcement, smarter border enforcement, using the best 
technology available today. Some of the suggestions we have heard I 
think are perhaps in answer to a problem of 100 years ago, but building 
a wall around the United States is hardly going to stop the immigration 
  Over half the people currently in the United States undocumented did 

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enter illegally across the border. They came here legally, and because 
their visas expired or there were other circumstances or changes in the 
paperwork that they filed with our Government, they are not presently 
documented or in legal status. So this concept of building a fence or 
building a wall seems to me to be nothing more than a symbol--perhaps 
an unfortunate symbol--for a country as great as America.
  Let me say a word or two about the bill that is going to be debated 
on the Senate floor for several days, perhaps through next week. It is 
a bill which addresses our immigration system in America. Most everyone 
agrees: This system needs to be changed. It is not fair. It is not a 
system that we are proud of because it doesn't deal with the serious 
issue of how many people are in the United States not in legal status--
undocumented people.
  One of the comments made several times during the course of the 
debate by my colleague from Alabama was that the bill coming out of the 
Senate Judiciary Committee creates amnesty. What is amnesty? Very 
simply, if you have been charged and found guilty of a crime, an 
amnesty says: We forgive you. We are not going to hold you responsible 
for your crime. There are things that you can do to pay your price to 
society for the crime you have committed. If you pay that price, people 
say: Well, that isn't amnesty. You have extracted some cost for the 
crime that has been committed.
  Let me remind my colleague from Alabama what this bill does that 
comes to the floor.
  Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record 
the editorial from today's New York Times of March 29, 2006, entitled, 
``It Isn't Amnesty.''
  There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in 
the Record, as follows:

                            It Isn't Amnesty

       Here's one way to kill a cow: take it into the woods in 
     hunting season, paint the word ``deer'' on it and stand back.
       Something like that is happening in the immigration debate 
     in Washington. Attackers of a smart, tough Senate bill have 
     smeared it with the most mealy-mouthed word in the 
     immigration glossary--amnesty--in hopes of rendering it 
     politically toxic. They claim that the bill would bestow an 
     official federal blessing of forgiveness on an estimated 12 
     million people who are living here illegally, rewarding their 
     brazen crimes and encouraging more of the same.
       That isn't true. The bill, approved by the Senate Judiciary 
     Committee in a 12-to-6 vote on Monday, is one the country 
     should be proud of. Four Republicans, including the 
     committee's chairman, Arlen Specter, joined eight Democrats 
     in endorsing a balanced approach to immigration reform. The 
     bill does not ignore security and border enforcement. It 
     would nearly double the number of Border Patrol agents, add 
     resources for detaining illegal immigrants and deporting them 
     more quickly, and expand state and local enforcement of 
     immigration laws. It would create a system to verify workers' 
     identities and impose tougher punishments on employers who 
     defied it.
       But unlike the bill's counterpart in the House, which makes 
     a virtue out of being tough but not smart, the Specter bill 
     would also take on the hard job of trying to sort out the 
     immigrants who want to stay and follow the rules from those 
     who don't. It would force them not into buses or jails but 
     into line, where they could become lawful residents and--if 
     they showed they deserved it--citizens. Instead of living off 
     the books, they'd come into the system.
       The path to citizenship laid out by the Specter bill 
     wouldn't be easy. It would take 11 years, a clean record, a 
     steady job, payment of a $2,000 fine and back taxes, and 
     knowledge of English and civics. That's not ``amnesty,'' with 
     its suggestion of getting something for nothing. But the 
     false label has muddied the issue, playing to people's fear 
     and indignation, and stoking the opportunism of Bill Frist, 
     the Senate majority leader. Mr. Frist has his enforcement-
     heavy bill in the wings, threatening to make a disgraceful 
     end run around the committee's work.
       The alternatives to the Specter bill are senseless. The 
     enforcement-only approach--building a 700-mile wall and 
     engaging in a campaign of mass deportation and harassment to 
     rip 12 million people from the national fabric--would be an 
     impossible waste of time and resources. It would destroy 
     families and weaken the economy. An alternative favored by 
     many businesses--creating a temporary-worker underclass that 
     would do our dirtiest jobs and then have to go home, with no 
     new path to citizenship--is a recipe for indentured 
       It is a weak country that feels it cannot secure its 
     borders and impose law and order on an unauthorized 
     population at the same time. And it is a foolish, insecure 
     country that does not seek to channel the energy of an 
     industrious, self-motivated population to its own ends, but 
     tries instead to wall out ``those people.''
       It's time for President Bush, who talks a good game on 
     immigration, to use every means to clarify the issue and to 
     lead this country out of the ``amnesty'' semantic trap. He 
     dislikes amnesty. Mr. Frist dislikes amnesty. We dislike 
     amnesty, too.
       The Specter bill isn't amnesty. It's a victory for 
     thoughtfulness and reason.

  Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, let me quote from this:

       The path to citizenship laid out by the Specter bill--

which is the bill that will come before us soon--

     wouldn't be easy. It would take 11 years, a clean record--

no criminal record--

     a steady job, payment of a $2,000 fine, payment of all back 
     taxes, and knowledge of English and civics.

  Those are the things a person has to go through to reach the point 
where they are considered open for the possibility of legalization. So 
it isn't as if we have wiped away the fact that some people are here 
illegally; we are making it clear that if they want to become legal in 
the eyes of the United States, there is a cost to it. It is a cost in 
commitment, and it is a long one.
  So I think The New York Times has it right, and I think my colleague 
did not have it right. This is not an amnesty. I don't support an 
amnesty. There are some who do, but no Members of the Senate that I 
know of are suggesting an amnesty. Instead, we have set up a process. 
First, enforce the laws at the border and through employers. Second, 
say to those people who are here: If you are prepared to go through a 
lengthy, involved, and demanding process, we will give you a chance to 
be part of America. I think that is the only sensible way to approach 
this. If we don't start with that possibility, that a person here who 
wants to call America home permanently can reach that goal legally, 
what will bring that person out of the shadows? If a year from now or 2 
years from now there are still millions of Americans whom we don't know 
by name, by address or by occupation, we will not have addressed the 
problems with immigration, and America will not be as secure as it 
should be.
  The process we are putting together will bring these people out of 
the shadows, into a process where they are disclosed, known to the 
Government and all others, if they are to stay in the United States. I 
think that is the only way to approach this sensibly.
  There is another part of the bill which my colleague from Alabama 
addressed which is near and dear to me personally. It is a piece of 
legislation which I introduced several years ago with Senator Hatch of 
Utah, reintroduced recently with Senator Hagel of Nebraska, a 
bipartisan bill known as the DREAM Act. This part of the bill addresses 
those who are minors, who were in the United States undocumented.
  There is one thing we all should agree on: Adults who enter our 
country illegally are responsible for their actions. They should be 
held accountable. That is what the bill does. But undocumented children 
are different, and I think they should be treated differently. Unlike 
undocumented adults, children brought here by their parents are too 
young to understand the consequences of their actions. We are not a 
country that punishes children for the mistakes of their parents.
  Listen to what the Supreme Court said in Plyler v. Doe, and I quote:

       Those who elect to enter our territory by stealth and in 
     violation of our law should be prepared to bear the 
     consequences, including, but not limited to, deportation. But 
     the children of those illegal entrants are not comparably 
     situated. They can affect neither their parents' conduct nor 
     their own status.

  Now, unlike many undocumented adults and all foreign student visa 
holders, these young people have lived in this country for most of 
their lives. It is the only home they know. They have assimilated into 
American culture. They have been acculturated into American society. 
They are American in virtually every sense of the word except their 
technical legal status. Think

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about it. A child brought into the United States by parents at an early 
age of 1 or 2, in the United States for 16, 17 or 18 years, still has 
not reached legal status by virtue of living here, by going to school 
here, by participating in America. They are still undocumented. If we 
give foreigners on student visas--those who come to go to school in the 
United States--a chance to obtain legal status after only a short time 
in this country, surely we should extend the same opportunity to young 
people who have grown up here and show a promise to contribute to 
  Under title VI of the chairman's mark which we considered in the 
committee, an undocumented individual could have qualified for gold 
card status if they were working in January of 2004, but a person who 
wasn't working on that date because they were too young or in school 
wouldn't qualify, no matter how long they lived here. We addressed 
that. The chairman's mark was not adopted by the committee. A different 
approach was addressed. And the committee adopted the provision I am 
talking about today, the DREAM Act.
  The DREAM Act would address the situation of many young people. It 
would permit undocumented students to become permanent residents if 
they came here as children, if they are long-term U.S. residents, if 
they have good moral character, and attend college or enlist in our 
military for at least 2 years.
  During the 108th Congress, the Senate Judiciary Committee marked up 
this DREAM Act, and it was voted out by a vote of 16 to 3, a strong 
bipartisan vote. Compromises and changes were made.
  It is unfortunate that the Senator from Alabama, when he spoke about 
the DREAM Act earlier, did not make reference to the current version of 
the law. There were three things in particular that he said that were 
not accurate, which I would like to clarify for the Record.
  First, the path for a young person to become an American citizen 
involves education or military service. It does not include community 
service, which the Senator mentioned earlier.
  Second, those students who go on to college, if they are allowed to 
by the States where they reside, and receive in-State tuition, that is 
strictly a State decision. They would not be eligible for Pell grants, 
the grants of Federal funds to college students. We eliminated that.
  The Senator from Alabama referred to Pell grants earlier, but that 
provision was eliminated from the DREAM Act.
  Finally, the number of students who are likely to benefit from this 
and be involved with our colleges is dramatically less than the number 
quoted by the Senator from Alabama. He said it is likely--I quote from 
his statement on the floor:

