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Thomas C.
Democrat DE

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

    by Senator Thomas R. Carper

    Posted on 2014-12-16

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 I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded.



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

    Tribute to Don Marfisi Mr. CARPER. Madam President, over the past few years I have had the great privilege, along with Dr. Tom Coburn, to chair the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. Our committee has many responsibilities, one of those being oversight of the Department of Homeland Security.

    The Department of Homeland Security was created just shy of 12 years ago--a young organization compared to most other agencies. It was established in 2003 following the terrorist attacks of 9/11. It brought together under one umbrella 22 different and disparate agencies. Trying to form one unified agency has not been easy. There have been growing pains aplenty. Our current Secretary Jeh Johnson, Deputy Secretary Ali Mayorkas, and their leadership team have made great strides in addressing challenges, and I am confident their hard work will continue and pay off.

    Behind the leadership team at the Department of Homeland Security are the more than 200,000 men and women who go to work each day to fulfill one critical mission, to create a safe, secure, and resilient place where the American way of life can thrive. Whether these employees are encountering terrorism, securing our borders and our airports, responding to natural disasters or bolstering our defenses in cyber space, few other agencies and employees touch the lives of Americans on a daily basis more than does the Department of Homeland Security.

    As chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, I have had the great honor and pleasure of meeting with many of these men and women and learning more about their work, learning about their families, their frustrations, and their dedication to the service of our Nation. We have also heard the Department of Homeland Security leadership from across the Department, including Secretary Jeh Johnson, sing their praises and describe the mission-critical work they perform day in and day out in communities across America and around the world.

    A young man named Don Marfisi of Kansas City, MO, is one of those employees. I wish to take a few minutes to talk about him and to acknowledge his service. Don grew up in Omaha, NE. He is the son of a civil servant and homemaker. His father worked for the city of Omaha, his brother worked for the Department of Justice, and his son currently works for the Metropolitan Community College in Kansas City, MO. Clearly, public service is a deep tradition in his family--and from what I hear, it is something Don takes to heart.

    Don began his Federal service more than 24 years ago as a supply clerk with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency in Lincoln, NE. Four years later, in August of 1998, he joined the Immigration and Naturalization Service in the Department of Justice. After a little over 1 year there, he was transferred to Citizenship and Immigration Services in the new Department of Homeland Security. Within Citizenship and Immigration Services, Don works at the National Records Center where he is responsible for logistics, procurement, and property management. We can still find him there today. In fact, his colleagues consider him a ``cave pillar,'' having worked at the Center since opening day.

    What does the National Records Center do exactly? According to the Department, it is the keystone to the recordkeeping of the agency for which he serves. We call it USCIS--housing millions of paper records that have been centralized into a single state-of-the-art facility. The Center where Don works improves the integrity of USCIS's recordkeeping and dramatically reduces the time it takes to retrieve a file or paperwork, meaning faster application processing for an agency charged with overseeing our immigration system.

    Don's current job title, mission support specialist, doesn't do his work justice. Colleagues say Don is not just a support specialist but an integral part of the National Records Center's mission support team and plays an important role in nearly all the logistics-related projects executed at the center. In this position, he develops and administers best practices for Federal procurement and property management. While he avoids the spotlight, he is highly valued and sought out for his expertise in the asset management field.

    Don's colleagues told me, ``Through his painstaking attention to detail and timely responsiveness . . . he has provided a superior level of customer service to local employees and other stakeholders.'' Don's attention to detail ensures that folks within Citizenship and Immigration Services have the tools and resources they need to get their job done. Don's critical eye and expertise in procurement is also credited for saving the government and the taxpayers over $500,000 in fiscal year 2013 and over $800,000 to date in fiscal year 2014. Let me repeat that: Don has saved the American taxpayers in the last 2 fiscal years $1.3 million.

    His service and stewardship don't end there. At the same time he is saving the Department and taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars, he is also finding a way to give back. Along with the money he has been able to trim off the Federal deficit, he has managed to arrange the contributions of nearly $800,000 in equipment to local schools through the GSA Property Disposal Program. Through this program he ensures that unused or older government equipment goes directly to local schools. Because of his efforts, computers and other equipment that would otherwise be trashed are recycled and used to boost education and raise student achievement in schools across the country.

    As one can imagine, educators, communities, and the students themselves who receive the equipment have been overjoyed with the generous donations. But don't take my word for it. In 2012 the Miami R- 1 School District, in Amoret, MO, a small K-12 school located on the Missouri border in the middle of cornfields and cow pastures, received $45,000 worth of recycled technology equipment.

    Sharon Knuth, the school's technology administrator, wrote to Don saying that her district was ``blessed by the GSA Property Disposal program.'' She added: We are limited in our funds and budgets so we do not always have the chance to purchase the latest technology equipment. Because of your generosity, we will put the computers, monitors, speakers and plugs to good use. . . . We will grow and prosper only because we found some great friends like you who gave us support along the way.

    Another school in Chadwick, MO, thanked Don for the ``blessing''-- that is their term--of this new technology they received through his efforts. But there is more. Don was also a member of the Office of Equal Opportunity and Inclusion's Minority Serving Institutions Program team which facilitated more than $1 million in computer equipment donations in the past fiscal year 2014.

