A CONVERSATION WITH
                               MODERATED BY TOM OLIPHANT
                                      OF THE BOSTON GLOBE
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PAUL KIRK: Good afternoon everyone and welcome to the John F.
Kennedy Library. I see many familiar faces out there. For those who I
haven’t met, and for our viewing audience, I’m Paul Kirk. I Chair the Board
of Directors at the Kennedy Library Foundation. And on behalf of our
Board and John Shattuck, the Chief Executive Officer of the Kennedy
Library Foundation and Deborah Leff, the Director of the Kennedy Library
and Museum, let me say how honored we are to present this extraordinary
public program, made possible because of the generous support and
partnership of the Boston Foundation. And I would like to thank and
acknowledge Paul Grogan, President and CEO of the Foundation and his
colleagues who are with us here this afternoon. [applause] I also want to
acknowledge our annual sponsors of the Kennedy Library Forum Series,
including lead sponsor, Bank of America, Boston Capital, the Lowell
Institute, and the Corcoran Jennison companies as well as our media
sponsors, the Boston Globe and WBUR.FM. [applause]

We’re honored this afternoon to have among our special guests the archivist
of the United States, Alan Weinstein, and Sharon Fawcett, the Assistant
Archivist for Presidential Libraries at the National Archives; and graced by
the special presence of Vicky Kennedy, Senator Kennedy’s wife, and Matt
Kennedy, Joe Kennedy’s son. [applause]
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Immigration to America. I dare say none of us would be here if it were not
for a system of laws that allowed our forbearers to find America’s shores, to
seize its opportunities and to build a better life and future for us, their

In 1886, the Statue of Liberty was dedicated as America’s universal and
permanent welcoming symbol, welcoming those yearning to be free. One
hundred and twenty years later many are asking, “What is wrong with
today’s picture when we are building fences on the opposite end of our
country?” The answer is not easy. Emotions run deep, the stakes are high,
the issue is complex and controversial.

Immigration policy in 2006 impacts our economy and our competitiveness,
our security and our rule of law, our prejudices and our fears, our hopes and
aspirations, our rights and responsibilities as citizens, our culture, our
politics, and not least, our values.

This afternoon, on behalf of two vital institutions of this city, The John F.
Kennedy Library Foundation and the Boston Foundation, I have the pleasure
of introducing two special guests to help enlighten us on the various and
complex aspects of the current immigration debate and how we should think
about them.
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                               MODERATED BY TOM OLIPHANT
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Happily for us, Tom Oliphant is no stranger to this Library. He is one of the
best and brightest of the Boston Globe’s Hall of Fame. A key member of the
team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 1975. A recipient of the American
Society of Newspaper Editors Awards Writing. Washington Magazine
correctly recognized Tom as one of the country’s top political writers and
most influential journalists. And we benefit from his wisdom and insights on
the Jim Lehrer News Hour.

If you want to understand why so many admired Tom for the person he is,
you must read his book. Praying for Gill Hodges is a book about growing up
in a crowded flat in Brooklyn and rooting for the Brooklyn Dodgers in the
mid-1950’s. But it’s also a book about family and love, joy and heartache,
and the formative years of a youngster who turned out to be the real deal.
Welcome, Tom, and thanks for being with us. [applause]

Should anyone be surprised that our own Senator Kennedy is leading the
effort to enact a fair, pragmatic, comprehensive, bipartisan national
immigration policy that balances all the complexities mentioned earlier, with
our fundamental values as a welcoming national family. Not if we recall
that as a freshman senator, it was Senator Kennedy who successfully
managed the major reform of our immigration laws under the banner of
equality and fair play.
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We should not be surprised if we note that for the past 40 years under that
same standard, he has reached across the aisles of the U.S. Senate and
Congress to shape immigration legislation, to meet the challenges of
changing times. We should not be surprised if we stop to reflect upon the
obvious, that Senator Kennedy’s own heritage and his remarkable career
bear powerful but unspoken testimony to his belief that pluralism and
diversity contribute to America’s strength and character and not to its

And we should not be surprised if we understand that Senator Kennedy’s
public career is motivated less by government than it is by values. [applause]
Values based upon the supremacy of the rule of law. A profound respect for
individual dignity and a constant adherence to the principle that a society
achieves its greatest potential when economic and social justice are secured
for all its citizens. Those are the values which have been, and remain, the
driving force and tireless cause of Ted Kennedy’s public life.

