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Public Statements

Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2008

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2008

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Mr. SALAZAR. Madam President, I rise today to speak on behalf of amendment No. 3198 offered by my good friend and colleague, Senator Menendez and myself. It is a very simple amendment that addresses one of the largest national security issues of our time. It is an amendment which in its simplicity says a lot, but it is, nonetheless, short. It says that amounts appropriated under this section of the bill, for the Border Security First Act of 2007, may be used to address northern border fencing as well, wherever the greatest security needs are.

Let me say that again. It says: May be used to address northern border fencing as well, wherever the greatest security needs are. It is a simple amendment and one which I hope colleagues on both sides of the aisle join in and support its inclusion in this Defense appropriations bill.

I want to step back just for one second and refresh our recollections on debates we have had on the issue of the overhaul of our immigration laws in our country. I think there was broad agreement that we needed to do three things in that particular overhaul. We needed, first of all, to secure the borders of America, to secure the borders of this country. Secondly, we needed to move forward and be serious about being a Nation of laws and making sure we were enforcing our laws in America, that we honor the rule of law in this country. Thirdly, we needed to deal with the realistic solution to the economic and moral issues which are a part of the issue of immigration which still so affects our country.

We were not able to get that done, so the reality of it is that today we have a system which is still in chaos, a system which is in disorder, and we continue to have our national security compromised. We have broken borders in this country which must be fixed. So the amendment offered earlier today, which I proudly supported, offered by my friend, Senator Graham, was an important amendment because what it does is it invests in one of the issues that we need to address with respect to immigration, and that is border security.

It is border security. I supported that amendment in the same way we supported that concept as we moved forward in our debate over immigration reform. What is unfair, frankly, about what we are doing today is focusing only on one border--only on the southern border. There is a great disparity in terms of the kinds of resources we are putting into the protection of the southern border and almost nothing in the northern border. That disparity makes no sense whatsoever when one considers the challenge we face from a national security point of view.

When one considers the fact that the border between Canada and the United States is almost 12,000 miles long--11,986 miles--and there are only 972 Border Patrol agents, and when you consider that number in comparison to what we now have on the border with Mexico, where we have a 1,900-mile border, with almost 12,000 Border Patrol officers, and we have a border that is much longer in the North, for every Border Patrol officer we have in the North, we have 12 in the South to guard a much smaller border.

So the question for us has to be: Are we deploying our resources to where the greatest vulnerabilities are? The GAO, at the request of Senator Grassley and Senator Baucus, reported to the Finance Committee in the last several weeks about the vulnerabilities they found on the northern border. They have found, through the investigators at the GAO, that there were people who could come across from Canada into the United States without ever being stopped, with radioactive materials being a part of what could be placed in those duffle bags the agents were carrying across the border. They were able to come across time and time again without anybody ever catching them.

One of the questions I asked the Border Patrol agent was: What is it that the Border Patrol office does in terms of using its resources? He said: We put them where the greatest vulnerabilities are. I would say when we look at the issue of national security, we ought to be putting the resources where the greatest vulnerabilities are. There are resources, yes, we ought to be putting on the southern border, and we have done that. But we cannot ignore the reality of the northern border--the reality that there are 12,000 miles, most of which is now unguarded, where people can come across the border into the United States with impunity and bring with them weapons that would do harm to Americans on American soil.

So this amendment goes a long way toward addressing that issue by saying that the money allocated here for border security should, in fact, be used where those greatest vulnerabilities are.

I will end by simply stating that even in the days after 9/11, when people were looking at the issue of terrorism in the United States, it was the Canadian intelligence service that made the finding that there were international terrorist organizations active in Canada; in making that finding, they were recognizing that one of the things they needed to do for national security was to be much more vigilant with respect to terrorism in Canada. We know that since that time, we have been infiltrated in this country by a terrorist who attempted to come across the border, Ahmed Rasam, an Algerian terrorist, who came into the United States, going into Washington, with approximately 100 pounds of explosives in his trunk. With 100 pounds of explosives in his trunk, he was headed to Los Angeles International Airport. That came from the northern border.

I urge my colleagues to support the Menendez amendment No. 3198 in the interest of making sure we are securing our borders and that we are moving forward with national security that makes sense.

I yield the floor.

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