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Department of Homeland Security Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2006

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. UDALL of Colorado. Mr. Chairman, I support passage of this important bill--the first-ever authorization bill for the new Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The bill includes many provisions that will improve Americans' security. These include authority for recruitment and training of 2,000 new border agents, better screening of incoming cargo, and improved background checks for people taking part in programs regulated by the DHS.

The bill also will help the government speak more clearly to Americans regarding threats to their security and will improve the way the federal government works with the States and local agencies to respond to those threats.

And it includes provisions to improve research on and implementation of anti-terror technology.

Of course, the bill could be better in a number of respects, which is why I voted for the substitute offered by Representative Thompson of Mississippi.

That substitute would have authorized $6.46 billion for homeland security grants to state and local governments, $2.29 billion more than the President's budget. It also would have authorized $400 million to restore funding to the Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention program, which the President's budget would eliminate. And It would have authorized an additional $150 million in funding for the FIRE Act grants program, which provides fire departments across the nation with the equipment they need to respond to a terrorist attack.

The substitute also included a number of provisions to ensure that the commitments made in the 9/11 Reforms bill (PL 108-458) are fulfilled. Unfortunately, the President's budget left many of these commitments unmet. Among others, these included authorization for an additional $160 million to meet the 9/11 Act's commitment to securing air cargo, an additional $92 million to install radiation portal monitors at all ports of entry.

The substitute also would have authorized an additional $61 million to hire 600 additional immigration investigators, in order to reach the 800 investigators called for in the 9/11 Act. This would have gone a long way to increase the ability of the federal government to address immigration violations.

Of course, even without the additions that would have been made by the substitute, the bill does include a number of provisions related to immigration.

In that connection I want to note my vote on the Norwood amendment. Though the intentions of Mr. NORWOOD's amendment are laudable, I could not support the amendment because of the expansion of authority it gives to states to deport illegal immigrants.

Other parts of this bill will provide states with resources to train officers to enforce immigration law, without a mandate, by letting state and local government decide if they want to participate in this training. I believe Mr. Norwood's amendment also intended to provide resources to states without creating a mandate of enforcement.

However, it stated that local governments have the authority to ``apprehend, detain, or remove'' illegal immigrants. I do not believe it is the role of the states to make decisions on the deportation of individuals. Currently, states who are detaining illegal immigrants turn them over to the Department of Homeland Security, and I believe this is the proper process.

So, though I was supportive of the intent of that amendment, I could not support the expansion of authority to state and local governments.

As I mentioned, I believe this bill could be improved. Yet, our homeland security is an important priority and I am pleased to support this authorization bill.

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