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John Kerry on Immigration

Jr Senator (MA), Democratic nominee for President


Temporary workers ok, and earned amnesty ok

Q: What should we do about the 8,000 people cross our borders illegally every day?

BUSH: We’re increasing the border security of the US. There ought to be a temporary worker card that allows a willing worker and a willing employer, so long as there’s not an American willing to do that job, to join up. I don’t believe we ought to have amnesty. I don’t think we ought to reward illegal behavior. There are plenty of people standing in line to become a citizen. If they want to become a citizen, they can stand in line, too. And here is where my opponent and I differ. In September 2003, he supported amnesty for illegal aliens.

KERRY: We need a guest-worker program. We need is to crack down on illegal hiring. And thirdly, we need an earned-legalization program for people who have been here for a long time, stayed out of trouble, got a job, paid their taxes, and their kids are American. We got to start moving them toward full citizenship, out of the shadows.

Source: [Xref Bush] Third Bush-Kerry Debate, in Tempe Arizona , Oct 13, 2004

A guest-worker program alone won’t solve the problem

BUSH: I don’t believe we ought to have amnesty. I don’t think we ought to reward illegal behavior. There are plenty of people standing in line to become a citizen. And we ought not to crowd these people ahead of them in line. If they want to become a citizen, they can stand in line, too. Kerry supported amnesty for illegal aliens.

KERRY: The borders are more leaking today than they were before 9/11. We haven’t done what we need to do to toughen up our borders, and I will. We need a guest-worker program, but if it’s all we have, it’s not going to solve the problem. We need to crack down on illegal hiring. It’s against the law in the US to hire people illegally, and we ought to be enforcing that law properly. We need an earned-legalization program for people who have been here for a long time, stayed out of trouble, got a job, paid their taxes, and their kids are American. We got to start moving them toward full citizenship, out of the shadows.

Source: [Xref Bush[ Third Bush-Kerry debate, in Tempe AZ , Oct 13, 2004

Restore immigrant benefits lost in 1996 welfare reform

John Kerry supports efforts to restore benefits to legal immigrants. The 1996 welfare reform law made most legal immigrants, including those already in the United States, ineligible for welfare, health care and other essential programs. In the years since, some of these benefits have been restored and John Kerry remains committed to fighting for the full restoration of benefits for legal immigrants.
Source: 2004 Senate campaign website, JohnKerry.com, “Issues” , Mar 21, 2004

Expedited citizenship for members of the Armed Forces

John Kerry believes the naturalization process for legal permanent residents serving in the Armed Forces should be expedited, the naturalization filing fee should be waived, and armed service members should be allowed to naturalize overseas. More than 37,000 legal permanent residents serve in the military nationally.
Source: 2004 Senate campaign website, JohnKerry.com, “Issues” , Mar 21, 2004

Earned legalization for immigrants to keep families together

Q: What about immigration reform?

KERRY: We need immigration reform. But the president’s plan is really a plan to exploit workers in America. It’s not a real immigration reform plan. What I want to do is have a full immigration reform plan that involves earned legalization, involves the technology and support we need on the border, work with President Fox in order to have a legitimate guest worker program. And finally, we need to crack down on those people in America who hire people illegally and exploit workers in the US.

Q: Earned legalization means people who came here illegally could work toward legal status.

KERRY: Sure. Absolutely.

Q: Why would that be fair to all of the people who came legally and are waiting in line to become citizens?

KERRY: I don’t think it is a good thing if they are working, if they’ve paid their taxes, if they’ve stayed out of trouble to start separating families and destroy the good work they’ve done through those years to be part of our country.

Source: Democratic 2004 primary debate at USC , Feb 26, 2004

Earned legalization for undocumented immigrants

Q: Should it become easier for undocumented foreign workers in the US to gain legal immigration status?

A: I support an earned legalization proposal that will allow undocumented immigrants to legalize their status if they have been in the United States for a certain amount of time, have been working, and can pass a background check.

