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Richard D.
Democrat IL

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  • Homeland Security Funding

    by Senator Richard J. Durbin

    Posted on 2015-01-12

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    DURBIN. Mr. President, over the weekend, as I mentioned, as millions of people were marching on the streets of France and around the world to demonstrate the world's unity in the aftermath of the horrible terrorist attack in France, the President announced that he will convene a summit at the White House next month to discuss what can be done further to stop the threat of violent extremism.

    This is a time when we should all be focusing on what we can do to stop the threat of terrorism in our country as well as the rest of the world, so it is truly surprising, to say the least, that the House of Representatives will vote on a bill this week that threatens to shut down the Department of Homeland Security. That is our government agency that is responsible for protecting Americans from terrorism. What in the world would lead the House of Representatives to threaten to shut down this agency? We should not even be debating the Department of Homeland Security at this moment in history.

    Every other government agency--every single one of them--has already been funded through the end of this fiscal year, September 30, and that is normal when we fund the government. But the Republicans in the House and Senate insisted weeks ago that the Department of Homeland Security only be funded through the end of February. Why did they demand that this critical agency that is responsible for keeping us safe across America not be funded in the normal manner? Why did they put America at risk with this type of funding? Well, because they wanted an opportunity early in the year--early in the legislative session--to take a stand against President Obama's immigration policies. They feel so strongly about this, they are willing to put the Department of Homeland Security's budget at risk.

    So this week the House Republicans are preparing to pass legislation that would defund President Obama's immigration policies, including the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program, known as DACA. What is that program? It puts on hold the deportations of immigrant students and children who grew up in this country and allows these young people to live and work legally in America on a temporary basis. That is what DACA is. These young people are well known to me and to most. They are known as DREAMers.

    It was 13 years ago that I introduced the DREAM Act. For 13 years I have been trying to pass a bill into law which says that the sins of the parents should not be visited on the children.

    These young people who are affected by DACA and the DREAM Act--many of them were brought to the United States as infants and toddlers. They had no voice in this family decision to come here. They did not know, could not know, that one of their parents was undocumented. They grew up in America. They went to school in America. They participated in America. They went to the neighborhood churches and mosques and temples. They were the ones who were standing in their classroom every single day of their lives stopping for a solemn moment to [[Page S135]] pledge allegiance to the American flag--the only flag they have ever known. But the fact is, they were brought here as babies and children, and they were undocumented. They grew up in America. They identified this country as home. They envisioned this dream of living here. Yet they did not have a legal status.

    The DREAM Act said we would give these young people a chance. If they had a clean criminal record, if they would finish high school, if they would go on to college or even enlist in our military, we would allow them to move to legal status--give these DREAMers a chance.

    Time and again, we called this legislation. Sadly, it never passed the House and the Senate at the same time. Then President Obama decided 2 years ago that he would use his Executive authority to protect these young people from being deported. We estimate there are about 2 million of them across the United States. He said to them: If you will come forward, pay your fee, go through a background check--if you are prepared to do that and register with the government, we will spare you from deportation. That is what the DACA program is. Mr. President, 600,000 did. Mr. President, 600,000 came up with the money.

    I can recall in the city of Chicago when we had the sign up--the very first sign up for this DACA Executive order. It was amazing. We did not know if 200 people would show up or 400 or even 1,000. Well, the night before--at midnight, the night before we started signing them up--the first day they could sign up for DACA, the families started gathering, standing outside at Navy Pier in downtown Chicago. They stood there all night waiting for a chance to sign up for this program. Many of them were parents accompanying their children. The parents themselves were not going to get any direct benefit from this, but they wanted their kids to be spared the fear of deportation. They wanted to give their kids a chance. In the end, thousands came through the door--so many we could not even handle the volume with our volunteer attorneys and many others who were helping.

    But it was a clear indication that these families wanted their children to have a chance--a chance to earn their way into legal status in America. That is the DACA---- (Disturbance in the Visitors' Galleries.) The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator will suspend until the Sergeant at Arms has restored order in the galleries.

    The assistant Democratic leader.

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