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Public Statements

Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2014

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Ms. JACKSON LEE. To the managers of this important legislation, to Judge Carter and to Mr. Price, thank you for working on what is an enormously important message and mission of our Nation, and that is to secure America.

I'm grateful to have the opportunity to work with the authorizers, Chairman McCaul and Ranking Member Thompson, and to work with the ranking member and chairperson of the Subcommittee on Transportation Security, Mr. Hudson and Mr. Richmond.

Having just flown in from a memorial, and as Members often do, and as we interact with our constituents, we know a lot about flying. So it is very important that this amendment be taken as it has been offered.

I congratulate my cosponsors--Mr. Grimm, Mr. Markey, Mr. Reed, Mr. Swalwell and Mr. Cook--all of whom we have worked together with.

For it is interesting that this has come to a point where today we can thank Administrator Pistole for his thoughtfulness in this process and the deliberations that took place, that the announcement comes that he too understands that allowing knives on planes is not the right decision.

But in addition to the important statement of knives, we now know that other accessories, such as baseball bats and billiard cues and ski poles and hockey sticks and la crosse sticks, among others, and golf clubs, likewise have been included in his statement.

This amendment deals with knives. The reason why this is very important is because we should reaffirm the fact, as a member of the Homeland Security Committee--and for many of us who started on this committee after the heinous tragedy of 9/11, many of us who went to Ground Zero during the recovery period because of the horrific tragedy, smoke was still billowing from those terrible tragic issues--we too know what homeland security is. It is a promise to America to do everything we can to ensure the security of the homeland.

And so it is important to take note of Administrator Pistole's very thoughtful concern, and that concern, of course, was the idea of security. This amendment will give comfort to the issue of security.

We know there are issues of safety. We want to make sure that seatbelts are on, and we want to make sure that seats work and bathroom doors work on a plane in flight. We want to make sure that passengers remain in seats during difficult weather.

But security is an important question. And today, this amendment takes a stand for security. I am glad that after 9/11 we did have reinforced doors for the cockpit, we did have the ability of pilots to be trained and to be able to have weapons on board behind that cockpit--all in the name of security. Well, let me tell you, that a knife that has been measured by the eye, that then is allowed to get on the plane, it can be a weapon against security.

And today, we are saying that we need to codify in law the idea that knives will never be allowed to be on planes. Human beings are in the cockpit, our very able pilots. And flight attendants and passengers, grandmas and family vacationers and college students and business persons and our warriors, both wounded and not, and many others travel on airplanes, going home to loved ones, traveling to funerals, and going to joyful occasions.

It is very clear that a knife can be a threat to security. It can be a threat to security because, in fact, even as our valiant flight attendants who have been given required flight attendant training, which we are continuing to work on, they will be the first to stand up against an individual attempting to take a plane or to be able to threaten all of the passengers, to create an insecure atmosphere. And who knows what pilots will be thinking of, will be required to do? Who knows what an unmanned, un-air marshaled plane, or even one with an air marshal, will do when there are a number of those who are on the flight with knives.

So I ask my colleagues to vote for security and vote for the Grimm-Markey-Jackson Lee-Reed-Swalwell-Cook amendment to keep knives off of planes.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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Ms. JACKSON LEE. I'm not sure of the full intent of the gentleman's amendment, but I will say that I'm concerned if we are going to deny funding to cities that have established rules that may be determined that they are sanctuary cities and, in fact, they are not.

Many cities have a process in their own jurisdiction where law enforcement wants to ensure that, in the enforcement of their local laws, that all communities be considered engaged in the law enforcement process.

I don't know whether the gentleman determines that that is a sanctuary city, where chiefs of police wish to hear from communities that are bilingual and, therefore, do not want to have a structure that intimidates them and, therefore, inhibits the prosecution of laws or inhibits the elimination of crime.

So I would only make the argument that I know that the Association of Chiefs of Police have argued that it is important to ensure that immigrant communities feel free enough to communicate with their law enforcement officers.

I don't know if that is the interpretation of the gentleman's sanctuary cities. I know that he is going under the law. But I certainly hope those cities will not be biased or discriminated against with respect to Federal funding on homeland security.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Chairman, let me again thank the committee for its leadership and acknowledge to my friends that this amendment was adopted in the last appropriations for Homeland Security. I believe it's an important amendment to continue to keep before this committee, but also to continue to provide codification of it.