Source: Associated Press policy Q&A, “Immigration” , Jan 25, 2004

Amnesty to anyone here over 5 or 6 years

Q: Would you support legalizing undocumented immigrants in this country?

KERRY: Absolutely. I supported and was prepared to vote for amnesty from 1986. And it is essential to have immigration reform. Anyone who has been in this country for five or six years, who’s paid their taxes, who has stayed out of trouble, ought to be able to translate into an American citizenship immediately, not waiting.

Source: Democratic Primary Debate, Albuquerque New Mexico , Sep 4, 2003

Voted YES on continuing federal funds for declared "sanctuary cities".

CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY: To create a reserve fund to ensure that Federal assistance does not go to sanctuary cities that ignore the immigration laws of the United States and create safe havens for illegal aliens and potential terrorists. This vote is a motion to table the amendment; voting YES would kill the amendment.

SUPPORTER'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING NO ON TABLING MOTION:Sen. VITTER: There are so-called sanctuary cities which establish as an official policy of their jurisdiction: We are not going to cooperate with Federal immigration enforcement officials. That is wrong. What is more, it is completely contrary to Federal immigration law. My amendment says: We are going to put some consequence to that defiance of Federal law. We are not going to give them COPS funds. We are going to send those funds, instead, to all of those other jurisdictions which abide by Federal law.OPPONENT'S ARGUMENT FOR VOTING YES ON TABLING MOTION:Sen. DURBIN: There are sanctuary cities in about 23 different States across America. What the Vitter amendment will do is to take away the COPS funding from those cities. Police departments will tell you they need the cooperation of everyone to solve crimes and stop crime. If you create fear in the minds of those who are here in an undocumented status that any cooperation with the police will result in their arrest, they will not cooperate and criminals will go free. Let's not use the COPS Program as some sort of threat. If you want to deal with immigration, deal with it responsibly in a comprehensive way. SUPPORTER'S RESPONSE:Sen. VITTER: If folks feel that way, they should come to Congress and change Federal law, not simply defy Federal law. This is another amnesty vote. Are we going to give folks in sanctuary cities amnesty for defying Federal law and refusing to cooperate with Federal immigration officials? LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Motion to Table Agreed to, 58-40

Reference: Bill Table S.Amdt.4309 to S.Con.Res ; vote number 08-S069 on Mar 13, 2008

Voted YES on comprehensive immigration reform.

    Establishes specified benchmarks which must be met before the guest worker and legalization programs may be initiated:
  1. operational control of the border with Mexico;
  2. Border Patrol increases;
  3. border barriers, including vehicle barriers, fencing, radar, and aerial vehicles;
  4. detention capacity for illegal aliens apprehended crossing the US-Mexico border;
  5. workplace enforcement, including an electronic employment verification system; and
  6. Z-visa alien processing.

Proponents recommend voting YES because:

If we do not legislate now, we will not legislate later this year when our calendar is crowded with Iraq and appropriations bills. We are then an election year, and it will be pushed over to 2009. Circumstances will not be better then, they will be worse.

A vote against cloture is a vote to kill the bill. A Senator may vote for cloture and then express himself in opposition to the bill by voting against the bill.

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

If this bill becomes law, we will see only a 13% reduction in illegal immigration into America, and in the next 20 years we will have another 8.7 million illegals in our country. How can that be reformed? I submit this would be a disaster.

The Congressional telephone systems have shut down because of the mass phone calls Congress is receiving. A decent respect for the views of the American people says let's stop here now. Let's go back to the drawing board and come up with a bill that will work.

The American people get it, and they do have common sense and wisdom on this issue. They know repeating the fundamental mistakes of the 1986 bill, joining a big amnesty with inadequate enforcement, will cause the problem to grow and not diminish. They know promising enforcement after 30 years of broken promises isn't good enough. They know the so-called trigger is a joke because if the trigger is never pulled, the Z visas, the amnesty happens forever.