    Don has been recognized for his extraordinary accomplishments in years past. In 2013, for example, he was recognized as USCIS Employee of the Year and as one of the National Record Center's Employees of the Quarter. Yet despite these great accomplishments and high praise from his colleagues and from people all over the country, Don insisted that every award he has received is a team award. When he learned he was gathering such high praise for his work, his response was: Being recognized for your efforts is appreciated, however, I'm the fortunate one, I get to reuse items and give--two things I enjoy doing.

    Like a true leader, this man is humble.

    [[Page S6879]] Don remembers something that I learned from Department Secretary Jeh Johnson during his confirmation. I learned that one of Secretary Johnson's guiding principles is a lesson from Dr. Benjamin--known as Bennie--Mays, former president of Morehouse College, who said: ``You earn a living by what you get; you earn a life by what you give.'' Think about that for a second, and then think about this man right here and all the giving he has done throughout his career and his service to our country. I just have to say to Jeh Johnson, the Secretary of the Department, that you have a remarkable employee. You are blessed with a lot of remarkable employees, and Don is certainly at the top of the list.

    Don's service doesn't end at the Department. He has a couple of other critical roles. He is a husband and a dad. He and his wife Pam have been married for 30 years. He has a son, Josiah, and daughter Anna. When he is able to find some well-deserved downtime, he enjoys watching a Big Ten team, the Nebraska Cornhuskers, with his family.

    I have to say that as a proud Ohio State graduate, we enjoyed playing you guys this year and look forward to next year--maybe you guys will get some revenge next year.

    To Pam, Josiah, and Anna, thank you for sharing your husband and dad with us. He has done extraordinary work for our country and for a lot of communities. We are proud of him, and I bet that you are as well.

    Finally, I say to Don Marfisi--on behalf of my colleagues, Democrats, Republicans, and a couple of Independents as well, and the folks who work here in the Capitol, even the pages who are sitting at the bottom of the Presiding Officer's desk--we all thank you for what you do for us every day, for your service, and for your immeasurable generosity to our great Nation.

    I also wish to thank Alejandro Mayorkas. Ale is the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. We were meeting with a number of employees at the Department of Homeland Security. They were discussing how to raise morale, although that is not their day job; it is an additional responsibility they have undertaken. The folks at the Department of Homeland Security--for the 12 years it has been in existence--has suffered from low morale, and sadly, still does. I think that is starting to change.

    I am an old Navy guy, and I like to say that things that are hard to do are like changing the course of an aircraft carrier. I think the aircraft carrier is starting to turn at Homeland Security.

    One of the keys for an organization to do well is to have great leadership. As the Presiding Officer knows, at the beginning of this year, there were gaping holes in the top ranks of the Department of Homeland Security. One of the things Dr. Coburn, the committee, and I did--when the administration would nominate a candidate with good leadership skills--was to bring those nominations to the Senate and debate them and vote them up or down. We have made great progress this year, and I am grateful to Senator Heitkamp for being so supportive and a big part of that process.

    We have a vote this afternoon on another critical nomination. Sarah Saldana is a U.S. prosecuting attorney. She leads our operation in the northern part of Texas and oversees 100 counties in her great State. She tries to make sure the Federal laws are enforced across her counties.

    She has been nominated to be Assistant Secretary at the Office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, also called ICE. It is a huge job with tens of thousands of employees who work all across America.

    I hope when we debate her nomination--she has been supported very graciously by John Cornyn, the senior Senator from Texas, who introduced us to her at our committee hearing--our colleagues will join together in supporting her nomination.

    We have this photograph here, and I said earlier this is Don Marfisi in the middle, also known as Pam's husband.

    I will be coming to the floor about once a month to talk about this department, which doesn't get the kind of credit it deserves, and the people who work there don't get the credit they deserve. We are trying to make sure that changes, and part of changing the course of the aircraft carrier is to say thanks to the good people at the Department. Don is one of many employees who deserves our thanks.

    In this photograph to my right, this handsome young man is Ethan Cole. Ethan is the supervisor for the work that Don and these folks do.

    We have here Terry Sloan. She is the Deputy Director of the National Records Center, and we are proud of her and her services. Standing next to Terry is another TC--we have Tom Coburn, Tom Carper, and Tom Cioppa. I think when this picture was taken, Tom was the Director of the National Records Center, and now he is the District Director of the Chicago District.

    Not long ago Ale Mayorkas and a number of Homeland Security employees were paying us a visit. The reason I mentioned Ale is because of a story he told us about a visit someone made to NASA headquarters. I can't recall if it was during the evening or weekend, but it was during off hours. As they were going through one of the big buildings at NASA, the visitor came across a guy who was a custodian. The visitor said to the custodian: What do you do here? The janitor looked him right in the eye and said: I am helping to put a man on the moon.

    The people at Homeland Security, including Don, are helping to ensure that our country is safe and secure. We are in their debt.

    With that, I am looking to see if there is anyone else trying to speak. I understand the Senator from South Dakota may be emerging from the Republican cloakroom and looking for a moment to shine. If he doesn't get out here fast, I will just note the absence of a quorum and will let him call it off when he gets here.

    I yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.

    The legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.

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