I have served on the Homeland Security Committee for a very honorable period of time. When I say that, it is a time that I have enjoyed being able to address the questions of homeland security or domestic security under the Homeland Security Department. Through that time, I have had the privilege on one of my committees to have oversight over the U.S. air marshals.

I would offer to say to my colleagues that often U.S. Air Marshals don't get the thanks and appreciation that they deserve. It is not an easy task, even as they are on domestic flights. International flights are quite difficult in terms of the time, but also the intensity of the work because their astuteness and awareness of what's going on in a small compact area is very important to the safety of those passengers.

So my amendment, Mr. Chairman, is very simple. What it does is it asks that no funds be used to limit the discretion of the Secretary of Homeland Security to enhance the use of Federal air marshals on inbound international flights considered to be high risk by the Department of Homeland Security.

There's little that I need to say to my colleagues that we live in a different atmosphere and certainly a different neighborhood. We're all well aware of our eyes being focused on the Christmas Day bomber just a few years ago, or the fact of the shoe bomber that was headed to Boston, or the fact of the various training that is going on with individuals even from the United States in Yemen. We're also aware that one of the Boston Marathon bombers flew from the United States overseas and back. So we realize that individuals are using the international air skies, if you will, to travel back and forth to the United States.

My amendment ensures that the Federal air marshals are effectively using their funds to deploy personnel on inbound flights that are considered high risk by the Department of Homeland Security and that there is no limitation to that ability.

I believe the Federal air marshals are the last line of defense in many instances in defending the cockpit and aircraft cabin against terrorist attacks, those who have obviously been able to transcend other barriers and getting on planes in international ports.

As a former chair and a member of the Homeland Security Transportation Security Committee, I worked over the years and sponsored legislation to ensure that we have enough air marshals and that they receive all the requisite training to effectively secure the aircraft. Again, many times their work goes unnoticed, but it is vital work to best protect our Nation from terroristic threat. It is of extreme importance that we use the necessary funds to support the use of Federal air marshals on inbound international flights.

Make no mistake, the threat to our aviation system from aircraft inbound to the United States from foreign airports continues to be a serious and dangerous threat. It is often recited by those who are engaged in intelligence matters that aviation assets still are the asset of choice for many of these franchise terrorists. To best protect our Nation from terroristic threat, it is important that we take note of our international flights.

Following the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden, intelligence was gathered that suggested al Qaeda still has an interest in attacking the United States, likely through transportation modes, whether it is to airplanes, trains, and other modes. This fact, coupled with the numerous suspicious activities even on domestic aircraft where passengers are attempting to open cabin doors in flight or otherwise disrupt, is of concern. Certainly, our air marshals play a very important role.

While my amendment deals with the threat of inbound aircraft to the United States, its ultimate impact would be to ensure that air marshals are assigned to the highest risk flights. It simply prohibits funds from being used to limit the discretion of the Secretary of Homeland Security to enhance air marshal coverage on inbound, high-risk flights. And it reinforces the importance of the job that air marshals do, but also the importance of assessing this high-risk threat in many instances, which is the aviation vehicle.

The terroristic threats are ever-changing. We must allow the Secretary of Homeland Security to make the necessary adjustments to protect the American people. This is not a funding issue or a people issue, rather, a security issue.

This amendment is budget neutral, and I would ask my colleagues to support this amendment that really speaks to the idea of security for the American people.

With that, I yield back the balance of my time.

Thank you for this opportunity to explain my amendment, which simply prohibits any funds in the Homeland Appropriations Act from being used to limit the discretion of the Secretary of Homeland Security to enhance the use of Federal air marshals on inbound international flights considered to be high risk by the Department of Homeland Security.

My amendment ensures that the Federal Air Marshals are effectively using their funds to deploy personnel on inbound flights that are considered high risk by the Department of Homeland Security and that there is no limitation on that ability.

Mr. Chairman, I believe that Federal Air Marshals are the last line of defense in defending the cockpit and aircraft cabin against terrorist attack.