Those of you who know me will agree that hyperbole is not my practice. On
the contrary, I believe we have a responsibility to place and keep matters of
history in their proper perspective. So I use these words with care, to
welcome Senator Kennedy to this place of history, this nation’s memorial to
his brother. When the great hand of history writes of the first 250 years after
America’s Founding Fathers left to succeeding generations the stewardship
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of the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and the United States
Constitution, we who have been privileged to see it first hand will not be
surprised when it records that no individual legislator or either House of
Congress, or either political party, worked harder or longer or with greater
commitment to the advancement of economic and social justice in our
national life than our own Senator Kennedy. We thank you, Senator, for
your service and for all your friendship. [applause]

SENATOR KENNEDY: Well, thank you so much, Paul Kirk, whose
provided such extraordinary leadership here at the Library for just so many
years. He’s a dear and valued friend to Vicky and myself, Gail [Paul Kirk’s
wife] as well. But I think for all the members of our family are enormously
grateful to Paul for all he’s done for this extraordinary tribute to President

After that introduction, I can hardly wait to hear what I have to say.
[laughter] John Shattuck, I thank you for your presence here for the series of
different forums that have given such life to President Kennedy’s Library.
It’s been an exciting series and unique and very, very special. We can all
think of our special occasions, but they’re numerous in my mind, and we’re
enormously grateful to you for all you do every single day here. [applause]
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I thank Paul Grogan, the head of the Boston Foundation. I had the good
opportunity to visit the Foundation a number of times, but never more
interestingly several months ago when Paul was at the helm of the
Foundation. And we looked back and reviewed the origins of the Foundation
and traced its beginnings and stirrings, looking out after immigrants on the
immigrant issues, in the early part of last century. And so we are all
enormously grateful to the Foundation for what it does every single day in
Boston. Makes this city a great deal more livable. Many of the challenges
that we’re facing, people that are facing in our community, the Foundation
always sort of finds ways to try and bring people and institutions and non-
profit organizations, others, together, to make life more livable, more
hopeful, give them greater opportunity. And Paul, we’re enormously grateful
for your presence, and for the existence of the Foundation. But, most of all,
for your leadership. I thank you so much. [applause]

And Paul has mentioned Tom Oliphant who has been such an important
commentator and thoughtful analyst on the news of the day. He does so
continuously now on television. He’s written -- and his analysis of our
political process and the political campaigns has been continuing, ongoing
and insightful and very, very special and unique. We’re very glad to claim
him as one of our own in Massachusetts and Boston. And Tom, we’re
thankful to you for all that you’ve done.
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Thank you for all being here. We’re going to talk for a short period of time.
Then Tom and I are going to have some question and answers, and we’re
going to ask some of the audience for some questions as well.

It’s really entirely appropriate that we’re talking about the issues of
immigration here at President Kennedy’s Library. I know we’ve got sort of a
misty Friday afternoon. We never are too demanding about our weather out
here. We know that the Red Sox won last night, so it keeps us in a good
mood. But, nonetheless, it’s entirely appropriate that this issue, which was a
very central part of President Kennedy’s administration—I’ll come back to
that in just a minute, though—but so much evolved even in the time when
my grandfather was a mayor of the City of Boston; 100 years ago he was
sworn in in the City of Boston.

I can remember him regaling me with stories about when he won, all the
Irish had been supportive, and he appointed an Italian to be the first fire
chief. And he had 2,000 people outside of his house at that time saying,
“Why don’t you appoint one of your own, Honey Fitz? Why don’t you
appoint one of your own?”

And the kinds of tensions that we have had over a long period of time as we
have all been growing in our city and in our nation has been one of the
extraordinary phenomenon. But we’ve made extraordinary kind of progress
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here in this city. We still have ways to go, but we’ve made enormous
progress here in the city and in this country. But,it hasn’t always been that

Paul mentioned 1965. President Kennedy elected in 1960, one of the first
pieces he introduced in the Congress of the United States was reform of our
immigration laws. I remember being on the Judiciary Committee after being
elected in 1962, and my brother Bob coming up and testifying for the
Immigration Reform Program. What was that really all about? And why was
it significant at the time?

It was significant at the time because we had a new generation of political
leadership that had taken over this country, primarily members of the
Democratic party, but some very important, enlightened and informed
Republicans that made a very, very important difference in civil rights, also
in ending the war in the 1960s. But at that time, what was the real central
challenge that we were facing? It was the issue that our Founding Fathers
failed on. And that was the issue of racial discrimination.

Founding Fathers wrote slavery into the Constitution of the United States.
But this generation, because of the real leadership of Dr. King in the late
1950s and the leadership that we had in the early 1960s, said we are going to
try and do something about it. I remember having the Civil Rights Act of
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1964 on the floor of the United States Senate and it being filibustered for ten
months. And then, finally, President Johnson talking to Everett Dirksen and
Dirksen making the compromise that permitted it to go ahead. And we had
the Public Accommodations Act, ’65 The Voting Rights Act, ’68 the
Housing Act. We began to knock down the walls of discrimination.

In 1965 we had the Immigration Act. Well, what did that really have to do
for it? Well, it had two very important provisions. One was to restrict
immigration to come here into the United States based upon your national
origin, which obviously was discriminatory on the basis of ethnicity. And it
also was discriminatory on the basis of race, because we had included up to
1965 the provision that they called the exclusion by the Asian Pacific
Triangle. Up to 1965 we had 127 Asians come in each year. Otherwise, they
were kept out. It went back to another period of American history called The
Yellow Peril, where we had an extraordinary period of racism, particularly
against Asians, Chinese in the western part of the country primarily, was still
a stain in our nation. And we effectively eliminated that.

