Securing Our Borders
In the aftermath of September 11th, it is critical to secure our borders. The threat of terrorism is great and with today's porous borders, someone could bring a biological weapon into our country or sneak a dirty bomb across unmanned portions of our borders. We must secure our borders, and we must stop ignoring those who flaunt our laws and cause a strain on our society.
There are some initial common sense steps we can take to reduce illegal immigration and secure our borders. First, we must stop issuing drivers' licenses to people in our country illegally. Providing them with forms of government identification makes a mockery of our laws and undermines national security efforts. You would not think it would take a federal law to implement this common sense reform, but nearly a dozen states persist in giving drivers' licenses to illegal immigrants identical to those given to everyone else. The House of Representatives passed H.R. 418 to prevent this abuse.
Next, we need to end the "catch and release" program. When a law enforcement officer apprehends an illegal immigrant, it makes no sense to simply release that individual who has been breaking our laws with no threat of sanction or penalty. The House also passed a bill to stop this illogical program.
As we embrace the American dream and the freedoms it represents, we must also ensure that those who wish to enjoy those freedoms become a part of our society and learn to speak our language. Our culture, language, history, and values are vital to uniting us as a nation.
The importance of this cannot be overstated when compared to the fragmentation of countries in Europe. The recent riots in France demonstrate the problem European countries face where second and third generation immigrants still do not consider themselves French, German, or English.
Earlier immigrants to our country understood the importance of being an American and often put on our country's uniform and sometimes even fought against their native countries in the first and second World Wars. It is important that this same dedication to our country be nurtured in all immigrants.
I am committed to securing our borders, and will keep you updated as Congress considers legislation on this issue.
Fixing Emergency Response
Last week, I told you about my 10-point plan to reform FEMA and our nation's response to disasters. Already, many of the ideas that I have been championing have been added to major legislation that is moving through the House of Representatives.
Among the provisions I included:
- Create a regional office for the Department of Homeland Security
- Grant officials on the ground the authority to make life saving decisions
- Establish a long-term recovery office to provide continued assistance to hurricane victims. (Florida has such an office.)
- Create an inventory program to track individual community needs to improve preparedness
- Develop electronic health records to assist in hospital patient evacuations
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita showed the world that our government's emergency response was inadequate to meet the true needs of those on the ground. Too often, there was no communication or coordination between the state and federal governments resulting in a delay in saving lives and providing individuals on the ground with much-needed assistance. I will continue working to get important language included in reform bills so that we can begin to address the downfalls in our nation's response so that the confusion and chaos of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita will not be repeated.
Getting Relief to Louisiana Fisheries
It was a big week for Louisiana fisheries as the House Resources Committee debated legislation to reform the law governing fisheries resources and fishing activities in federal waters.
During the debate, I offered two amendments that will help Louisiana's fisheries industries as they continue to rebuild and recover in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
I worked with my colleague Congressman Melancon to jointly offer the first amendment to authorize disaster relief for the fisheries impacted by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Our amendment will provide immediate financial relief to the fisheries industry in the event of a natural disaster.
The hurricanes of last year wreaked havoc on Louisiana's fisheries. Nine months after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, fishing communities throughout Louisiana have yet to receive any federal assistance to rebuild the industries that are so vital to both our state and nation. Louisiana fisheries account for 40 percent of all seafood consumed by Americans each year, and we must ensure that these industries are not forgotten in the rebuilding effort.
I also offered an amendment to require the federal government to complete reports detailing the economic effects of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita on commercial and recreational fisheries and fishery habitats. Louisiana's fisheries industries have an economic impact of more than $4.2 billion dollars, and it is vital that we know the effects of last year's hurricanes as we work toward both short and long-term recovery efforts.
Both of these amendments were accepted and will be included in the final bill when it is debated in the full House of Representatives.
Honoring Special Athletes
Last weekend, I was honored to serve as the Honorary Chair of the Special Olympics held at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond. It was great to witness so many wonderful athletes from around the state who came to compete in the different events from gymnastics to power lifting.
The importance of these games to the participants cannot be overstated. One mother told me her daughter only wanted to pack her medals from previous years when they had to evacuate due to Hurricane Rita.
The sportsmanship that the athletes demonstrated was amazing. One basketball team was winning so the players gave the other team the ball after each rebound so everyone would get a chance to make a basket. The dedication and determination that these athletes showed should be an inspiration to us all.
Celebrating True American Heroes
I want to offer my personal thanks to all of the men and women who have so honorably served our nation as we celebrate the true American heroes this Memorial Day. I am grateful for the sacrifices men and women in uniform have made in order to protect our country and the freedom it provides. These men and women have served their country with honor; it is only fitting we serve them with the same honor.
I will keep you informed as more happens in Washington, D.C., but as always, please feel free to contact my offices to share your views and concerns.