Idaho Examiner - Sen. Larry Craig News Releases

Thursday, April 28, 2005

CRAIG COSPONSORS RAIL COMPETITION BILL

Legislation will help farmers, businesses using rail shipping

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Idaho Senator Larry Craig joined several colleagues today in the U.S. Senate, including Senator Conrad Burns of Montana, in introducing the Railroad Competition Act of 2005. The legislation aims to foster rail competition in areas of the country where it is inadequate, by clarifying national rail policy and streamlining the process to resolve rate and service disputes.

“In Idaho, we have a good number of industries, including farmers and small business owners who rely on the railroads to get their products to market,” Craig said. “However, there are parts of the country that are served by only one or two rail carriers, and the lack of competition ends up hurting customers, who must often pass those high shipping costs on to consumers in the form of higher prices at the market. This bill seeks to return the power to the customers and bring capitalism back into many regions where rail shipping has strayed into monopoly.”

The legislation ensures that rail customers will receive rate quotes for movements between various points on a railroad’s system; frees regional and short line railroads to provide access to additional major systems; provides captive rail customers who cannot afford to participate in expensive rate challenge proceedings access to arbitration; and directs the Surface Transportation Board to adopt a more realistic and workable rate reasonableness standard.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

CRAIG COSPONSORS BILL TO COORDINATE DROUGHT RESPONSE

Bipartisan bill to create national drought policy
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Idaho Senator Larry Craig joined a bipartisan group of his colleagues today in cosponsoring S.802, the National Drought Preparedness Act of 2005. The legislation would create a national policy for drought, improve delivery of federal drought programs, create new tools for drought preparedness planning, and improve forecasting and monitoring of drought conditions.

“For five years or more now, drought has ravaged communities, as well as crop and range land across Idaho, causing great destruction to the people who count on the land for a living,” Craig said. “This legislation will leave us much better prepared to deal with drought proactively by providing the necessary tools and resources to predict, prepare and deliver drought assistance much more effectively in the future.”

The bill intends to accomplish the following objectives:

• Create a national policy for drought: The bill moves the country away from the costly, response-oriented approach to drought and toward a pro-active, preparedness approach. The new national policy will provide the tools and focus for
Federal, State, tribal and local governments to address the diverse impacts and
costs caused by drought.

• Improve delivery of federal drought programs: To ensure improved program delivery, integration and leadership, the National Drought Preparedness Act
establishes the National Drought Council under the direction of the Secretary of
Agriculture. The Council will build on existing programs and provide the
coordinating and integrating function for federal drought programs while making
recommendations to improve existing federal drought programs.

• Provide new tools for drought preparedness planning: Building on existing water policy, the Drought Council will assist states, local governments, tribes and
other entities in the development and implementation of drought preparedness
plans. The bill does not mandate state and local planning, but is intended
to facilitate the development and implementation of drought plans through
establishment of a “Drought Assistance Fund.” Importantly, the bill also
preserves state authority over water allocation.

• Improve forecasting and monitoring: The Drought Council will facilitate the
development of the National Integrated Drought System in order to improve the
characterization of current drought conditions and the forecasting of future
droughts, as well as provide a better basis to “trigger” federal drought assistance.

For more information on what Senator Craig is doing for agriculture, please visit http://craig.senate.gov/i_agactionplan.htm.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Constitutional Option: Restoring Majority Rule

by Senator Larry Craig

Like most Idahoans, I was a little curious the first time I heard some of my colleagues debating whether the Senate should exercise “the nuclear option.” This turned out to be a euphemism to describe a possible change of Senate parliamentary rules with regard to federal judicial nominations.

The issue is whether 41 percent of the U.S. Senate should unilaterally usurp power in a way that would prevent the President of the United States from doing a major part of the job the majority of the American people elected him to do.

The U.S. Constitution specifically makes it a principal responsibility of the President to appoint persons to judgeships and executive agency positions. The Constitution gives the legislative power – the responsibility to write laws – to the Congress. It provides for the President to have a very limited role in the legislative process – to sign or veto bills – and allows the Congress to have only a limited role in the appointment process, through the Senate providing its advice and consent on presidential nominees.

