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Safe Communities, Safe Schools Act of 2013 - Motion to Proceed

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. CORNYN. Madam President, I have a couple matters I wish to discuss, but before I get to that, we have been advised--through the news media--that there have been multiple victims who have been injured during a stabbing attack at the Lone Star College CyFair campus in Texas. One person has been taken into custody.

Unfortunately, this is the second time, in a short period of time, that the Lone Star College campus has been struck with acts of senseless violence, and I think it is appropriate to say here and now that our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families. We hope law enforcement does its typically good job and finds those responsible to make sure those who are responsible are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.


Madam President, I wish to remind my colleagues that if they don't know where they are going, then they will probably never know when they get there. Stated another way: If you don't measure the size of a problem, you will never know how close or how far you are away from solving it. It seems like common sense. But since 2010, the Department of Homeland Security has used the metric or the measuring stick of operational control to determine how successful it is about detaining those who cross our southwestern border illegally. This is a matter of basic public safety since we know drug cartels, human traffickers, and other criminals regularly exploit this porous southwestern border in order to do their dastardly deeds.

For some reason, the Department of Homeland Security has dropped this metric or measuring stick of operational control altogether, and so far they have yet to replace it with some other measuring stick or some other way to determine how successful or unsuccessful they have been. It has literally been 3 years since the Department of Homeland Security has had a functional measurement of border security.

Again, this is about public safety. This is about deterring and stopping criminals and others who come across the border to deal in drugs or in human lives. During this same time period, the Government Accountability Office has reported that the Department of Homeland Security had achieved operational control--this was about 3 years ago--of less than 45 percent of the southwestern border.

The Los Angeles Times wrote a story recently that showed between October 2012 and January of 2013, the Department of Homeland Security failed to apprehend at least 50 percent of the people who attempted to cross the border without proper paperwork; in other words, illegal border crossers.

I think, by any measure, whether one is a Democrat or Republican, Independent, no matter what your political stripes, this is unacceptable, and we need to do better.

Earlier today, I introduced legislation that would require the Department of Homeland Security officials to verify how much operational security we actually have along our borders. The Border Security Results Act of 2013 would also require the Department of Homeland Security to develop a comprehensive strategy--something we have been missing for a long time--for achieving operational control of every single border sector.

My State has 1,200 miles of common border with Mexico. We know that much of the illegal activity does not even start in Mexico but comes up through Central America. People around the world know that if they can get to Central America and pay the human smugglers enough, they can make their way into the United States. Even though we have beefed up the Border Patrol, the Department of Homeland Security, and applied new detection techniques so our border is more secure than it was, last year alone 360,000 people were detained by coming across the southern border. If we believe the Los Angeles Times story, which I think rings true, at least twice that many people actually tried--half were detained, half made it across.

This bill would define operational control as a threshold in which U.S. authorities in a given sector are apprehending at least 90 percent of the people who are coming across, and it would require the Department of

Homeland Security to gain full situational awareness through technology, boots on the ground, and results-based metrics.

Metrics is just a fancy word. It is a measuring stick. It is a yardstick. Not only do we need to talk about the numbers, we need to talk about the very human tragedy associated with these numbers and inadequate border security.

As I said, a porous United States-Mexican border also encourages drug and sex traffickers, including all sorts of criminals who prey on children, the weak, and the vulnerable. By gaining operational control of our borders, we can save lives and protect innocent human life.

We can also safeguard the basic property rights and civil rights of people who live along the border while we respect those who play by the rules and who are now trying to pursue their American dream as legal immigrants to the United States. This is not designed to deter people who want to play by the rules and who want to enter this country to work and provide for their family according to the law of the land and seek to achieve their American dream.

This is also not an alternative to fixing our broken immigration system, but it is complementary of the work being done of the so-called Gang of 8--four Republicans and four Democratic Senators--as well as House negotiators who are trying to work out just exactly what border security actually means, how to measure it, and how to know if the Department of Homeland Security is doing the job. Even as we debate the larger issue of Homeland Security, everyone, Democrat and Republican alike, believes this is an essential component of a comprehensive bill.

In short, we should be doing everything possible to encourage the type of legal immigration that benefits our economy and our broader society while discouraging and deterring illegal entry into the country, which unfortunately, is being exploited by drug cartels, human traffickers, and other criminals.

The United States-Mexico relationship is about far more than just immigration security. This is not limited to just Mexico. This is very important. Mexico is our third largest trading partner. There are 6 million jobs in America that depend on cross-border traffic and trade with the country of Mexico. By the way, their economy is growing at a much faster rate than ours. It is something we can look at and be envious of and hopefully we can ultimately emulate.

The health and success of Mexico's economy is important to the economy of the United States for the reason I just mentioned. There are now millions of jobs which depend on trade with our southern neighbor, including hundreds of thousands of jobs in my State of Texas alone. Unfortunately, our land ports of entry along the United States-Mexican border have not kept pace with the rapid expansion of bilateral economic ties, and they are suffering from both inadequate infrastructure and inadequate staffing. Wait times at the border for people who are playing by the rules and trying to enter the country legally have grown unacceptably long.

