Nomination of Sarah R. Saldana to Be an Assistant Secretary of Homeland Securityby Senator Mazie K. Hirono
Posted on 2014-12-16
HIRONO. Madam President, I rise today in support of the
nomination of Sarah Saldana to serve as Director of the U.S.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement, better known as ICE.
Before I proceed, I would like to thank the good Senator from Ohio for his tributary remarks regarding Jay Rockefeller, an uncommon man of the people.
Prior to supporting Ms. Saldana's nomination in the Judiciary Committee, I did have a chance to meet with her. Growing up in a large family near our southern border in Corpus Christi, TX, Ms. Saldana managed to overcome hardship and become the first Latina U.S. Attorney in Texas history.
Sarah Saldana is fully qualified to serve as ICE's Director. She is a senior Federal law enforcement official for a border State district that spans almost 100,000 miles. Ms. Saldana has been on the ground in Texas and fully understands the complexities and challenges we face with our immigration system.
Republicans and Democrats agree that our immigration system is broken. Until recently, we also agreed, Republicans and Democrats alike, that Sarah Saldana needed to be confirmed as the Director of ICE. However, now Republicans are playing politics with this nomination to a critical homeland security agency. ICE is responsible for important law enforcement issues that make us all safer and has been without a permanent Director for over a year.
ICE's 19,000 people are responsible for enforcement of our immigration laws, for drug interdiction, for fighting child exploitation, and for keeping us safe from national security threats. The Senate needs to do its job and let Sarah Saldana get to work as the permanent Director of ICE. I understand that some of my colleagues on the Republican side now oppose Sarah Saldana because of the President's Executive order on immigration.
President Obama's Executive action allows millions of fathers, mothers, and students to step out of the shadows, pass background checks, work legally, and pay their taxes. The President's action is rooted in the reality that our immigration system is broken and that we need to exercise prosecutorial discretion on who to go after with our limited resources.
As Director of ICE, it is Ms. Saldana's responsibility to focus on homeland security resources on deporting felons and other criminals who have crossed our borders. It is simply not possible for the Federal Government to remove all 11 million undocumented persons in this country.
That is another point on which most Republicans and Democrats agree. We have to prioritize the resources we have. That is what the President's order does. It prioritizes deporting felons, not families. Let me repeat that: Deporting felons, that is all we need to do, not breaking apart families. President Obama's action is grounded on precedent and Executive powers.
Every single President since Eisenhower has used Executive action to provide discretionary relief from deportation. Nonetheless, the President's critics have relentlessly attacked the legitimacy of his action. Some of my colleagues have emphasized that we must enforce our immigration laws and secure our borders in their opposition to Ms. Saldana.
Ironically, my Republican colleagues are opposing the nomination of the Director of an agency responsible for these very things: securing our border and enforcing our immigration laws. Some Republicans do not even want to fund the Department of Homeland Security at all.
Those who are concerned about immigration enforcement and border security should ask themselves: How does opposing Sarah Saldana's nomination and putting DHS funding in question make our borders more secure? How do these actions ensure effective enforcement of our laws? They do not.
If you want to truly and permanently address our broken immigration system, we need Congress to work together to pass comprehensive immigration reform, which the American people overwhelmingly support. It has been over a year since comprehensive immigration reform was passed on the Senate floor. Congress must continue working to pass commonsense, humane reform that puts families first.
As the President himself has said, Executive action does not replace congressional action. To those in Congress concerned with what he has done, we need to step up. We need to pass comprehensive reform. But in the meantime, we need to confirm Sarah Saldana so she can get on with the job at ICE.
I urge my colleagues to vote yes on her nomination.
Order of Procedure I ask unanimous consent that the Senate now recess until 2:15 p.m.; that following the 2:30 p.m. votes, the clerk report Executive Calendar No. 1150, the Blinken nomination, and the time until 5 p.m. be equally divided in the usual form, with all other provisions of the previous order remaining in effect.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.