And we decided in 1965 that we were going to eliminate those two
provisions. And you know what we were going to do? We were going to put
a priority on family reunification. That is the first priority of immigration.
And secondly, those that have some special skills that can make an addition
to the country. But three quarters of the immigration was basically families
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being reunified, having to wait their turn and coming here. And that sort of
guided us for a longer period of time.

And what we have seen in the recent times, now in the recent times, of
course, is an immigration system that effectively is broken, because of a
failure to deal with the current realities.

I was in the United States Senate in 1962 when we still had a Prosero
Program, a Brasero Program that imported workers primarily from Mexico.
And if you ever knew of a group that was as exploited, intimidated, treated
effectively almost like slaves was the Brasero Program. Absolutely
outrageous, both for the men and women at that time. And that only ended
in the early 1960s because we had no protections for the workers, no
protections against the exploitation by the employers at that time and no
protection against exploitation from those that brought these workers in. But
you know what happened? Illegal immigration stopped because we saw the
people that could come, or wanted to come, came here under the Brasero, as
bad as that was. But we effectively halted the illegal immigration on the
southern border.

Now, what do we see in the last ten years? Just on the southern border, for
all those that believe in the House of Representative’s bill which
criminalizes, makes every undocumented individual here in the United
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States a felon, effectively. Do you hear me? A felon! And if you are found,
you are deported immediately. And not only you, but if there is an
organization like a Boston Foundation that runs a program that is trying to
take care of individuals, or a church—Cardinal Mahoney, the great Cardinal
from Los Angeles, that runs programs that treats individuals of poor
individuals alike, that he would be considered to be an aide and an abetter of
a felon, and he could be deported.

Can you imagine in the United States of America that passed the House of
Representatives? That passed the House of Representatives? And you
wonder why people came out in terms of demonstrating that they weren’t
going to be considered a felon, the individuals that had been here, came
here, working hard trying to provide for their families. That is the Bill in the
House of Representatives. Added to it, you can’t build enough fence along
an eighteen hundred mile border, and we will increase the border guards if it
will bankrupt this country. It doesn’t make any difference at all, but we’re
going to close that border down.

Now, what did we have 10 years ago on the border? We had probably 70- or
80,000 undocumented that came across. Now you’ve got anywhere from
400,000, 800,000 or 900,000, you can take your pick on the figures. It’s
anywhere in that ballpark. And you know what we’ve done? We have built
fences along the southern … through southern California into Arizona. And
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you want to know what’s happened? In the areas where they have the
fencing, they’ve reduced un-documenteds coming through there by 28-30%.
And you know what’s happened in the places where they don’t have the
fence? That’s increased about 350-400%.

So what conclusion do you draw from that? From those that say, “Well,
let’s put more border fencing down there,” as they included it in the House --
17 members of the Senate. And I was proudly one of them that said, “No,
we’re not going to do this, 370 miles along the border between Mexico and
the United States. This isn’t where we’re going to start. But just to give you
a figure, 80 or more of my colleagues in the United States Senate voted in
favor of that.

They’re going to try that out now. They’ll have 1,800 miles to go if they’re
going to do it there, and then they better start thinking about the northern
border, 4,200 miles in Canada. It’s not going to happen, my friends.

But what has happened down on the border? We have spent $20 billion in
the last 10 years, not a small amount of money. We spent $20 billion on that
border in the last 10 years. We have increased the number of border guards
300%, and you have some of the finest trained people in the world that are
trained for four to six months, some up to eight months, that are highly
skilled, highly trained, highly disciplined border guards that are chasing
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gardeners around the desert in southern California in a completely broke
down, bankrupt system.

And anyone that thinks that you can just build more wires, that you can put
another 10,000 border patrol down there, we are doing 3,000 more detention
beds, so we’re going to be able to hold those people that we have down
there. We are talking about another $25 or $30 billion dollars almost a year
now to try and deal with the border.

Now, the fact is we have to deal with the border. As a nation we have to
have a secure border. We have now 500,000 individuals that are coming in
here. That is a potential national security issue. Why? Because not only do
we not know who they are, but they are part of an economy that is basically
underneath the surface of the legalized economy. And they’re subject to
exploitation, to blackmail, to deportation. And although you have not seen
al-Qaeda as part of this, or terrorists who have been a part of this whole kind
of movement, it has all the makings in terms of exploitation of individuals
and people. Children are going to grow up and see their parents exploited.
Children are going to grow up and see their mothers exploited, or their
fathers exploited on this.

And if we think as a country that this isn’t going to be a challenge in terms
of security, of our own kind of security, I don’t think we’re beginning to
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understand history. So we have to do something. But what are we going to
do? We’re going to do something about a virtual fence using technology,
not talking about the wires and the fencing, but we can do a good deal more
on that border. But what are we going to try to do?