As the former Chair and a current member of Homeland Security Transportation Security Subcommittee, I have worked over the years and sponsored legislation to ensure that we have enough air marshals and that they receive all the requisite training to effectively secure aircraft.

To best protect our Nation from terroristic threat it is of extreme importance that we use the necessary funds to support the use of Federal Air Marshalls on inbound international flights.

Make no mistake--the threat to our aviation system from aircraft inbound to the United States from foreign airports is serious and dangerous.

Following the capture and killing of Osama Bin Laden, intelligence was gathered that suggests that Al Qaeda still has an interest in attacking the U.S., likely through transportation modes. This fact, coupled with the numerous suspicious activities even on domestic aircraft where passengers were attempting to open cabin doors in flight or otherwise disrupt flights, is of concern.

While my amendment deals with the threat on inbound aircraft to the U.S., its ultimate impact will be to ensure that air marshals are assigned to the highest-risk flights.

It simply prohibits funds from being used to limit the discretion Secretary of Homeland Security to enhance air marshal coverage on inbound high-risk flights in accordance with the Department's risk model.

The terroristic threats are ever changing and we must allow the Secretary of Homeland Security to make the necessary adjustments to protect the American people.

This is not a funding issue or people issue, rather a security issue and this amendment is budget neutral.

Let me thank those under Homeland Security for their service, including my friends at the Transportation Security Administration. Let me thank the Federal Air Marshals as well for their service.

Mr. Chair, I ask my colleagues to support amendment 153 to the Homeland Security Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2014.

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Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Chairman, I was intending on offering an amendment dealing with Border Security Centers of Excellence. I will not offer that amendment, and I would like to just indicate that I look forward to working with the ranking member and the chairman.

As we move to a comprehensive immigration reform, Border Security Centers of Excellence are universities that look to the highest technology of how we can secure America. They undertake research and education initiatives designed to meet the needs of the Department of Homeland Security, border security, and immigration in a global context. They develop and use cutting-edge research methodologies focused on unique science and technology policy issues, and they develop educational programs in order to educate current and future practitioners, which is really crucial, and researchers in the relevant disciplines.

If we want to secure America, we need the technology and the expertise. As a ranking member on the Border and Maritime Security Subcommittee, I can assure you that as we look to the new metrics of border security in the northern and southern border, we need personnel. And my amendment was going to ensure that we allow Congress to gather the information needed by Congress to establish more universities, or opportunities for more universities and colleges to participate as Border Security Centers of Excellence.

In my own community, Houston Community College, Texas Southern University, University of Houston, a number of campuses could be engaged as Border Security Centers of Excellence. Texas Southern University, for example, received from my initiative a Transportation Security Center of Excellence that was established under that particular legislation, the Transportation Security Administration legislation.

So I would like to make sure that we look forward to doing that.

I do want to indicate, as we pass the amendment dealing with no knives on planes, that I had introduced legislation with Mr. Grimm that allowed Administrator Pistole an indefinite amount of time to consult with stakeholders. I, frankly, believe that legislation helped turn the corner for the thoughtful position that Mr. Pistole has now taken. I think the amendment that we passed today was by voice and was common sense and makes a good, important statement.

I also think the idea of emphasizing the importance of U.S. air marshals in my previous amendment that was accepted is important and to reemphasize the importance of the responsibility of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for the traveling public in order to ensure that it assesses high-risk places of departure so that air marshals can be used effectively, efficiently, and with funding.

With all of that, I believe the amendments that have been put upon the floor today and that I have discussed and offered contribute positively to the ultimate direction of security in this country. As I conclude, I hope that we will be able to have more Border Security Centers of Excellence, and I look forward to working with this committee and the authorizing committee to ensure that in comprehensive immigration reform we have the technology, the personnel, the training, the research, and the education to make it work as it should.

With that, I yield back the balance of my time.

Madam Chair, thank you for this opportunity to explain my proposed amendment, which simply gives the Secretary of Homeland Security the flexibility to conduct the study on the feasibility of expanding the membership of university-based Homeland Security Centers of Excellence.

The mission of the Department of Homeland Security Centers of Excellence is to:

Undertake research and education initiatives designed to meet the needs of the Department of Homeland Security, border security and immigration in a global context.