Reference: McCain-Kennedy Immigration Reform Bill; Bill S.1639 ; vote number 2007-235 on Jun 28, 2007

Voted NO on declaring English as the official language of the US government.

Voting YES would declare English as the national language of the Government of the US. Unless specifically provided by statute, no person would have an entitlement to have the Government of the US communicate or provide materials in any language other than English. If an exception is made with respect to the use of a language other than English, the exception does not create a legal entitlement to additional services in that language. If any form is issued by the Federal Government in a language other than English, the English language version of the form is the sole authority for all legal purposes. Nothing in this amendment shall prohibit the use of a language other than English.

Proponents recommend voting YES because:

Right now, the polling shows that 91% of the people in America want English as an official language, and 76% of Hispanics believe English should be an official language.

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

I believe the American people understand in order to succeed in our society, immigrants need to learn English. But the amendment would do a number of things that are problematical. The first is that it is contrary to the provisions of law that exist in many States. For example, in New Mexico, you have in their State Constitution, a provision that says that many of the documents within that State have to be provided in both English and Spanish. The same thing is true for the State of Hawaii. I believe this is a States rights issue, and those constitutions of those States ought to be respected. I do not believe it is a matter we ought to be imposing here from Washington DC.

Also, this amendment would undo an executive order conceived by President Bill Clinton and implemented by President George Bush. Both recognized it is important that people who have limited English proficiency receive the kinds of services so they can understand what is going on in terms of the interface between the Government and themselves.

Reference: National Language Amendment Act; Bill S.Amdt.1151 to S.1348 ; vote number 2007-198 on Jun 6, 2007

Voted NO on eliminating the "Y" nonimmigrant guestworker program.

Proponents recommend voting YES because:

This legislation says we wish to add something called guest workers or temporary workers. With guest workers, working Americans would discover there is no opportunity for upward mobility at their job. In fact, every day their employers are trying to find ways to push down wages, eliminate retirement, and eliminate health care. What has happened in this country, with what is called the "new global economy," is dramatic downward pressure on income for American workers. The guest worker program provides that 400,000 people will be able to come in to assume jobs in our country per year--adding to the 12 million illegal immigrants already here.

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

I certainly concur about the need to secure our borders, about the need to have a workable immigration system, and the need for reform that ensures the rule of law is restored in the US. Where I differ is in the belief that we can actually achieve these goals if we have no ability for temporary workers to come to the country. This amendment would eliminate the temporary worker program from this bill.

Now, there are several reasons why a temporary worker program, within certain constraints, is a good idea. The first reason is because it will help to relieve the magnet for illegal immigration. The reason most of the people are crossing our border illegally is to get employment. There are jobs available for them. Some people say this is work Americans will not do. That is actually not true. But there are not enough American citizens to do all of the work that needs to be done. So naturally the law of supply and demand sets in here. People come across the border illegally, and they take that work. What we want to do is both close the border, but also eliminate the magnet for illegal employment here, because the reality is desperate people will always try to find some way to get into the country.

Reference: Dorgan Amendment; Bill S.Amdt.1153 on S.1348 ; vote number 2007-174 on May 22, 2007

Voted NO on building a fence along the Mexican border.

Within 18 months, achieves operational control over U.S. land and maritime borders, including:
  1. systematic border surveillance through more effective use of personnel and technology; and
  2. physical infrastructure enhancements to prevent unlawful border entry
Defines "operational control" as the prevention of all unlawful U.S. entries, including entries by terrorists, other unlawful aliens, narcotics, and other contraband.