That is we’re going to say look, we had the pressure of people that want to
come in. And what we’re going to do is fix the figure. We had 400,000 guest
workers. It was amended to be reduced to 200,000. Whatever that figure is,
we are going to say those individuals that want to go to the United States,
they’ll be able to check into their American embassy. They’ll say, look, this
job is available, here is the expansion of the hotels out in Nevada. There’ll
be workers in other kinds of the western states, other places around this
country. They’ll have to advertise here in the United States. They’re going
to come, and then after a period of 60 days where they’ve advertised,
indicating what the salary was going to be, you have a willing worker and a
willing employer. They will come on in and they will be given an electronic
card. And the employer will be required to have an electronic machine. And
that employer will be required to only hire individuals who have been
certified. And that particular worker is going to have worker protections.
That individual -- if he’s going to work in the construction -- is going to
have Davis Bacon protections. If they are going to work in contracting in
certain types, they’re going to get service contract protections. If they’re
going to work in any area, they’re going to be protected by prevailing wage.
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That’s entirely different. We’re rejecting the exploitation of these workers.
That worker is going to come in, and they are going to have the kind of
respect and protection. And any employer that is going to go out and hire
undocumented is going to be prosecuted and fined, face serious kinds of

We’re looking at legalization. We’re looking at legalizing those guest
workers that come here. We’re talking about strengthening a border, because
we’re going to take the pressure off that, because the individuals that want to
come here. We’re going to go to a real legalization program in terms of the
employer that never existed in the ’86 Bill, because you had all of the
forgeries that took place and never enforcement. So we’re going to legalize
that process.

And then as part of this kind of process, we’re saying that those individuals
who have been here—interesting, about 60% of them came across the
border, but 40% of them are extenders in terms of their visas. So when you
get the House of Representatives all talking about building that fence that’s
going to be a 100 miles long, it doesn’t do anything about half of the
individuals who are here, that came here legally and overstayed. Hello?

So this is what we are trying to do. We say to these individuals, “Look, if
you’re here, first of all you’ve got to demonstrate that you’ve had no run-
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ins-National Security kinds of clearance. You have to be clear in terms of
the law. You can have two misdemeanors, but no kinds of felon convictions.
They’ve got to one, they have to pay a fine, two, they have to learn English,
three, they have to effectively wait in line until the last person that today is
in line to come to this country under a legal kind of system at this time,
which is basically about five years now. They’ll have to wait until that
person has come here at the time that we introduced the Bill, Senator
McCain and myself. And then you can apply for the Green Card, assuming
that there are going to be Green Cards available. But you apply and you
wait five years and you become a citizen, 11 years.

Eleven years of paying a fine, of demonstrating paying all the back taxes, of
learning English, of showing a solid work record, and demonstrating that
you are committed to be a part of the whole American system. And that is
the legalization program. We are emphasizing the rule of law, which is non-
existent today. It doesn’t exist on the border. It doesn’t exist on
employment. And you have the kinds of exploitations that you have every
place in this country in terms of the undocumented. And it is growing. This
isn’t an issue that’s disappearing; this is growing.

Now, let me just mention one final area. We also believe very strongly,
Senator McCain and I, that we have to have the help and assistance of
Mexico. And we have to have the help and assistance of the country’s
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essential America. The only way this is ever eventually going to work is the
issues of demography over a longer period of time. Mexico is a wealthy
country, and it is on the move. It’s going to take some time to get, obviously,
close to where we are. But it’s going to be one of the very … It is one of the
great and important countries today. But in terms of its movement as a
world economic power, it is on the way and it is on the move.

Most demographers feel that in 15, 18 years there won’t be really the
pressure, because there will be the economic opportunity. We’ve seen that
in terms of the Irish that came here in the 1980s and now have gone back to
Ireland, the number one economy in all of Europe. And individuals that have
gone back to Ireland.

And so with this legality, with the card, individuals will be able to go back to
Mexico if they want. They can go back for two or three years. Then they
have to demonstrate if they’re going to be part of our system; they have to
demonstrate continued work here. But if some choose to go on back, that’s
fine, well. So you’re going to have circularity. But we have to get Mexico
as a part of this. And Mexico has to demonstrate. They have a very
interesting, effective program. For every dollar that’s returned, repatriated,
as many of the individuals do—if they repatriated, not just to the individual
family member, but if they do it to their community, and it’s surprising the
number that do-say, “Well, I want the biggest bulk to go to my family, but I
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want that community—I want them to build that school for my
grandchildren back there.” And the Mexican government matches that two
to one. And we ought to be able to find ways that we can work with Mexico,
our neighbor, our friend, our ally, where we export great amounts of
American products, and the countries in Central America, and begin to look
more focused on the challenges that we’re facing in these areas. That is a
key element in terms of looking at this. We’ve got to look at it in a broad

Final point I’m making. When I look at this issue, I say finally, this is an
issue about our humanity, our decency and our values, as Paul would say.
We admire the qualities that bring these individuals here to the United
States. Who are they? These are individuals prepared to leave their families,
to go across the northern part of Mexico where about 500 a year are dying
out in the desert. So they’re risking their lives. They don’t know where
they’re going to get a job, but they’re going to get a job and try to get
something better. And what do they do? They work extraordinarily hard,
and then they repatriate to who? To their families, to look after their

We in this country value hard work. We value people that work hard and
love their families. This is a group of individuals that get highest attendance
of any group in our society in terms of going to church. They have more
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respect in terms of their elders, and bring their elders in as soon as they get
some kind of a … You can look. I’m not taking the time to go through the
statistics, the comparisons. Unbelievable.

