Speeches & Floor Statements

Floor Remarks of U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn) Border Security

Posted on January 18, 2007

Mr. President, I congratulate the gentleman from Georgia. He has described something I’ve been calling the last several months the Isakson principle. I believe the Isakson principle, which he has described in his immigration bill, is the basis for a comprehensive immigration bill that could attract 85-90 votes on the floor of this senate and that could, in a fairly short period of time, be reconciled with legislation passed by the House of Representatives It would be one piece of legislation that would first secure other borders and then, as the senator from Georgia says, the trigger would come in how we get the rest of the job done. And the rest of the job includes defining who can work and who can study in the United States if they come from overseas. The rest of the job also includes helping prospective citizens, of which there are about a million a year today--people who are here legally--to help them learn English, to learn our history, to learn our democratic traditions, so that we can be one country. There’s lots of talk this week, Mr. President, about the borders of Iraq. I believe there are some more important borders in world, at least, to us Americans, and they are the borders around our own country. It’s more important that we secure our own borders than it is we secure the borders in Iraq. Last year, both the Senate and the House of Representatives passed an immigration bill. I voted no on the Senate immigration bill. I did that because I didn’t believe it adequately made provision to secure our borders. It had some good proposals for border security and it had a number of other excellent proposals, but it didn’t guarantee they’d be funded. We all know that border security on paper means nothing. It requires boots on the ground, jeeps on the roads and unmanned aerial vehicles in the air. It requires an employer verification system and it requires adequate funding. So I voted no, but I said at the time that I was ready to vote for it and wanted to vote for a comprehensive bill, one that fixed the whole problem. And I suggested it then, as did a number of other senators, on the basis for such a bill was the Isakson principle. Well, instead of a bill, it was a political year. And some members of the House of Representatives including some members of my own party thought the wiser course was basically to run against the Senate bill that I’d voted against. Well, we now know how successful that turned out to be. That it wasn’t successful because the American people expect us to act like grown-ups, deal with big issues and come to a conclusion and there is no issue upon which we have more need to come to a conclusion that the issue of immigration. It is our responsibility. We can’t kick t to the governors. We can’t blame the mayor of Nashville. We can’t blame anybody in Iraq. It’s our job in the Untied States Senate and the United States House of Representatives and, Mr. President, we should base our bill on the Isakson principle and we should not stop our work on the immigration bill until we’re finished. The Isakson Principle is the basis for success with Immigration because of the so-called trigger. As the senator from Georgia said, once we put into provision all the things we need to do to secure the border, the trigger operates, and then we get to all the rest of the issues, some of which are hard to solve, but they’re made much easier to solve once we and the American people are assured that the border will be secure. Mr. President, it is outrageous for us in the United States Senate to preach about the rule of law to the rest of the world and ignore it here at home. The rule of law is one of the most important principles of our country. We should make no apology, not be embarrassed one minute for insisting upon it. Every new citizen knows that. They know that when they come to this country, they do not come here and become and American based upon their color or their ethnic background. They come because to be an American, you believe in a few principles which you must learn if you’re going to become a citizen and foremost among these is the rule of law. So we start with that. But that’s not the only principle new citizens learn. There’s the principle of Laissez-faire, strong economy and whether they’re going to be a noble prize winner or whether they’re going to be picking fruit in California, there’s the principle of equal opportunity, there’s the principle of E Pluribus Unum we adhere to. Principles-- instead of color and background. And there is the striation of the country that the tradition that we are a nation of immigrants. By our failure to act we’re showing a lack of respect to the rule of law and a lack of respect to our tradition as a nation of immigrants. It is especially outrageous for us to act when there’s to not act when there’s no one to blame but us. We can’t blame Syria, we can’t blame the Iraqi government, and we can’t blame Iran or al Qaeda. It’s us, our job. So Mr. President, I’m here today to commend the Senator from Georgia. Since last fall he has had before us the basis for sound, comprehensive immigration legislation all in one bill, two parts, secure our borders. Once that’s done then all he rest of it. I believe that would attract 85 or 90 votes, and I would suggest that respectfully, Mr. president, to my friend, the democratic leader and my friend the republican leader that we’re looking for things though do that are important that the American people expect us to act on, that we have already demonstrated we can work together that within a few weeks we take up the matter of immigration, we base it on the Isakson principle, and we don’t stop until we finish the job.