National Immigration Forum

Practical Solutions for Immigrants and America


Bipartisan Comprehensive Legislation Introduced

May 12, 2005

Washington, DC – Today, bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform legislation was introduced in both the House and Senate to fix our broken immigration system. The legislation was authored by Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) and Representatives Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), and Jim Kolbe (R-AZ).

Reacting to the bill’s introduction, Frank Sharry, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum, said, “This carefully crafted legislation is an important turning point in the debate over how to best control our immigration system. With the introduction of this bill, we are moving beyond assessing the problem, and beyond piecemeal, enforcement-only approaches that have failed to control immigration and secure our borders for over a decade. The focus of the debate from here forward is: what is the solution? And this bill is the most serious attempt in a generation to craft a solution that will work on the ground, secure our borders, grow our economy, protect workers, and restore the rule of law to our immigration system.”

The legislation, the Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act, combines the following elements: 1) legal channels, proper vetting, meaningful protections, and realistic caps for workers and family members entering the country; 2) incentives for undocumented immigrants already here, working, and contributing to our nation to come out of the shadows, register, pay a hefty fine, study English, clear up their taxes, and continue to work hard as a means of eventually earning permanent residency; 3) tough enforcement of more realistic laws at the border and in the workplace; and 4) enabling more immigrants to learn English and prepare for citizenship.

“America is a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws,” Sharry continued. “This bill will reconcile the fact that we have hardworking immigrants already here and coming in the future, but insufficient legal channels. This bill gets the combination of admissions and enforcement just about right. In contrast to the status quo, it will mean honest admissions policies, tightly enforced.”

Sharry thanked the authors and co-sponsors of the bill, saying “these Members of Congress have done something extraordinary. They have tackled a tough issue, reached out across the aisle to Members of the other party, compromised, and crafted a workable and sustainable solution that goes beyond the typical grandstanding and posturing so typical of the immigration debate.”

Sharry also noted that the bill combines the two essential elements of successful and workable immigration reform legislation, comprehensiveness and bipartisanship. “Immigration reform must be comprehensive to work and bipartisan to pass,” Sharry said.

Sharry predicted that the legislative debate will most likely focus on the Senate first. Sharry urged Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration, to find a way to work with the sponsors of this bill and move forward with all due speed. “The bipartisan leaders who introduced the bill have started the conversation, but Senator Cornyn will play a critical role in moving the legislation forward and enacting a fix for our broken immigration system.

Finally, Sharry praised President Bush for opening the door to the consideration of comprehensive immigration reform legislation by his continued inclusion of immigration reform on the White House’s agenda. “The President should be commended for his willingness to raise such a contentious issue and to stick with it. His leadership has created the political space for a bipartisan, comprehensive approach to take shape. With the President's continued support, we are within sight of enacting a serious, common-sense approach to modernizing our immigration system in a way that works for America, works for security, works for immigrants, and works for a healthy economy.”

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