And the first thing what they do is when the men become residents, what
they do is try to become part of the military; 70,000 now are in Iraq and in
Afghanistan and serving in our country. Scores of them have been killed in
Iraq. These are individuals who want to be part of the American system. For
anybody that’s interested, look at the latest poll that you can get on the
internet : 98% of them will pay the penalty, 98% of them want to join the
military, 98% of them want to be a part of the whole American dream. Why
should we possibly expect that they’re any different from any of our
forbearers that came here and want to be a part of this great country?
[applause] And that is the essence of what this is all about. So thank you
very much. [applause]

TOM OLIPHANT: Thank you very much. And here’s how we’re going to
try to make this work. I’m going to ask a couple of questions of the Senator,
sort of set the scene. And then it is up to you. You are a huge audience, God
bless you all. And to try to make this work there are going to be people
circulating with pieces of paper. And if you would be so kind as to write
your question down, have it be about immigration. Don’t ask the Senator
how come Matt Clement isn’t pitching so well this year. [laughter] And be
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as brief and as legible as you can be, since I’m old and wear trifocals. And
that way we ought to be able to be just fine.

Senator, if I could start this out by asking you a historical question, to take
advantage of your experience today. My list, it’s going to sound like a
prelude to asking him how old he is, but I’m innocent. My list of the major
immigration debates of the last 40 years in which you were the central
figure, includes 1965, 1980, 1986, 1990, 1994, 1996, 2002 and right now.
And I just was curious what the lesson of all that history is? Is it a straight
line leading somewhere? Or is the history more like a pendulum swinging
back and forth between restrictions and welcomes?

SENATOR KENNEDY: Well, as you might expect, that’s a very good
question, Tom. You’ll meet someone here next week to talk about it.
[laughter] ’65 was a bell weather because it was the real major changes
uniquely. And able to get this legislature through, you had to be really a bell
weather, unique in terms of all of that history. 1980 was really about the re-
definition of refugees. 1980 was really about refugee and refugee protection.
There are a great number of refugees around the world. And we had the
Hesburgh Commissions that were set up for those people really interested in
this, and Father Hesburgh from Notre Dame, they were established in 1978.
I think President Carter had been a supporter of that -- for them to do a
rather definitive series of recommendations about how the United States
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ought to update its refugee laws. And we did a good deal of that in the 1980
period. And I think it was basically considered to be—Because I had my
differences with President Carter, but on the issues of human rights, that
administration was so far ahead of so many, breathtaking. And this refugee
work was consistent with where they were doing. And we followed the
recommendation and that was passed.

1986 was the—At that time again it was Father Hesburgh that made a
recommendation. And it was the concern about this sub-class. We’re far
more than we had at that time. Basically as a result of agricultural workers,
there’s enormous exploitation even with the—This is the Cesar Chavez that
had been in the ‘60s with Robert Kennedy trying to organize. They had
enormous kinds of exploitation in terms of farm workers. And there was the
beginning to get this subterranean class. And in 1986 we changed the
penalties on the undocumented from being on the workers, where the
penalty had been in.

So if you found someone up to 1986 and he was undocumented, you
punished that person, rather than punish the employer. We changed that to
hold the employers accountable. But we also gave at that time an amnesty
trying to give those that had been here, primary older people that were a part
of the system. And that’s used now. Those who are opposed to the current,
say, “Look, this is the same as 1986.”
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It’s entirely different. We have a penalty, a probationary period, many more
different kinds of requirements than they ever had at that time. And the
system began to break down in ’86, because we had no legal enforcement,
because we had the proliferation of fraudulent documents. And so you had
… You got to remember, it was American employers who were enticing
these workers. A very poor country, and they were enticing them with
resources and money during this time. I mean, it isn’t—They blame all the
individuals that come over here to provide for their family. American
employers were trying to do everything they possibly could to get them to do
that. And now we say, “Oh they’re felons now.” So that was really 1986.

The 1992—and then I’ll cut this short—that was a disaster. That was a
Republican special. For those that follow this, we eliminated asylum
protection. We put in pace these deportations, these horrendous deportation
provisions. You know, some time for people that are interested, we can give
you the families that are down in New Bedford, Fall River, that have lived
here for years. Had made some mistake perhaps riding in a car where
someone had done something wrong when they were 12 years old. They’re
35 or 40 years living down in New Bedford. They’re on a boat back to the
Azores. And complete denial of any adjudication. We eliminated the
courts. We eliminated review of any judgments that were being made. It
was some of the most horrific violations of individual rights and liberties.
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And that was big. And now we’re about where we are. That’s too long an

TOM OLIPHANT: But you anticipated what I was going to ask next. And
that is something about the present situation. Something resembling yours
and Senator McCain’s proposal has passed the Senate. Something very much
not resembling it has passed the House. And as we all learned in our civics
book, now the spaghetti has to get made.