Develop and use cutting-edge research methodologies focused on the unique science, technology, and policy issues within this domain.

Develop educational programs in order to educate current and/or future practitioners and researchers in the relevant disciplines, and to help define emerging education areas.

Under current law composition of membership of Homeland Security Centers, the number of centers is limited by law and can only be enlarged by Congress.

This amendment allows the Secretary of Homeland Security to conduct a study to gather information needed by Congress in determining eligibility of more universities.

In my congressional district, 18th Congressional District of Houston, TX, there are a number of institutions that have the expertise in research and staffing that would be in addition to this consortium involved in the Border Security Center of Excellence, such as the University of Houston and Texas Southern University.

My amendment would just simply allow the United States to benefit from the expertise from new Homeland Security Centers of Excellence. I look forward to working toward adding more Border Security Centers of Excellence.

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Ms. JACKSON LEE. I have a number of good friends on the floor, Madam Chair. My good friend, Mr. King, serves with me on the Judiciary Committee, good friend, Mr. Price, who is the ranking member, has just given an eloquent exposé of the contents of Mr. King's amendment. And I've worked with Judge Carter, Congressman Carter, Chairman Carter, as we look to ensuring the security of the border and protecting the homeland.

I think it is important, first of all, that we should thank ICE officers across America because most ICE officers, in spite of the judicial decision that Mr. King offers, have followed the executive order or the directions of their Director, Mr. Morton, who is an established public servant and law enforcement officer.

His credentials are without question. The Judiciary Committee has heard from Mr. Morton on several occasions to articulate the premise of the provisions that are being attacked in this amendment. Each time he has been able to document the value of what this prosecutorial discretion series of orders represents. In fact, Mr. Morton went out on the road. He came to Houston, Texas, and met at our immigration services office to explain to an array of community service persons what this actually meant.

There was no offering of amnesty. There was no utilization of that language. There was no suggestion that this would be an open-door policy. This was a suggestion that thoughtful ICE agents, law enforcement officers, entrusted to uphold the law, would have the authority to use prosecutorial discretion so that, as my colleague from North Carolina said, we would go after the terrorists, go after those who are here to do us harm, but allow hardworking families to stay together.

In the remarks of my good friend from Iowa, he does not make mention of the fact that the Obama administration has deported more individuals than any administration preceding it. Many of us have advocated against that. But what we did advocate for is a fair assessment of how you make that determination.

Now, maybe my good friend and the friends on the floor are not aware that we're under sequester, that we're operating under a budget line that is not even a trillion dollars. It's $970-plus billion. That's way below what I'd like to see to fund this government that we have. If that is the question, then why would my good friend, Mr. King, suggest that we are not doing our job?

So we want to split up hardworking families and fathers who are supporting their families because it may be an overstay or they came in undocumented? But most of all, the pains of the eons and eons of young people that have come into my office that are in the academic institutions of Houston, or Texas, who want to stay here and contribute to America's dream--the Dream children--and we're now telling them, after receiving a prosecutorial deferral, using prosecutorial discretion, a case-by-case determination that there's no credible criminal background, nothing they have done wrong, and by that decision, that simple, evenhanded decision, that nothing has been done wrong by them and they're allowed to stay.

I just want to know if my friend will support me on comprehensive immigration reform. Then we'll be able to get it fixed. And maybe he will answer that. But I will ask my colleagues to please look at this as a law enforcement tool. This is not willy-nilly. This has been a thoughtful process that ICE has articulated for its agents throughout the country for them to thoughtfully look at those individuals that would pose a danger. Deport them. But to those families who need to be united that are surviving and working and supporting four and five children and going to work and going to houses of worship, or those children that are in the sophomore year or third year or graduating or graduate school, or the mother who came and fell on the ground in my office prostrate and crying when it was acknowledged that her graduate school daughter could stay here and finish her degree. It was through no fault of her own. She had come here to the United States not knowing that she did not have status.

So I'm hoping, like Mr. Price, that we will not have a divisive amendment. And I'm praying that my good friend will join me on comprehensive immigration reform, Madam Chair, and that he will withdraw this amendment.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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