Dr. Boozman's Check-up

In case you missed our interview with Jonesboro’s KASU radio, you can listen to the interview here. We covered a wide range of issues including foreign affairs and things happening closer to home like the immigration crisis of unaccompanied children and my recent visit to the border as well as new VA health reforms that Congress passed last week. 

Last Thursday, before the Senate broke for August recess, Majority Leader Harry Reid tried to force through the President’s request for a blank check to deal with the border crisis.

I voted no.  The bill failed.

Immediately following votes that night, I left with six of my Senate colleagues for a visit to the Rio Grande Valley, the epicenter for the surge in families and unaccompanied children illegally crossing the U.S. border.

What I learned on this trip reaffirmed that “no” vote was the correct one to cast.

Our itinerary took us to McAllen Border Patrol Station, Hidalgo International Bridge and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) facility at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio where many of the children who have illegally crossed the southwest border on their own have been temporarily housed.

What we heard from those on the ground was that the massive wave of unaccompanied children illegally crossing the border has slowed to a degree, although there is reason to believe there may be another uptick when summer ends.  However, the heat is not the only deterrent. People in the three Central American countries that have been sending their children to the U.S. alone are starting to get the message that if their children enter the U.S. illegally, they won’t get to stay. As I have said all along, certainty of return is the only way to stop the wave.

The good news is that Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) are no longer overwhelmed to the point where they are housing children on the floor of the processing center. Agents are no longer microwaving meals for children. Even the temporary HHS shelter we visited at Lackland AFB, where some of the children were sent after initial processing, is set to close very soon.

Clearly CBP and HHS have the resources they need. A blank check is not necessary. Nor is it an honest solution to the problem.

 Furthermore, amnesty is not an option. The President needs to stop with the threats to go it alone and grant amnesty to illegal immigrants. We must not reward people for breaking the law. As we are learning with the current crisis, the risk of being rewarded for breaking the law is what drives many to enter the U.S. illegally in the first place. We are a nation based on laws and those laws must be respected and that message must be reinforced internationally so that those who wish to emigrate to the U.S. understand they must do so through the proper legal channels.

Seven of the ten fastest growing economies in the world are in Africa. The continent is developing a middle class that is hungry for U.S. products. We must take advantage of this market. 

The foundation of opportunities for Arkansas and American businesses begins with building relationships. That is why on Monday, I participated in the “Congressional Forum on Investing in the Next Generation in Africa.” This panel discussion was held in front of the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, the flagship exchange initiative of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). Included in this audience were 25 Africans who spent the last month and a half in Arkansas. 

I enjoyed speaking to some of these young men and women who enjoyed their time in our state. They appreciate the hospitality of our citizens. This needs to serve as a reminder of the opportunities that cultural exchanges represent and the need to engage on trade potential. 

This is why I joined my colleagues Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Christopher Coons (D-DE) to introduce a bill that increases America’s competiveness throughout Africa by forcing better coordination between U.S. government agencies and departments, establishing comprehensive strategic goals and marshaling private investments to improve U.S.-Africa business activities. This bill challenges us to increase exports to Africa by 200 percent and gives us the incentive and a template for how to reach that goal. 

A key provision of our legislation—the establishment of a White House-designated senior coordinator to review current export strategies with the ultimate goal of significantly increasing our imports to Africa—was included in the law that authorized defense spending for this year.  

As I told the Arkansas Democrat Gazette the way you change the world is through personal relationships. This is a great chance to highlight the people and products of our state. 

Read more in this Arkansas Democrat Gazette story. [Subscription required]

Week in Review: July 21-25

Disaster declaration for Arkansas counties announced, Veterans Affairs Secretary nominee clears VA committee, Marshals Museum coin design unveiled and more in this week in review. 

