Let me say, that there is no community in America that understands the American dream of economic empowerment better than ours. And the reason is that the number one issue in our community is the desire to accomplish your dreams and hopes and to leave your children and your grandchildren with opportunities that you yourself never had.
Every single day, people lived, obsessed, in this country with that notion. But no community is more obsessed with it than ours. It’s the reason why people come here. It’s the reason why they work two jobs. It’s the reason why your parents gave up their own hopes and their own dreams so that you could do the things they couldn’t, so you could be what they could not be, so you could go where they could not go, so the doors that were closed to them were open for you.
Which community in our country understands that better than ours, there is none. It typifies our life. It’s who we are, it’s why we’re here. And it’s what’s made our country great.
And I would submit to you that there has never been an economic system that provides the opportunity to do that better than the American free enterprise system. No economic system is perfect. But nowhere in the world have more people from all walks of life been able to empower their children and their grandchildren more than they were able to do here in the twentieth century in the American free enterprise system.
And I also submit to you that today it is under assault. That our country today is run by a President that’s as divisive as any figure in modern American history, who sadly has chosen the route of dividing Americans against each other for the purpose of gaining votes and political support.
His message is one that basically says to people, the way to protect your job is to raise your boss’ taxes. That the way for you to do better off is for someone else to be worse off. That the only way you can climb up the ladder is if we pull some people down.
Now let me tell you, that language is common all over the world. You find it often in the third world. But it’s never been who we are.
As I said in a speech at the end of last year, we have never been a nation of haves and have nots. We have always been a nation of haves and soon to haves, a people who have made it and people who believe that given the chance they will make it too. And if we lose that, we lose the essence of what’s made us great in terms of economics.
And so, when the choices that are put before us today are dangerous ones, because if we choose this path of pitting people against each other, if we buy into this notion that our economy really can’t grow fast enough for all of us to prosper so we’re going to have to somehow empower government to distribute the wealth of this country among us, we’ve chosen to become like everybody else. We’ve chosen to become like the countries that your parents and grandparents came here to get away from. And that’s a powerful message. And that’s the message that we need to deliver. And that’s the message we need to work on delivering. It’s a winning message, but it’s a difficult message to get to because the gateway issue of immigration stands in the minds of so many people who we live next to and love.
Our country has a broken legal immigration system. Its status quo is unsustainable.
We don’t have a functional guest worker program in a nation that knows that it has, especially in things like agriculture, a need for temporary workers who enter on a temporary basis.
Our nation has a complicated and burdensome visa process, where even if you wanted to enter this country legally, and you wanted to stay here legally, it costs so much money, it’s so complicated, so bureaucratic, that it’s difficult to comply with.
And by the way, the things I just outlined to you are things of massive, overwhelming support in our country. There is broad bipartisan support across the board for the idea that America needs a legal immigration system that works.
And that’s why I have challenged the Republican nominees and all Republicans to not just be the anti-illegal immigration party. That’s not who we are, that’s not who we should be. We should be the pro-legal immigration party. A party that has a positive platform and agenda on how we can create a legal immigration system that works for America and works for immigrants.
And I think you could find broad bipartisan support today for the idea that our legal immigration system is broken and needs to be modernized. That we need to take into account the needs and realities of the 21st century and tailor a legal immigration system and a visa program that takes care of that.
I think you could find broad bipartisan support for the notion that our immigration laws need to be enforced, that we need some sort of electronic, low-cost, affordable verification system for employers. That we need increased border security and ways to protect our borders. That we need to invest in these technologies and make this possible.
I think you would find broad bipartisan support for the idea that we need a functional guest worker program. Where, from year to year, when there are indeed jobs, for workers from abroad to come into the United States because we need them for our economy to grow and prosper, so that food doesn’t rot in the farm fields, so that construction gets finished, or whatever the industry that year may be. A functional guest worker program, where people can apply in their home country, receive a tamper-proof identification card, enter the U.S., we know who you are, we know why you’re here, we know where you work, you’re here for a defined period of time and then you go home when it’s done. And by the way, they want that too.
You know why people overstay visas; you know why people overstay temporary, if they can get the temporary worker visas today? Because they’re afraid if they leave they’ll never be able to get back in, because it’s so complicated and burdensome and broken.
You can find broad bipartisan support for all of these ideas. So why haven’t they happened. Well they haven’t happened because the issue of immigration is a powerful one politically. And dividing people along the lines of immigration has proven to be rewarding to politicians on the left and on the right.
And so for those of us who come from the conservative movement, we must admit that there are those among us who have used rhetoric that is harsh and intolerable, inexcusable. And we must admit, myself included, that sometimes we’ve been too slow in condemning that language for what it is.
But, at the same time, on the left, there are those that are using this issue for pure politics. Creating unrealistic and unreasonable expectations among those in the Latino community across this country. Advocating that our country be the only one in the world that has no immigrations laws, and no mechanism for enforcing them. Both sides are guilty of using this issue to divide us. I think that needs to stop.
Now, if you solve the issue of the guest worker program, you solve the issue of the illegal immigration system that you have that needs to be reformed and modernized, you’re left with between nine and eleven million people who are in this country undocumented. They came for different reasons. They found themselves in this predicament in different ways, and it’s a real challenge for our country.
On the one hand there is not political support for the notion of basically granting eleven million people citizenship or a path thereto in the United States. It’s just not there. On the other side, it’s not realistic to expect that you’re going to deport eleven million people. It doesn’t work, we can’t do it, and it would offend American sensibilities and rightfully so. What’s the solution to it? There is no magic solution to it—that’s why it’s so complicated. And that’s why the politics makes it more complicated.
Now these young people that stood up a moment ago, I think one of the reasons why they’re here is because they’re concerned about young people. Let me say: I’m confident in what I have said throughout my political career and especially during my campaign for the Senate, that there is broad support in America for the notion that for those children that were brought here at a very young age, by their parents through no fault of their own, who have grown up here their entire lives, and now want to serve in the military or are high academic achievers and want to go to school and contribute to America’s future, I think there is broad bipartisan support for the notion that we should somehow figure out a way to accommodate them. Figure out a way to accommodate them in a way that does not encourage illegal immigration in the future.
Unfortunately some of the legislative proposals that are out there today go too far and there’s not support for those either. But I think we can solve that problem. And I hope that we, as Republicans and as conservatives take the lead in solving it. Because it’s not just the right thing to do, it speaks to our hopes and dreams as a nation. And it’s critical for our economic future.