The Border Security Results Act would help mitigate this problem by requiring the Department of Homeland Security to devise a plan to reduce the wait times by at least 50 percent. I might add, when we think about security and the economy, these go hand in glove because the very same people who are working to provide security from illegal entry are the very same ones often facilitating legitimate trade and commerce. By reducing wait times at the United States-Mexican border, we would facilitate greater bilateral trade and faster job creation on both sides of the Rio Grande River. That is just one additional reason that the Border Security Results Act deserves to become law as soon as possible.

Again, on this point, this is entirely complementary of the work and negotiations that are taking place now in the Senate among the Gang of 8, who will report to us any day now on their framework and how they think we ought to move forward on the immigration issue. But until we regain the public's confidence that the Federal Government is doing its job at this international border in terms of legitimate trade, deterring common criminals, and drug and human traffickers, then I doubt our chances for success on the larger issue are very good.


Before I conclude, I wish to say a few words about President Obama's budget request. As we all know, the due date for the President's budget was February 4. One might say: February 4 has long passed. That is correct. It was the day after the Super Bowl. But here we are 2 months later, and the President has defied the requirements of the law which says the President must submit his proposed budget the first Monday of February.

Unfortunately, he is the first President in modern history not only to have failed that deadline but to see the Senate and the House actually move forward with our respective budgets before the White House releases its own.

If the President, who is obviously the leader of the free world and Commander in Chief of the United States military, wants to be relevant to the largest, most important domestic issue facing this country, which is how to get control of our debt and deficit and how to get the American Government to live within its means, I cannot think of anything more likely calculated to lead to his irrelevancy than to wait until the House and the Senate have already dealt with our budgets and submit his budget.

That is what has happened.

Tomorrow is the big day when we finally get to see the President's budget proposal. According to some press reports, we already have an idea of what is in it. For one thing, the President's budget will not balance. It is not a balanced budget. The President likes to talk about balance when discussing economic matters. Well, the President's budget doesn't balance in 10 years or in 20 years or ever. What it will do, we are told, is increase spending by hundreds of billions of dollars--money we simply don't have. Right now the Federal Government is spending roughly 25 cents out of every dollar, of money we have to borrow from China or other creditors, just to pay to keep the government operating at its current level.

We are also told the President's budget would impose hundreds of billions of dollars in new taxes--this is after, on January 1, the President signed into law a $600 billion tax increase as a result of the fiscal cliff negotiations. Meanwhile, the President's budget would make it harder for Americans to save for their own retirement. I find that bewildering. Why in the world would the President want to discourage the American people from saving for their own retirement, particularly at a time when he has done nothing to shore up Social Security or Medicare, which seniors rely upon. So if the Federal Government is not going to do that--in other words, not going to do its job of shoring up Social Security and Medicare--why in the world would we further discourage people from saving on their own?

Indeed, from what we have heard, this budget is filled with the same sorts of tax and spend policies the President has been promoting since day one. I will give him credit--the President has been consistent throughout. Our country can't afford that kind of policy, not when we are suffering from the longest period of high unemployment since the Great Depression and not when millions of Americans have been jobless for more than 6 months.

I would remind colleagues that President Obama has presided over an economy where half a million Americans left the workforce last month, bringing our labor force participation rate down to a 34-month low. What does that mean? Well, it means people have given up. People have been out of work so long--even though the unemployment rate has hovered around 8 percent, then 7.7, 7.6, the only reason it has come down is because hundreds of thousands of Americans have given up looking for work, so they have taken them out of that calculation, which actually gives a false impression of the unemployment rate decreasing. But we all know the economy is growing very slowly--.6 percent the last quarter. It needs to grow 3 and 4 percent for our economy to take off and create the private sector jobs that are important to get Americans back to work.

The President of the United States may truly believe his proposed budget represents a compromise, but in the real world it does absolutely nothing to address our biggest long-term fiscal problems, including Medicare, which, for every dollar a typical Medicare beneficiary has put into the system, they draw down $3. That is unsustainable. The President's proposed budget contains, again, another massive tax increase even though President Obama has already presided over a Federal Government that has raised taxes on the American people by $1.7 trillion.

Last week White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the President's budget ``is not what he would do if he were king.'' Well, we haven't had a king in a long time--never in this country--and I can only assume Carney meant President Obama would like to raise taxes even more if he could and increase spending even more if he could and do even less if he could to reform our vital programs, such as Social Security and Medicare.

In so many ways this budget sounds more like a PR stunt than actually being designed to address the Nation's biggest challenges. It may help the President secure favorable media coverage, but it fails to offer serious solutions to America's biggest long-term challenges.

Mr. President, I yield the floor, and I suggest the absence of a quorum.


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