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 RubioMarco RubioSenate rivals gear up for debates Rubio: End of Obama's term could be 'most damaging yet' Fifteen years since pivotal executive order, STORM Act could help fight terror finance MORE (R-Fla.), John McCainJohn McCainTrump's new debate challenge: Silence Senate rivals gear up for debates McCain opponent releases new ad hitting his record MORE (R-Ariz.), Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamOvernight Finance: McConnell offers 'clean' funding bill | Dems pan proposal | Flint aid, internet measure not included | More heat for Wells Fargo | New concerns on investor visas Senators buck spending bill over Export-Import Bank Pelosi pans latest GOP stopgap spending offer MORE (R-S.C.), Jeff FlakeJeff FlakeTop GOP chairmen investigating foreign visa program Pence rallies GOP before final stretch Libertarian nominee top choice among veterans MORE (R-Ariz.), Charles SchumerCharles SchumerSaudis hire lobbyists amid 9/11 fight Consumer bureau remains partisan target after Wells Fargo settlement Overnight Healthcare: Planned Parenthood deal in sight in Senate | A new 'public option' push MORE (D-N.Y.), Dick DurbinDick DurbinSpending bill doesn't include Cruz internet fight Overnight Tech: GOP says internet fight isn't over | EU chief defends Apple tax ruling | Feds roll out self-driving car guidelines | Netflix's China worries Reid blasts Cruz over internet fight MORE (D-Ill.), Bob MenendezRobert MenendezTaiwan and ICAO: this is the time Rubio warns of terror attack from Cuba flights Politicians shouldn’t be above the law, Trump and Clinton included MORE (D-N.J.) and Michael BennetMichael BennetSenate rivals gear up for debates Grassley pulling away from Dem challenger The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (D-Co.) make up the Gang of Eight.