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Public Statements

Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. ZOE LOFGREN of California. Thank you, Mr. Dicks. I will be brief.

I just want to point out that the executive order itself indicates that only actions that would not be unduly burdensome should be engaged in. And the true scope of this amendment is really quite broad and adverse to the enforcement of the law.

If you are ICE and you have people in custody, those people in custody may not be speaking English, and you may need to be able to communicate with them in a language other than English. The broad scope of this amendment could interfere with that.

I would like to note, also, as to the FEMA issue that my colleague from California referred to, we think of DHS as immigration. My colleague from Iowa has mentioned that frequently in our committee. But the Department of Homeland Security is very broad. This could be the Coast Guard dealing with sailors in the Caribbean Sea, either people they believe are out to do mischief or people who are in distress who may not speak English. This could be storm warnings, as has been mentioned. There are parts of Florida where Spanish is spoken. Certainly in Puerto Rico, Spanish is spoken and hurricanes come. You want to alert the entire population in a way that they can understand that danger is on its way.

I think this repeal of this executive order, which goes back almost 12 years and through many administrations, is ill-advised. It will make the country less safe, and certainly it is an amendment that we should not support.

With that, I thank the gentleman.

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Ms. ZOE LOFGREN of California. It is true that every law enforcement agency in the land makes priorities for enforcement. You're going to go after the dangerous gang member before you go after somebody who is double-parked or who is jaywalking. That's what police do all over the United States.

What these memos do is to put some order into who we're going after first. It's important to note that in all of the memos there is a statement that this does not create any right for a person who is here without their proper papers. It is merely a set of priorities.

I would note also that these memos are not new. The prosecutorial discretion memos have been in effect since 1996. I recall in 1999 I was a member of the Judiciary Committee. Then-Chairman Henry Hyde, along with now Chairman Lamar Smith, asked the Department of Homeland Security, actually, the immigration service at the time, to set priorities, and here's what they said.

The letter expressed concern about cases of apparent extreme hardship, such as removal proceedings against legal permanent residents who came to the United States when they were very young, many years ago, maybe committed a single criminal crime at the lower end of the spectrum, who have always been law abiding, and said to the INS that they should exercise discretion more regularly. That was done by the Clinton administration, the Bush administration, and now the Obama administration.

To suggest that deportations are not occurring is extremely misleading because, in fact, there have been more deportations during the Obama administration per year than at any time in the Nation's history. DHS has removed over 779,000 individuals in deportation proceedings, an 18 percent increase.

However, there is a limit to the number who can be deported per year. Surely, we would all agree that going after criminals and terrorists is a higher priority than going after grandma or little kids.

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Ms. ZOE LOFGREN of California. I would just like to make a brief comment, because I actually share the concern that's been expressed about TSA agents randomly going out. I had an incident such as that in the city of San Jose, and I find it improper and highly objectionable.

However, the concern I have in this amendment is, as Mr. Price has said, you could not utilize this workforce and say, Okay, we're having the Republican convention; we need an all hands on deck to do security. If this amendment passes, that would be off limits. If you had an actual articulable threat where you needed expertise, you couldn't use them.

So I think that is a mistake, even though I want to say I think the issue you've raised is a solid one and I agree with you. It's just I think the amendment goes way beyond the issue that we agree on.

I thank the gentleman for yielding.

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Ms. ZOE LOFGREN of California. I would just like to note that there is a difference--and obviously the gentleman has a right to refine his amendment--between the original version of the amendment that we saw, which had a provision that allowed for the termination in certain cases. For example, when the Inspector General determined that a term of the agreement was violated, the amendment before us no longer has that provision. I think it's an important distinction.

In addition to the very high costs of over $33,000 to find and remove an alien under this program, there are complicated agreements that are engaged in between the localities and the Federal Government. If they aren't adhered to, there needs to be an enforcement action, and that would not be the case under this amendment.

I would note also that, if localities no longer think it's worth it--because, really, they're entering into agreements that cost them, too--it's time that might be better spent doing something else. If they say that this is not working out--we want to terminate it--I don't think, under this amendment, they would be able to do it because the Federal Government would need to respond to their requests and terminate.

Finally, as Mr. Price has indicated, this is a program that, although I think had good intentions, didn't work out the way people thought. That sometimes happens in law, and it often happens in immigration law. It's expensive. It's in fewer than 100 localities in the United States, and many of them are rethinking it. The terms and conditions have frequently not been adhered to. In some notorious cases, there have been flagrant violations of civil rights, and the Department has had to go in and yank contracts. Even in the cases where there haven't been really outrageous civil rights violations, there have been problems.

I think there are likely better and more cost-effective ways to enforce the immigration laws, which is why the Department has notified us that it is its intention to begin notifying communities just this spring that it's not going to be considering any further requests from State and local jurisdictions.

That current policy would be permitted under this amendment, and they don't have to accept any more, so we would be stuck with the 68 that we have--no more, no less. I don't think that's a sensible way to proceed on the enforcement of the immigration law; and I think the amendment, although I'm sure well-intentioned, would not enhance the enforcement of law.

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Ms. ZOE LOFGREN of California. I thank the gentleman for yielding.

I would, in joining my opposition to the amendment, note that the amendment before us actually does not prevent highway funds and other funds from going to so-called sanctuary cities at all.

Further, I would note, as Mr. Price has done, that these so-called sanctuary laws really very rarely, if at all, from the record, have to do with communicating between the locality and the Federal Government. They have to do with what the locality is doing and their own citizens.

In many urban parts of the country, police chiefs have made a decision that they need to trust their communities to be witnesses to crime, to come forward, to cooperate with the police, and that they do not want to play the role of immigration police. They want to be the real police. That is a decision that localities can make, provided that they do not run afoul of the 1996 act that prohibits the restrictions on sending and receiving information.

Here's the deal: you can say we're not going to disrupt this community because of our need to get the trust of the community, but you can't prohibit the communication with the Federal Government.

I think that this amendment will not achieve anything. The law is already clear. It passed in 1996.

I would further note that there is a case, it had to do with gun control. It's called the Prince case, and what it says is that the Federal Government cannot commandeer local and State governments to enforce the Federal law.

If that's really what the intent is here, it would violate the Supreme Court decision saying that you can't use the power of the Federal Government to force cities to enforce gun control laws. I would say you couldn't do that to force cities to enforce immigration laws either. That would be the Prince case.

This amendment doesn't matter, really, whether the amendment is approved or not because, as I indicated and Mr. Price has indicated, this has been part of our law since 1996.

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