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E-Newsletter May 24, 2006: Statement On President's Address On Immigration

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E-Newsletter May 24, 2006: Statement On President's Address On Immigration

There is no question that we must do more to secure our borders - but how we go about securing them is also important. There are common-sense steps we can take now, such as adding more Border Patrol agents and developing and utilizing technology. Even though the 9/11 Commission recommended and Congress authorized substantial increases in funding for more agents on the border, House Republicans have refused to provide these funding increases in the appropriations process. Over the last six years the need for more border guards has largely been ignored.

Deploying the Guard is a temporary fix at best. Under the president's plan, the Guard would only be used until significant additions to the existing civilian border patrols can be fully funded, so why not just fund more Border Patrol agents to begin with?

I support using our military to enhance border security under certain circumstances, but our National Guard is stretched awfully thin. Many Guard members are deployed overseas and states depend on the National Guard as the first line of defense against natural disasters and homeland security emergencies.

If the president is serious about border control - and not just concerned about sagging poll numbers - he will agree that bolstering our Border Patrol should be the first step he takes.

Reassuring the American people that we have taken strong action to strengthen enforcement and secure our borders is necessary for the harder and more complicated task of addressing the problem of existing illegal and undocumented workers. With stronger border security and enforcement, we can work to build a consensus for clarifying the status of existing illegal immigrants, most of whom are hard-working and otherwise law-abiding people, in a thoughtful way that will establish a fair and more secure process for legalized entry.

I hope politicians on both sides will conduct this important debate in a way that unites the country and pass a sorely-needed comprehensive immigration reform bill.

Roundtable Fire Report Makes Recommendations To Fight Wildfire Danger

I applaud the Front Range Fuels Treatment Partnership Roundtable for their work and the recommendations in their report "Living with Fire: Protecting Communities and Restoring Forests". Colorado faces a potentially serious wildfire season because of the prolonged drought and other problems, and I am committed to helping see the roundtable's recommendations put into action.

Many of the recommendations in the report are part of legislation I have authored with Rep. John Salazar (D-Manassa) to address the bark beetle problem in the Rocky Mountain west. The Rocky Mountain Forest Insects Response Enhancement and Support (FIRES) Act would:

. increase federal funding for treatments and allocating more of those funds to the wildland/urban interface areas;
. provide tax incentives to do some of this work to help reduce costs of treatments;
. encourage the use of chippers and mulchers to remove the excess fuels;
. encourage greater use of controlled fire;
. find commercial uses of the removed materials such as biofuels;
. provide larger and longer contracts for fuel removal to help incentivize the private sector to help; and
. promote and fund the development of community wildfire protection plans.

I am committed to working with my colleagues in the Colorado congressional delegation, members of the roundtable and local government to protect our communities and watersheds from catastrophic wildfire.

Forest Service Tells Lawmakers They Are Prepared For Fire Season

On May 10, Mark Rey, Undersecretary for Natural Resources and Environment at the USDA, briefed Rep. John Salazar and me, at our request, on the federal government's preparedness for the upcoming fire season. There have been serious concerns about the safety and adequacy of the aging air tanker fleet.

Undersecretary Rey informed us that the Forest Service has met all safety requirements and that the federal government's readiness level is comparable to the last four years. We were told that as the fire season develops, conditions will be monitored to reconfigure the fire fighting fleet to meet additional demands. Additional resources will be acquired under exclusive use contracts as needed, and the agency intends to work with industry to use existing aircraft that meet all the NTSB recommendations. Finally, Mr. Rey assured us that the Forest Service will have a long-term plan for the fire fighting fleet in place by spring 2007.

Colorado and other western states face a potentially serious wildfire season and the Forest Service and other agencies must be adequately prepared to respond to this threat. We were reassured by Mr. Rey that the Forest Service has taken steps to improve the safety and availability of firefighting aircraft, and we are pleased to know that a long-term plan is in the works that Congress can review.

It remains to be seen just how prepared the Forest Service will be -- particularly since necessary funds are harder and harder to come by in the current deficit situation we face. But we intend to keep a close watch on the Forest Service's plans and will work closely with the agency to do all we can to ensure that Colorado is prepared for the next fire season.

Ward Churchill Should Resign From The University Of Colorado

After an exhaustive investigation, a panel headed by a professor I know and have enormous respect for (Mimi Wesson) at the University of Colorado, has found that Ward Churchill has engaged in academic misconduct, including plagiarism, falsification and fabrication of facts, and violating the most basic standards of scholarly research. I believe that an educator who engages in this kind of misconduct has no place in our educational system. Sadly, it appears obvious that Ward Churchill has sullied the reputation of the University of Colorado and has brought disgrace on the academic community.

I have not reached this conclusion based on Mr. Churchill's horrendous comments about the 9-11 attacks, even though I think his interpretation of what happened on 9-11 is factually inaccurate, and his defamation of the attacks' victims is indefensible and reprehensible. My conclusion is based on what I believe is an educator's responsibility to adhere to the highest standards of academic integrity, ethics, and professionalism. After reading the report released yesterday, I am convinced that Mr. Churchill has failed on all accounts, and in the best interest of the University of Colorado, he should resign.

Congressman Mark Udall
Serving Colorado's Front Range and Western Slope

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