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Department Of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2006

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. CRAIG. Mr. President, I rise in support of the fiscal year 2006 Homeland Security appropriations bill. The first fundamental responsibility for our Federal Government is to protect the American people through a strong national defense and effective homeland security. Border security and immigration reform are essential elements of providing for a secure homeland. With that, I am here this afternoon to commend the chairman of the Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee, Senator Gregg, and the ranking member, Senator Byrd, for their aggressive and decisive steps forward that are being demonstrated in this legislation.

This bill continues to improve that which made our Nation and our people much safer than we were before and immediately after 9/11. I am proud to serve with the chairman and the ranking member and our colleagues on this subcommittee. We need to do more to improve our border security and immigration enforcement, however. It is important for Americans to understand that this Congress is making significant progress in this area.

Earlier this year, as a result of a Byrd-Craig amendment to the fiscal year 2005 emergency supplemental appropriations bill, we began the process of adding 500 new Border Patrol agents, 1,950 additional detention beds, and approximately 118 additional investigators, agents, and officers to the whole effort at Border Patrol. In fiscal year 2006, the bill that is before us continues to implement and build upon the progress that we have made in the Byrd-Craig amendment.

This bill, as reported by the committee, provides for 1,000 more Border Patrol agents. It increases the total number of beds at immigration detention centers by 2,240 to a total of 22,727.

It also adds 300 new immigration investigation positions and 200 new immigration enforcement agents and detention officers.

This bill, as reported, in combination with the supplemental bill we passed earlier, makes record increases to commit record resources to border security and immigration enforcement.

In total levels of key personnel alone, the Appropriations Committee has provided for 12,400-plus Border Patrol agents; 18,200-plus Customs and border protection officers; 6,000-plus criminal investigators for Customs and immigration work; 1,200-plus deportation officers; and 2,700-plus immigration enforcement agents and detention officers.

In other words, in these positions alone, this bill provides for literally an army of more than 40,000 agents and officers fighting on the front lines for border security and immigration enforcement.

The committee has made an earnest attempt to add resources and personnel as fast as the Department of Homeland Security can absorb them and use them effectively. The bill, as reported, makes available more than $7.1 billion for Customs and border protection, and more than $4.5 billion in immigration and Customs enforcement.

While those dollars and personnel numbers reflect something of our commitment to improve border security and immigration enforcement, it is important to emphasize the work being done and the progress being made for the American people.

More than 1 million individuals a year are being apprehended attempting to enter the country illegally, and formal removals have increased sixfold over the last decade. Worker identification checks have intensified. Development continues on US VISIT--the United States Visitor and Immigration Status Indicator Technology Program. Personnel are being trained. Technology is being modernized.

This bill calls on the administration, and provides resources to help, to close the gaps at our borders, to improve interagency coordination inside the Department of Homeland Security and with outside agencies, and to meet the challenges remaining from the historic, and massive, reorganization that created the Department.

As I have said, we do need to do more. The Federal Government has no laurels to rest on when it comes to border security or immigration. The problem of illegal immigration has grown to crisis proportion, with an estimated 10 million undocumented persons now living here in this country.

During much of the 1990s, and at different times in preceding decades, the Federal Government simply paid lipservice to enforcing the law while mostly looking the other way. This was with the quiet complicity of much of the public, in large part, because whole sectors of the economy have become increasingly dependent on the labor of these people. This is an intolerable situation.

Our Nation's immigration system and laws are broken. Whether we are talking about more money, more law, or both, a policy that focuses exclusively on more enforcement is not enough, and it will not work. It is a part of the total picture.

The United States has 7,458 miles of land borders and 88,600 miles of tidal shoreline. We can secure those frontiers well, but not perfectly. As we have stepped up border enforcement, we have locked persons in this country at least as effectively as we have locked them out of the country. Even as we have increased border enforcement, net illegal immigration is estimated at 400,000 to 500,000 a year. Fellow Senators, that is a figure worth repeating. Net illegal immigration in our country still, today, at this moment, in this year, will be between 400,000 to 500,000. To search door to door, as some would advocate, to find 10 million persons and flush them out of their homes, schools, churches, workplaces, and other areas is simply something the American people, in the end, would never tolerate. The question of civil liberties would grow and that effort would fall apart. We fought a revolution once in this great country of ours against search of our homes and, once again, I think the American people would react to that as not only unconstitutional, but dramatically intrusive.

So what do we do? This bill is a major step in the right direction. First and foremost, we secure our borders. As I have said, that is step one. Step two, to me, is we change the law and we change the character of the law to deal with the problem that clearly is at hand; provide incentives for those inside our borders to come forward and identify themselves; laws that ensure there is a supply of legal guest workers to take jobs Americans don't want or won't take. For example, when American agriculture briefly had a widely used legal guest worker program in the 1950s, illegal immigration plummeted by more than 90 percent. That program was called the Bracero Program. It worked well, but it had lots of criticism for the way the foreign nationals were treated inside this country. As a result, it fell apart. We were then given what we have today--a very cumbersome law that no longer works.

Last year, that law identified about 42,000 to 45,000 legal workers for American agriculture. Yet, we know there were well over a million working in this country for American agriculture that were probably illegal. That, too, is an intolerable situation. It is why several years ago I began to look at ways to solve this problem--at least for agriculture--because American agriculture is nervous, and they ought to be; they know that even though those workers who come to them have what appear to be legal documents, the reality is that they are, by 70 percent of their workforce, working illegal foreign nationals. If it is not corrected, it is an intolerable situation for American agriculture to be in.

That story can be played out in a variety of other industries. But as I began to focus on this a good number of years ago, I recognized there was a significant problem that had to be dealt with. It is not a popular thing to do, but immigration and immigration reform is never popular. Those of us who are the children of immigrants sometimes hold the attitude, close the border and let no one in. Yet, today, in the American workforce we know that at a growing high record of employment we still have well over 10 million foreign nationals, undocumented, working in our economy in jobs that Americans oftentimes choose not to work in.

That is why I created the bill AgJOBS, now supported by well over 60 Senators. We got a vote this year of 53 to 45 on a procedural motion to allow that Agricultural Job Opportunity and Benefit Security Act to come to the floor and ultimately work through the process and become law. Other colleagues of mine are working on types of reform.

So what we are doing today with the Homeland Security Appropriations bill is making a quantum leap in the right direction. No immigration policy, no matter how forward-looking, how flexible, and how reasonable it might be to identify those who are in the country, to allow the ebb and flow necessary to meet both the economic needs and humanitarian needs that we are all for--you cannot do it without controlling your borders, without controlling the flow that comes across them. That is what this bill makes a major step in doing.

I am pleased to be a member of the subcommittee and to join with Chairman Gregg and the ranking member, Senator Byrd, whom I have worked with on this issue before. I believe this bill deserves the support of the Senate. If you are for immigration reform, if you believe in controlling our borders, if you recognize this is an issue that has gone well out of control, then you would want to vote for this legislation. Is it a tremendous investment? You bet it is. But it is an investment long coming, because it is the investment we have denied and ignored as necessary to make for well over two decades. As a result of that, we have the consequences of the situation we deal with today.

Now is the time to correct it. Now is the time to reshape immigration policy in our country, and to do so recognizing that it is a two-front issue--both to have the right law in place, and to secure our borders so that those who come across are identified and move across legally and appropriately, consistent with the laws of our land.


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