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Department of Homeland Security Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2006

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 2006 -- (House of Representatives - May 18, 2005)

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Mr. THOMPSON of Mississippi. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Chairman, I commend the gentleman from California (Mr. Cox) for his tireless efforts to see that this day came to be. He worked continuously to create a permanent Committee on Homeland Security and put in the right track to producing the bill.

It took 13 hours to mark up this bill in committee, and I have to say that he never lost his patience or his good character, nor his sense of humor; but clearly, it was a bipartisan effort, and for that I want to thank the gentleman from California (Mr. Cox).

This bill has many good provisions in it. It rejects the section of the President's shortsighted budget that sought to hire only 210 new Border Patrol agents this year. Instead, it provided for the 2,000 border agents that everybody else agreed that we needed.

It also, by creating an Assistant Secretary of Cybersecurity at DHS, finally recognizes the threat posed by cyber attacks. The gentlewoman from California (Ms. Zoe Lofgren) and other Democrats on this committee have sought the creation of this position for a very long time.

The evaluation of the color-coded terrorist system is also welcomed. The system has provided more material for late-night comedians than effective information on threats on the public.

Also, I am glad that this bill requires the Department to explain how it is working to protect agriculture and the Nation's food supply from terrorist attacks.

That said, I wish this bill would have been more comprehensive. I am glad that, as the chairman mentioned, it is small only because we are a new committee, but there are some things that we overlooked. We did not mention airports or chemical plants in this legislation. I just hold up for the chairman's view and the view of the public the defense authorization bill which is sizable, and I look forward to, in the next authorization effort next year, to having a bill that is comprehensive.

The present authorization bill is very, very short on content, but nonetheless it is a start. There is no comparison between the two, so I am convinced that at the end of the day Members will recognize we have a long way to go and there can be no effort or wasting time. We must do what it takes to make America secure. I hope that we work closely to close the security gaps left by this bill.

Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. THOMPSON of Mississippi. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

We have heard a number of statements about this bill. It is an initial step in the right direction. It is not comprehensive. There are some glaring overlooks in the bill. We do not address any aviation security, we do not address chemical security. There are a number of things that we could do better in this bill.

However, I have to join my chairman in recognizing the fact that this is our first attempt to do an authorization bill. It is by no means complete, but given his leadership and willingness to work in a bipartisan spirit, I am looking forward to moving this legislation and making sure that we do the right thing for this country. We have to secure this Nation.

I will be offering a substitute later in the debate which obviously will cover far more areas than what this authorization bill covers that we are debating here today.

Clearly, if we support the substitute, we can move closer to making America secure.

Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.

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Mr. THOMPSON of Mississippi. Mr. Chairman, I now rise in strong support of the amendment offered by the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Meek), my Homeland Security Committee colleague, the ranking member on the Management, Integration and Oversight Subcommittee.

Mr. Chairman, we have heard testimony time and time again on our committee about the underfunding of the office of Inspector General. We had committee testimony from three Inspector Generals indicating that the office was underfunded.

Just to show you what they found in recent reviews, we found that the Department spent $31,000 on rubber plants. We also found that they spent $500,000 on an awards ceremony. Clearly these expenditures are out of line and should not have been.

Testimony also revealed that had we had a more robust Office of Inspector General, we could do more oversight. So the gentleman from Florida's (Mr. Meek) amendment is in order. It is something that we should do. If we look at other agencies, this Department is woefully underfunded. And for that reason I rise in support of the amendment.

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Mr. THOMPSON of Mississippi. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Chairman, I encourage Members to vote "no" on the Cox-Sensenbrenner amendment authorizing $40 million to be appropriated from the fiscal year 2006 budget to reimburse States and locals for the costs associated with having State and local law enforcement trained and certified by DHS' Immigration and Customs Enforcement to enforce immigration laws.

Mr. Chairman, plain and simple, we are shirking our responsibility as a government by passing this mission on to local authority. If we have the responsibility for immigration and immigration enforcement, we should do our job. We should appropriate the money to the respective department, whatever the requirements are, rather than passing the buck to local law enforcement. Local law enforcement clearly will tell my colleagues we have enough on our plate now, do not give us further responsibility by giving us immigration.

So, Mr. Chairman, while I understand my colleague's reasoning behind the amendment, it is clearly something that allows us to put this responsibility on someone else.

I guarantee my colleagues, when we do this, it will come with another program in the not-too-distant future. We will give other responsibilities to the local level.

