In Speech On Senate Floor, 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, spoke on the Senate floor today about our broken immigration system and what Congress must do to fix it after more than 30 years of inaction.  Durbin also called on his Republican colleagues to sit down with him on a timely, bipartisan basis to find a compromise on border security and protections for Dreamers.  

“We need an orderly process for immigration in America, both at the border and off the border.  That means laws and rules, numbers that work for both the immigrants as well as the economy of America.  Number two, we should never knowingly allow anyone dangerous to come into this country, or if they’re here in immigrant status and pose a danger to our country, they have no right to stay, as far as I’m concerned,” Durbin said.  “Number three, it’s a great compliment that so many people all over the world are desperate to come to our country… America has always been a magnet of opportunity.  So the fact that so many people want to come here is a compliment, in a way.  But, the reality is this – we cannot absorb everyone who wants to come into America from all over the world in a limited period of time.  It can only be considered in an orderly fashion over a longer period of time.” 

Durbin continued, “Number four, we haven’t touched this immigration set of laws in 30 years.  So to blame Joe Biden for this is to ignore the obvious.  There wasn’t much, if anything, done under the Trump Administration that was helpful.  And going back years and years before, very little, if anything, to show for it.  The only time we finally did a bipartisan bill and brought it to the floor of the United States Senate, I was part of the ‘Gang of Eight.’ We brought it to the floor, we debated it at length in the Committee and on the floor, and it passed… in the United States Senate, a bipartisan vote, [then] sent over to the House of Representatives, which was under Republican control with Speaker Ryan.  They never raised the issue… So that was the end of the effort.  So to argue that we haven’t tried, we have.  On various individual bills like the Dream Act, which I introduced 21 years ago, I brought it to the floor of the Senate five times, and got a majority vote all five times.  But that’s not enough in the Senate.  It didn’t get 60 votes, and so we lost the bill to a filibuster each and every time. So to argue that the effort has not been undertaken is not quite accurate.”

“The question is, where do we go from here?” Durbin said.  “We need to sit down.  He [Sen. Cornyn], a Republican, myself as a Democrat, and find some common ground… Let’s sit down on a bipartisan basis, on a timely bipartisan basis… I’m willing to talk honestly about border security, and I’m sure he is willing to talk honestly about DACA and Dreamers and the critical needs of people who are coming into the United States.” 

Durbin spoke about the urgency of passing the Dream Act this Congress to protect Dreamers from deportation.  The DACA program has allowed hundreds of thousands of Dreamers to thrive in the United States.  They are protected from deportation for now, but due to lawsuits by extreme MAGA Republicans, their fate is in the hands of a Republican-appointed judge who has repeatedly found DACA and other programs like it unlawful.

“Yesterday, we had a rally for people who are protected by DACA.  I introduced the Dream Act 21 years ago.  When we couldn’t pass it because of the filibuster on the floor of the Senate, I appealed to President Obama, who created DACA, which allowed people, young people brought here as children and infants to apply for two years of protection so they could work and not be deported… Well, there’s 600,000 to 800,000 who have qualified for that… They showed up, a lot of them, yesterday.  One woman said to me, ‘I’m [a] DACA [recipient], and I’m also 40 years old.  Senator, is this ever going to be resolved?’  It’s a legitimate question,” Durbin said.  “So many of them are teachers and nurses and doctors who are doing their best at essential work occupations, they deserve an opportunity to be in this country, and there is a feeling that some court could pull the rug out from under them in a matter of hours or days.  So we need to act on that quickly.”

Video of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is availablehere for TV Stations.

Durbin first introduced the Dream Act 21 years ago.  Last year, Durbin and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) introduced the Dream Act of 2021.  The Dream Act was also included in the 2013 comprehensive immigration reform bill that Durbin coauthored as part of the “Gang of Eight” – four Democrats and four Republicans.  The 2013 bill passed the Senate on a strong bipartisan vote of 68-32, but the Republican leadership of the House of Representatives refused to consider it.

Over the years, Senate Republicans have filibustered the Dream Actat least five times.  Last year, Chair Durbin convened bipartisan immigration negotiations that failed after Senate Republicans made unreasonable demands to cut legal immigration and limit the Dream Act to only current DACA recipients.