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Richard D.
Democrat IL

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  • Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2015—Motion to Proceed

    by Senator Richard J. Durbin

    Posted on 2015-02-05

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    DURBIN. Mr. President, the Calendar of Business has been put on the desk of Senators. The Calendar of Business makes reference on page 12 to S. 272.

    That is a bill that has been introduced by Senator Shaheen of New Hampshire, who is on the floor and is the ranking member of the Appropriations subcommittee responsible for the Department of Homeland Security, as well as Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, who is the ranking Democrat on the Appropriations Committee.

    On page 128 is the answer to our dilemma. This solves our problem.

    S. 272 is a bill that is going to fund the Department of Homeland Security for the remainder of this year. This Department that we count on every minute of every day to protect America will receive all the funds they need and they will receive them almost immediately because there is no debate between the House and the Senate about how much to send the Department. The debate comes down to all the other extraneous matters which [[Page S805]] the House Republicans added to this bill.

    So if we are looking for a solution to the problem, I thank the Senator from New Hampshire and the Senator from Maryland. We have page 12, S 272.

    What the Senate heard just a few moments ago from our Democratic leader is something none of us will ever get out of our minds. Imagine--imagine--this Jordanian pilot captured by ISIS, put in a cage, covered with flammable fluids, liquids. They started a fire and burned him to death.

    The King of Jordan was visiting the Capitol when that horrible news came out and rushed back to be with his countrymen. He has now vowed that Jordan, which has played a judicial role in trying to find peace in the Middle East, is now dedicated to stopping ISIS even more.

    So if ISIS thought they were going to break the resolve of the King of Jordan and the Jordanian people, exactly the opposite occurred. If ISIS is resolute in their barbarity, we need to be resolute in protecting our country. To think that we are caught up in this political debate over immigration, the President's actions, and not funding the Department of Homeland Security is disgraceful.

    The Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security came to our lunch just 1 or 2 days ago and he said: Trying to operate this Department, the Department of Homeland Security, with this temporary funding is like trying to drive a car with a gas tank that only holds 5 gallons and you don't know where the next gas station is going to be.

    That is what he is up against. So the Department of Homeland Security is unable to fund critical, necessary investments.

    So what is the issue? What is the political issue that is so important to the Republicans that they would stop the funding for the Department of Homeland Security? Well, I will say what the lead issue is. The lead issue is DREAMers.

    Fourteen years ago I introduced the DREAM Act that said if you were brought to America as a child--a toddler, an infant, a small child by your family--and they didn't file the papers so you could be legal in America, and you knew grew up in this country and had no serious problems in your background, graduated from high school and wanted to be part of America, we would give you a chance. You would get a chance at the dream. Oh, you have to go on to school beyond high school or enlist in our military, and we will put you on the path to legal status. We couldn't pass that despite 14 years of efforts. It would pass in the Senate, not in the House, and so forth.

    Finally, President Obama stepped up 2\1/2\ years ago and said: OK. There are about 2 million young people in America--just like this-- brought to the country when they were kids, and now they want a chance to work here, to live here, and to even go to school here without fear of deportation.

    He created something called DACA. The DACA Program allowed them to register, pay their fees, and be protected from deportation--600,000 signed up, 35,000 in the State of Illinois.

    They signed up so they could get protection from deportation. The House Republicans and the Republicans in the Senate have insisted we deport these young people. I wish to give the story of one of these young people very quickly because I know there are other Senators seeking recognition.

    This is Everardo Arias. He was brought to the United States from Mexico in 1997 at the age of 7. He grew up in Costa Mesa, CA. He was an outstanding student in school. He dreamed of being a doctor. It was not until he applied to college that he realized his immigration status made that next to impossible. He was accepted at the University of California, Riverside, but because he was undocumented he didn't qualify for a penny of Federal assistance to get through school.

    When he was a sophomore, he met with a counselor to ask him: How am I going to get to medical school? The counselor told him: You can't go to medical school. You are undocumented in the United States of America.

    He didn't give up. He did not give up. In 2012 he graduated from the University of California, Riverside, with a chemistry major and research honors. Then a miracle occurred. President Obama issued an Executive order called DACA and Everardo Arias was given a chance to sign up for protection with this Presidential order and he did.

    After he received this DACA protection, Everardo worked for 1 year as a mentor for at-risk kids in his own hometown of Costa Mesa. The following year, through AmeriCorps, Everardo worked as a health educator with seven local clinics, volunteering and working through AmeriCorps with some of the poorest people in his community.

    During his year as a health educator, he decided now, with the protection of DACA, to apply to go to medical school. Everardo Arias is in his first year at Loyola University in Chicago, Stritch School of Medicine. He is one of seven protected by DACA who had a chance to go to school, but there is a catch. Loyola University said: You can go to medical school here, but for every year you are in medical school, you have to promise to give 1 year of your professional life working with the poorest people in my home State of Illinois, in small towns and rural areas as well as big cities, and he agreed to it.

    He has a giving, caring heart. He agreed to it, to finish medical school, and to give the years of service necessary to the poorest people in my State.

    Why do the Republicans want to deport Everardo Arias. Why do they want to take this outstanding individual who has struggled and succeeded in life, who knows no other country but America, and deport him to Mexico? Will we be a better nation if this young man is not a doctor? Will we be a better country if he is not given a chance to give back? This is what he wrote to me in a letter about this DACA Program which the Republicans want to abolish. Everardo wrote: DACA changed my life. It opened the door to the future ahead of me. If it weren't for DACA I would not be here and I probably would not have pursued medicine. I'm blessed to have the opportunity to do what I love to do and to give back to the country that has given me so much.

    We are a nation of immigrants. Immigrants have come to this country and made it what it is. We should never forget that. This is the latest generation of immigrants who want to give back to America and make us a stronger nation. Why the Republicans are opposed to giving them that opportunity, I cannot understand. They clearly have not met these young men and women. If they did, their feelings would change.

    So let's debate. Let's have the debate on DACA but not at the expense of the appropriations for this Department.

    Page 12 of the Senate Calendar, S. 272, offered by Senator Shaheen and Senator Mikulski is our answer, a clean bill to fund America to protect against terrorism and, as the Democratic leader suggested, then start the debate on immigration. That is the right thing to do for our country.

    I yield the floor.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Rubio). The Senator from Maine.

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