From 1789 until 2002 – more than 200 years – the doctrine of advise and consent regarding federal judicial nominees was adhered to in the Senate, and it served the nation well. Now, a minority of Senators is pushing a new rule that would thwart the majority and set up religious and ideological litmus tests for prospective federal judges.

Instead of impartial arbiters, Democratic Senators insist on stacking the federal bench with only judges that match their ideological persuasion. At this point, most folks naturally ask, how can they expect to do that, if they’re in the minority?

Under the rules of the Senate, debate on a legislative matter usually cannot be limited without the agreement of at least 60 out of 100 Senators – a “supermajority”. If fewer than 60 Senators vote to close debate, then it could stretch on for days or weeks – or forever, which means the minority has launched a successful “filibuster” preventing the Senate from ever taking a final vote on the matter at hand.

In an unprecedented break with more than 200 years of Senate procedure, Senate Democrats, in almost complete partisan lockstep, have spent months, in some cases years, filibustering several federal judges nominated by President Bush. They are threatening to filibuster several more. In doing so, Senate Democrats are effectively attempting to amend the Constitution without going through the state legislatures and the democratic process, and with the backing of as little as 41 percent of one-half of one of the three branches of the government.

The Constitution specifically describes situations where a “supermajority” of lawmakers is required for passage. Confirmation of federal judges is not one of them.

By refusing to allow a confirmation vote on an ever-growing number of President Bush’s nominees, liberal Democrats in the Senate have created a Constitutional crisis. Twenty nominees, including some with bipartisan support, were “left hanging” at the end of 2004 legislative session. So much for the principle of diversity on the federal bench!

In truth, the first nuclear strike was the launch of the Senate Democrats’ judicial filibusters. In response to this crisis, Senate Republicans, including myself and Majority Leader Bill Frist, have labored mightily to reach an agreement that would allow a full and fair debate, but with a final, up-or-down vote at the end of that debate. Unfortunately, our every effort has been rejected. Now, we have begun to consider applying the Constitution and the rules of the Senate to overcome filibusters of federal judicial nominees. This has been called the “nuclear option.” In reality, it would be the simple restoration of majority rule.

Here’s how the Senate could restore majority rule on its confirmation of judicial appointments. If a nominee is being filibustered, a Senator could raise a Constitutional point of order to determine whether legislative filibuster rules also apply to the President’s judicial nominees. A vote would be held that would only require a simple majority – 51 Senators – to settle the issue.

Most Senators would prefer not to pursue this course of action. It is called the nuclear option because, once you’ve used it, there’s no going back. However, there may be no other way to restore majority rule in the Senate and respect the will of the 59 million people – again, the majority – who voted to re-elect President Bush in November.

In the past, the filibuster was used only sparingly. Unfortunately, over the last four years, it has become a partisan tool to prevent President Bush and a popularly-elected majority in the Senate from doing the job they were elected to do. That doesn’t sound like democracy to me.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

CRAIG OPPOSES CAFTA

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Idaho Senator Larry Craig joined a bi-partisan group of his colleagues today in voicing their opposition to the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). Craig issued the following statement:

“Since Congress gave the President ‘fast-track’ trade negotiating authority in August of 2002, we’ve had to face the realities that come with it. I supported giving the President ‘fast-track’ authority then, and promised I would approach all trade agreements sent to Congress with an open mind. After all, trade with foreign nations is a valuable tool for promoting economic opportunities here at home, but also to spread our democratic ideals that we value so highly in our country. Three agreements have reached Congress since 2002, and I have voted for two of those three.

“I tried to work with the Administration to craft CAFTA so that Idaho’s interests would be protected. As an agricultural State, Idaho has a large stake in these agreements and agriculture is learning how to restructure itself as our global markets become highly integrated. One such agricultural sector is sugar. Idaho is the second largest producer of sugar beets, and the industry employs around 8,000 people and injects $800 million into Idaho’s economy.

