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John C.
Republican TX

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  • Cloture Motion

    by Senator John Cornyn

    Posted on 2014-12-16

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    CORNYN. I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

    Mr. CORNYN. Mr. President, more than 3 months ago I was proud to introduce a fellow Texan, Sarah Saldana, to the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in connection with her nomination to become the Nation's top immigration enforcement official, a position important to our country and particularly to Texas.

    Ms. Saldana was born in Corpus Christi, TX, and became the first Latina U.S. attorney in Texas history and only the second woman to hold that position in the 135-year history of Texas, in the northern district, a region that includes the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, spans 100 counties, and stretches across 95,000 square miles. I, along with former Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, was proud to support her nomination to that important job.

    In her role as U.S. attorney and previously as a line prosecutor, Sarah Saldana has fought public corruption. She has fought organized crime, sex traffickers and other dangerous criminals. She has also prosecuted numerous high-profile public corruption cases, including the very publicized corruption trial that resulted in the conviction of the former Dallas mayor pro tem, Don Hill, and the ongoing case against Dallas county commissioner John Wiley Price--both members of her political party--which put her in some disfavor, as you might imagine, in Democratic political circles. But it was something which demonstrated to me that she was a person of courage and conviction and she believed in enforcing the law beyond purely deferring to personal political interests.

    Throughout her career she has developed an outstanding reputation, and based on her qualifications alone, we would be hard-pressed to find a person better suited for the job at Immigration and Customs Enforcement than Sarah Saldana.

    Unfortunately, the President changed everything this last November by his Executive action on immigration. To be clear--I have said this before on the floor, but I will just repeat--I believe the President's actions are beyond his constitutional authority and are a reckless political stunt.

    Here are the sorts of things the President is claiming to do. The Department of Homeland Security has issued a series of directives pursuant to the President's instructions on November 21, doing everything from repealing the Secure Communities Program, by which local law enforcement cooperates with Immigration and Customs Enforcement and when a person is arrested who also is in the country illegally, they are detained by local law enforcement, even though they have served their time or otherwise are subject to release so that ICE can come pick them up and return them to their country of origin. The President's Executive action and the Department of Homeland Security directives pursuant to that eliminate the Secure Communities Program.

    It also purports to prioritize immigration enforcement according to three priorities. The problem is these add even more confusion to what is already an indecipherable and confusing mess, and it also puts to the lowest priority people who have been convicted of crimes such as child abuse, stalking, theft, some child pornography offenses, possession, distribution of alcohol to minors, hit-and-run, including some hate crimes, property destruction, false imprisonment, some abduction offenses and the like. In other words, the President's priorities for immigration enforcement really represent a wholesale [[Page S6871]] change in the law--if they were actually authorized. Until they are set aside by a court or if Congress were to repeal them along with what would require a Presidential signature, they are the standing requirement for any Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The President, purportedly, also used his authority to issue work permits for millions of people illegally in the country. While I don't believe our country would ever engage in mass deportation, the fact that the President has usurped the authority of Congress and purports to take on the authority to issue work permits to people illegally in the country to me is mind boggling.

    This is the situation into which the President has put a good and decent person such as Sarah Saldana. The President has put the next Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement in an untenable position. When confirmed, she will be the principal enforcer of our immigration laws. Unfortunately, she now claims the President was operating within his legal authority to issue this Executive action. I say that because several Senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee issued written questions to the nominee about this Executive action, and it is clear in her responses that Ms. Saldana has wholeheartedly embraced the President's Executive action and claims that it is within his authority.

    If you think about it, a Presidential nominee has two choices. They can either say, well, I disagree with what the President has done, so I will refuse to serve, or if they are already confirmed, I am going to resign my position, or they can embrace the President's policies, because the President is the one who makes those policies. Clearly, Ms. Saldana has embraced the President's policies, which I believe are unconstitutional.

    I believe we should be deeply concerned about the damage the President's Executive actions will do to our already broken immigration system because they reinforce the dangerous message that the President is already sending to the world that our laws against illegal immigration will not be enforced. This is an invitation for lawlessness, and it will make it much more likely that we will experience further humanitarian crises and a surge of illegal immigration such as we saw last spring and which we have seen this year with more than 60,000 unaccompanied children coming from Central America through Mexico to our southern border. So the President's policies are a green light, and, unfortunately, Ms. Saldana has embraced those policies.

