Speeches

I would like to speak briefly about Sen. Durbin’s recent request for a hearing about the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act.

The Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act is a bill that many senators have worked on for nearly a decade, and has long been a top priority of mine. I have introduced this bill in the Senate every Congress since I was first elected in 2010. During that time it has been the subject of widespread debate and attention both on and off the Hill, and other members, including Senator Schumer, have sought to pass the bill, as I am doing, by unanimous consent.

This year, we have come closer to making this important and bipartisan reform a reality than we ever have before.

In early July, the House of Representative passed the bill on the suspension calendar by a wide, bipartisan margin of 365 to 65. Around that same time, I negotiated an agreement with Senator Grassley to help advance the bill in the Senate by adding provisions drawn from the Durbin-Grassley H-1B reform bill.

Senator Grassley had, for many years, openly and publicly made it known that he had concerns with the bill. I was therefore very pleased that we were able to sit down and work out an agreement to address those concerns while keeping the bill narrow and focused on the immediate problem I am trying to solve – eliminating country-of-origin discrimination in our employment-based green card system. I thank Sen. Grassley for working with me.

The process by which I have tried to advance this bill this Congress has been open and straightforward. I have sought and continue to seek unanimous consent to pass the bill on the floor. If any member has raised a concern about the bill, I have been willing to work with them quickly and in good faith to address it. That is why, after reaching an agreement with Sen. Grassley, I also worked with other members to address their concerns.

For much of the past few months, I did not know who, if anyone, on the democrat side of the aisle, had concerns with the bill. We were told that there may be holds on the democrat hotline, but were not told who was holding the bill, and no one approached me with objections.

I certainly had no reason to think that Sen. Durbin would have concerns with the bill. As I have explained before, he was a leading co-sponsor of the bill in a previous Congress. What’s more, the only substantial difference between the bill he supported and the bill I have put forward this Congress is the addition of the amendment that I negotiated with Sen. Grassley, which is drawn almost entirely from provisions of the Durbin-Grassley H-1B reform bill.

In September, I learned that Sen. Durbin did in fact have concerns with the bill this Congress. As I have with other members, I am ready and willing to work with him in good faith to quickly and reasonably resolve any objection he may have while preserving the bipartisan support the bill has long enjoyed.

As I have said before, I do not believe that any further factual development about this bill is necessary. Indeed, at this point, I believe a hearing can serve no purpose other than to delay speedy action on this important reform, and jeopardize our ability to act before the end of the year. For that reason, I do not support Sen. Durbin’s calls for a public hearing.

Every day that we delay action on this bill is another day the suffering experienced by immigrants stuck in the green card backlog continues and, indeed, intensifies. That is why I will continue to work to pass this bill at the earliest possible date.

The Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act arguably has wider and more bipartisan support than any other immigration bill that has been considered in this body in recent years. The reason for that is because it is focused on a single, serious problem that I think we can all agree needs to be solved. Whatever other reforms you think need to be made to our immigration system, we can all agree that America should not treat immigrants differently based on their country-of-origin. There is no reason for this bill to become yet another casualty to the polarized, partisan divisions that plague immigration policy.

I look forward to working with Sen. Durbin to resolving any concerns he may have about the bill.