“Over the past few unprofitable years, Idaho’s sugar industry has worked hard to implement measures to ensure it survives in a world market characterized by foreign producers dumping sugar below the cost of production. CAFTA would compound an already ugly situation and set a bad precedent for future trade agreements.

“Other Idaho agricultural groups understand that those farmers who are sugar producers are also potato, bean, and grain producers. We’re not talking about impacting one commodity; we are cutting a wide swath across several industries. Because of that, I can’t support CAFTA.”

For more information on what Senator Craig is doing for agriculture, please visit http://craig.senate.gov/i_agactionplan.htm.

CRAIG SUPPORTS INCREASED BORDER SECURITY

Senate adopts amendment to increase funds by nearly $400 million

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The United States Senate adopted a measure today to increase border security funding by $389 million. Idaho Senator Larry Craig, a cosponsor of the original amendment with Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), was joined by 64 of his colleagues in approving the amendment to the Fiscal Year 2005 Supplemental Appropriations bill.

The Byrd-Craig amendment transfers funds from overseas Diplomatic and Consular Programs to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Detention and Removal Operations (DRO), and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), with the following breakdown:

Border Patrol - 650 Agents $237,183,000
ICE - 250 immigration investigators $ 42,000,000
ICE - 168 enforcement agents
and detention officers $ 20,000,000
DRO – 2,000 detention beds $ 66,000,000
UAVs (operated by the Border Patrol) $ 10,000,000
Federal Law Enforcement Training $ 14,430,000
$389,613,000

Craig stated, “This vote reflects Congress’ commitment to increase border security without busting our budget. 9/11 taught us a valuable lesson – we can’t leave our borders exposed. We also must be vigilant to ensure we don’t squander tax dollars, and these increases represent the best use of our limited resources.

“Immigration reform involves three important goals – identifying undocumented workers in the country, improving our guest worker programs, and increasing border security. Today’s vote is one step toward further securing our border.”

For more information on Senator Craig’s immigration reform proposals, please visit http://craig.senate.gov.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

AgJOBS RECEIVES MAJORITY VOTE

Senate votes 53-45 for AgJOBS, but fails to break filibuster

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The United States Senate considered S. 359, AgJOBS, today as an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2005 Supplemental Appropriation bill. 53 Senators voted in favor of the legislation, which fell short of the 60 needed to stop the filibuster.

Following the vote, Idaho Senator Larry Craig offered the following observation, “A majority of my colleagues sent a strong message today that they support AgJOBS and are ready to address immigration reform. President Bush and Majority Leader Frist continue to stress the importance of addressing comprehensive immigration reform this year. I will continue to work with Senator Kennedy and our other supporters to bring this before the Senate sooner rather than later.”

AgJOBS seeks to stabilize our agricultural workforce by reforming the H2A guest worker program and providing a path to legal status for an estimated 500,000 workers already in the country. The competing measure, offered by Senators Chambliss and Kyl, garnered 21 votes.

For more information on AgJOBS, visit http://craig.senate.gov/i_agjobs.htm.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

BILL INTRODUCED TO ASSIST FAMILIES

Provides tax credits to families caring for elderly relatives

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Idaho Senator Larry Craig introduced legislation today to assist families caring for elderly relatives by providing tax credits to help offset expenses. The Senior Elder Care Relief and Empowerment Act (SECURE Act), S. 835, provides taxpayers with a non-refundable tax credit equal to 50 percent of qualified expenses incurred on behalf of senior citizens above a $1,000 spending floor.

Many Baby Boomers have a new label – the Sandwich Generation, referring to people caring for both their parents and children. It is difficult for families to balance caring for children and saving or paying for college, while at the same time struggling with financing care for frail and aging parents. Many caregivers forgo job promotions, reduce their hours on the job, cut back to part-time, or take extended leaves of absence to stay at home and care for their aging family members.

Craig said, “Family care-giving for aging and vulnerable relatives requires a flexible national response to ensure seniors and their families have the most appropriate high quality choices. That is why I am introducing the SECURE Act. This legislation would help reduce the financial strain and related emotional and medical stress faced by family caregivers, as they care for their frail and aging parents, by providing much-needed tax relief for qualified expenses.