I am a former mayor and a former county supervisor. Knowing law enforcement at the personal level, I am convinced that we have more than enough to do at the local level. The Federal Government should do what it is required to do on immigration. Let us not pass the buck. Let us make sure that we take the immigration responsibility and retain it at the Federal level.

That is why I urge a "no" vote on this amendment.

Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. THOMPSON of Mississippi. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume in closing.

(Mr. THOMPSON of Mississippi asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)

Mr. THOMPSON of Mississippi. Mr. Chairman, as I have already indicated from my opposition to this amendment, we are moving toward making States and localities assume a Federal responsibility. This is not in the best interest of homeland security. We have certain things as a Federal Government that we should do. Immigration protection is one of those items.

I understand from my chairman that he is interested in trying to help, but at some point we have to do our job. What we need to do is provide the resources to the Department to make sure that the Department can do its job, not pass the buck to another State.

You have heard from my colleague who used to be a State trooper who talks about the difficulties in crossing the lines. I ask my colleague to consider that, but I also ask opposition to the amendment.

Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.

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AMENDMENT NO. 4 OFFERED BY MR. COX

Mr. COX. Mr. Chairman, I offer an amendment.

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Mr. THOMPSON of Mississippi. Mr. Chairman, I ask unanimous consent to claim the time in opposition to the amendment for purposes of debate, although I do not oppose the amendment.

The Acting CHAIRMAN. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from Mississippi?

There was no objection.

Mr. THOMPSON of Mississippi. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume. Mr. Chairman, for the record, I am in support of this amendment, as are the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Barton) and the gentleman from Michigan (Mr. Dingell).

This amendment highlights the important need for the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to coordinate the prioritization of the Nation's critical infrastructure with other relevant Federal agencies. By requiring the Secretary to enter such partnerships, the Department of Homeland Security can draw upon the institutional expertise of a variety of agencies.

This is critical for completing an accurate, comprehensive and thorough assessment of terrorist threats to our country's critical infrastructure. Having seen the national asset database lists for Mississippi, I believe the Department needs as much help as it can get. Our Nation can no longer wait for an accurate prioritization of our most valuable asset. This is why I join my other colleagues and encourage Members to vote yes on this amendment.

Mr. Chairman, I yield back the balance of my time.

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AMENDMENT NO. 7 OFFERED BY MR. DEFAZIO

Mr. DeFAZIO. Mr. Chairman, I offer an amendment.

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Mr. THOMPSON of Mississippi. Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of this amendment. It is a commonsense amendment. We have to do all we can to protect the flying public. As has already been said, our pilots are the last line of defense to protect the flying public. By training them with this program and providing all of the necessary background checks, there is no excuse for not making this program successful. I compliment the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Mica) and join the gentleman from Oregon (Mr. DeFazio) in support of this amendment, and I look forward to its passage.

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AMENDMENT NO. 12 OFFERED BY MR. THOMPSON

Mr. THOMPSON of Mississippi. Mr. Chairman, I offer an amendment.

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Mr. THOMPSON of Mississippi. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I rise in support of this amendment offered by the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Menendez).

Terrorism experts have called the area between Port Elizabeth and Newark International Airport in New Jersey "the most dangerous two miles in America," an area that includes dozens of vulnerable chemical plants, oil storage tanks, refineries, and other critical infrastructure systems within close proximity of Manhattan and the densely populated cities of northern New Jersey.

Experts estimate that a terrorist attack in this area could pose a potentially lethal threat to 12 million people living within a 14-mile radius. The Menendez amendment would require the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to report to Congress on how to coordinate and protect the people and infrastructure in this particularly vulnerable region.

Mr. Chairman, I rise in support of this amendment.

Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. THOMPSON of Mississippi. Mr. Chairman, I rise and express strong support for the amendment of the gentlewoman from Oregon (Ms. Hooley). It sends a strong and simple message to Congress: do not raise aviation passenger fees.

I strongly believe that raising fees will place an additional burden on the flying public and could weaken the economic strength of domestic commercial aviation.

Mr. Chairman, I strongly support the Hooley amendment and urge my colleagues in the House to vote in favor of this important amendment.

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AMENDMENT NO. 18 OFFERED BY MR. NORWOOD

Mr. NORWOOD. Madam Chairman, I offer an amendment.

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Mr. THOMPSON of Mississippi. Reserving the right to object, Madam Chairman, I would just say to my colleague that we have not been made aware of this amendment, and if for no other reason than we have not seen it.
Mr. NORWOOD. Madam Chairman, will the gentleman yield?

Mr. THOMPSON of Mississippi. I yield to the gentleman from Georgia.