    I believe that the recent election was a mandate for us to work together on bipartisan solutions to our country's biggest challenges, but apparently the President didn't get the memo. I was actually at a lunch at the White House with other leaders of both parties across the Capitol where Speaker Boehner, the incoming majority leader and I, and the current majority leader said to the President: Please don't do this. Don't poison the well. Give us a chance to do our job as the new majority in the House and the Senate to try to pass consensus immigration reform bills and put them on your desk. The President ignored that. So the President chose to poison the well and to make it harder for us to do what we know we all have to do; and that is to fix our broken immigration system to the best of our ability.

    The President's reckless Executive actions have done further damage. They are deeply unfair to people who have been waiting patiently in line according to the written immigration laws--the people who have been playing by the rules. To allow millions of people simply to jump ahead of those people who have been waiting patiently in line and playing by the rules is profoundly unfair. At a time when our economy is starting to recover from the financial crisis in 2008 and the policies that have intervened, we know that there is potential harm to hard-working middle class families who are already living on stagnant wages and a rising cost of living to have millions more people eligible for work permits under the President's purported authority in these Executive actions. We ought to be careful about that, we ought to be deliberative about that, and we ought to make sure we are doing the sorts of things that will protect--not harm--hard-working middle class families. But the President has ignored all that and just done it his way.

    Well, some pundits have suggested perhaps the President's real goal was to provoke Republicans to taking the bait and descending into further dysfunction. Well, if I heard one message from my constituents and people as I campaigned for reelection in Texas, it is that people really want us to work together. They want this place to function. In many instances they don't care so much about what we do, as long as we do something to work together. Of course, they care about what we do, and there are areas where we disagree. But there are areas of common ground where we can work together to solve these problems. We are not going to take the bait if that is what the President's intention was, and we are not going to descend into even more dysfunction. That would be a repudiation of the message and mandate the voters sent to us on November 4.

    So we are going to plow ahead. When the new majority takes place on January 6, working with our colleagues in the House, working with our colleagues across the aisle, we are going to try to find places where we can pass bipartisan immigration legislation--not in a comprehensive fashion but in a step-by-step fashion to try to make some progress to improve our broken immigration system.

    I am most concerned about the precedent the President's actions would set for our system of government. What if future Presidents take upon themselves the claimed authority to issue other Executive actions that ignore the separation of powers and allocation of responsibilities given to the different branches of government under our Constitution? It is a dangerous precedent. If the President cannot be trusted to enforce the laws passed by the people's elected representatives, then self-governance is an illusion. This is very dangerous.

    The American people should never stand for rule by Executive fiat, and they should demand the rule of law be enforced under our Constitution. The President's frustration with the Republican House of Representatives is no justification for doing what he has done. He needs to give us an opportunity to do our job, and he needs to join us at the negotiating table to make progress on our broken immigration system.

    Although I admire Ms. Saldana, I fear she will be tasked with carrying out the implementation of the President's unconstitutional Executive actions, refusing to enforce our immigration laws. Unfortunately, when given the chance to address the constitutionality of these actions with the Judiciary Committee, these fears were not alleviated. Members of the committee were denied a chance to ask her questions during an open confirmation hearing, something several previous nominees for this position have undergone.

    As a matter of fact, Senator Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, and I invited Ms. Saldana to appear at an informal question-and-answer session, since the chairman of the Judiciary Committee denied us an opportunity to have a formal hearing, so she could perhaps answer our questions and clarify her position--the position she took in the written answers to the questions for the record, which I referred to earlier.

    I don't know whether she got bad advice or whether she, herself, decided it would be a futile effort, but she decided not to appear for that informal give-and-take.

    Maybe it would have helped her clarify her answers to the questions sent by the committee, maybe not. Maybe she would have stood by her answers, but we will never know.

    It is for these reasons I regrettably cannot support her nomination. Ms. Saldana, as I said, is somebody whom I admire and respect, but if she is determined to help the President implement this deeply flawed Executive action and refuses to enforce the law Congress has written and has been signed by previous Presidents, I cannot support her nomination.

    I will not aid and abet a President dead set on unilaterally defying our Nation's immigration laws.

    I yield the floor.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Illinois.

    [[Page S6872]] ____________________

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