“The SECURE Act would increase the eldercare choices available to families and has the potential to reduce the number of seniors forced to spend down their life savings until they become impoverished enough to qualify for Medicaid services. Not only does this legislation offer support for families, it addresses the increased pressures on Medicaid. In my own state of Idaho, the aged and disabled make up about 22 percent of the Medicaid population, yet utilize 70 percent of the total Medicaid dollars for the state. The SECURE Act has the potential to alleviate some of the stress on our state Medicaid programs.”

Qualified expenses include costs that are not reimbursable -- those not covered by Medicare or other insurance -- for physical assistance with essential daily activities to prevent injury; long-term care expenses, including normal household services; architectural expenses necessary to modify the senior’s residence; respite care; adult daycare; assisted living services that are non-housing related expenses; independent living; home care; and home health care.

Friday, April 15, 2005

AgJOBS — The “Ag-ceptional” Solution

by Senator Larry Craig

Our federal government has got to do better, faster, in improving our border security and meeting the growing problem of illegal immigration. That is why Congress is beefing up the border patrol and buying high-tech verification systems for the Department of Homeland Security. That is why the House of Representatives attached national drivers’ license standards and asylum changes to the Iraq Supplemental Appropriations bill.

That is why I’ve worked on an amendment to that bill to increase border security, hire more investigators and enforcement agents, and boost resources for detention. That is why I’m cosponsoring a bill to help states deal with undocumented criminal aliens.

And that is why I’ve worked to bring the AgJOBS bill — the Agricultural Job Opportunities, Benefits, and Security Act — to the Senate floor.

An enforcement-only policy doesn’t work. Why?

The United States has 7,458 miles of land borders and 88,600 miles of tidal shoreline. We can secure those frontiers well, but not perfectly. As we have stepped up border enforcement, we have locked undocumented immigrants in this country at least as effectively as we have locked any out.

With an estimated 10 million undocumented persons in the United States, to find them and flush them out of homes, schools, churches, and work places would mean an intrusion on the civil liberties of Americans that they will not tolerate. We fought our revolution, in part, over troops at our doors and in our homes.

History has shown us what does work: A coupling of more secure borders, better internal enforcement, and a guest worker program that faces up to economic reality.

The only experience our country has had with a legal farm guest worker program — used widely in the 1950s but repealed in the 1960s — taught us valuable lessons. While it was criticized on other grounds, that program dramatically reduced illegal immigration from high levels to almost nothing, while meeting labor market needs.

AgJOBS is a groundbreaking, necessary part of this balanced, realistic approach. American agriculture has boldly stepped forward and admitted the problem. AgJOBS is a critical part of the solution.

Agriculture is the sector of the economy for which the problem is the worst. Fifty to 75 percent of farm workers are undocumented. As internal enforcement has stepped up, family farms are going out of business because they cannot find legal workers.

Whatever the case is in other industries, in agriculture, we really are talking about jobs that Americans can’t or won’t take. This physically demanding labor is seasonal and migrant in nature. Few Americans can or will leave home and family behind, to travel from state to state, crop to crop, for only part of the year, living in temporary structures. The planting, growing, and harvesting seasons occur at different times in different states — usually when students are not available.

To the extent wages are an issue, AgJOBS is part of the solution. Legal workers can demand a living wage and assert legal rights that undocumented workers — smuggled into the country and kept “underground” — cannot.

For the long term, AgJOBS reforms the profoundly broken H-2A program that is supposed to provide legal, farm guest workers. It is now so bureaucratic and burdensome, it admits only about 40,000 workers a year — 2 to 3 percent of farm workers.

As a bridge to stabilize the work force while H-2A reforms are being implemented, AgJOBS includes a one-time-only earned adjustment program, to let about 500,000 trusted farm workers, with a proven, substantial work history here, continue working here, legally. The permanent H-2A reforms would make future farm worker adjustments unnecessary.

