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Mike L.
Republican UT

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  • Nomination of Sarah R. Saldana to Be an Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security

    by Senator Mike Lee

    Posted on 2014-12-16

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    LEE. Mr. President, I rise in opposition to the nomination of Sarah Saldana to be in charge of Immigration and Customs Enforcement within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

    As we all know, the President of the United States recently announced he will take unilateral Executive action on immigration. In so doing, he has circumvented the democratic process, and he has broken the law and subverted our constitutional order.

    It is incumbent on every Member of this body, no matter what their politics or what immigration policies they might prefer to enact, to oppose that usurpation of legislative power and to defend the rule of law. Fulfilling that duty--the duty to defend the rule of law and our constitutional order--leads me to oppose Ms. Saldana's nomination to be the Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, as it is commonly known. Although I respect her and respect her record of public service, including an admirable and independent streak she demonstrated as U.S. attorney, I am concerned that she has also demonstrated that her commitment to the rule of law may falter where the Immigration and Nationality Act is concerned.

    In response to a question raised by several members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, including me, Ms. Saldana said that she agreed with DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson that immigrants who enter the country illegally and have now been targeted for the so-called deferred action program have ``earned the right to be citizens.'' That is bold. This is an extraordinarily bold assertion on her part.

    No doubt Congress could and many people think Congress should ease the path to citizenship for some aliens, some immigrants who are currently here unlawfully, but to assert that citizenship--not just the right to remain here for a time but full-blown citizenship--is a matter of right and that it has been earned by the very act of breaking our immigration laws is an unacceptable view for a person who has been nominated to be the head of our Nation's immigration enforcement office, but, as I told the Senate last week, this seems to be precisely the mentality of this administration.

    Although President Obama has repeatedly denied clearing a path to citizenship for those who have crossed our borders illegally, his denial is false, and he knows it. A 2010 Department of Homeland Security memorandum explicitly contemplated this very thing. We see some evidence of this. There was a 2010 memorandum within the U.S. Department of Homeland Security--one that made it all the way up to then-Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano--that explicitly contemplated using a legal device called parole to enable aliens who crossed our border unlawfully to become citizens.

    Now, the law makes it possible for aliens with U.S. citizen children who have been paroled into the United States to adjust their immigration status and become green card holders, but parole is supposed to be very rare. In other words, there is a way to get here but not by use of parole.

    Federal law--specifically INA S. 212 (d)(5)(a)--forbids the President, forbids the executive branch of government from paroling aliens into the country except for under very limited circumstances, including ``urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit.'' That is the text of the statute enacted into law by Congress. But now, despite denying having cleared the path to citizenship, the administration has begun granting parole to beneficiaries of deferred action under the very thinnest of pretexts: The President's policies now allow deferred action recipients to get advanced parole so long as they have a client meeting or an interview or some academic research to perform overseas--hardly an urgent humanitarian crisis. When they get back from their trips, these same individuals would then be paroled into the country and will eventually become eligible to adjust their status and get green cards--exactly as the 2010 DHS memo suggested.

    All of this, of course, is illegal. But it is worse than illegal; it is illegitimate. If Congress decides to make it easier for illegal immigrants who have children here to obtain citizenship, then so be it, but that is a decision for the American people through their elected officials in the legislative branch of the Federal Government to make. If the President dislikes the law, he, as any other citizen, must ask this body to change the law--must ask Congress to change that law. He has no more right than anyone else who lives in this country to ignore or change the law outside the constitutional process.

    But the President and this administration have talked themselves into doing just that. They can try to rationalize that action--to us and perhaps themselves--only by donning the mantle of moral indignation. It isn't just that it would be prudent or merciful to reform our immigration regime. Instead, the administration's argument is that those who flout our laws have, by the very act of flouting them and by the very act of breaking them, earned some kind of moral entitlement to have the law changed or at least to have the law ignored. If Congress will not oblige them, they will do it themselves. They will draft a law called an Executive order that overturns national immigration policy as established by law and passed by Congress, and they will announce it at a press conference. There will be no debate; there will be no amendments; there will be no vote. In short, there will be no democracy.

    We have passed through the looking glass. And to see how far we have gone inside, observe: Today, the President asks us to install as custodian of our border a person who evidently believes that crossing our border illegally earns you the right to vote. The Constitution gives the Senate the responsibility to give the President advice about his Executive nominations and ultimately consent.

    My advice is this: The President should not proffer a nominee for the job of executing our immigration laws who affirmatively supports subverting those very same laws, those same laws she would be called upon to enforce and implement and execute if, in fact, she were confirmed to this position. But that is exactly what the President does. That is exactly what the President has done by submitting this name to the Senate for confirmation. I cannot and will not give my consent.

    With that, I yield the floor.

    I suggest the absence of a quorum.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Schatz). The clerk will call the roll.

    The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.

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