Grassley said the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act, introduced by a bipartisan group senators known as the Gang of Eight, puts “legalizes first and enforces later.”
Some Republicans have complained that the legislation would provide amnesty for illegal residents before strengthening border enforcement. Grassley said other senators will likely “get sick” of hearing him talk about the mistakes made in the 1986 comprehensive immigration reform.
“We screwed up because at that time promises were made and those promises were not kept,” Grassley said. “We said it was a one-time fix, just like the Group of Eight says they have a one-time fix. ... In fact, it only made matters worse.”
There are an estimated 11 million undocumented people within the United States, many of which came after the 1986 reforms.
On Tuesday, the Senate will vote on whether to proceed to the immigration reform bill and will continue work on the legislation through June.
"The fact is we need real reform, not gimmicks that fail to fix the problem and secure our border," Grassley said. "The path that we take in the days ahead will shape our country for years to come. It’s my hope that we can find a solution while learning from our mistakes."
Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Michael Bennet (D-Co.) make up the Gang of Eight.