AgJOBS is not amnesty or a reward for illegal behavior. Requiring several years of demanding, physical labor in the fields is an opportunity to rehabilitate to legal status — to earn the adjustment to legal status. In addition, adjusting AgJOBS workers would have to meet a higher standard of good behavior than other, legal immigrants, in the future. AgJOBS workers, both adjusting and H-2A, would be free to leave the country at the end of the work season and not be “locked in” the country, between jobs.

Finally, with background checks, AgJOBS would let American families know who is putting the food on our tables — yet another boost for homeland security.

CRAIG STAFF MOVE TO WHITE HOUSE

Two former Craig staffers working for the 2005 White House Conference on Aging

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Idaho Senator Larry Craig announced today that one of his former staff members has been chosen to lead the 2005 White House Conference on Aging, while another former staff member has accepted a senior position on the conference policy team.

“Dr. Scott Nystrom and Omar Valverde both served me well when I was chairman of the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging. President Bush chose wisely, and I am looking forward to working with them again,” Craig said.

Valverde will serve as Policy Specialist while Nystrom will serve as the Executive Director of the White House Conference. Valverde, who grew up in Idaho and earned his law degree from the University of Idaho, worked as the Adult Protection Coordinator for the Idaho Commission on Aging before joining the Senate Special Committee on Aging as a lead investigator.

Nystrom worked at the White House Office of Management and Budget from 1984 through the early 1990’s and then for Congressman Jim McCrery of Louisiana. He later served as senior policy advisor on the 1994 Bipartisan Commission on Entitlement and Tax Reform (Kerrey-Danforth) and most recently was a senior policy advisor for Senator Craig on the Senate Special Committee on Aging. Nystrom has a Ph.D. from George Washington University, a M.A. from the University of New Mexico, and a B.A. from Saint Olaf College in Minnesota.

Senator Craig was chosen last year by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist to be an Executive Committee member of the White House Conference Aging. When the conference occurs during the week of October 25th, Idaho’s senior senator will preside as the Chairman of the Economic Security Subcommittee. After accepting those appointments last year, Craig warned that America will soon be faced with dynamic workforce and demographic changes due to an aging population.

The White House Conferences on Aging started in 1961 and convene about once every ten years. They have contributed to the establishment of many of the key aging programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, the Older Americans Act, the Supplemental Security Income program and the National Institute on Aging. For more information, see http://www.whcoa.gov or call 301-443-9462.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

BILL HONORS LIFELONG RAPTOR ADVOCATE MORLEY NELSON

Renames the Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Idaho’s Congressional Delegation introduced legislation today to honor the late Morley Nelson, a lifelong advocate for birds of prey and the inspiration for the creation of the Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area in southwestern Idaho.

As a decorated veteran, Morley Nelson moved to Idaho upon his return from serving in Italy during World War II. He immediately focused his passion on birds of prey. Recognizing the unique importance of the Snake River area for birds of prey, he promoted to area residents the importance of accepting the birds as an integral piece of the ecosystem. His work led to Congressional establishment of the National Conservation Area, which is managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

Not limiting himself to Idaho, Morley spent decades raising public awareness about birds of prey through scores of speeches with an eagle on his fist, and through dozens of movies and TV specials starring his eagles and hawks, including seven films for Disney. He also recognized the inherent danger of power lines to birds of prey. Working with Idaho Power and other utilities, he sparked the development of guards and redesigned power transmission lines to reduce raptor electrocution. This technology has since spread throughout the world.

Idaho’s Congressional Delegation praised the work of Morley Nelson, “Morley Nelson is a testament to the impact one person can have on this world. His dedication ensured the survival of birds of prey throughout the world, especially in Idaho.

“Morley once said, ‘This is where the wind and the cliffs and the birds are. This is where I’ll always be.’ It only seems fitting that the Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area should bear his name.”

The legislation that was introduced today in both the United States House and Senate changes the name to the Morley Nelson Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Win for a Win: A Good Trade

by Senator Larry Craig

Most people who know me understand that I don’t have a lot of patience for waste or inefficiency in government. I’m always looking for ways to get the federal government to serve us all more effectively, to reflect the will of the people. So when I see officials in government agencies who are working to do just that, it catches my attention. And when those same people come up with ideas that benefit pretty much everyone, well, it just warms my heart.