Proponents support voting YES because:

It is obvious there is no more defining issue in our Nation today than stopping illegal immigration. The most basic obligation of any government is to secure the Nation's borders. One issue in which there appears to be a consensus between the Senate and the House is on the issue of building a secure fence. So rather than wait until comprehensive legislation is enacted, we should move forward on targeted legislation which is effective and meaningful. The legislation today provides over 700 miles of Within 18 months, achieves operational control over U.S. land and maritime borders, including:

  1. systematic border surveillance through more effective use of personnel and technology; and
  2. physical infrastructure enhancements to prevent unlawful border entry
Defines "operational control" as the prevention of all unlawful U.S. entries, including entries by terrorists, other unlawful aliens, narcotics, and other contraband.

Proponents support voting YES because:

It is obvious there is no more defining issue in our Nation today than stopping illegal immigration. The most basic obligation of any government is to secure the Nation's borders. One issue in which there appears to be a consensus between the Senate and the House is on the issue of building a secure fence. So rather than wait until comprehensive legislation is enacted, we should move forward on targeted legislation which is effective and meaningful. The legislation today provides over 700 miles of

Reference: Secure Fence Act; Bill H R 6061 ; vote number 2006-262 on Sep 29, 2006

Voted YES on establishing a Guest Worker program.

Reference: Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act; Bill S. 2611 ; vote number 2006-157 on May 25, 2006

Voted YES on allowing illegal aliens to participate in Social Security.

Voting YEA would table (kill) the proposed amendment to prohibit illegal immigrants from receiving Social Security benefits. Voting NAY supports that prohibition, while voting YEA supports immigrants participating in Social Security. Text of amendment:
To reduce document fraud, prevent identity theft, and preserve the integrity of the Social Security system, by ensuring that persons who receive an adjustment of status under this bill are not able to receive Social Security benefits as a result of unlawful activity.
Reference: Preclusion of Social Security Credits; Bill S.Amdt.3985 to S.2611 ; vote number 2006-130 on May 18, 2006

Voted YES on giving Guest Workers a path to citizenship.

This amendment to the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act would prohibit H-2C nonimmigrants ("Guest Workers") from adjusting to lawful permanent resident status. Voting YEA on the motion to table (which would kill the amendment) indicates supporting a path to citizenship for guest workers. Voting NAY on the motion indicates opposing any path to citizenship. The amendment says:
Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, an alien having nonimmigrant status is ineligible for and may not apply for adjustment of status.''
Reference: Kyl Amendment to Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act; Bill S.Amdt.3969 to S.2611 ; vote number 2006-135 on May 18, 2006

Voted NO on allowing more foreign workers into the US for farm work.

Vote to create a national registry containing names of U.S. workers who want to perform temporary or seasonal agricultural work, and to require the Attorney General to allow more foreign workers into the U.S. for farm work under H-2A visas.
Reference: Bill S.2260 ; vote number 1998-233 on Jul 23, 1998

Voted NO on visas for skilled workers.

This bill expanded the Visa program for skilled workers.
Status: Bill Passed Y)78; N)20; NV)2
Reference: The American Competitiveness Act; Bill S. 1723 ; vote number 1998-141 on May 18, 1998

Voted NO on limit welfare for immigrants.

This amendment would have restored food stamp benefits to the children of legal immigrants
Status: Motion to Table Agreed to Y)59; N)41
Reference: Motion to table Kennedy Amdt #429; Bill S.947 ; vote number 1997-111 on Jun 24, 1997

Comprehensive immigration reform without amnesty.

Kerry co-sponsored for comprehensive immigration reform without amnesty

SPONSOR'S INTRODUCTORY REMARKS: Sen. McCAIN: This bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform legislation is designed to fix our Nation's broken immigration system. While in previous years we worked independently on immigration reform legislation, we are coming together today to introduce what we believe is groundbreaking, comprehensive legislation. Over a year ago, the President laid out a framework for what comprehensive immigration reform should look like. We have used the President's framework to craft this package.

The simple fact is that America's immigration system is broken. Recent vigilante activities along the southwestern border have shown that the current situation is not sustainable. Americans are frustrated with our lack of border security and our inability to control illegal immigration.

