Nomination of Sarah R. Saldana to Be an Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security—Continuedby Senator Thomas R. Carper
Posted on 2014-12-16
CARPER. Madam President, I rise today to urge my colleagues to
vote in a few minutes to confirm Sarah Saldana to be Assistant
Secretary for Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
A number of our friends have come to the floor opposing Ms. Saldana's nomination, but incredibly enough, I have not heard them question her qualifications. Their opposition appears to be in response to the President's decision to bring 5 million hard-working, law-abiding immigrants out of the shadows earlier this month.
Let me just say, as one Member of the Senate, we can quarrel about the timing and we can quarrel about the policy. I think for the most part the policy in the President's proposal is good. Do I wish we had done it as a body? Do I wish we had done our job? You bet I do. But I wish the President had delayed the announcement until a little bit later this year. He did not. So that is where we are.
Whether you like the President's Executive order or not, today it is about whether we take our responsibility seriously to ensure that Federal agencies have the leadership they need to operate efficiently and effectively.
The single most important ingredient of any organization, I do not care whether it is a governmental entity--I spent some time in the Navy--whether it is a military unit, whether it is a sports team, whether it is a school, business, whatever it might be, the single most important ingredient to the success of that entity is leadership.
This is an agency where we are talking about filling a big gap in leadership in Immigration and Customs Enforcement. We call it ICE. It is critical. It is a critical law enforcement agency within the Department of Homeland Security. Listen to this: It has been without a Presidentially appointed leader now for more than 16 months. That is far too long, particularly when we consider all the issues we face along our borders and the more than 400 laws that this agency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, enforces.
The agency plays a critical role in securing our borders. They take dangerous criminals off the streets. They send them back to their own countries in many instances. In fact, on any given day ICE arrests some 370 criminal aliens in the interior of our country, they have some 34,000 people in detention in this country, and they remove nearly 500 criminal aliens from our country ever day. Every day all that happens.
Managing such a large agency, with one of the most complex missions in the Federal Government, is a tall, tall order. This mission is made all the harder when the agency is forced to go month after month without permanent leadership.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement had the unfortunate distinction of finishing last in the annual survey of employee morale among Federal agencies. That is right--actually, not last; they were tied for last. In how many agencies were the employees really quizzed or questioned about whether they are satisfied with their work? They finished last out of not 100, not 200, not 300, but out of 314 agencies. When I visited the agency recently, employees told me that one of their biggest frustrations was the lack of Senate-confirmed leadership. Thankfully, this is one problem we can remedy, and we can remedy it today.
Ms. Saldana is a true American success story. She rose from humble beginnings in South Texas as the youngest of seven children. She went on to become an accomplished partner at a major law firm. She is now one of the Nation's top law enforcement officers. She could not be more qualified to lead Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
But do not take my word for it. One of our good friends here in the Senate, Mr. John Cornyn, the senior Senator from Texas, felt strongly enough about her qualifications that he was good enough to come and introduce Ms. Saldana at her confirmation hearing before the committee I chair and the Presiding Officer serves on, the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. Senator Cornyn told us that day that she was highly qualified, fiercely independent, and had served her State with honor.
This is what he said: If respect for the rule of law is our standard, and I think it should be, we would be hard pressed to find a person more qualified to enforce the law than Ms. Saldana.
His comments. That is high praise, and I could not agree more.
Nevertheless, Senator Cornyn and some of his colleagues now oppose Sarah Saldana's nomination--not because she is unqualified, not because she does not work hard, not because she does not have good values, but because she will have to carry out the President's recent Executive order on immigration. That may be understandable. I think it is also unfortunate. It does not punish the President to leave this position unfilled. It does not just punish the employees to leave this position unfilled. In the end, it punishes the citizens of this country. It makes it harder for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to accomplish its critical mission of helping to secure our borders. It makes it harder for them to do their job in terms of taking dangerous criminals off of our streets. And it hurts the men and women at ICE who deserve a leader to ensure this important agency runs as effectively as possible.
I believe the President acted within the bounds--I know not everyone agrees with me on this, but I believe the President acted within the bounds of the law in announcing his Executive action. While I may quarrel with the timing of it, I also feel very deeply if we--not in this body but in the other body on the other side of the Capitol--had done our job with respect to immigration reform, we would not have this dustup today over this nomination. But whether or not you agree with me, opposing Ms. Saldana's nomination will do nothing to change what the President has done--nothing.
I said it before; I will say it again. It is irresponsible for us to leave a critical agency such as this without a proven leader. It has been more than 16 months. It should not be another month or two or three.
So I hope Ms. Saldana--the first Hispanic person and the second woman ever to be nominated to run Immigration and Customs Enforcement--does not fall victim to politics here in the Senate. By all accounts, she is exactly what this critical agency needs: a proven leader, a respected member of the law enforcement community.
I urge all of my colleagues--Democratic and Republican and even the two Independents who are here with us serving their States--I urge you to support her. I am proud to do that today.
Thank you, Madam President.
Cloture Motion The PRESIDING OFFICER. Pursuant to rule XXII, the Chair lays before the Senate the pending cloture motion, which the clerk will state.
The bill clerk read as follows: Cloture Motion We, the undersigned Senators, in accordance with the provisions of rule XXII of the Standing Rules of the Senate, hereby move to bring to a close debate on the nomination of Sarah R. Saldana, of Texas, to be an Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security.
Harry Reid, Thomas R. Carper, Patrick J. Leahy, Patty Murray, Tom Udall, Brian Schatz, Charles E. Schumer, Barbara Boxer, Benjamin L. Cardin, Richard Blumenthal, Jeff Merkley, Al Franken, Robert P. Casey, Jr., Martin Heinrich, Elizabeth Warren, Richard J. Durbin, Christopher Murphy.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The question is, Is it the sense of the Senate that debate on the nomination of Sarah R. Saldana, of Texas, to be an Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security, shall be brought to a close? The yeas and nays are mandatory under the rule.
The clerk will call the roll.