This weekend I had the opportunity to debate immigration reform on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. Below are the excerpts from that appearance:
Best of Intentions, but Not Enough
LEE: “[T]he sponsors of this bill had the best of intentions. In my opinion, the best intentions aren't enough when you’re dealing with a 1,200-page bill.
“They promised us that under this bill, illegal immigration would be a thing of the past. It won't. CBO told us this week that 10 years from now, we'll still have 6 million to 8 million illegal immigrants in this country.
“They told us it would be tough but fair. It's neither. It's not tough on those who broke the law and it’s not fair to those who’ve been patiently waiting in line to come to this country legally.
“And perhaps, worst of all, Chris, we learned late Friday -- just late Friday, that they are going to replace the "gang of eight’s" bill, about a thousand pages, with a 1,200-page Corker-Hoeven Amendment.
“This is a provision few people have read and ever fewer understand. So, look, we all want immigration reform. But this bill is not the right vehicle for getting there.”
The Proper Sequence
WALLACE: “Senator Lee, is your problem that you don't think even with this $40 billion in extra border enforcement, you still don't think it's going to work? Or is your problem the sequencing, the idea that it's going to allow a provisional legal status for the 11 million people, immigrants who are already here before you get all of this border enforcement in place?”
LEE: “As a proponent of immigration reform, my problem has been sequencing and the fact that it's not a good idea to try to attack the entire problem at once. That's how you end up with a 1,200-page bill.
“And with the sequence of this bill in particular, we have to look to the fact that the pathway to citizenship begins basically on day one. But it will take many, many years, if not decades to fully implement all these border security measures.”
Step-by-Step Immigration Reform
WALLACE: “But, Senator Lee, Lindsey Graham says -- and I must say, a lot of Democrats say -- that will kill the legislation. They’re not going to accept border enforcement first and then a promise of dealing with legalization of the 11 million people who were already here afterwards.”
LEE: “Well, that's what they have said. It's what they want to be the case.
“The fact is, I think the House of Representatives has it right. In any event, the House of Representatives has said border security first. They are doing exactly the right thing. They are dealing with it in the right sequence.
“The House Judiciary Committee passed out of committee this week, two security measures -- two things to bring about robust immigration reform in a step by step process. I think that's the approach we ought to be taking.
“What's making this contentious, what's making it politically divisive is that the Senate "gang of eight" insisted on wrapping the issues up into one 1,200-page bill. That’s what’s making it divisive because they are putting the single most controversial, confrontational issue -- that of amnesty and ultimate citizenship -- into a 1,200-page bill.”
Not the Right Solution
WALLACE: “Senator Lee, let me pick up on what Senator Graham said to you. Mitt Romney got only 27 percent of the Hispanic vote back in November, 50,000 new Hispanic citizens become -- reach voting age every month in this country.
“If your party is seen as killing immigration reform, are you going to you see that at the polls for decades to come?”
LEE: “Well, look, if we turn immigration reform into a political football, everyone loses. We all know that. We’ve learned that from the past. We don’t want to have to learn that in a hard way in the future.
“What the American people want is to make sure our border is secure and they want to make sure that we fixed our legal immigration process, especially before we legalize, much less grant citizenship to 11 million people, treating them all the same regardless of whether they overstayed visas or crossed in illegally in the first place.
“We have to remember at the end of the day, that CBO told us early this week that this will be bad for wages. It will be bad for unemployment. This is not the right solution.”