       Sixty-five thousand students would enroll during the first 

  We have a recent report from the Congressional Budget Office. Their 
estimate is that about 13,000 students might enroll during the next 
academic year. And they go on to say it is unlikely because they are 
probably going to be community college students, that they would be 
receiving substantial amounts of Federal assistance as students.
  So those three points made earlier by the Senator from Alabama were 
not accurate. They do not describe the current law as passed by the 
Senate Judiciary Committee. I think the best way to describe what this 
is about is to tell you some of the stories of actual young people who 
have been affected by this.
  A young lady named Theresa was raised in Illinois. She is an amazing 
young lady. She came to the United States when she was 2 years old. Her 
parents brought her here from Korea. Her mother is the family's only 
bread winner, and she works at a dry cleaners in Chicago.
  If you know that great City of Chicago, which I am honored to 
represent, 85 percent of the dry cleaning establishments are owned by 
Korean Americans. They are wonderful, hard-working people. They are 
there from the crack of dawn until late at night, 6 and 7 days a week.
  Her mother is one of those people. She raised Theresa, and realized 
at an early age that Theresa was an extraordinary young girl. She had 
musical talents that none would have imagined. She began playing the 
piano when she was 8 years old. She became a musical prodigy, winning 
the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Youth audition. The top music schools in 
the United States recruited Theresa. They wanted her as a student.
  She only learned when she applied to the schools that she had a 
problem, and the problem is this: When her mother brought her to this 
country her mother never filed any papers. So Theresa is an 
undocumented person in America. She is here illegally. Now, at the age 
of 18, after having lived here all of her life since she was 2, she 
discovers it, and she calls my office--her mother did--and said: What 
can be done?
  She started filling out the application for the Juilliard School of 
Music, and they put a question in there on citizenship. She said: I do 
not know what to put down. We had better call.
  They called my office. We asked the Immigration and Naturalization 
Service. They said she is undocumented. She is here illegally. I said: 
What can be done? We want to get this young girl on the right track to 
become an accomplished musician. We know she will be.
  They said: There is one thing she can do. She can go back to Korea.
  Go back to Korea after 16 years? That was the only alternative 
available to her.
  Luckily, she has gone on to school without financial assistance, 
incurring a lot of debt in the process. She is in this gray shadow 
world of people who are undocumented living in the United States--a 
young woman who will undoubtedly be a great contribution to America's 
culture at some point in her life. She still does not know what her 
future holds. She is not the only one.
  One of her music teachers told me about her. She said: I worry that 
our country, the richest and most blessed in the world, will not permit 
this very large talent to be developed. We are not such a rich land 
that can throw away the talents of our children.
  Theresa is among the lucky ones who went off to college at great 
financial sacrifice. But she is one of the people I am talking about. 
Theresa is not alone. There are thousands like her. They turn out to be 
honor roll students, star athletes, talented artists, valedictorians, 
aspiring teachers, doctors, scientists, and engineers. They follow the 
rules and work hard in school. And they beat the odds.
  Fifty percent of the Hispanic students in high school in America 
today drop out. They do not finish high school. They and others who are 
from other countries have to struggle with culture and language, and 
many of them give up. But the ones who don't give up are exceptional 
  Let me tell you about another one, Dianna, whom I met, a very bright 
young lady. She went to high school in Chicago and aspired to become an 
architect. That was her dream. She entered contests, was an honor 
student in high school, won competitions statewide in Illinois to move 
on toward architecture. She graduated from high school with a 4.4 out 
of 4.0, applied, and was accepted at Northwestern University to become 
an architect, a dream come true.
  Then it was discovered that she was undocumented, the papers had not 
been filed. She had been here all her life but still was not a legal 
American, living in the United States. She couldn't get financial 
assistance to go to that great university and instead had to go to 
another school where she is pursuing her education at great expense but 
worries that the day will come when she wants to be licensed as an 
architect and she cannot be because she does not have legal status. She 
is not documented.
  Those two young women I just talked about are classic examples of why 
the DREAM Act is important.
  Would America be a better place if those two girls left, if we didn't 
have the architectural skills of Dianna or the musical skills of 
Theresa or the other student who came up to me in the streets of 
Chicago and said: Senator, I finished high school and then I

