Sen. Leahy responds
to letter writer
Editor of the Reformer:
I write in reply to Mr. Dart Everett ("Deliberation? Not in the U.S. Senate," April 19) about the Senate’s consideration of comprehensive immigration reform legislation. I would guess that Mr. Everett and I share the general goal of fixing the nation’s broken immigration system. I have made comprehensive immigration reform a top priority for the Judiciary Committee this year, and am making every effort to ensure that sound and well-examined immigration reform legislation moves through the Senate with the deliberateness that the American people expect and that this difficult task requires.
While Mr. Everett asserts that I have agreed "to hold only one hearing" before considering this important bill, the fact is that we have had five hearings in the Judiciary Committee on the issue this year, with another scheduled. I am proud that Vermont will have a front-and-center seat as the immigration reform package is assembled. I have invited Vermonters to both attend and testify at these hearings, knowing how much our broken immigration system hurts Vermont farmers and businesses. These hearings are public and streamed live online. In fact, in the past three Congresses under my role as chairman, the Judiciary Committee held 24 hearings on immigration. My staff and I have sought out, heard from, and met with Vermonters to gather facts and to help shape appropriate solutions. To me, listening, learning and refining are what the legislative process is about. That is what I have done and will continue to do as these reforms are shaped into legislation.
It would be a shame if this critical and bipartisan effort were slowed down by the partisanship and filibuster tactics that have come to define the Senate in recent years. To ensure a fair and open process, the Judiciary Committee will have extensive markup sessions beginning in May, allowing every senator on the committee and their staff the time to read and understand proposals made by the "gang of eight." In these committee meetings, senators will have the chance to offer and consider amendments in a public setting. I believe that transparency in this process is just as important as the legislation we ultimately adopt.
Immigration reform is a complex and difficult issue, but it is one that Americans have rightly called on Congress to address. As I noted in the Reformer last month, for too long Washington’s attitude toward immigration policy has started and ended with bumper sticker slogans. In Vermont we know that something has to be done to give relief to dairy farmers, support economic development and provide fair treatment for families and refugees and asylum seekers. I am committed to upholding these priorities this year, and I look forward to leading this important conversation in the coming weeks.
Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.,
United States Senate,
Editor of the Reformer:
We recently lost a wonderful member of the community: Mary Dunham. I first met her and her husband Phil (deceased 2011) through the Brattleboro After School Ski Program which they organized and started. The first thing on the agenda was fitting boots and skis on kids who would otherwise never get this opportunity. They stored all these skis, poles and boots in their own barn, and we’d get down on our hands and knees making sure each child had a good fit.
A few years later I acquired a friend from the part of the country where he didn’t grow up skiing but wanted to give it a try. I called Mary and Phil and, even though it was the busy holiday season, they invited us over and fitted my friend with gear.
I once complimented Mary on her beautiful wreaths, expressing the fact that I had always wanted to master the art of making a grapevine wreath. She invited me to come make some with her, we drove up and down upper Dummerston road near her home. We’d pull over tear down some vines and weave a creation right there on the spot.
Regretfully I wasn’t available to attend her recent service. I am heartened, however, that she and her husband Phil’s generosity of spirit lives on in their family members, and all the people they have touched,and helped over the years.
The next time I set out to do my annual wreath making it will now have very special resonance with me. My wreath making adventure with Mrs. Mary Dunham.
Brattleboro, April 26