January 27, 2015

HIRONO CALLS FOR CLEAN DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY APPROPRIATIONS BILL

Hirono Objects To Reckless & Irresponsible Strategy Of Shutting Down DHS Over President Obama’s Executive Action

Washington, D.C. – Today, Senator Mazie K. Hirono took to the Senate floor to urge the House and Senate to come together to pass a clean appropriations bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security.  Earlier in the 114th Congress, the Republican controlled House passed a bill that would irresponsibly risk shutting down the Department of Homeland Security to score political points over the President’s immigration actions.

Funding for the Department of Homeland Security is set to expire on February 27. The President has been clear he will veto any policy riders that undo his executive action and harm millions of students and families. The House Republican bill forces an untenable choice between shutting down the Department of Homeland Security or deporting children and families.

From Senator Hirono’s floor speech:

“The President’s executive action helps millions of people across America by allowing certain students and families to register, work legally, and pay their taxes.  His action is rooted in the reality that our immigration enforcement officers need to exercise discretion on who to go after with limited resources and in a broken immigration system.

“Those who oppose the President’s action, which is reflected in the House Republican bill, say that the President and enforcement officers must act with no discretion. This position then contemplates, and, in fact, supports the removal of nearly all 12 million undocumented people- this is paramount to a policy of mass deportation. 

“Recklessly shutting down the Department of Homeland Security will not fix our broken immigration system. Undoing the President’s executive action will not fix our broken immigration system.

“We must fund the Department of Homeland Security so that they can continue protecting our country.”

Watch Senator Hirono’s floor speech here: http://youtu.be/ouDMZLZSWYQ

Read Senator Hirono’s floor speech, as prepared for delivery:

Mr. President, I rise today on the important issue of funding the Department of Homeland Security and to urge my colleagues to come together and pass a clean appropriations bill.  

The Department of Homeland Security—or DHS—is charged with border security and immigration enforcement. DHS’s role extends far beyond just immigration. The agency is also responsible for aviation security, emergency management and response, counterterrorism, and cybersecurity. 

Democrats and Republicans have long worked together to make sure our hardworking federal officers on the border, in our airports, and at our ports can continue their critical work that keeps us safe. 

Now, the Republican controlled House would irresponsibly risk shutting down the Department of Homeland Security to score political points over the President’s immigration actions.

Today I object to the effort to shut down DHS over the President’s immigration executive action because it is not only an irresponsible strategy from a security perspective, but it comes with a real cost in the everyday lives of students and parents.

Funding for the Department of Homeland Security is set to expire February 27. The President has been clear he will veto any policy riders that undo his executive action and harm millions of students and families. The House Republican bill forces us to choose between shutting down the Department of Homeland Security or deporting children and families. This is an untenable choice.

Looking at the votes in the House, it is clear some Members of Congress would on one hand say our immigration focus must be on securing the border while on the other hand they risk turning off the lights at border patrol stations because they disagree with the President’s immigration policies.

Last year, I led a congressional delegation to McAllen, Texas and to Lackland Air Force Base to see the humanitarian crises on the border firsthand. My colleagues and I were heartbroken after seeing children as young as seven in Customs and Border Protection facilities.

But what I also saw were hardworking border agents doing the best they could under difficult circumstances in an already stressed immigration system. These agents should know that we in Washington are going to give them the resources they need to do their job, not irresponsibly shut down the Department of Homeland Security.

Instead of threatening to shut down the government’s primary homeland security agency, we should be working together to once again pass bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform.

Republicans and Democrats agree our immigration system is broken. With his executive action, President Obama took a step to bring millions across the country out of the shadows and keep U.S. citizens and their families together. 

Congressional action that puts family first is needed if we are to permanently fix our immigration system.

The President’s executive action helps millions of people across America by allowing certain students and families to register, work legally, and pay their taxes.  His action is rooted in the reality that our immigration enforcement officers need to exercise discretion on who to go after with limited resources and in a broken immigration system.

Those who oppose the President’s action, which is reflected in the House Republican bill, say that the President and enforcement officers must act with no discretion. This position then contemplates, and, in fact, supports the removal of nearly all 12 million undocumented people- this is paramount to a policy of mass deportation. 

If mass deportation were enacted, DHS would need an exponential increase in funding and resources.  Billions in increased spending—without any permanent fixes or reforms—is not a viable option.

Even if we somehow had the resources to enact the policy of mass deportation, doing so would devastate our economy.  Removing millions of hardworking people that would be no longer working, running businesses, and buying goods would lead to over $2.5 trillion dollars of economic loss in just a decade.

Mass deportation is not a serious solution for immigration reform. 

It is simply not possible for DHS to remove every undocumented person from this country.  Passing the House bill would just make life even harder for these people—many of whom are already living some of the hardest, and hardest working, lives in our nation.

There are nearly 12 million undocumented people living in communities across America.  Many have been living here for years or decades.  They are parents, they are small business owners, and they are our neighbors and our children’s classmates at school. 

They are people like Bianca, a woman who lives in Hawaii with her family.

After moving to the United States on a visa over a decade ago, Bianca met her husband. They moved to the place they had always dreamed of living—Hawaii, naturally—and began a family. 

Bianca and her husband’s work visas were temporary, and like many immigrant families they faced the tough decision to remain after their visas expired and continue building their life here in America.

Bianca and her husband started with nothing. Today, they have two small businesses on Oahu and four American children. 

Their businesses employ American citizens, they pay their taxes, and they work hard to provide for their family and community.

Because of the President’s order, Bianca and her family no longer live in fear every day of being torn from the life that they have built in Hawaii.

The House Republicans’ mass deportation policy is a serious proposal in only one respect: It would result in serious negative consequences for our economy, our government, and millions of families.

In contrast, prioritizing deporting felons—and not families and students—is simply commonsense.  And that is what the President’s executive order does.

Now is the time that we should be working together on commonsense and comprehensive immigration reform that the vast majority of Americans support. 

Comprehensive immigration reform is supported by 70 percent of the American people.  And last Congress, nearly 70 percent of the Senate supported our bipartisan bill as well. 

Our bipartisan bill was a compromise.  It strengthened border security, modernized our system, addressed visa backlogs, and allowed millions of undocumented people to step out of the shadows, get in line, and work towards becoming an American citizen. 

Comprehensive immigration reform would have spurred economic growth by over $100 billion per year, while helping to bring down our deficits.

The only thing that kept bipartisan reform from becoming law was the fact that Speaker Boehner refused to give the bill an up-or-down vote.

Recklessly shutting down the Department of Homeland Security will not fix our broken immigration system. 

Undoing the President’s executive action will not fix our broken immigration system.

We must fund the Department of Homeland Security so that they can continue protecting our country.

And we must come together to pass the commonsense reform that America supports.

Both sides of the aisle agree we’re a nation of immigrants and that our immigration system is broken. We don’t need to shut down the Department of Homeland Security or round up and deport millions of families.

We can start that process with a clean DHS funding bill—and I urge my Republican colleagues to bring one to the floor quickly. I yield the floor.

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