February 03, 2015

HIRONO CONTINUES PUSH FOR CLEAN DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY APPROPRIATIONS BILL

Hirono: It Is Reckless And Irresponsible To Shut Down A Federal Agency Charged With Protecting All Of Us

Washington, D.C. – Today Senator Mazie K. Hirono continued to call for the House and Senate to come together to pass a clean appropriations bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in a speech to the National Treasury Employees Union’s (NTEU) annual Legislative Conference. The NTEU represents over 150,000 workers across 31 federal agencies, including Customs and Border protection agents from the Department of Homeland Security. In Hawaii, there are more than 400 NTEU represented federal employees, including 340 Customs and Border protection employees from the Department of Homeland Security.

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.

From Senator Hirono’s remarks:

“The fight over funding the Department of Homeland Security is turning into another unnecessary manufactured crises… I said it last week on the Senate floor and I will say it again: The House and Senate need to come together to pass a clean appropriations bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security. It is reckless and irresponsible to shut down a federal agency charged with protecting all of us.”

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. If a DHS funding bill fails to pass, front-line personnel will continue to work but will not get paid, including over 40,000 Border Patrol agents and Customs and Border Patrol officers.

From Senator Hirono’s Remarks, As Prepared For Delivery:

…There are many issues you all care about but we turn to one that’s coming up for debate soon in the Senate. The fight over funding the Department of Homeland Security is turning into another unnecessary manufactured crises.

Here’s what’s happening: The Republicans in the House, among those most vocal about border security have sent us a bill that will shut down the DHS 24 days from now to score political points over the President’s immigration actions.

So, on one hand they insist that our immigration focus must be on securing the border while on the other hand they’re willing to 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 of unaccompanied minors on the border firsthand. I was 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, and all of the DHS Custom and Border Patrol agents you all represent, deserve the resources they need to do their job, not be shut down over a major disagreement over the President’s immigration actions.

Republicans and Democrats agree our immigration system is broken. With his recent executive action, President Obama took a step to bring millions across the country out of the shadows 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 say that the President and enforcement officers have no discretion. This position contemplates, and, in fact, supports, the removal of nearly 12 million undocumented people—more than eight times the population of Hawaii. This is tantamount to a policy of mass deportation. 

And 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 to immigration—is not a viable option, nor is it sound policy for a country that celebrates its immigrant roots.

 It is simply not possible for DHS to remove every undocumented person from this country. 

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. 

I said it last week on the Senate floor and I will say it again: The House and Senate need to come together to pass a clean appropriations bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security. It is reckless and irresponsible to shut down a federal agency charged with protecting all of us.

Frankly, I think all of you and the American public would like to see Congress get something done for the American public that sets aside gotcha politics and manufactured crises. I remain optimistic that we can do this because what do we have if we don’t keep plugging away to get the job done?