Department of Homeland Securityby Senator Richard J. Durbin
Posted on 2015-01-20
DURBIN. The last point I would like to make relates to a motion
that was made this morning by the majority leader. It was related to
the appropriations bill for the Department of Homeland Security. Why
are we bringing up this appropriations bill at this moment? Because
when we agreed last December to fund our government, the Republicans in
the House insisted we carve out the Department of Homeland Security and
not give it its regular budget, instead give it emergency spending, a
This is not the way to run any department of government, certainly not the Department of Homeland Security. Why is it important to fund this department? One need only look to what has happened in the last few days in Paris to understand that the threat of terrorism to the world is still very real. One of our first lines of defense when it comes to terrorism is our Department of Homeland Security. There is no excuse for us to be dealing with this continuing resolution to fund this department. They should have the resources they need to keep America safe, but instead what has happened is this: The House of Representatives last week said they will only agree to fund this department properly if they can provide certain riders and changes in the law as part of it.
I would tell you that the change that has been proposed by the House of Representatives is unacceptable. The President has said he is going to veto it if it is sent to his desk, and I totally support his position.
Here is what they have come up with in the House of Representatives. If you are familiar with the DREAM Act, which I introduced in Congress 14 years ago, it says: If a young person is brought to the United States at an early age, parents making the decision to come to this country, and that young person grows up in the United States, finishes high school, no serious criminal problems, willing to go forward to higher education or to the military, we will give them a chance of becoming legal in America. That is the DREAM Act. It has been considered and passed on the floor of the Senate, considered and passed on the floor of the House but never in the same session, and so it is not the law of the land.
President Obama, a little over 2 years ago, came out with an Executive order program known as DACA. DACA said to these young people who would qualify under this law: If you will come forward and register with our government, if you will pay the filing fee, if you will allow us to do the background check, we will allow you to stay, go to school, and work in America and not be deported. Six hundred thousand young people have come forward. We estimate there are some 2 million eligible, and 600,000 have come forward. Thirty thousand are from my State of Illinois. Who are these young people? Let me introduce you to one of them, Oscar Vazquez. Oscar Vazquez grew up in Phoenix, AZ. His mother and father brought him to that city from Mexico, and he was undocumented. He attended Carl Hayden High School in Phoenix. He was a member of the Junior ROTC. His goal was to serve in the U.S. Army.
When he went to the recruiter to sign up, the recruiter said: I need your birth certificate.
Oscar said: Come on. We are fighting a war. Can't you look the other way and just let me join? He said: No, young man. You don't have the proper documents. You can't enlist in the U.S. Army.
He was despondent because that was his goal. He went home and got engaged in another project which is the subject of a new movie called ``Spare Parts,'' which George Lopez produced, directed, and starred in, which I saw last week. I will not give away the whole story, but I can tell you this: Oscar Vazquez and three other students at Carl Hayden High School entered into an underwater robotics competition. They competed with colleges such as MIT and they won. Their high school team won the underwater robotics competition.
The talented young man, Oscar, said: I am going to Arizona State University. Without any government assistance, he graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering. After he got his degree and a wife and a baby, he [[Page S252]] said: Now I have to get right with America. I have to resolve this issue of being undocumented.
That means Oscar decided to move back to Mexico. He was living in Mexico--the law required him to stay there for 10 years. That is how the law is written. He petitioned the United States for a chance to come back in. Eventually he was given a waiver. Oscar Vazquez came back, became a citizen of the United States of America, and the first thing he did was enlist in the U.S. Army. He went into combat in Afghanistan, and he came home after having served our Nation honorably and now is working for a major railroad in the State of Montana, with his wife and children.
That is the story of one DREAMer, one DREAMer who was given a chance and has made a difference in America. He not only served in our military, but he had a degree in mechanical engineering. He is going to be a job creator, a job builder himself.
So what do the House Republicans want to do to people such as Oscar Vazquez? Deport them. That is exactly what they called for. They are dream killers. That isn't right. We ought to give Oscar, young men and women just like him a chance to succeed and a chance to make America better.
I have stood on this floor over 50 times with color photographs such as this one by my side and told the stories of DREAMers. This last weekend I was in Chicago and six of them came forward and told their stories. Each and every one of them had a compelling reason for us to defeat this mean-spirited amendment that came out of the House of Representatives.
The President will veto it if it gets to his desk, but I hope we will do better in the Senate. I hope there are enough Senators on both sides of the aisle, 60-plus, who will stand up for the DREAMers of America. This is a test. It is a test as to whether we believe in fairness and justice and the value that immigrants such as Oscar Vazquez bring to the future of America.
The House of Representatives just doesn't see it. They are blinded by their hatred for these immigrants, and they continue to pass these mean-spirited amendments. We can do better. We must do better as a nation. Let us stand up for the DREAMers, and let us all be dedicated to passing comprehensive immigration reform. Our immigration laws are broken. Our system is broken. It is time for us to accept our responsibility and repair it.
We passed a bill a year and a half ago on the floor of the Senate with 68 votes--14 Republicans--Republicans and Democrats voted for it and sent it over to the House of Representatives and it languished for a year and a half. They refused to even call it or consider it. Our immigration system is still broken. Withholding money from the Department of Homeland Security, threatening with these riders that are dream killers for so many young people in America, that is unacceptable.
I will stand on this floor as long as it takes to defend this DREAM Act and people such as Oscar Vazquez, who contribute to America and make it a better nation. I hope we will have bipartisan support for defeating the House of Representatives' riders that have been branded by the President as unacceptable and he will veto.
I yield floor.