Instead of asking you to predict the outcome or to negotiate in public, could
you nonetheless help us to understand where the lines in the sand are for you
as this process goes forward. What are the principles that you are trying to
either advance or defend in this immigration committee?

SENATOR KENNEDY: Let me answer the question this way. We have a
very interesting combination of people, or supports for it. We have the
Chamber of Commerce, our good friends in Unite, and the Labor movement
that see this as an opportunity to get respect for workers. And also the
chance to see an expansion, both of workers, so there’s not going to be the
exploitation. And people that have signed off: the church groups, the
Catholic Conferences for it, all of the religious—not completely, but a very
substantial part of the religious community. So you have a very interesting
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And I as someone who is a legislator feel honor bound to respect those parts
because each part brings a big difference to a part of our coalition. And
that’s what this process is. When you’re going to get into this and sign off on
it, you got to stay with it. On my side, on the Democratic side, they tried to
eliminate all the guest worker programs. There were enough people here that
could fit into that kind of part. I had to vote against it. I was one of three
people that voted against it, because I made a deal with McCain, not the
deal, the compromise—[laughter]

TOM OLIPHANT: Good government, right?

SENATOR KENNEDY: Good government. But in making the agreement
with Senator McCain, he said, “Okay,” when we made that, that they would
get the Davis Bacon provisions, which he didn’t want, the Chamber didn’t
want, the minimum wage and the service contract employees they didn’t
want. Otherwise, you’d have the exploitation. So, you know, if you’re in,
you’re in, on this part.

The real—Let me just answer it this way. This issue is different from most
of the other issues that we’re dealing with. I’m a great believer in
comprehensive health. I’m a great believer in the education, early education,
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and moving along—I mean, all of these which you’ve heard of hopefully
one time or another me talk about.

But this has a … and while I mention that, we had an amendment on the
floor of the Senate to make English the national language. And it was
enormously offensive. It is the unifying language. It is our common
language. But to make this the national language was proposed by and
carried by those that didn’t want this legislation to pass. Guess what?
Yesterday in the House Senate agreements to cut back on the budget and cut
back on programs to meet the President’s budget on the supplemental, one of
the first things that the Republicans did is eliminate the English language
training funding that exists at the present time. As Paul Grogan would say,
“There are 24,000 individuals waiting in line in Boston trying to learn
English.” Our problem isn’t getting them to learn English; they want to learn
it. They’ve just been working hard all day, and they need to have a place
where they can go and professionals that will help them learn it. And that’s
the sort of thing that’s dangerous.

But the final point I’m going to make. This issue is separate from the routine
issues. It’s a movement. That’s what you saw with these demonstrations that
took place. It’s a movement. And it’s a deeply felt, emotional as anyone
could understand part of it. Because it reflects on the integrity, the whole
sense of who these individuals are, about their children or about their
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parents. And all of us would be out there demonstrating if that were the case.
So don’t minimize the power of that, the power of that.

And as was suggested the other day, if we got a good Voter Registration
drive going in Nevada, also in Arizona where ...(inaudible) Nevada where
...(inaudible) is. And then one down in Texas with Kay Bailey Hutchison,
we would have passed that overwhelmingly. You know, the House is
different. But you cannot miss this is not an ordinary issue. It’s got a power
behind it that is based upon a morality and value system. And when I see
that -- I’ve seen it at different times -- that really does sweep down the
mightiest walls of resistance more often than not. And we ought to keep
taking this wave and keep ...(inaudible) it until we get a fair outcome.

TOM OLIPHANT: You anticipated sort of my last question before we get
to these. Immigration, of course, is an international phenomenon, a national
one. And it is also a very regional and local one. I think I’ve digested
studies from around here that there would have been no growth in personal
income in New England or Massachusetts in more than the last decade had it
not been for immigration. Could you briefly assess the current state of
services for people who are trying to contribute to what at times almost
seems like a labor shortage?
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SENATOR KENNEDY: I think this is enormously important, and there’re
so many examples. You go to Lawrence, you can see very, very clear
examples where immigrants -- you know the Cambodians and the Laos,
South Vietnams -- just changed all communities. You see this in different

But we are basically … it’s estimated about 500,000 slots short nationwide a
year that we’re not filling. And most people believe … I mean, I’ve sat
through every hearing you could possibly imagine. I listen to those who say
it’s a weight on the economy and those who say that they contribute more.
But, you know, the Congressional Budget Office, that’s not you know
Democratic lefty organization, they have estimated that the next 10 years the
contributions of those that are here, documented and undocumented, about
$76 billion dollars more paid into reduction of the deficit, reduction of the
budget, than will be taken out. Those are dollars in figures, but it doesn’t
reflect the job slots and the development for so many businesses in so many
different communities around here that’s been an essential. You’re getting
now probably 6% of the total job force. And it’s moving up to 12% just
nationwide. In other areas it’s dramatically more and in a number of
industries. And I think if you look at the 12-15 growth industries, you’re
going to find out that probably five of them that are very important in terms
of the development of the economy fall into this category as well. We
haven’t talked about the H1-B issue which is the higher skill issue, which is
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related you know somewhat to this question. But this is certainly in terms of
the bread and butter issues.

