Durbin: Why Is It That When Republicans Want to Make A Point About Immigration, It Always Ends up Being The Children Who Are The Pawns?

In Senate floor speech, Durbin urges Republicans to join Democrats in addressing immigration reform

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, delivered a speech on the Senate floor criticizing Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) failure to engage on immigration reform while migrant families are forcibly bused across the United States by Republican governors. Durbin reminded McConnell, who moments before had argued for improved legal immigration, that he voted against the last bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill that had reached the Senate floor.

“This morning, Senator McConnell said orderly, legal immigration is part of what makes America strong. Anarchy and open borders make us weak. I don’t know of any rational person who would disagree with that comment. But I think, for the record, we should make clear that nine years ago, when we considered comprehensive immigration reform, a bipartisan bill on the floor of the United States Senate, the Senator from Kentucky voted against it,” Durbin said.

“Fourteen Republican Senators voted for this measure. It passed the Senate. It was the product of the so-called Gang of Eight…We worked for months, put in all the effort that was expected of us in addressing an issue which had not been addressed by Congress for nearly 30 years to try to upgrade our immigration system – to do what Senator McConnell says needs to be done – orderly, legal immigration. That was what the bill sought to achieve. Fourteen Republicans joined us in voting for it. Senator McConnell did not,” Durbin continued.

The Gang of Eight, consisting of Senators Durbin, Michael Bennet (D-CO), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), John McCain (R-AZ), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Chuck Schumer (D-NY), authored the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. The legislation passed the Senate in June 2013 with 68 votes. However, the Republican-controlled House refused to debate, consider, or move the bill to the floor. 

“If that had passed, it would change the circumstances we have today. Circumstances where we don’t have nearly enough legal immigrants to work in the agricultural sector of America. It is estimated that one out of two – 50 percent – of all ag workers today are undocumented. We still eat the food that they pick and harvest. We still take advantage of their hard work in meat processing plants, and yet the reality is, we know in our heart of hearts, that they are not being treated in a sensible, reasonable, humane way,”Durbin said.

Durbin went on to condemn Republican governors for their cruel tactics to address immigration, including busing migrant families across the country. As Durbin points out, these families have been legally recognized to stay in the U.S. until a decision is made on their asylum claim. Often, local officials are not notified that migrants will be brought to their community. 

“Listen to what Senator McConnell had to say in describing what I’ve just told you. He said, ‘out of desperation, a few governors along the southern border are now giving some Democrat-run states and cities just a tiny, tiny taste of what border communities have been enduring literally for years.’ What he’s trying to say to us is, this is an act of political spite,” Durbin explained.

“What are they [governors] using to make their point? Innocent people here legally in the United States who are being shipped off many times with deception and promises that’ll never be kept in terms of opportunities for them in these various places…You see the point that’s being made here? These people are being bused without any warning where they’re going to end up, what their final destination may be, simply to make the political point that the Democrats have to be reminded of the Republican position on immigration,” Durbin said. “Why is it that whenever Republicans want to make a point on immigration, it always ends up being the children who are the pawns? Whether they’re kids in cages or forcibly removing children from their parents, or in this case, busing them off with their parents to communities they’ve never heard of?”

Durbin went on to emphasize the need for comprehensive, bipartisan immigration reform. He called on his colleagues to join him in this effort in hopes that migrant children will stop being exploited for political purposes.

“The right thing to do is what we did nine years ago – a bipartisan approach to fixing the immigration system. Instead of exploiting it for political purposes, let’s fix it. We’ve done that. We’ve passed legislation on a bipartisan basis, even in this evenly divided Senate…I’m ready to do that, and the Senate Judiciary Committee would start as soon as we have Republicans of goodwill willing to sit with Democrats and work together. But continuing to exploit these people and the children of these families is just plain wrong,” Durbin concluded. 

Video of Durbin’s floor speech is available here. 

Audio of Durbin’s floor speech is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s floor speech is available here for TV Stations.