That is what happened when I took an in-depth look at the Idaho Land Exchange plan. This proposed land exchange has the potential to benefit Idahoans all over the state, from North to South, and East to West. Let me tell you how.

As everyone knows, Idaho’s population and economy are growing very rapidly. Coeur d’Alene, Post Falls, Boise, Twin Falls, and even many of the rural communities are growing. As surprising as it may sound, open space can no longer be taken for granted in some of Idaho’s cities. Kootenai County residents have seen the Rathdrum Prairie, once covered with thousands of acres of bluegrass farms, change radically in less than a generation.

In the Treasure Valley, the trend has been much the same, as tracts of housing and commercial development continue to transform the region. In this environment, the City of Boise has taken a unique approach to addressing its future, and that of the surrounding area. Four years ago, in May of 2001, citizens of Boise approved a proposal to tax themselves to fund efforts to secure open space in the Boise Foothills. Since then, the City has worked to come up with a creative means to meet this challenge.

The Idaho Land Exchange is actually a package of land exchanges between the Idaho Department of Lands (DOL), the U.S. Forest Service, and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Under the current proposal, state lands in the Foothills would be transferred to the Forest Service and BLM, in order to guarantee that they will be maintained as open space for wildlife management, riparian corridors and recreational access.

In return, BLM and Forest Service lands in Idaho’s panhandle would be transferred to Idaho Department of Lands. These lands would be managed under a State Constitutional mandate to generate revenue to benefit Idaho’s public schools. It truly is a win-win situation. Open space would be preserved in the Foothills for wildlife and outdoor activities like hiking and mountain biking. The State would gain more-valuable timber lands, which will generate more dollars to help our children and grandchildren get a quality education.


In the past, there have been some land exchanges between the federal government and States or private parties, where the proceedings were not as transparent as they should have been. Not so with this exchange. There is a website at http://www.idaholandexchange.net, where anyone who is interested can find all kinds of information, maps, and charts, and even provide comments. In addition, a number of public meetings were held, so opinions could be heard and questions answered. I would encourage everyone who might be interested to visit the website or attend a meeting, if possible.

This proposal gives Idahoans a unique chance to preserve the character of our communities and, as a result, provide for the education of our children. It truly is a win-win situation.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

CRAIG TO REINTRODUCE SAFE ACT

Legislation adjusts PATRIOT Act, protects civil liberties

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Idaho Senator Larry Craig today announced the reintroduction of the Security and Freedom Enhancement (SAFE) Act of 2005. The SAFE Act makes a few narrowly-targeted adjustments to the PATRIOT Act, which are designed to preserve the rights of Americans without reducing the federal government’s ability to fight the war on terrorism.

Some provisions of the PATRIOT Act are set to expire at the end of 2005, and will require reauthorization by Congress in order to be extended.

“It is possible to fight terrorism without eroding the Constitution and the rights of Americans, and our bill is designed to restore that critical balance in the aggressive enforcement of our laws,” Craig said. “However, before the PATRIOT Act is reauthorized later this year, a few small, but important, changes must be made. We want the adjustments outlined in the SAFE Act to be a part of the greater reauthorization debate on the PATRIOT Act.

“The Bush Administration has been very careful in carrying out the war on terrorism,” Craig continued, “but in a few limited areas of the PATRIOT Act, there is a potential for abuse. We shouldn’t just assume that future administrations will be as conscientious with the rights of Americans.”

The SAFE Act has been endorsed by a broad variety of groups, including the ACLU, American Conservative Union, and the League of Women Voters. It will be introduced tomorrow, Wednesday, April 6, to coincide with its introduction in the House of Representatives.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

CRAIG COMMENTS ON PASSING OF POPE JOHN PAUL II

Says Church Leader Instrumental in Fall of Communism

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Idaho Senator Larry Craig made the following statement on the passing of Pope John Paul II:

“Although the Pope’s health had been declining for some time, I was still very saddened to hear the news of his passing. He was a thoughtful, yet forceful defender of Christianity, and nearly all respected him because he never conducted a poll before speaking his conscience. He always spoke and acted out of deep conviction.