Mr. NORWOOD. Madam Chairman, I actually did not know who to come to talk to because we did not know who would be leading against this amendment.

If I may, it is a very, very simple drafting error in the bill on line 7 where we are saying that law enforcement personnel of a State or political subdivision of a State are fully authorized to apprehend and detain. Then it goes on to say "or remove." "Or remove" should not have been in there.

And so we are just asking unanimous consent at this point to take that out and it will help the bill, and we are going to get it out somewhere anyway.

Mr. THOMPSON of Mississippi. Reclaiming my time, Madam Chairman, I object to the change.

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Mr. THOMPSON of Mississippi. Madam Chairman, I rise in opposition to this amendment, and I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Madam Chairman, I encourage Members to vote "no" on the Norwood amendment. The Norwood amendment seeks to clarify the inherent authority of State and local law enforcement to apprehend, detain, remove, and transport illegal aliens in the routine course of duty. That is not what it does.

State and local police already have authority to report criminals who are foreign nationals to the Department of Homeland Security and to assist the Federal Government in criminal investigations. But current law does not allow law enforcement to pick up immigrants and deport them unilaterally. That is essentially what this amendment allows.

Do you want to give a local law enforcement officer the authority to remove people who they may suspect are in this country illegally; or would you prefer to have the Department of Homeland Security do that? Section 287(g) of INA, which provides for local law enforcement to enter into agreements with ICE, does not allow local law enforcement to remove an alien.

This amendment is also frightening because it allows a local police officer who receives no training at all on immigration law to deport someone. How does this police officer know that it is someone who should be deported? What documents should he ask for? What law has he violated?

This is a terrible amendment, Madam Chairman. Countless State and local police agencies have expressed concern about undermining public safety when ordinary immigrants start seeing them as agents of the Federal immigration service. We have comments from the chief of police in Nashville; chief of police in Hamtramck, Michigan; the sheriff and assistant sheriff in Orange County; along with Chief William Finney of the St. Paul Police Department, who all have expressed real concern about the apprehension, detaining, and deportation of illegal immigrants.

Instead of focusing on training State and locals to do the job of our fellow law enforcement officers, we need to do more to train and provide Federal law enforcement with the resources it needs to fully carry out the responsibilities of the Department to enforce immigration and Customs violations.

DHS already faces challenges in cross-training its own personnel and integrating the various components into a cohesive unit and, thus, would face challenges in developing a cross-training manual for State and local law enforcement personnel.

Madam Chairman, this is why I am requesting that Members vote "no" on this amendment.

Madam Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. THOMPSON of Mississippi. Madam Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

As I indicated earlier, Madam Chairman, the gentleman sought to clarify his amendment without providing us with the opportunity to see it and, for that reason, we objected. But even with the clarification, it still would have been problematic for our side. So for that reason, Madam Chairman, I continue to object and to oppose the amendment.
Madam Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. THOMPSON of Mississippi. Madam Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I would like to say to my colleague every immigrant is not a terrorist. I would assume that was an error in the gentleman's comment. Clearly we have to be very careful. That is a Federal responsibility. What we are doing is passing that responsibility to State and local law enforcement and not funding the Department that ought to be having the responsibility for immigration.

Madam Chairman, I yield 1 minute to the gentlewoman from Texas (Ms. Jackson-Lee).

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Mr. THOMPSON of Mississippi. Madam Chairman, I yield myself the balance of my time.

This amendment, although well intended, crosses the line from my standpoint because it moves us away from a Federal responsibility to a State responsibility. This amendment tries to clarify the existing authority of State and local law enforcement personnel to apprehend, detain, remove and transport illegal aliens in the routine course of duty.

Additionally, this amendment requires DHS to establish a training manual on this matter and set forth simple guidelines for making that training available. State and local police already authorize and train to notify Federal law enforcement officials, are already highly qualified, and are fully trained to identify foreign nationals in custody.

Additionally, training in immigration law is not a simple task. A manual is simply not sufficient to train officers in the complexity of immigration law.

For example, DHS already faces challenges in cross-training its personnel and integrating the various components into a cohesive unit; and, thus, would face challenges in developing a cross-training manual for State and local law enforcement personnel.

So for these reasons, I am in opposition to the amendment.

Mr. NORWOOD. Madam Chairman, will the gentleman yield?

Mr. THOMPSON of Mississippi. I yield to the gentleman from Georgia.

Mr. NORWOOD. Madam Chairman, I simply ask the gentleman to reconsider our unanimous consent to remove two words that would, I think, make an amendment that is going to pass better in your mind.