Make no mistake, this is not an amnesty bill. We are not here to reward law-breakers, and any accusations to the contrary are patently untrue. This bill recognizes the problems inherent in the current system and provides a logical and effective means to address these problems. It would be impossible to identify and round up all 10 to 11 million of the current undocumented, and if we did, it would ground our Nation's economy to a halt. These millions of people are working. Aliens will not come forward to simply "report and deport." We have a national interest in identifying these individuals, incentivizing them to come forward out of the shadows, go through security background checks, pay back taxes, pay penalties for breaking the law, learn to speak English, and regularize their status. Anyone who thinks this goal can be achieved without providing an eventual path to a permanent legal status is not serious about solving this problem.

LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Referred to Senate Committee on the Judiciary; never came to a vote. [The famous McCain-Kennedy legislation which DID come to a vote was the 2007 version of this bill].

Source: Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act (S.1033/H.R.2330) 05-S1033 on May 12, 2005

Cover child resident aliens under Medicaid and SCHIP.

Kerry co-sponsored covering child resident aliens under Medicaid & SCHIP

OFFICIAL CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY: Grants States the option of covering certain categories of eligible pregnant women and child resident aliens, including targeted low-income children, under the Medicaid and SCHIP programs.

SPONSOR'S INTRODUCTORY REMARKS: Sen. CLINTON: This legislation would allow States to use Federal funds to provide critical healthcare services to pregnant women and children. This bill is fundamentally about three things--fairness, fiscal relief, and financial savings.

I will start with fairness. All across America, legal immigrants work hard, pay taxes, and exercise their civic responsibilities. Yet, in 1996, Congress denied safety net services to legal immigrants who had been in the country for less than 5 years.

This legislation is also a matter of good fiscal policy. Today, 19 States use State funds to provide healthcare services to legal immigrants within the 5-year waiting period. At least 155,000 children and 60,000 adults are receiving these benefits. A total of 387,000 recent legal immigrants would be eligible to receive these services if their States opt to take advantage of the program.

And finally, this bill is about long-term healthcare cost savings. Covering uninsured children and pregnant women through Medicaid can reduce unnecessary hospitalization by 22%. Pregnant women who forgo prenatal care are more likely to develop complications during pregnancy, which results in higher costs for postpartum care. And women without access to prenatal care are four times more likely to deliver low birth weight infants and seven times more likely to deliver prematurely than women who receive prenatal care, according to the Institute of Medicine. All of these health outcomes are costly to society and to the individuals involved.

LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Referred to Senate Committee on Finance; never came to a vote.

Source: Immigrant Children's Health Improvement Act (S.1104/HR.1233) 05-S1104 on May 23, 2005

Rated 0% by USBC, indicating an open-border stance.

Kerry scores 0% by USBC on immigration issues

OnTheIssues.org interprets the 2005-2006 USBC scores as follows:

About USBC (from their website, www.usbc.org):

U.S. Border Control, founded in 1988, is a non-profit, tax-exempt, citizen's lobby. USBC is dedicated to ending illegal immigration by securing our nation's borders and reforming our immigration policies. USBC [works with] Congressmen to stop amnesty; seal our borders against terrorism and illegal immigration; and, preserve our nation's language, culture and American way of life for future generations.

Our organization accepts no financial support from any branch of government. All our support comes from concerned citizens who appreciate the work we are doing to seal our borders against drugs, disease, illegal migration and terrorism and wish to preserve our nation's language, culture and heritage for the next generations.

Source: USBC website 06n-USBC on Dec 31, 2006

Other candidates on Immigration: John Kerry on other issues:
MA Gubernatorial:
Charlie Baker
Dan Wolf
Deval Patrick
Marty Walsh
Tom Menino
MA Senatorial:
Ed Markey
Elizabeth Warren
Gabriel Gomez
Martha Coakley
Mo Cowan

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