“At the same time, one doesn’t have to be a Catholic to see the massive impact this man had on history and human events. Pope John Paul II saw firsthand the Iron Curtain descend upon Europe. Much like Ronald Reagan, he understood communism at its core, and saw it for what it really was – an evil ideology that suffocates the spirit and crushes freedom. His trip to Poland in 1981 gave hope and inspiration to hundreds of millions, and marked the beginning of the end of communist rule in Europe.

“Pope John Paul II was a visionary who appealed to the young, and spoke out on behalf of the poor and the weak. He was courageous and bold, and yet, gentle and understanding. He was an example for us all. He will be missed, but never forgotten.”

Friday, April 01, 2005

Shoring up the border

by Senator Larry Craig

Since the attacks of 9/11, anybody who has flown on a commercial flight has noticed the increase in security measures at our airports. Checked luggage is screened and sometimes inspected by hand. Carry-on luggage is also closely scrutinized, and it is no longer possible to accompany your loved ones all the way to the gate and watch them board the plane. Only passengers with a ticket for a flight may pass through the security checkpoint.

In many ways, this entire process is similar to the measures one must go through to enter the United States itself. At the port of entry, people seeking to enter the United States go through a screening process. Vehicles, baggage or packages may be searched, and entrants must meet with a customs agent, even if only briefly, to make sure the necessary documents are in place to enter the United States.

Unfortunately, if we think of the United States as a big airport, we have a very serious problem. Our security measures have completely broken down. They are being bypassed in record numbers, as people find more and more ways to skip the baggage check and the security checkpoint, and make the trip without tickets, or with fake ones.

The tragedy of 9/11 gave everyone a better understanding of the practical effects of this problem. When people can enter and leave our country without following the legal procedures, it becomes very difficult for our law enforcement and intelligence agencies to know who is here and why. Much has been done to get a handle on our porous borders, and we are undoubtedly more secure as a result. But there is still much to do.

That is why I was proud to cosponsor a recent amendment to the budget resolution in the Senate, which will would provide for 2,000 new border patrol agents in fiscal year 2006. The amendment requires at least ten percent of these new agents to be deployed along our northern border, because the border with Mexico is not the only one with holes.

The money to pay for these 2,000 agents would be taken directly from the International Affairs budget, because I’m sure Idahoans agree it is more important to ensure the security of our homeland before providing more foreign aid. I have always supported strong enforcement of our immigration laws. Respect for the rule of law is critical to maintaining our republic and the principles it was founded upon.

Having said that, we also have some immigration laws that are outdated and broken themselves. Those who know me understand that I ran for the office of U.S. Senator for Idaho because I want to address challenges and solve problems, not look the other way and pretend they don’t exist. Making a good start today is better than waiting for a comprehensive solution, which may take months or years. That is why I have worked so hard on the AgJOBS bill – the Agricultural Job Opportunities, Benefits, and Security Act.

AgJOBS will fix our broken H2-A visa program to certify legal agricultural guest workers and pair them with growers here in the United States. An estimated 500,000 or more farm workers in the U.S. are undocumented, almost all of them truly doing jobs Americans cannot or will not take, because of the sacrifices demanded in seasonal, migrant work. However, the current H2-A program is so cumbersome and inefficient that it only certified about 45,000 guest workers last year. That isn’t good enough. I want ALL of the workers who come to the United States to come here legally, with background checks. But the current system doesn’t work, and that’s why it needs to be fixed.

People don’t use broken tools to run a farm or plant a nursery. You either fix or replace them. The same is true with the H2-A program. If we reform it and make it more efficient, effective, and usable, the need to go outside the system will diminish. The last time we had a significant farm guest worker program in the 1950s, illegal immigration plummeted.

AgJOBS is only a part of the effort to make our homeland more secure, while providing a stable labor force to produce a safe supply of American-grown food for our family tables. Providing for more border patrol agents is another part. As long as I remain in the Senate, I will work to uphold the rule of law and respect for the law, and keep Americans safe in their homes and places of work.