2/15/09

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand Chats w/Mark Green

Mark Green talks policy with New York's junior senator Kirsten Gillibrand:

Here's the q&a on the economic stimulus and immigration:

GREEN: In your view, is the Stimulus/Recovery bill good enough for New York -- or, if you were on the Conference Committee, what would you have tried to get back in good for NY?

GILLIBRAND: Well, I would've been advocating for more funding for education. It's one of the areas that the senate took out. And those dollars would've been very, very valuable to New York state, because, obviously, education is the gateway for the American dream. And I think it's so important that we're investing in our kids by giving them, not only the resources to have the best education possible, but opportunities for early childhood education and for college tuition. So, having more of those dollars in education funding, I think, would've been a long term economic stimulative effect that really can't compare to anything else. Because when you educate a child, and you give them the opportunity to achieve their God given potential, that child will then excel and they will go on to high school and go on to college. And when you have a college education, you know, you can earn much more money. The average high school diploma earns you about $25K, but the average college diploma is closer to $45K. And that means you can provide more for your family and invest more in our economy. That's an effect that's long-term economic growth.

GREEN: If a version of the Kennedy/McCain bill came up on the Senate floor -- creating a "pathway to citizenship" by the payment of fines, learning English, waiting 12 years -- could you support a version of that, or would you continue to view it as "amnesty"?

GILLIBRAND: Well, the Senate bill had a lot of flaws. So, we need a lot of work on a comprehensive immigration strategy. One of the biggest flaws of the bill was that it accepted that, for family reunification, an eight year backlog was acceptable. To me, that's outrageous. Why would you say you're doing immigration reform and not solve that issue? What you should have is to hire the right number of lawyers and caseworkers, have infrastructure in place so you can get that backlog done within six months. Immigration is part of our nation's heritage. Our country was built on immigrants. We have so much richness in our culture and in our traditions because of our immigrant populations. Family reunification is a core value of America, and it's something that we should solve.

The second issue that I felt was very problematic was if we're going to have a guest worker program, then you need to have one that is going to work. Immigrant communities are very vibrant and essential for our economy and for many, many industries. I happen to know a lot about farming. So, in that regard, we need to right-size immigration. We need to know how many visas we need in this country and have the right number and have a system that actually allows for an immigration system that works, and works for everyone. So, I will work with the President on a comprehensive immigration plan... Whether it's similar to what the Senate bill had, whether it's learning English, paying back fines, paying back taxes, having a job training opportunity, whatever the President wants to do, I will work with him in that regard. I think we do need t o solve the problem in a comprehensive way so that we can have a system that works and works for everyone.
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