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Public Statements

Flood Insurance Reform and Modernization Act--Motion to Proceed--Resumed

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Mr. REID. Mr. President, the Senate will continue debate on the farm bill today. At 5 p.m. the Senate will proceed to executive session to consider the nomination of Mary Lewis to be U.S. District Judge for the District of South Carolina. At 5:30 this evening there will be a rollcall vote on confirmation of the Lewis nomination.

MOVING FORWARD

Mr. President, I have spoken to Senator Stabenow several times in the last couple of days. In fact, I spoke to her today--what time did I get back? It is 3 o'clock--at 2 o'clock or thereabouts. She indicated to me they are making progress on the bill. There was one amendment she was concerned about. I worked that out and told her she could go ahead and have that as part of the consent agreement. So I have worked very hard to try to make the lives of Senators Stabenow and Roberts easier, and I have worked through some of the problems my people had.

But, Mr. President, the issues on this bill overwhelmingly are on the other side, and I hope we can work something out. They have worked so hard--Senators Stabenow and Roberts--and I hope we can find a path forward. It is important. I commend them for their dedication to this measure which cuts subsidies and protects 16 million American jobs.

We have spent so much precious time on this bill--precious time we do not have--and we need to move forward on it. We are going to move forward or off of this bill. I hope we will be able to move forward today with this bill; otherwise, we are going to have to file cloture on the bill because it is the third week of jockeying around on this bill.

THE DREAM ACT

Mr. President, Astrid Silva is an average American 24-year-old from all outward appearances. She is a Las Vegas resident. She is fascinated with Nevada history--whether it is Area 51 or about the time when it is alleged the mob ran the casinos. She is active in her community, school politics, and local politics.

One day Astrid would like to come to Washington, DC, to see, as she said, the Declaration of Independence--see it herself. She recently completed her associate's degree at the College of Southern Nevada, and she dreams of completing her bachelor's degree at UNLV.

But there is one issue standing in her way: Astrid is not an American citizen. Twenty years ago this week this little girl, 3 1/2 years old--a little baby girl--was brought to the United States by her parents. She has no knowledge of Mexico. America is her country. The country where she was born--Mexico--she knows nothing about. She speaks perfect English. She was an honor student in high school, and she has never called anyplace but Nevada her home.

So, of course, I thought of this brave young woman when

President Obama announced last Friday he would suspend the deportation of young people like Astrid who were brought to this country illegally when they were only children.

I had a difficult campaign, as everyone knows. During that campaign, on occasion I would be given a little handwritten note. I would look at it later. One was from Astrid telling me of her dreams--her dreams that she wanted fulfilled, that could not be because she was not a citizen even though this is her country.

She has been looking over her shoulder for many years now--since the time she was old enough to understand--afraid of deportation. She decided she was going to step out of the shadows and be no longer afraid and become an advocate for the DREAM Act. She is truly a DREAMer.

As we know, the DREAM Act would create a pathway to citizenship for outstanding young people who were brought to this country through no fault of their own and want to attend college or serve our Nation in the Armed Services.

The DREAM Act is not amnesty. It rewards responsibility with opportunity.

Astrid's handwritten letters convinced me years ago of the importance of this issue. Unfortunately, Republican opposition has stalled this legislation.

I was stunned listening to the Republican nominee for President say: Why doesn't Congress do this?

Mr. President, we have tried. We cannot get Republican votes. We have tried.

Thanks to President Obama, Astrid and 800,000 other young people just like her who are American in all but paperwork no longer need to live in fear of deportation. President Obama's directive to suspend deportation of the DREAMers comes after a yearlong review. It will be applied on a case-by-case basis. It frees up law enforcement resources to focus on people who actually threaten public safety and national security, and it removes the specter of deportation that has hovered over deserving young men and women.

For a long time the Presiding Officer was the chief attorney, the chief enforcer of the law in the State of Connecticut, and he had to direct his resources where they could best be used. He wanted to focus on people who were threatening public safety and national security.

What good would it do for us as a country to say to people such as Astrid: You cannot go to school. What you can do is go ahead and be part of a gang. Women become gang members too. Some of those violent gang members we have in America today are now women. Are we better off preventing these young men and women from going to school, from going into the military, even though this is the only country they have ever known as home?

Are we better off saying stay in the shadows or are we better off letting them get an education and serving our country in the military? The answer to that is so easy.

It removes the specter of deportation that has hovered over deserving young men and women. That is what President Obama did. So I congratulate him for this courageous decision--a decision that benefits both the DREAMers and our Nation as a whole.

Like Astrid, these young people share our language, share our culture, share our love for America--the only country they know. They are talented, patriotic men and women who want to defend our Nation in the military, get a college education, work hard, and contribute to their communities and this country.

When they pledge allegiance, it is to the United States of America. Unfortunately, President Obama's directive is temporary. The onus is now on Congress to protect the DREAMers and fix our broken immigration system once and for all.

For all of these people who are saying: Why didn't you do it in Congress, we tried. We invite them here. If they want to make it permanent, it could be done very easily.

Comprehensive immigration reform should be tough, fair, and practical. It should continue efforts to secure our borders, hold unscrupulous employers accountable, and reform our Nation's legal immigration system. It should require 11 million undocumented people to register with the government, pay taxes and fines, work, and learn English. Then they do not go to the front of the line, they go to the back of the line and work their way up.

Some Republicans have suggested a solution to the DREAMers' terrible dilemma should have come from Congress, not the President. I have talked about that today already.

I repeat, it is Republican opposition that has prevented Congress from acting. In fact, Senate Republicans have blocked the DREAM Act twice. Many Republicans who once said they favored a long-term fix for America's broken immigration system are now abandoning efforts to find common ground.

It was interesting to note that on one of the Sunday shows yesterday, the former Governor of Massachusetts refused to answer the question when asked four times by Bob Schieffer: What is your proposal? He would not answer four times. We all know he said if the DREAM Act passed he would veto it. But he is saying: Why don't you work it out in Congress? But he is saying: If you do, I am going to veto it.

Obviously, efforts to find common ground have been abandoned. So the President took decisive action in offering this directive. But he can only do so much by himself. So for Astrid's sake and for the sake of every American, it is time for Congress to become part of the solution.

I hope my Republican colleagues will finally join Democrats to find a bipartisan way to mend this Nation's flawed immigration system instead of just complaining about the system being broken. The pathway is there. We know what needs to be done. We just need a little help from our Republican colleagues.

Will the Chair announce the business of the day.

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