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Department Of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2008

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2008 -- (Senate - July 26, 2007)

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Mr. SALAZAR. Mr. President, I come to the floor this morning to speak about amendment No. 2480, the Graham-Pryor amendment. Let me first say the legislation Senator Graham and Senator Pryor have brought to the floor this morning, in terms of an amendment, is essentially the same language and has the same legislative provisions we had in the comprehensive immigration reform package. They are good aspects of that legislation that allow us to move forward with securing and fixing our borders.

As we went through the immigration reform debate, we said we had to do three things: First, we needed to enforce and fix our borders; secondly, we needed to enforce our laws within our country; and, thirdly, we needed to figure out a realistic solution to the reality that we have 12 million undocumented workers who are here in this country today.

This amendment takes a part of those principal components and addresses it in a very effective way. Indeed, when you look through the language, what it does is it says we will hire 23,000 additional Border Patrol agents; we will have 4 unmanned aerial vehicles and 105 ground-based radar and camera towers; we will have 300 miles of vehicle barriers and 700 miles of fence; we will have a permanent end to the catch-and-release policy and additional funding to enhance employment verification; we will have increased removal and detention of visa overstays and reimbursement to State and local governments for immigration expenses.

So that all is good. It addresses one of the fundamental components of immigration reform. So I am supportive of what we are trying to do here. I do wish to let my good friend and colleague, Senator Graham, and my good friend, Senator Pryor, know that the concern I have with the amendment, notwithstanding the fact that I will support it, is that it is all focused on the southern border.

While it may be, and it is true our borders are broken, it is not just the border between Mexico and the United States that is broken. We have the same kinds of problems in our ports, we have the same kinds of problems along our northern border. This is, frankly, unfair in terms of focusing only on the Mexican border. We have to fix all our borders, not just the Mexican border.

So while I will be supporting this amendment, I also intend to offer another amendment that will address the other broken borders we have in our country because I think that is a way to be fair about it. It is the only way in which we will ultimately achieve the objective we have, which is dealing with the national security of the United States of America. You cannot have national security when you have broken borders.

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Mr. SALAZAR. Madam President, I rise today to praise the work of Senator Byrd, Senator Inouye, Senator Cochran, Senator Stevens, Senator Murray, and the entire Appropriations Committee for the work they have done on the Homeland Security Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2008. This is a strong bill. It is an essential bill to protect our homeland.

Our foremost duty here in the Congress is to make sure we are protecting America, and this bill is a significant step in the right direction. I agree with Senator Byrd and the majority leader that this must be the first appropriations bill for this fiscal year and that we must pass it this year. I hope we will pass it later today.

A government's primary responsibility is in the protection of the homeland and keeping its citizens safe from attack. This bill will help us secure our borders, train and support our first responders, prevent the transport of nuclear materials, and strengthen our defenses against terrorists.

We need not look far to understand the threats that face this country. September 11 brought the specter of terrorism to the front door of America. September 11 illustrated tragically and horribly the great threat extremist groups can pose to the United States. But September 11 is not the only terrorist attack we or our allies have endured in recent times. In 2002, a bomb in Bali killed 202 people and wounded 209. In 2004, bombs on trains in Madrid killed 191 people and wounded over 2,000. In 2005, attacks on London's Underground killed 52 commuters and injured 700. The list goes on and on.

The State Department reports that the number of incidents of terrorism worldwide has grown dramatically in recent years. Between 2005 and 2006, the number of incidents rose from 11,000 to over 14,000. Three-fourths of these incidents resulted in death, injury, or kidnapping. All told, terrorism claimed the lives of more than 74,000 people around the world last year.

Americans today know that they are not immune from attack. We know America is not immune from attack. We also know violent extremism is posing a growing threat to our society and to that of our allies. Americans expect their Government to respond to these threats with adequate resources, sound policies, and strong leadership.

Unfortunately, our homeland is not as secure as it should be. A recent survey revealed that national security experts on both sides of the aisle agree that we have not come as far as we should have over the last 6 years. They agree that the Department of Homeland Security is underperforming. They agree that intelligence reform has not been effective. And they agree that too few resources are being allocated to the defense of our homeland and our Nation.

The reports of holes in America's armor, from inadequate rail security to insufficient funding for screening at ports, along with the Government's recent record of failed responses to national disasters, such as the bungled leadership of Hurricane Katrina to a lack of National Guard equipment when a tornado tore through the State of Kansas--those incidents underline the urgency of passing a strong and smart bill that funds our homeland security.

I wish to briefly describe three ways in which the additional funding in this bill is vital for our security.

First, the funding levels allow us to improve security at the border and to enforce our immigration laws. Just a few weeks ago, during our immigration debate on this floor, we all agreed that we must get control of our border and know who is coming into this country. Now it is time for us to walk the walk. The bill before us would allow us to hire additional Border Patrol agents to protect our borders. It also includes funds for additional border fencing, infrastructure, and technology to monitor the vast open spaces we need to monitor and control. It also provides an additional $475 million for enforcement of customs and immigration laws within the United States. Our Nation is and must be a nation of laws.

