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Public Statements

National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. BECERRA. I would like to engage in a colloquy with the gentleman from California (Mr. Denham), and what I'd like to ask is, in conversations that have taken place between Members on this particular amendment, there is obviously quite a bit of support on this side of the House for legislation that would honor the service of any American, including those Americans who have come to this country through no fault of their own without documentation, have essentially become Americans through their time as youngsters in this country, and then wanted to fulfill service to this Nation by applying to serve in our Armed Forces.

This amendment, however, has some flaws in it that make it very difficult for the very people that the gentleman is trying to help to actually receive the opportunity to serve our country and then be able to adjust their status to lawful permanent residents, and ultimately, we hope, to become United States citizens.

There is also a further flaw in the bill that would prevent any part of this from ever taking effect unless the gentleman were able to find the resources to implement this. As he and I discussed before this amendment was put on the floor, that would be very difficult unless we were prepared to make some substantial changes to the current funding of some very important mandatory programs, including retirement pay for our soldiers; TRICARE, which is health care services for our military servicemembers; mortgage refinancing for our servicemembers.

So I would ask the gentleman if the gentleman was intent on pursuing this amendment today, or if he was prepared to withdraw and have further conversation to see if these flaws could be corrected.

I would also note that for many of us who have been working for over 20 years to try to reform a broken immigration system, this is certainly one aspect of a broken immigration system that must be fixed. There are any number of hardworking individuals in this country who we believe, through a comprehensive fix of our broken immigration system, would have an opportunity to show all Americans citizens that they have tried to work very hard to earn a chance to become tax-paying American citizens.

So while many of us prefer to be able to deal with all aspects of a broken immigration system, this is certainly one that truly needs to be dealt with and deserves attention. But this amendment has two very substantial flaws, and I would ask the gentleman what his intentions are with regard to pursuing this amendment on the floor this evening?

With the permission of our ranking member, I would ask that Mr. Denham be yielded time to respond.

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Mr. BECERRA. I thank the gentleman for yielding. And I appreciate the gentleman from California being willing to withdraw the amendment, and certainly appreciate the work of the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Mr. Goodlatte, in proposing that we try to resolve this in this Chamber.

I think we want to make it very clear. As I think every one of my colleagues who has spoken on this amendment has said, this is an important issue because we have a lot of young Americans who are trapped in a situation where they have to live in the shadows. And especially for those who wish to provide service to our country in uniform, I think all of us believe, if you're willing to give that highest calling of service, that we want to be there to be not only appreciative of your service, but recognizing the valor involved.

And so I want to make sure we're very clear. We all support the notion of trying to help these young Americans, who are Americans in everything but legal title, the opportunity to serve this country. This amendment, unfortunately, would not accomplish that if it were to go forward, and that's why I think it's so important, as Mr. Goodlatte, our chairman of the Judiciary Committee pointed out, that we withdraw the amendment and try to make corrections so we can get to the point of dealing with immigration reform.

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