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Mr. BLUMENTHAL. Madam President, I rise to protest an action by the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, that punished my State of Connecticut and four other States for effectively protecting our citizens against unfair and abusive mortgage foreclosure practices.
I want to say right at the outset I am determined to fight this action along with my colleagues during the comment period that we have, to contest this very unwise, misguided, unacceptable decision. These agencies have just posted for 60-day comment a decision to increase Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's guarantee fee for Connecticut and four other States--New Jersey, New York, Illinois, and Florida.
Why? Because of the protections we have in place now against those abusive banking tactics that have so pervaded the mortgage foreclosure process and increased the length of time that it sometimes takes for foreclosure. And we have a mediation process that keeps people in their homes and enables settlements that actually save money. That is Connecticut's crime. That is the reason Connecticut and four other States and our homeowners will pay more in those guarantee fees.
Those fees, by the way, are imposed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in exchange for assuming the risk that a loan will default. These entities guarantee investors in mortgages and mortgage-backed securities, making it less expensive and easier for home purchasers to obtain financing.
The cost of the guaranteed fund is generally passed along to the borrower so homeowners will pay these increased fees. They will bear this burden, and it will be a burden not only on those homeowners, but eventually on the housing market, which is in all too slow and fragile a recovery. Also, our economy depends so vitally on the housing market.
I am proud of Connecticut. I am proud of every State like Connecticut that protects its homeowners from robo-signing or fraudulent affidavits. We believe in justice and due process. We believe in giving homeowners an opportunity to mediate with the banks because so often the banks fail to come to the table. In effect, they give homeowners the runaround. They often fail to even give them a person with whom to negotiate in good faith, and mediation forces them to come to the table.
In 80 percent of the cases where there is mediation, homeowners stay in their homes. That saves money for other homeowners in the neighborhood because their property values are maintained. It saves money for the homeowner who doesn't have to find a place to live and maybe even buy another house, and it saves money for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. In fact, every time they avoid foreclosure, they save on average at least $11,000. That is the kind of savings they ought to relish, not reject. The foreclosure process around the country has rightly raised fears of abuses that Connecticut has sought to prevent. This kind of protection ought to be rewarded, not rejected.
The additional time it has taken for foreclosure because of these protections is a cost well worth the larger savings that are eventually realized. That is the reason I have determined that I will fight this new proposed guarantee fee, which increases significantly and substantially by 30 basis points for every homeowner who takes advantage of a Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae loan. From the moment families take out a loan, they are faced with fees and charges that we ought to seek to minimize so we can expand and enlarge and continue the recovery in our housing market while preventing unnecessary and illegal foreclosures. I am determined to fight this fee.
I will enlist help from other colleagues who have already indicated their opposition, and I believe that together we will succeed in persuading Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that this increase in fee is misguided, unwise, and unacceptable.
I also want to speak separately and distinctly about the DREAM Act.
Last week I came to the floor to talk about the importance of the DREAM Act and to share the story of a Connecticut DREAMer. I am here again with the story of a different DREAMer. This is another young person from Connecticut. Again, I urge my colleagues to take action on this critically important bill. Young people who are known as DREAMers are undocumented immigrants who were brought to this country at an early age. Some were infants. Through no fault of their own, the consequence is they are here without proper documentation. America is their home. They often know no other language. All of their life they have been here. They have no memories of the country of their origin, where they were born. Our unfair and impractical immigration system fails to give them a path to citizenship and to stay in this country, the country they know and love.
The DREAM Act would give these young immigrants a chance to earn their citizenship through education or military service. By earning their citizenship they can begin to give back to this country. In fact, they are individuals who will continue to contribute to this country and give back to it.
Again, I wish to recognize the distinguished leadership of my colleague Senator Durbin, who has been fighting tirelessly for the passage of the DREAM Act for over 10 years. At the State level I have fought for similar measures that would give rights, particularly in the area of education and tuition aid, to these DREAMers. We have succeeded in Connecticut in giving them the benefit of in-state tuition.
The immigrants who would benefit from the DREAM Act have already been helped by an order from the President that defers their deportation for 2 years. Although it defers their deportation, it does not permanently grant them any rights. In fact, if there is a change in administration, that order could be easily reversed. So the benefit is temporary and the need is for a more certain, stable, and secure solution so they can come out of the shadows, avoid being marginalized by our outdated immigration laws, gain the kind of scholarship aid they need, seek to serve our country on a more permanent basis, and benefit, but also discharge the obligations of citizenship in this country.
I want to talk today about Yusmerith Caguao. Yusmerith Caguao is a college student who grew up in Norwalk, CT. She was born in Venezuela. She came to this country when she was 11 years old. She was told by her mom that the reason for coming here was to learn English, and the idea of learning a new language in a new country was immensely exciting to her. Her family settled in Norwalk, and she began middle school a week or two after arriving in America. She remembers those early days of her life, but she also remembers the excitement and struggle. Arriving without any knowledge of English, she mastered this language. Her grades improved over time and she kept in mind why her parents had brought her to America. She was dedicated to that day when she would be successful, when she would have visions realized and dreams achieved that she could not accomplish in Venezuela.
She graduated from middle school with excellent grades. She was proud of what she had accomplished and learned, and soon after completing middle school, to her dismay, she became aware of her legal status in this country. Learning that she was undocumented affected her performance and her state of mind. By the time Yusmerith Caguao was in high school, she stopped trying to get perfect grades because she feared that colleges would not accept her anyway.
At this point Yusmerith says she became depressed and felt hopeless. She graduated high school. She had almost given up the idea of attending college, but she didn't lose hope. After she graduated from high school, she decided to continue her education in Norwalk Community College, a wonderful institution. I attended their graduation this year. It is a place that does wonders and provides immense opportunities for people regardless of their race or background or documentation and citizenship. It did wonders for Yusmerith.
She worked at a lot of different jobs to pay for her education, from waitressing in restaurants to working at a pet store and babysitting. She continues to work to pay for her education.
Now having graduated from Norwalk Community College, Yusmerith went on to attend Western Connecticut State University. This picture is of her graduation, but we are hopeful she will have another graduation. She is currently pursuing a double major in accounting and finance at Western State University and expects to graduate in 2014. She hopes to be an accountant. She hopes to have a career where she can put her skills to work. She hopes to give back to this country. That hope deserves recognition and realization, and that is why I stand here asking this body to give Yusmerith and thousands of other young people in Connecticut, the DREAMers, that opportunity to have a secure and permanent status, a path to citizenship that they will earn through education or military service.
I am hopeful my colleagues, even in a time of tremendous partisanship, will see the importance of what Yusmerith and the DREAMers can do not only for themselves but what they can give to our Nation and us. With her skills, talent, and dedication, this Nation will be even greater. We are the greatest Nation in the history of the world, but even greater with the contributions of young people such as Yusmerith.
I yield the floor.
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