February 05, 2015

HIRONO CALLS FOR END TO POLITICAL GAMES, CONTINUES PUSH FOR CLEAN DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY FUNDING BILL

Hirono: We Must Fund DHS & Resist The Temptation To Govern Through Manufactured Crises & Political Games

Washington, D.C. – Today Senator Mazie K. Hirono took to the Senate floor to continue to urge the House and Senate to come together to pass a clean appropriations bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security. 

From Senator Hirono’s remarks:

“We must fund DHS and resist the temptation to govern through manufactured crises and political games.  Our national security is at stake. Surely my colleagues remember when DHS was created in a direct response to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001… Of the nearly 200,000 DHS employees across the country, 2,000 are based in Hawaii. Nobody will get paid if DHS shuts down.  Some will be furloughed, while many others will be forced as essential employees to continue showing up to work without pay.  We count on the Coast Guard, on TSA, on Customs, and on U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which are all part of DHS, to be on the job, each and every day.”

Funding for the Department of Homeland Security is set to expire on February 27. Earlier in the 114th Congress, the Republican controlled House passed a bill that would fund the Department of Homeland Security in exchange for erasing the President’s necessary, lawful, and reasonable actions to try to address our broken immigration system in the absence of Congressionally-passed comprehensive immigration reform legislation. House Republicans refuse to take up such legislation.

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. If a DHS funding bill fails to pass, front-line DHS personnel will continue to work but will not get paid.

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

Senator Hirono’s full remarks, as prepared for delivery:

Mr. President, I rise today to urge my colleagues to pass a clean appropriations bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security, DHS.

We must fund DHS and resist the temptation to govern through manufactured crises and political games.  Our national security is at stake.

Surely my colleagues remember when DHS was created in a direct response to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Just eleven days after 9/11, DHS started to take shape.

President George W. Bush named Governor Tom Ridge to lead an office to oversee and coordinate a comprehensive and national strategy to safeguard our country against terrorism and respond to any future attacks.

DHS’s mission is to protect our homeland, as their name makes perfectly clear. 

DHS is responsible for border security and immigration enforcement.  It is tasked with keeping our airports safe through TSA, for emergency management and response through FEMA, and protecting our coasts through the Coast Guard.

As a member on the Senate Armed Services Committee and Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, I know how important the work that DHS does in keeping our nation safe.

Let’s take a step back and remember why DHS was created in the first place and what their mission is. Why would we play politics with a department that exists to protect Americans?

DHS funding runs out at the end of this month, and the clock is ticking.  The nearly 200,000 who work for DHS do not want us spending valuable time scoring political points – they want the certainty that their important work will be funded by Congress. 

If the department is not funded by the end of the month, we will once again resort to passing a continuing resolution to keep the department going. A continuing resolution is only a stop gap. It is a waste of time and money.

As DHS Secretary Johnson said, operating in a stop-and-go cycle of continuing resolutions is like trying to drive across the country on no more than five gallons of gas at a time, and without knowing the distance to the next gas station.

Of the nearly 200,000 DHS employees across the country, 2,000 are based in Hawaii. Nobody will get paid if DHS shuts down.  Some will be furloughed, while many others will be forced as essential employees to continue showing up to work without pay.  We count on the Coast Guard, on TSA, on Customs, and on U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which are all part of DHS, to be on the job, each and every day.

Some of my Republican colleagues insist that before we fund the critical work of homeland security, we must first undo the President’s commonsense immigration actions that help millions of families across this country. 

The House bill before us holds DHS funding hostage to make political points against the President. This is a manufactured stand off.  

The House bill attacks the undocumented persons who have American born children. The President’s actions enable these families to step out of the shadows, pass background checks, pay their taxes, and work in the open without the daily threat of deportation.

The House bill attacks DREAMers, the students who have been helped through the DACA program for nearly 3 years.

Just yesterday, President Obama met with six DREAMers in the Oval Office who represent some of the very best our country has to offer. The House bill says to these DREAMers, you too, like the parents of U.S. born children should live under daily threat of deportation. And there are 600,000 DREAMers who are in the DACA program all across the country.

The House bill reverses longstanding enforcement priorities and directives that DHS has implemented.  These directives tell immigration enforcement officers to focus on the bad guys rather than moms, dads, and other contributing members of the community.

The House bill, in removing all administrative discretion on who should be deported, in effect says all 12 million undocumented persons in our country can be deported. This is totally unrealistic and unnecessary.

I stand with my colleagues who are ready and willing to come together to pass bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform.  We did just that last Congress with 68 bipartisan votes.

And as Republican Senator Heller said recently, the House bill that is before us “only includes language that complicates the process of finding a solution” when it comes to immigration reform.

This House bill embraces a policy of mass deportation that would harm our economy, costing trillions in economic loss not to mention the devastating impact on the people targeted.  Economists have told us that comprehensive immigration reform would provide an enormous boost to our economy – helping all workers across the country.

So, the House bill does not reform our system. 

The House bill does not help millions of students and families come out of the shadows.

It does not provide more resources to our hardworking border patrol agents. 

It does not help those who have been stuck in our visa backlog for decades. 

Rather than debating comprehensive immigration reform, the House has once again ducked the issue, this time holding DHS hostage so that a small minority of their colleagues can have their way.

This is like groundhog day—a repeat scenario that brings us continuing resolutions to keep government going in a stop and go fashion, and indeed, a scenario which brought us the government shutdown in 2013. 

We do not have to keep repeating failed scenarios.

Let’s bring a clean DHS funding bill to the floor, get that done, then move on to the debate on comprehensive immigration reform that is long overdue.