Second, I am proud that this bill supports our first responders--the firefighters, peace officers, nurses, and volunteers who rush in when others rush out. They serve us by devoting their time, their skills, their courage, and oftentimes their lives. We owe them the tools and resources they need to do their jobs. The bill before us provides money for State and local emergency preparedness programs, money for firefighter assistance grants in this program and funds for emergency performance grants.

I am particularly pleased that this bill restores funds to our first responder and State training programs for law enforcement and firefighter operations that the President had proposed to cut. This bill, however, funds these provisions, and that includes $525 million for the State Homeland Security Grant Program, $375 million for law enforcement and terrorism prevention grants, $560 million for firefighter equipment grants, and $140 million to hire firefighters.

I wish also to note that the bill makes a serious investment in the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, the crown jewel of training centers for the law enforcement community. A bipartisan group of us added a provision to the 9/11 Commission bill to create the Rural Policing Institute at FLETC to address the particular law enforcement needs of rural America. This was a need that I saw. It was very clear to me as attorney general for Colorado. The rural sheriffs and peace officers whom I spoke with during all of the time that I was attorney general and in crafting the Rural Policing Institute legislation agreed that the Rural Police Institute would be a valuable addition to FLETC.

The $220 million in this bill for FLETC will help ensure that our peace officers continue to get the highest level of training they need as we deal with the reality we find in the post-9/11 world. It is going to be the eyes and ears and skills of the nearly 800,000 peace officers of America who will protect our homeland from the vicious kinds of attacks we saw in New York on 9/11, the vicious kinds of attacks that took 150-plus lives in Oklahoma City some years ago. So we must do everything we can to support our men and

women who are in law enforcement at both the local and State level. This legislation does that.

Finally, in addition to providing better protection along our borders and ports and more tools for law enforcement and first responders, this bill helps us to prepare to recover from an attack or a disaster.

FEMA's response to Hurricane Katrina sounded the alarm bells for all of us. Unfortunately, not everyone seems to have heard them. Not only does FEMA need better leadership and serious Congressional oversight, but it now needs the resources to do this job. The bill before us would provide $6.9 billion for emergency preparedness and response activity. That is a significant amount of additional money beyond what the President requested. Almost half of those dollars would go out to States and local preparedness programs.

Once again, I wish to reiterate my appreciation for the bipartisan leadership which Senator Byrd and Senator Cochran, Senator Murray, Senator Inouye, Senator Stevens, and the other members of the Appropriations Committee have shown on this bill.

It is right that this is the first appropriations bill that we consider because our homeland security must come first before everything else. The threat of attack on our soil is as great as it ever has been, and this bill is an important step toward ensuring America's first responders have the tools and the equipment and training they need to keep America safe.

I yield the floor.

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Mr. SALAZAR. Mr. President, I note at the outset this amendment is sponsored by Senator Menendez, myself, Senator Graham, and Senator Martinez.

What it does, in a very simple statement, is say any funds we appropriate under this legislation with respect to our border security should be used to ensure the operational control that needs to be achieved for all our international land and maritime borders of the United States.

This is an important amendment because the earlier amendment, which I cosponsored with Senator Graham, focused on the appropriation of moneys to go to the southern border, the border between Mexico and the United States. The fact is, those of us who are here working on homeland security should care and do care about making sure we have secure borders to this country, including our land and our maritime borders.

So what this amendment does is it directs that these expenditures of moneys can be spent in securing our land borders to the north and to the south as well as our maritime borders of the United States of America. It is an amendment which is important, and there is an important statement to be made here. Much of the attention we have been giving to the southern border, in terms of the broken borders we are trying to fix in this immigration debate, has taken away the needed amount of attention we should be focused on with respect to the other borders.

The fact is, we have a very broken system of immigration. We have a very broken system of our borders today in the United States of America. But it is not just the border with Mexico that is broken. It is also the border between the United States and Canada, and it is also our maritime borders that need additional security. So it is my hope that with this amendment we will be able to put attention on our maritime borders as well as our northern border.

I wish to give a couple of examples about why it is that this amendment is needed. If you look at the number of examples we have with terrorists and other people who would wish to do us harm, they come in from across the borders, many of them come into this country legally and then they overstay their visas.

One example of what we know from the north, and that is in December of 1999, the Jordanian police foiled a plot to bomb hotels and other sites frequented by American tourists. It was a U.S. Customs agent on the U.S.-Canadian border who arrested the person who was smuggling explosives intended for an attack on Los Angeles International Airport. So when we talk about homeland security and we talk about securing our border to the south, it is equally important we are securing our border to the north, and it is equally important we are securing our maritime borders as well.

Another example: Recently, a human smuggling ring running undocumented work immigrants into the United States from Canada was dismantled. This was a human smuggling ring that was bringing undocumented workers through Canada. That ring was responsible for bringing dozens of Indian and Pakistani immigrants into the country.

So I think these are examples that demonstrate if we are going to secure our borders, it is not just the border between Mexico and the United States that needs to be secured; it is all the borders of the United States of America.

I urge my colleagues to join with Senator Menendez, Senator Martinez, Senator Graham, and me in the adoption of this amendment.

Mr. President, I ask for the yeas and nays on this amendment.

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