April 5, 2013Dear Colleagues:
I have received your timely letter regarding recent immigration reform efforts. I appreciate your interest in this important issue and I share your position about the need for a robust and public debate. As you know, I have been forceful and clear in my position that the Judiciary Committee hold multiple hearings on the topic and be given ample time to consider any immigration proposal. This is a position I reiterated last weekend in a letter to Chairman Patrick Leahy, which I have attached for your reference.
It has always been my view that any proposal crafted by the bipartisan group working on immigration serve as a starting point, not a take-it-or-leave-it proposition. I can assure you that the work we have done to date has been no different – and therefore no more or less secretive – than any other process intended to develop legislation as a starting point for debate.
As you know, at the very beginning of this process, my office issued a standing invitation for the entire Republican conference to send me input and ideas on immigration reform. In fact, I specifically asked for proposals on border security, workplace enforcement and a process to handle the millions of people currently in this country who are in violation of our immigration laws. To date, we have received no response from any of your offices. Nevertheless, as I have shared with several of you personally, I have used previous immigration-related bills you and others have filed in the past to ensure your views were reflected in the legislation. That includes a conversation I had with Senator Sessions during the budget votes, where I personally informed him that his amendment to prevent government benefits to undocumented immigrants was consistent with the proposal being worked on by the bipartisan group.
Nonetheless, I have been clear in stressing, both in the bipartisan group and publicly, that the most important part of the process is what comes after the legislation is introduced. I believe strongly that all other 92 senators should be given ample time not just to review the legislation, but to offer ways to improve it. Earlier this week, I requested and received permission to brief the entire Republican conference during our policy lunch next week. I look forward to briefing you at that meeting. In addition, I have asked my staff to brief the staff of every Republican member of your committee once the details of our starting point proposal are finalized. Rest assured I continue to welcome, value and encourage any input you may have. In the meantime, if you or your staff has any specific ideas on immigration reform, please contact us as soon as possible.
My hope is that the work of the bipartisan group is drawing to a close, and we will soon have a specific proposal drafted and ready for review by the entire Senate. Like all legislation of this magnitude, it should be reviewed and scrutinized thoroughly by numerous interested parties well before the first vote is taken.
Let me reiterate, this proposal will be a starting point. Assuming the majority follows regular order, as members of the committee of jurisdiction, I expect you to have ample opportunity to review, comment and amend as you see fit. If the majority does not follow regular order, you can expect that I will continue to defend the rights of every senator, myself included, to conduct this process in an open and detailed manner.