That’s how much time has passed since the U.S. Senate passed a historic bipartisan immigration reform bill. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) took to the Senate floor today to mark the occasion and to call on House Republicans to allow a vote on legislation.
Video of the two minute speech is below followed by the full text of Sen. Reid’s remarks.
This morning marks 321 days since the Senate passed a bipartisan, commonsense immigration reform bill. For 321 days, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has done absolutely nothing to address our nation’s broken immigration system. And to the extremists in the House, the time went by just like that. So to House Republicans, 321 days doesn’t seem like a big deal. Outside of the Capitol, though, those 321 days have felt like a lifetime. To families forced to live in the shadows, each of those days brings the dread of discovery and being torn away from their loved ones. Undocumented immigrants have lived in fear for the last 46 weeks, worrying that they will have to leave the country they call ‘home.’ For the last 10 ½ months, children have lost their parents to deportations, all while House Republicans have twiddled their thumbs. I say enough is enough. It’s time for House Republicans to act. They have wasted far too much time already failing to consider a bill that the Senate considered and passed in less than two months.
A year ago the Senate Judiciary Committee was in the middle of marking up the commonsense immigration reform bill. After 2 weeks of serious debate and deliberation under the leadership of Chairman Leahy, and many votes on both Democrat and Republican amendments, the bill was reported out of committee. Within a month, the Senate passed this immigration reform bill and sent it to the House of Representatives. The Senate was able to move on immigration reform quickly because both Senate Democrats and Republicans understand the urgent need to fix the broken system. What’s House Republicans’ excuse? What are they achieving by dragging their feet on immigration reform? They claim to be working on jobs bills, and legislation to reduce the deficit. The fact is that the Senate-passed immigration bill reduces the deficit and spurs the economy more than all the House bills awaiting Senate action combined. I repeat: the Senate-passed immigration bill reduces the deficit and spurs the economy more than all the House bills awaiting Senate action combined.
So it is no wonder that even pro-Republican organizations are calling on Speaker Boehner to stop wasting time. Earlier this week, we heard Tom Donohue, the President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, say that it is in Republicans’ best interests to pass immigration reform. In fact, Donohue said of immigration reform: “If the Republicans don’t do it, they shouldn’t bother to run a candidate in 2016.” That may be true, but politics should not dictate passage of this bill.
Immigration reform is far more important than election-year politicking. Immigration reform is about families and communities. In September of 2010, I was in the midst of what some considered a tough re-election campaign when I helped champion Senator Durbin’s DREAM Act in the Senate. Though it was eventually blocked by a Republican filibuster, I did my best to pass the DREAM Act, even though some said it would cost me the election. Then, as now, I have many staffers in my state offices dedicated to helping Nevada families with immigration issues stay together. Protecting families in Nevada – all families – is my job. And I take that job very seriously. Yet House Republicans want to do just the opposite.
Recently, the House Judiciary Committee Chairman appeared on a Sunday news show and tried unsuccessfully to justify his party’s inaction. His reasoning as to why the House is dragging its heels? Republicans claim that President Obama can’t be trusted to enforce immigration law, so they will do nothing. So what Republicans are really saying is that they won’t act on immigration reform unless there are more deportations, more families torn apart. And that, in a nutshell, is the immigration platform extremists in the Republican party prefer: the more deportations, the better. I guess that’s what we’ve learned to expect from a House Republican conference whose immigration policy is dictated by the likes of Representative Steve King.
You remember him. He is the Congressman who, instead of permitting immigrants to enlist in the military and earn citizenship, would rather send them “on a bus back to Tijuana.” Congressman King also claimed that for every hard-working, undocumented student, there are 100 more working as drug mules with “calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.” The fact of the matter is that undocumented immigrants are our neighbors, classmates and colleagues. Regardless of how they got here or why they lack the proper documents, these 11 million people play a crucial part in our economy and communities. And our country and our economy will benefit if we give them a chance to get right with the law.
The Senate has done its part. It’s time for House Republicans to do theirs. I urge the House of Representatives to stop wasting time and bring immigration reform to a vote. Give the American people the assurance that we are working to finally mend our broken immigration system. And give families the opportunity to stay together, and to come forward and work toward legal status. It’s the right thing to do for all of us.