Department Of Defense And Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011

Floor Speech

By:  Lamar Smith
Date: April 14, 2011
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. Speaker, I support this bill because it represents a fundamental shift in the debate here in Washington. The question is no longer about how much to increase Federal spending as it has been these last few years. And it isn't even whether or not to cut Federal spending. Instead, the question is now by how much to cut Federal spending.

I know that in order to cut the budget, hard choices must be made. Unfortunately, this bill makes two incorrect choices.

First, H.R. 1473 rescinds $13 million from funding for the REAL ID hub. Second, the bill cuts $25 million from the exit portion of U.S.-VISIT.

The 9/11 hijackers each used fraudulently obtained drivers' licenses and identification cards from several different states. In response, the 9/11 Commission recommended that, ``The federal government should set standards for the issuance of birth certificates and sources of identification, such as drivers licenses.''

So Congress passed, and the President signed into law, the ``REAL ID Act of 2005.'' Unfortunately this administration does not take this law seriously. In fact, the administration tries at every opportunity to undercut the congressional mandate.

Most recently the Obama administration issued a 20-month extension for states to comply with REAL ID. Such extensions simply leave Americans vulnerable to those who want to do us harm.

We should do whatever we can to ensure that the administration and states implement REAL ID. Taking funds away from it is a mistake.

It is also a mistake to take funds away from the development of the exit portion of U.S.-VISIT.

The ``Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996,'' required, within 2 years, the creation of an automated system to track the entry and departure of every alien entering the United States in order to identify those aliens who overstay their visas. That system is known as United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology (U.S.-VISIT).

Fifteen years later, the exit portion of that system is nowhere near completion. In fact, other than several prior pilot programs at land, sea and air ports of entry, the exit portion doesn't even really exist.

Without the ``exit'' portion of U.S.-VISIT, there is no way to tell whether people who entered on short-term visas returned home. And such visa overstayers account for nearly 40 percent of all illegal immigrants in the United States. It is a matter of national security to know who is coming and going from the U.S.

Taking $25 million from U.S.-VISIT gives the administration the impression that we are not serious about its implementation. And that is wrong.

I plan to support passage of H.R. 1473, but I hope that in the future, the choices we made to cut federal spending that might put this country's national security at risk will be reconsidered.

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