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went to college and paid for it all on my own because I can't get any 
financial help. I want to be a teacher. I want to teach in the schools 
of Chicago, the public school system. I can't be licensed as a teacher 
because I am undocumented.
  Would we be better off if that young man who came up to me left 
America? I don't think so.
  In many respects, these young people, like our own children, are our 
future. They are our hopes. What we do with the DREAM Act is say we are 
going to take this group of students and give them a chance. Here are 
the conditions: They have 6 years under the DREAM Act. A student could 
obtain conditional legal residency for 6 years if the student has been 
continuously present in the United States for at least 5 years prior to 
the enactment of this law, was under 16 years of age when he entered 
the United States, has graduated from high school or obtained a GED in 
the United States or has been admitted to an institution of higher 
education in the United States, can demonstrate good moral character, 
is not inadmissible or deportable under specifically enumerated 
  The student could obtain legal permanent residency if within the 6-
year conditional period he earns a degree from an institution of higher 
education or completes at least 2 years towards a bachelor's degree or 
serves honorably in the U.S. military for at least 2 years.
  That is not amnesty. We say to that young person: We don't know the 
circumstances that brought you here. But if you have done a good job as 
a student, if you were prepared to continue your education to 
contribute to America, if you are prepared to serve America in our U.S. 
military and risk your life for this country, we will give you a chance 
to be a citizen. You have to earn it. It is not free. It is not 
amnesty. It is not unconditional. We put these provisions in the law.
  I think that is a reasonable thing to do. I think otherwise we are 
going to waste talent, talent that America needs among the thousands of 
students who may be helped by the DREAM Act. They may be a doctor who 
will treat your child in the future. They may be a researcher who will 
help advance the cures in medical treatment. They may be an engineer 
who will help us find new composite metals that we use for a space 
program. The possibilities are limitless because opportunity is 
limitless in America.
  Why would we want to walk away from these kids? Why would we want to 
turn our backs on them?
  Finally, I say to States across America that you decide how to treat 
these students. Many States like my own have already decided, but you 
decide whether these undocumented students will be eligible for instate 
tuition or out-of-State, which is more expensive. But each State makes 
the decision. That is a change in the Federal law, but it is a change 
that States can make without a Federal penalty.
  I received a letter of support for the DREAM Act from a group of 
Americans who lost loved ones in the September 11 terrorist attacks. 
Here is what they wrote me:

       We will all be safer if we unite against terrorists, and if 
     our immigration system can be made more rational and 
     reflective of our values as a Nation.

  President Bush said the other day some words that I think are worthy 
of repeating on the floor of the Senate. He said:

       It is true that we are a Nation of laws, but we are also a 
     welcoming Nation. We are a Nation of immigrants.

  I stand before this body, as I have said many times, so proud of the 
fact that my grandmother and grandfather had the courage to pick up and 
leave a tiny little village in Lithuania in 1911. My grandmother picked 
up my mom, a 2-year-old infant, and brought her and my aunt and uncles 
on a boat from Germany to Baltimore, MD, where they caught a train and 
went to St. Louis, MO, and then crossed the river into East St. Louis, 
the town where I was born.
  My grandfather worked in the steel mills, packinghouses, and the 
stockyards--did things that all immigrants did, the hardest, toughest, 
dirtiest jobs. He kept the family together.
  My mother made it to the eighth grade and then went to work, as young 
women did in her era, and then was married to my dad and applied and 
became a naturalized citizen.
  I have her naturalization certificate in my office today. I am very 
proud of it. Today, her son is the 47th Senator in history from the 
State of Illinois. It is an American story, our family story. And it is 
a story repeated over and over again.
  Some of the children who will be helped here, some of the young 
people who will be helped here, will make extraordinary contributions 
to our country. I can't even predict what they will be. But would we be 
a better nation, a stronger nation by turning them away, telling them 
to go back to Korea and Mexico and Ireland and Poland and all the 
places they have come from? I don't think so.
  I think the letter from the families of the September 11 victims says 
it all. We need to have an immigration system that reflects our values 
as a nation. We shouldn't deport extraordinary people like the ones I 
have described. They will make America a better place. We should extend 
a welcoming hand and an opportunity for them to earn their way into 
legalization in America. That is what the DREAM Act will do.
  I urge my colleagues, when they consider this bill as it comes to the 
floor, to support this legislation and the DREAM Act provisions.
  I yield the floor.