Statement of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton on the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Conference Report and Real ID Act
The Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill is supposed to provide funding for the young men and women wearing the uniform of our country who find themselves in harm's way every single hour of every single day. It will command broad bipartisan support and public support, as it should. But, unfortunately, the Senate was handed this bill as a fait accompli with no orderly budget process and no chance of serious, thoughtful debate.
For the third year in a row, we are providing military funding not through the regular budget process where we can discuss needs and provide oversight, but through an emergency process where accountability is thrown out the window. This is particularly alarming given the news today that the Administration has not provided a proper accounting of how funds are being spent in Iraq. It is regrettable that we are making these important, literally life-and-death decisions once again in an emergency supplemental as opposed to the regular budget. That's not the way the budget process, and certainly not the way our democratic process, should work.
I'm also deeply concerned that on an emergency supplemental to fund our troops and provide disaster relief for areas devastated by the tsunami we are being asked to vote on the so-called "Real ID" legislation. Its supporters say it is supposed to make our country safer, but how do we know that? We haven't had any committee hearings or any debate about it in the Senate. I had previously joined with my colleague, Senator Feinstein, on her amendment to prevent immigration proposals from being thrown needlessly into the emergency supplemental, and I am outraged that the Republican leadership in both the House and Senate decided to ignore this reasonable request and put this seriously flawed act into a bill to fund our troops. Emergency legislation designed to provide our troops with the resources they need to fight terrorism on the front lines is not the place for broad, sweeping immigration reform.
I am in total agreement with those who argue that we need to address our immigration challenges and we must also recognize that we are still not doing what we should to fulfill the demands of homeland security. And these issues do go hand-in-hand. If we can't secure our borders, we can't secure our homeland. We need a much tougher, much smarter look at these issues. Instead, we're faced with a piece of legislation, passed by the House, jammed into an emergency supplemental bill and my Republican colleagues are going to claim that we've made America safer. Well, that's a false claim.
We need to make our borders more secure. I've introduced legislation three years in a row to have a Northern Border Coordinator. I've met with both Secretary Ridge and Secretary Chertoff. We don't know who's in charge of the Northern Border. We're not even taking simple steps to rationalize our bureaucracy in Washington and figure out where the holes are and how to plug them.
We must continue our American tradition of welcoming immigrants who follow the rules and are trying to build a better life for their families. That's why I am so troubled by the changes in immigration, environmental and privacy laws included in this bill. I also worry about the consequences likely to occur because of changes in the asylum rules in the Real ID Act. I'm proud of the fact that our country has historically welcomed asylum seekers and refugees. Utica, New York is one of the most welcoming places for refugees in the entire country. But, under these new rules, we'll see whether America remains a welcoming place for those who seek refuge from persecution and violence.
We clearly have to make some tough decisions as a country. We need to ensure that people using fake ids don't cross our borders and jeopardize our homeland security. We must confirm that people who enter our country are who they purport to be. We need a system to apprehend criminals who are here illegally. And we need to develop a much better entry and exit system so that we know who is entering our country and overstaying their visas.
However, a piecemeal attempt to address immigration problems window-dressed as national security is not the solution. We need a thoughtful, reasonable process to address our immigration challenges and make our nation secure. This emergency bill does not provide that opportunity.