I have spoken to many commanders in the past months about sequestration. While they were unanimous in their criticism of sequestration, they also told me that their ability to handle it would have been increased if they had more time to prepare. To give them more time for preparation, we should be authorizing to levels that are current law, not what we wish they could be.

Thank you Mr. Chairman.  I would like to call up my amendment #174 to strengthen the protection of Religious Freedom in the Military.  This amends section 533 to clarify that expressions of belief that do not have an adverse impact on military readiness and good order and discipline are to be accommodated by the Armed Services.

Recent news reports about the Air Force meeting with organizations that try to subvert religious expression in the military have many around the United States concerned about the environment that is being created in the Armed Services.  The leader of one of these organizations called Christians “monsters who terrorize their fellow Americans by forcing their weaponized and twisted version of Christianity upon their helpless subordinates in our nation’s armed forces” and equated sharing one’s religion as “spiritual rape”.

For many of our men and women in uniform, their faith and religious beliefs are what sustain them through the enormous pressures and stresses of the battlefield, the months away from loved ones with little communication, the life-changing injuries, and the loss of close friends. 

If an environment is created where those service members feel that expressing their religion, sharing their faith, or showing outward representation of their beliefs could be found in violation of military policy and grounds for reprimand, it will have an unsettlingly negative effect on military morale and undermine recruitment, retention, and cohesiveness efforts. 

I understand that a delicate balance must be struck in the military so that good order and discipline are preserved.  I believe that my amendment strikes that balance.  Nothing in this would preclude disciplinary or administrative action for conduct that is proscribed by the UCMJ, and commanders would have the ability to maintain readiness and discipline in their ranks.

Our servicemen and women put their lives on the line everyday in order to protect our constitutionally guaranteed rights, including the expression of our beliefs.  Congress must ensure that we are protecting them as well. 

Today, I will be filing almost a dozen amendments to the Immigration Reform bill.  Here is a brief description of each one:

  1. Lee #1208 Requires fast-track Congressional approval at the introduction of the DHS strategies and at the certification of the strategies’ completion.  Increases accountability of Congress to oversee implementation of border-security measures.
  2. Lee #1209 Clarifies that the legalization process should be funded entirely by the fees collected. Lessens the economic cost of immigration reform.
  3. Lee #1210 Removes eligibility for RPI status for those who have absconded or sought to re-enter after receiving a deportation order. Toughens enforcement of existing immigration laws.
  4. Lee #1211 Replaces “any offense under foreign law” with “any act committed outside the United States” as a ground for inadmissibility.
  5. Lee #1212 Increases requirements to show that back taxes have been paid.
  6. Lee #1213 Clarifies that penalties for RPI applicants may not be waived, limited, or reduced. Decreases the authority of the Secretary of Homeland Security to waive penalties.
  7. Lee #1214 Removes “sworn affidavits” from the list of documents that RPIs may use to satisfy the employment requirement for adjustment to LPR status. Toughens enforcement standards for RPI status.
  8. Lee #1215 Requires an annual report on welfare benefits granted to illegal aliens and RPIs.  Fosters greater oversight of who is eligible for the country’s generous programs.
  9. Lee #1216 Inserts intent requirements for employer discrimination provisions. Tightens the law to prevent frivolous lawsuits.
  10. Lee #1217 Increases the W-visa starting cap from 20,000 to 200,000 and the post-phase-in cap from 200,000 to 400,000.  Better manages the flow of new immigration to the country while increasing access to needed labor.
  11. Lee #1207 Allows Customs and Border Patrol agents to engage in enforcement activities on Federal Lands, where they are currently prohibited from protecting the border.  

 

Earlier today, I delivered a floor speech to identify the many problems with the Gang of 8 immigration proposal.  I turned the speech into a series of tweets, so you can help me spread the word about the problems with this bill.  Please help me RT these tweets:

Today I joined Senators Cruz, Grassley, and Sessions to send a letter to our colleagues, which highlights our ongoing concerns with the comprehensive immigration reform bill, S. 744. You can read the letter below to see why we think the Gang of Eight Bill does not uphold promises to secure the border, enforce the law, nor improve legal immigration:

Too Big to Manage

May 16 2013

The three events of the last few days – the IRS, the AP, and Benghazi – tend to confirm our worst fears about our government. They tend to tell us what we don't want to believe, but what sometimes turns out to be true. That your government is targeting you. That your government is spying on you. And that your government is lying to you.
I rise to once again ask my colleagues to join me in expressing the sense of the Senate that governments at all levels have a compelling interest in preventing and punishing the practice of late-term abortions under unsafe, unsanitary, and illegal circumstances.

On Thursday, the Senate Judiciary Committee begins consideration of the Gang of 8’s comprehensive immigration proposal.  Though I believe the only way to achieve success in reforming our immigration system is through a step-by-step approach, I intend to use this opportunity to engage in constructive debate about how to make our border more secure, our immigration system more efficient and reliable, and our country more prosperous.

I have submitted 23 amendments to the bill that serve to highlight reforms I believe we must make to our immigration system.  

One of my top priorities is to increase congressional oversight of executive branch activities as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and others work to secure our border.  One of my amendments would require congressional approval of DHS plans to secure the border and a congressional vote to certify that all the metrics and “triggers” are met before allowing anyone to apply for Registered Provisional Immigrant (RPI) status.  This amendment is key to ensuring we have real protections in place to prevent further widespread illegal immigration before beginning any legalization process.

I have also circulated several amendments that would narrow the scope of those who are allowed to apply for RPI status, as well as amendments that strengthen certain enforcement provisions.  For example, one provision would make it a crime to attempt to use fraudulent documents to enter the United States. Under the proposed bill, only those who are successful in using fraudulent documents to enter the country could be punished.  One of my amendments strengthens the requirement that illegal immigrants pay back taxes, and another clarifies that certain penalties may not be waived by DHS.

Another priority for me is to make our legal immigration system more efficient and more responsive to the changing needs of our economy, while taking special care not to give an incremental benefit to anyone who broke the law.  I have several amendments that would reform the H1B visa system, which pertains to high-skilled labor, as well as a provision that would significantly widen the door for those who are outside the country and are seeking to use the proper channels to work here legally. Finally, I submitted an amendment that would make filing E-Verify documentation easier and less prone to errors.  

While I am skeptical that all our immigration challenges can be solved in a single, comprehensive bill, I want to use this opportunity to discuss how best to fix our system and offer constructive proposals that make needed reforms.  If this comprehensive bill proves unsuccessful, those challenges must still be addressed.  I look forward to beginning this process.