Washington, D.C. - Senator Ron Johnson (WI) released the following statement regarding his vote on S. 744, the Immigration Reform Bill:
"America is a compassionate society, and no one wants to separate families by deporting moms and dads or husbands and wives. As a result, I support immigration reform and a path to legal status for people whose only crime was to enter the country illegally when they came here to work. I also recognize that our current immigration laws are not working – not for American workers, not for employers, and not for immigrants who want to come to America and play by the rules. That’s why I had hoped by the end of debate, I would be able to vote 'yes' to the immigration bill on the Senate floor.
"There are some good provisions in the Senate bill. The bill replaces the H-2A agriculture visa that has not worked with a much more workable system, affecting the 40 percent of dairy workers in Wisconsin who are immigrants. It also increases the caps for high-skilled workers, allowing this country to better compete in today’s global economy. The bill mandates E-Verify for the first time and takes important steps to clear today’s backlog, ending the ability to work here illegally and significantly easing the process to come to this country legally. However, much work remains.
"My bottom line in deciding whether or not I support this bill has always been that it must solve the problem. Unfortunately, I’ve come to the conclusion that it will not. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reaches this same conclusion in its evaluation of the underlying bill, finding that the bill will only reduce illegal immigration by 25 percent. That means an estimated 7.5 million more illegal immigrants will come to this country by 2033, recreating the uncertainty and fear in the next generation of children whose parents decide to come here illegally or overstay their visas.
"It’s not surprising that CBO reached this conclusion when you look at the amount of money we are spending on safety net benefits and other costs associated with this bill. CBO estimates that the bill will increase federal direct spending by $262 billion over the next 10 years. Most of those outlays would be for increases in refundable tax credits and in spending on health care programs for non U.S. citizens. That is why I introduced an amendment to prevent noncitizens from accessing the Earned Income Tax Credit. This amendment did not even get a vote, despite that fact that a recent National Journal poll found that 77 percent of all Americans oppose making newly legalized immigrants 'eligible for government benefits . . . before they become citizens.'
"Interior enforcement is as important as border security. Yet, this bill waters down our current entry/exit system that was outlined in 1996 and has not yet been enforced. While this bill purports to bolster border security, the legislation grants the Executive Branch, currently the Obama administration, over 200 waivers and grants of discretion on whether or how to implement the bill's specified elements. That is a fatal flaw. Presidents of both political parties are famous for ignoring Congressional intent when they have that choice. For decades, Presidents of both parties have refused to secure our border, and these waivers and discretions will continue that historical practice.
"I will not give up on immigration reform. As debate winds down in the Senate, I will work with my colleagues in the House toward a workable solution. I am voting 'no' this time around, but I truly hope that the bill we get to vote on after conference is significantly stronger and can ensure my support. Let’s solve the problem."