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< Back to current issue of Immigration Daily < Back to current issue of Immigrant's Weekly

[Congressional Record: June 19, 2002 (House)]
[Page H3712]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:cr19jn02-122]                         



                              {time}  1615
 
                           HOMELAND SECURITY

  The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Kennedy of Minnesota). Under a previous 
order of the House, the gentleman from Indiana (Mr. Souder) is 
recognized for 5 minutes.
  Mr. SOUDER. Mr. Speaker, I apologize for missing my earlier time 
slot. We were meeting with President Uribe of Colombia, the President-
elect of Colombia, and we were very encouraged with his words on how he 
plans to address terrorism inside Colombia, narcoterrorism funded by 
American drug consumption. I am pleased for his initiatives and his 
intention to increase the Colombian contribution to the military and 
antidrug efforts in Colombia to address some of the concerns this 
Congress has had as far as who is involved in their armed forces and to 
have it more democratically spread through their country and his 
determination and will to fight the narcoterrorists in Colombia.
  As I had mentioned yesterday on this floor, our subcommittee on 
government reform as well as other subcommittees and tomorrow the full 
committee will be starting to address the Department of Homeland 
Security. I wanted to raise a few other issues this evening. One in 
particular has to do with visa clearance, as we have learned, that 
really the Department of Homeland Security is more aptly called the 
Department of Border Security for Catastrophic Security. In other 
words, it has predominantly to deal with the meeters and greeters, 
those people as they are coming through ports of entry, as they are 
coming in airports, as they are crossing borders, as they are making 
decisions to come to the United States, and the primary concern of this 
department is catastrophic terrorism, not day-to-day terrorism. If you 
look at it in that sense, that is why the President has chosen to put 
the agencies that he has inside the Department of Homeland Security.
  But there are a number of things that we need to look at hard in 
Congress. In section 403, visa issuance, it says in the proposed 
legislation that exclusive authority to issue regulations with respect 
to, administer and enforce the provisions of this act and all other 
immigration and nationality laws relating to the functions of 
diplomatic and consular offices of the United States will be given to 
this department, but it says, through the Secretary of State.
  One fundamental question is, why are the people who are making the 
visa decisions at the embassies not considered part of the homeland 
security since otherwise the people at the Border Patrol, the Customs, 
the INS and others who are making those decisions at the border are 
merely reacting to what has been cleared at the embassy? Secretary of 
State Powell has objected with several comments and I wanted to respond 
to those.
  He says that the Secretary of State and the State Department no 
longer have command over employees at the embassy. Of course not. There 
are other people who work at our embassies abroad, DEA, for example, 
and other agencies of the United States Government, the Defense 
Department, who work through our embassies and are not the direct 
employees of the Secretary of State. They have different missions. In 
this case, visa clearance, in my opinion, is a homeland security 
question predominantly and secondarily a foreign affairs question. And 
where it is a foreign affairs question in the case of China, the 
Secretary of State should be weighing in; but where it is a homeland 
security question, that person ought to be a line person in the 
Department of Homeland Security.
  He says there would be conflicting information and guidelines for 
visa adjudication policy. No, there are currently conflicting things. 
Both the Justice Department and the State Department input and quite 
frankly homeland security ought to be the preeminent concern and then 
other political interests should be a concern.
  He says the Secretary of State's ability to set foreign policy would 
be limited, only limited based on terrorism. The next question would 
be, Would this diminish the role of American ambassadors? No more than 
having DEA and other Defense Department personnel and other Commerce 
Department personnel in the embassy. We all recognize the importance of 
each ambassador being the American voice in those countries. No matter 
who works in that embassy, no matter who visits as a Member of 
Congress, our job is to back up the American voice in that country and 
not to cause cognitive dissonance in those countries. I do not believe 
it undermines the ambassador, I do not believe it undermines the 
Secretary of State, but if we are serious that this is at least the 
Department of Border Security, then we need to make sure that visa 
clearance comes under the Department of Homeland Security.
  I also wanted to address a few questions related to Customs and 
illustrate a few points and challenges we have there. Clearly Customs 
is patrolling the border. This picture is one that I took along the 
Canadian border east of Blaine, Washington. This is Cascades National 
Park coming up on this side, which is further to the east. You can see 
the Canadian border running along here, a ditch that you could maybe 
sprain your ankle if you were running fast, but basically it is a 
completely unprotected border. Furthermore when you go in through the 
mountains, it is even less protected. As we tighten the borders at the 
crossings, we have to address the broader questions of how we are going 
to deal with the border; and if we overtighten at the crossing which 
will also restrict commerce, not only will we push it to the east in 
some cases, to the west in others and in the mountains and into the 
water, we also will have slowed down commerce. So it is important to 
understand that while the primary mission of the customs department in 
homeland security will be security, it is also important that they keep 
the trade moving.
  We will continue to discuss this in committee and on the floor 
because it is very important we maintain the balance in Customs and 
Coast Guard in addition to homeland security for trade and other 
missions that they have.

                          ____________________




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