TOM OLIPHANT: But is it fair to say that without adequate services for
new arrivals, their ability to fill some of the gaps in the region’s economy
would be limited?

SENATOR KENNEDY: Well, I think there’s most of a sense, if everyone
left who was here now, as the undocumented on this part that we’re filling
in, most people say there would be a significant collapse in terms of the
American economy. I mean, that is not an over-statement. I mean, if they all
suddenly kind of left their, there would be an increasingly slowdown all
across the economy.

TOM OLIPHANT: Okay, here we go. Here’s one from a 10 year old
member of the audience, Dan Borkin, who is one smart kid. Because he
asks, “With all the attention on Mexico, are there other countries that are
also contributing significantly to immigration currently? And what are the
ones we should think about in addition to Mexico?”

SENATOR KENNEDY: At the present time it’s about 80-85% of all
immigration here in the United States is from Mexico, the countries of South
America and Asia, at the present time. We had a small diversity program,
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about 42,000 people a year that had to demonstrate that they weren’t security
threats and came from countries outside of those areas where it had the
greatest flow here. Eight million applications for 42,000 slots. And they
couldn’t come here as dependents; they had to demonstrate that they
completed high school or had the equivalent training so they’re employable.

So that was sort of the beacon of hope aspect. These are people from all
over the world that recognize the United States. And we, unfortunately,
closed that down. But primarily coming in here, it’s probably 85—some
Asian immigration influx into it. And there’s some other countries. But,
primarily for the southern border.

The northern border is interesting. We didn’t talk about that. Now, let me
just mention that very quickly, although it’s not directly related. If we had
the Secretary for Homeland Security here today, he’d say the greatest danger
in security is from the north. And that is because it’s an overall immigration
policy into Canada that is really quite different from ours. It isn’t so much
the border. Everything you’ve seen on television is talking about our 4,200
mile border. But it’s other individuals that are coming in. And the Canadian
policy is very flexible, very open. And we have to get about -- if you’re
talking about immigration policy -- working with the Canadians to get sort
of a universal kind of view about what the individuals they’re going to let on
in to Canada, the United States, and also in Mexico, Central America. I
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mean, that’s sort of the next step if you’re looking down the road in terms of

Let me mention one other point that jumped into my mind since the question
came. If you’re looking at what we’re trying to do, and that is to try to bring
everybody into it in a legal way and a fair way, look at what has happened in
these other countries where you haven’t done it. Look at the problems that
the French have had. Look at the problems of what’s happened in Britain
with their failure to bring the integration of the communities, the Muslim
communities, into their kind of society. And the cells that have developed in
terms of al-Qaeda.

They will tell you—I mean, most serious people would tell you—and no one
will talk about absolutes after what we’ve seen happen in Canada. But with
regard to the Arab community here that’s out in Michigan and Detroit,
you’re not seeing this kind of development and evolution, because people
feel that they can be part of the system. That has to mean something in terms
of our national security. And there’s every evidence of that. If you look at
what’s happened in France, if you look what’s happened in Spain, and look
what’s happened in England, and also the danger in terms of Germany,
because they’ve had the importation of a great many Turks over a period of
time. They keep them in separate kind of places and all of the rest. And
what’s happening in churning this.
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We ought to at least learn from history. And I will tell you, so many of these
lessons are out there about the opportunities to do it the right way and the
dangers of doing it the wrong way. And that is something that this country
ought to learn from.

TOM OLIPHANT: Let’s get local for a minute. Many state government
politicians and leaders have taken various steps legislatively or by executive
order. Here’s one of Governor Romney’s, and the writer of the question is
curious what you think of it. Involving the status of the children of so-called
illegal immigrants paying out-of-state tuition at public community colleges
and universities. Is this the kind of change that makes sense in the context of
a comprehensive immigration policy?

SENATOR KENNEDY: Well, I don’t think so. But I know that this is a
live issue here in the state, and it has been in other communities. I mean, it is
based upon a predicate that we’re going to start to keep people out. I still
remember 1960 a key issue between Senator Kennedy and the Vice
President was on education -- where President Kennedy believed that
anyone, anyone who was able to gain entry into a school or a university
based upon their ability shouldn’t be limited by the finances.

And at that time they ought to re-pass the higher ed, which was 80% grants
and 20% loans. Now it’s 30% grants and 300% loans for kids. And this
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society has to be about embracing the fact that we are going to need the
abilities of every person young, and education has to be ongoing and
continuing and start earlier and continue and training. Continued training of
people and upgrading of skills.

Other countries do it. The European countries do it. Everyone of them has
training. Every industry in Europe has a training program, or they pay a
percent and a half off their top into a fund for training programs to upgrade
the skills of their workers. We’re cutting back on all of that training.

