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Public Statements

Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2005

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2005 -- (House of Representatives - June 18, 2004)

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to House Resolution 675 and rule XVIII, the Chair declares the House in the Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union for the further consideration of the bill, H.R. 4567.

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Mr. FILNER. Mr. Chairman, will the gentleman yield?

Mr. SCOTT of Virginia. I yield to the gentleman from California.

Mr. FILNER. Mr. Chairman, the gentleman speaks from the East Coast, I would like to add support for the gentleman's remarks from the West Coast. And thank the gentlewoman from California (Ms. Millender-McDonald) for her leadership on this amendment.

I represent San Diego, California-a large Navy port. I used to say we are the biggest Navy port in the world, but the gentleman says it is in Virginia, so we will have to fight over that later.

We have three nuclear reactor aircraft carriers sitting in our harbor and a nuclear submarine base right there. I think it is generally acknowledged that port security is the weakest link that we have in our system right now and where the lowest amount of resources relative to need has been put. We simply have got to do a better job.

The gentleman from New York was talking about containers, and the chairman of the subcommittee said we are talking about port security. I would note that in most of the ports of the United States there are millions of empty containers sitting around and we have no idea what is really in them. We call them empties because they supposedly have been unloaded, but according to the experts on this, and that is the dock workers and the longshoremen of America, the potential for these containers to be security risks are very great. It seems to me that we should incorporate the inspection of these into our notion of port security and give the power to do this to our Coast Guard or other port security officials.

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Mr. FILNER. I understand what the chairman is saying. I would argue with great respect that the so-called empty containers lying around the ports are part of our port weakness. Container security is port security. Longshoremen have shown that the way that we inspect, for example, "an empty container" is through an optical system that leaves almost one-third of the container completely invisible to the so-called inspection. In addition, most of the inspection techniques do not allow us to really know what is inside.

I was going to do a press conference that would show, after an inspection of an empty container, a longshoreman jumping out with an Uzi and showing that we can actually bring in weapons of mass destruction in these seemingly empty, innocent things.

So we have got to do a better job. The amendment of the gentlewoman from California (Ms. Millender-McDonald) ought to be supported, and I appreciate the comments of the gentleman from Virginia.

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AMENDMENT OFFERED BY MR. FILNER

Mr. FILNER. Mr. Chairman, I offer an amendment.
The Clerk read as follows:

Amendment offered by Mr. Filner:

At the end of the bill (before the short title), insert the following:

SEC. __XX. Section 212(d)(4) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1182(d)(4)) is amended-

(1) by striking "(4)" and inserting "(4)(A)";

(2) by redesignating subparagraphs (A), (B), and (C) as clauses (i), (ii), and (iii), respectively; and

(3) by adding at the end the following:

"(B)(i) Upon application by an alien who is citizen or national of Mexico, and who is applying for admission as a
visitor under section 101(a)(15)(B) from Mexico, the Department of Homeland Security official in charge at a port of
entry may, in the exercise of his or her discretion, on a case-by-case basis, waive either or both of the documentary
requirements of section 212(a)(7)(B)(i), if satisfied that the alien is in possession of proper identification, as provided
under clause (ii), and-

"(I) is a child coming for a regular medical appointment (as evidenced by proof such as a letter from the medical
professional concerned), or is the parent (or other adult chaperone) accompanying such a child, except that the number
of adults admitted under this subclause shall not exceed one per child;

"(II) is a child coming with a student group to participate in an educational or cultural event (such as an athletic or
academic event, a concert or other artistic performance, or a visit to a recreational, touristic, or historical site) for not
more than 1 day (as evidenced by proof such as a letter of invitation issued to the group), or is an adult chaperone, such
as a teacher, coach, or parent, accompanying such a group, except that the number of chaperones admitted under this
subclause shall not exceed that sufficient to supervise the group involved; or

"(III) is a child coming to participate in a special community event that traditionally has been attended by individuals
from both sides of the border (as evidenced by proof such as a public letter of invitation issued by the community
concerned), or is a parent or other adult relative accompanying such a child.

"(ii)(I) For purposes of this subparagraph, in the case of a child, proper identification shall include a passport, birth
certificate, or other proof of citizenship or nationality.

"(II) In the case of an adult, proper identification shall include a passport, birth certificate, or other proof of citizenship
or nationality, and a government-issued driver's license, or similar document issued for the purpose of identification,
that contains personal identifying information and a photograph.

"(iii) For purposes of this subparagraph-

"(I) the term 'child' means an unmarried person under 16 years of age; and

"(II) the term 'adult' means any person who is not a child.".

Mr. FILNER (during the reading). Mr. Chairman, I ask unanimous consent that the amendment be considered as read
and printed in the RECORD.

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Mr. FILNER. Mr. Chairman, I would concede the point of order.

The CHAIRMAN pro tempore. The point of order is conceded.

Mr. FILNER. Mr. Chairman, I move to strike the last word.

Mr. Chairman, although this amendment is not in order, and I recognize that, I would just like to tell the chairman that I
have proposed it out of frustration with what is going on at the border between California and Mexico.

I represent that total border, and I would say that in our rush after September 11 to secure the border and protect the
homeland, we have made very many important steps, many necessary steps; but we also made some wrong decisions,
decisions which in fact harm our national security, harm our close relationships with Mexico, and in fact set us back in
our attempt to be secure.

I refer specifically today to the practice that has been abolished at the border of giving discretion to port directors to
allow children for either medical or humanitarian or cultural reasons to cross the border on a 1-day visa; to grant a
waiver to the normal visa requirements, a waiver of normal requirements where we are beyond the reach of many poor
people in Mexico.

They cross the border for important reasons. For example, in my district in the city of Calexico, there is a clinic called
the Valley Orthopedic Clinic. For over 40 years it has treated poor children for deformities and birth defects, which
gives them a future; and, in fact, they have treated over 125,000 low-income children from Mexico.
The practice had been for decades to allow the port director the discretion to grant this 1-day visa, a 1-day humanitarian waiver to allow that child to get treatment, to correct a cleft palate or a clubbed foot or a pinky that was not there at
birth, to give children who could not afford it in their homeland an opportunity for a future.

After September 11, that authority, discretionary authority for humanitarian waivers, was taken away from the port
director. And so children in need of medical help, school children who would march with their counterparts in America
on Christmas parades, visit the world famous San Diego Zoo, go to other cultural events with American counterparts,
that was taken away. That has not helped the security of our Nation.

These children are not terrorists. These children are, in fact, engaging in diplomatic relationships that strengthen our
two countries' relationships, strengthen our border and give us more security; and yet we have denied now that
authority to the port director under the name of homeland security.

So all my amendment would do, and I am sorry we cannot talk about it today, would have said the port directors at the
seven or eight ports of entry in my district, others in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, would have the authority to
grant these humanitarian waivers. The amendment would not make it easier for terrorists that come to the country. The
amendment would not affect the number of legal or illegal immigrants living in our country. The amendment would not
force immigration officials to offer waivers.

So I hope as we go through our appropriations and our authorization process for homeland security we take a rational
approach, we do not go overboard in taking away discretionary authority from our border officials in the name of
homeland security, which actually sets us back.

So I hope that this body will take that issue up in the future. I thank the body for giving me a few minutes to talk about
what is going on at the border, and I hope that we can do things that really strengthen our security and not weaken it in
the future.

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