Mr. THOMPSON of Mississippi. I do not consent.

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AMENDMENT NO. 24 IN THE NATURE OF A SUBSTITUTE OFFERED BY MR. THOMPSON OF MISSISSIPPI

Mr. THOMPSON of Mississippi. Madam Chairman, I offer an amendment in the nature of a substitute made in order under the rule.

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Mr. THOMPSON of Mississippi. Madam Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Madam Chairman, I appreciate the work of the gentleman from California (Mr. Cox) to include many Democratic suggestions in this bill, and I want to say that most of the provisions in his bill are good ones.

But the truth is that this bill does not address a large number of dangerous security gaps. For example, this bill does not close serious security gaps in chemical plants, aviation, railroads, passenger trains and railroads, buses, border security, the ability of first responders to communicate in an emergency, the importance of protecting privacy, and a whole host of other areas where we must improve security. This bill does not even mention chemical plants or airports. How can we call this an authorization bill?

My substitute, Madam Chairman, addresses all of these areas, and more. First, the substitute makes funding for homeland security a priority. The President's budget and this bill does not fulfill the commitment we made in the 9/11 Act the President signed into law in December, but this substitute meets those challenges.

For example, for just a mere $92 million called for in the 9/11 Act, we could install radiation portal monitors in every port of entry in this country. My substitute offers solutions where the bill does not give the answers. For example, it protects our borders by requiring DHS to put technology in place to ensure that every mile of the border is monitored 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It protects our ports by authorizing new port security grants. It protects airlines and prevents hijackings by installing new, in-line baggage screening systems that work better and faster. And, in an area where I strongly disagree with the chairman, we fully sponsor the development of research on how to counter shoulder-fired missiles that terrorists can use to shoot down a plane.

My substitute also strengthens security requirements for chemical plants, which the GAO recently found must have security standards.

Finally, my substitute also recognizes that DHS is a new agency and is not perfect. We provide new authority to protect privacy, sponsor diversity, and create a stronger Inspector General. In the end, if we are going to call something an authorization bill, let us use it to close genuine security gaps. My substitute will do that; this bill will not.

There can be no more wasted time. We must do what it takes now to make America secure.

Madam Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. THOMPSON of Mississippi. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself the balance of my time.

Mr. Chairman, this is a substitute that is complete. If you look at it, it addresses all the vulnerabilities of our country; and I ask the body to support it.

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MOTION TO RECOMMIT OFFERED BY MR. THOMPSON OF MISSISSIPPI

Mr. THOMPSON of Mississippi. Mr. Speaker, I offer a motion to recommit.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is the gentleman opposed to the bill?

Mr. THOMPSON of Mississippi. I am, Mr. Speaker, in its present form.

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Mr. THOMPSON of Mississippi. Mr. Speaker, last year we passed the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act, which included significant funding boosts for homeland security programs.

When the President signed the 9/11 bill, he made a commitment to our law enforcement personnel. He said, "We will continue to work with Congress to make sure they have got the resources necessary to do their jobs."

However, when the President's budget came out in January, it failed to fully fund the programs in the 9/11 Act. Frontline officers tell us that they do not have the resources they need to get the job done. The Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Service has been in a hiring freeze since late last year. The border patrol simply does not have the manpower or the support staff to be able to effectively do its job.

Simply signing a bill is not enough. You have got to do what you promised to do. What we have been asking for today, in introducing this bill, is for the President to explain why it is not necessary to fully fund the 9/11 Act to better secure our Nation.

Accountability is the key to homeland security. If the President is not going to make sure that homeland security increases are identified as being needed and are in the budget, then the American people deserve to know why.

Additionally, this motion to recommit addresses a major threat in aviation security. The Rules Committee blocked consideration of this important measure, Mr. Speaker. Every day the TSA fails to inspect the millions of tons of cargo shipped in the belly of passenger planes is yet another day American lives are put at risk.

I urge my colleagues to join me and approve this motion to recommit.

Mr. Speaker, I now yield 1 ½ minutes to my colleague, the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. Markey).

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Mr. THOMPSON of Mississippi. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself the balance of the time.

Mr. Speaker, the motion to recommit would authorize full funding for all of the homeland security measures called for in the Intelligence Reform Act adopted last year: aviation security research and development, full detection systems, biological, chemical, radiation and explosive materials, passenger baggage screening equipment, air cargo security, Federal air marshals and border security measures.

It also includes a requirement that within 3 years all air cargo on passenger planes be screened.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for a "yes" vote on this motion to recommit.

Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.

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