And we have included in the legislation what they call The Dream Act to try
and make sure that we aren’t going to … It’s all predicated about, you know,
I’ve got to get mine in order to step on somebody else so they don’t get
theirs. We all know about this in life. You know, if I’m going to get ahead,
I’m going to be pushing somebody else down, rather than the concept, I can
get ahead and the other person can get ahead, and we both get ahead, and
we’re all better off.

I think we saw that, quite frankly, here on the Health Bill here in the state of
Massachusetts, where you got DiMasi and Travaglini and Romney,
everybody jumped. The business community, many of those that are here
today in the health community, and they all saw the possibilities. And
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everyone went. And people were excited. They know they’re still going to
have to do something about it.

As compared to what happened in the Senate just about the same time, the
issue was whether we were going to take the Immigration Bill up, and
everyone was scared. Well, if we go ahead it will look like it’s a victory for
Bill Frist. We can’t do that because he’s running for President. Maybe it
will get so far the President will get credit. Well, we can’t do that, we need
the issue. Well, we can’t get the issue because then we’re going to get
blamed. Well, what the hell are we going to do? Nothing. And that’s what

And then finally we got it back on track again. But it’s the age old political
kind of a part. It’s either the voices of negation and defeat and narrow
mindedness, or it’s going to be the voices of hope. You know, that’s the one
important continuing part of the Pell Grants is that anyone can get it. That is
required appropriations. We got that in when they passed the Bill. So that
anybody that’s financially able can get it, get the Pell Grants. It doesn’t run
out of money just at the end. If anybody is eligible for it, they can get it. Its
value has been reduced dramatically -- that was done for a purpose, so we
would avoid this kind of recrimination.
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TOM OLIPHANT: Senator, there are a couple of questions here worth
combining in a way. When you legislated the major changes involving
things like the boat people in 1980, you were Chairman of a Subcommittee
of the Judiciary Committee that included the word “refugees.” You’re still
the ranking member of that subcommittee, but the word refugees is missing.

One of the questions here asks how the United States is doing in terms of the
reunification of separated families? And secondly, more generally, if you
could speak a little bit to how you think the 9/11 attacks have affected this
discussion we’re having now?

SENATOR KENNEDY: I can save that second part to last. On the
refugees, we take in probably 60,000 refugees a year. And we have about a
12 month … it’s done through various church groups. And they do an
extraordinary job. We took in, in Massachusetts, Tibetans, about 250
Tibetans. I remember going over to Cambridge and meeting with them.
They have just been brought on in, assimilated in that community, and have
just done an extraordinary job about it. So they’ve been a success. There are
always a problem or two. But that’s basically where we are on this.

And always the question is, who are we going to take in? And this is the
principle problem worldwide. And that is, we are housing these refugees.
There are major refugee areas in southeast Asia. There are in Saudi Arabia,
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left over Iraqi’s from the Iran/Iraqi war. There’re major groups in Africa.
And we’re talking about people in communities of several hundred thousand
in many of these kinds of areas. And they’ve been in there 15, 20 years, 25
years. And they’re just absolute places.

I mean, we got a lot of challenges in Dafur, and we can’t forget. You know,
we’ve got a lot of challenges around the world. But this aspect of the
refugees and the unwillingness for powers, the great powers to try and do
something with it is probably … If you’re looking just to refugee problems,
probably the greatest humanitarian, on refugee issues in the world, and that
is going on. They’re doing somewhat better in terms of reunification of

Last aspect, for those that are interested, is the number of children. We have
unaccompanied children. We have about 10,000 children that come
unaccompanied here. And many of them are literally unaccompanied. They
hook up with some of these gangs. They come on in and they’re being held.
And they are not guaranteed representation in the immigration service. We
try to guarantee the representation by a lot of the legal service—tried to do
some, but many of them don’t. And it’s a subject of enormous human
tragedies in these areas.
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Diane Feinstein has been very important in this, to get it over at the
Department of Health and Human Services rather than in the Justice
Department. But, you know, these kinds of issues go on for a long time.

TOM OLIPHANT: And they will. You know, what I sometimes hate
about this duty is the demand that I have to say when time is up. And the
moment is almost at hand for this busy …

SENATOR KENNEDY: I’ll tell you one quick, funny story. And this is
the one they tell years and years and years and years and years ago, and it
was about Shaughnessy. Shaughnessy wanted to become a citizen and he
couldn’t pass the exam. Couldn’t pass the exam. And he always missed it by
one. So he came on into the senator’s office, and he said, “There’s always
one question I get wrong.” “Well, what’s the question?” they said. “Do you
favor the overthrow of the United States government by force or violence?”
And he said, “I’ve answered it both ways now, and I still can’t get it right.”
[laughter] Thank you very much for being here. [applause]

PAUL KIRK: Thank you, Senator, for a tremendously informative
afternoon. We thank you for your leadership and wish you well. Thank you,
Tom. Thank you, The Boston Foundation. Thanks for a great audience.
Come back to the next Forum. Great to see you.
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