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[Congressional Record: October 11, 2002 (Extensions)]
[Page E1823-E1824]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access []

                        UNIFICATION LEGISLATION


                        HON. RICHARD A. GEPHARDT

                              of missouri

                    in the house of representatives

                       Thursday, October 10, 2002

  Mr. GEPHARDT. Mr. Speaker, before September 11, 2001, our country's 
leaders from the Executive Branch to the Congress were actively engaged 
in exploring a fundamental re-crafting and rewriting of our immigration 
policies. Due to the horrific events of September 11, 2001, that agenda 
had to be delayed as our country struggled to find ways to ensure our 
security, while still respecting the civil rights and essential dignity 
of the immigrants within our country.
  Since September 11, Congress has taken important steps to secure our 
borders and enhance our nation's security against the terrorist threat. 
The sound policy rationales that were propelling us to re-craft our 
immigration laws before September 11 continue to exist today and are 
even more urgent. To the core values of family unity, fundamental 
fairness and economic opportunity that we articulated in the Democratic 
Statement of Principles on Immigration a year ago, we now add a 
pressing concern--the need to bring the undocumented population out of 
the shadows and into the light of greater accountability so that they 
too can aid in effectively securing our great nation. The need for 
comprehensive immigration reform has not abated, and our resolve to 
move forward in this effort remains.

               Earned Legalization And Family Unification

  Today, Democrats are introducing legislation that will take the first 
step toward comprehensive immigration reform that will recognize 
immigrants who have been working and contributing to this country while 
also increasing our security. Our earned legalization legislation will 
ensure that hard-working, tax-paying immigrants will be able to adjust 
their status and live legally if they have resided in the United States 
for at least five years, have a work history of at least two years and 
are able to pass a background check.
  Our legislation will benefit both America and an immigrant population 
that has embraced the American Dream. It will streamline the 
enforcement of our immigration laws and allow us to shift important 
enforcement resources to tracking down those who have come to the US to 
do us harm. Reducing the number of undocumented immigrants in the US 
will enable us to better focus on individuals who pose a real terrorist 
threat. At the same time, our legislation rewards work by ensuring that 
qualifying immigrants can move on with their lives free of the fear 
that one day they or members of their family may be sent away from 
their adopted country forever.
  Our legislation will also speed the reunification of families, so 
that our immigration system will not force families to choose between 
long years of separation and undocumented immigration. We value family-
based immigration because it solidifies important family ties and 
creates stronger communities. Yet, our current immigration system puts 
extreme stress on families, forcing them to wait many years before they 
can be reunited. We believe it is not in the best interest of our 
communities to force such long separations.
  We must recognize, however, that this is but a first step, and that 
much more remains to be done. There has been much debate about the need 
for new and expanded temporary worker programs. Even as we debate the 
merits of legalizing the hard-working population already in the United 
States, we acknowledge that a comprehensive immigration policy debate 
must address future flows of immigrants and their impact on the US 
labor force. Indeed, President Fox of Mexico continues to press the 
Bush Administration for movement in this area. We must consider 
reasonable policy options for regulating, limiting and controlling this 
future flow of immigrants in a way consistent with our nation's highest 
  As Presidents Bush and Fox resume bilateral migration discussions, 
and we encourage their efforts, we note that immigrants come from many 
different countries which highlights the importance of having broad and 
expansive discussions of the myriad issues presented by immigration 
trends. As the discussion continues, it is vital that the issues we set 
forth below are thoughtfully and effectively addressed and are key 
elements to any future legislative or administrative efforts.

Adjusted Status For Workers Currently In The United States And Towards 
              Regularizing The Status Of Future Immigrants

  Consistent with our original Democratic Statement of Principles on 
Immigration, we recognize that to achieve the comprehensive immigration 
reform that we outlined, the status adjustment of undocumented 
immigrants currently residing in the United States who do not otherwise 
qualify for our earned legalization proposal must be addressed. We 
should find a way to place these undocumented workers and their 
families on the same path to legalization as those who qualify for our 
earned legalization proposal.
  In addition, we must seek to regularize the flow of immigrants who 
cross our border. By seeking regularization, a legal mechanism could be 
provided for recent arrivals to the US to work while not undermining 
the wages, benefits standards and legal protections of US workers and 
local labor markets. Such an effort should include the following 
essential elements: (1) a thorough and accurate methodology for 
determining the need for foreign workers and the application of the 
most reliable labor market tests; (2) accurate wage determinations 
based on relevant wage information, union contracts and benefits and 
the development of new formulas that reflect industry standards; (3) 
equitable labor protections for foreign and US workers, including the 
right to organize--foreign temporary workers should not be used to 
undermine union organizing efforts; and (4) the Department of Labor 
must be given the necessary enforcement resources and procedures to 
ensure full compliance and temporary foreign workers must be provided a 
private right of action to ensure full compliance.
  As we move forward in the development of any new efforts, we also 
recognize the necessity of avoiding the failures of past guest-worker 
programs. We must ensure that existing visa programs are reformed to 
function properly and as intended, and we must direct the necessary 
resources to training for US workers and better link such training to 
available jobs.

[[Page E1824]]


  We enter this debate recognizing that immigration reform can be a 
complex issue; indeed, previous immigration reforms have failed to meet 
the high standards that we establish for ourselves in this debate. For 
precisely this reason, we intend to lead a comprehensive immigration 
reform debate that unflinchingly addresses the difficult questions that 
are critical to any serious policy discussion. We look forward to the 
challenges ahead and to reshaping our immigration policy to strengthen 
America's control over its borders and to reflect the American values 
of hard work and family.


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