  • Disaster Declaration: Severe weather in the state in June devastated thousands of acres of crops and pastures. A disaster designation for 23 Arkansas counties will allow farmers and ranchers to receive assistance to recover from losses caused by Mother Nature. 
  • Marshals Museum Coin Design: Designs for commemorative coins honoring the 225th anniversary of the U.S. Marshals Service were unveiled. These great designs highlight the dedication and commitment of the men and women who serve in the U.S. Marshals Service as well as Fort Smith’s role in the history of this law enforcement agency
  • Duck Stamp Update: As good stewards of the environment, duck hunters are committed to preserving the habitat so future generations can participate in this exciting activity. I helped introduce the Federal Duck Stamp Act of 2014 to preserve wetlands and support future generations of Arkansas duck hunters. 
  • Airport Improvements: Four Arkansas airports will receive more than $500,000 in grants from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for airport facility upgrades and expansions. Improving our infrastructure is important to business growth and development. 
  • Fire Department Grants: The Williams Junction Volunteer Fire Department and the Jacksonport Fire Department received funding from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program to improve their tools and training they need to respond to emergencies and keep the community safe. 
  • KASU Interview: In case you missed the interview with Jonesboro’s KASU you can listen here. 
  • Coming Next Week: Facebook Q&A on Monday, July 28 at 12 p.m. CT. Join our Facbook page to participate. 

In case you missed our interview with Jonesboro’s KASU radio, you can listen to the interview here. We talked about many of the issues under consideration in Washington including international affairs, the nominee for VA Secretary, immigration crisis and our upcoming agriculture tour that ends in Jonesboro in August.

Week in Review: July 14-18 

Religious liberties under attack, improving VA healthcare, securing Arkansas’s role in our national defense and more this week from Washington. 

  • Reforming VA Healthcare: As a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I heard testimony from Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson about the state of VA healthcare. We need to work to change the culture at VA and work to better protect whistleblowers who are doing their part to bring integrity back into the system and I’m pleased to see the Acting Secretary working to address these challenges, but there’s more to do
  • Boozman Bulletin: The latest issue of the Boozman Bulletin was sent to Arkansans this week. If you want to get our e-newsletter sent to you sign up here

While the President requested emergency funding to help control the illegal immigrant crisis at the Southwest border, I have concerns with approving money without reforms to our immigration policy. As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I asked administration officials about the plans for this request. Watch the administration's response in the video below.

The Senate unanimously passed my bill to enhance the oversight board that supervises the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA), a vital institution that trains the men and women, including Arkansans, who ensure our country can extend its reach across the oceans.

In today’s world, we need trained merchant mariners who it can call upon during times of emergency, natural disaster, or foreign conflict. The Board of Visitors should help the Academy meet this need, and it should ensure that the Academy provides a first-rate experience to the midshipmen who have volunteered to serve our country in uniform.

Each federal service academy has a Board of Visitors. However, the Boards at the U.S. Air Force Academy, the U.S. Naval Academy, and West Point, are directly empowered by law to carry out thorough oversight activities. While current law creates a Board for the USMMA, it does adequately structure the Board to carry out its oversight duties. My bill will change that and give the Board some real authorities to ensure that the Academy provides a first-rate experience to the midshipmen who have volunteered to serve our country in uniform.

I encourage the House to quickly consider and pass my bill.

It seems Congress isn’t alone in the struggle to get a straight answer out of the Obama Administration on the true extent of the crisis at our southwest border.

The Administration also continues to dodge press questions on the number of Unaccompanied Children (UACs) from Central America who crossed the Mexican border, were detained and then released into the U.S.

According to the Associated Press (AP), on seven separate occasions in the past two weeks, senior U.S. officials declined to say how many immigrant families the Obama Administration has released in recent months. The Administration knows the exact number, but it refuses to share it with Congress or the American people.

In avoiding Congressional and public scrutiny, the President has found a strong ally in Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid who blocks Republican oversight amendments, dismisses calls to investigate Administration stonewalling and, at times, even chastises the American people for caring about accountability in Washington.  

This is yet another serious matter where instead of exercising oversight, Majority Leader Reid covers for the President’s team as it stalls, delays and pleads ignorance on this, and virtually every other matter upon which the Administration is challenged.

The AP reports that the UACs crisis has significant ramifications on our justice system, border patrol resources and our national security:

“The mystery figure is significant because the number of families caught crossing from Central America represents a large share of new immigration cases that will further strain the overwhelmed U.S. immigration courts system. It also affects federal enforcement strategy, such as where to deploy the border patrol, and political calculations about whether Congress or the White House will relax American immigration laws or regulations before upcoming congressional elections in November.” 

The reality is we do have an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, but it is a crisis that has been shaped and exasperated by the President’s failure to enforce the law. The Administration’s misguided policies create the idea that if children make it to the U.S. illegally, they won’t be turned away.  This is a far cry from the laws on the book—the very laws that many of my colleagues and I have demanded time and time again that the President respect. 

The Administration denies any wrongdoing and claims to be working to change this “misconception,” but the heads of the relevant agencies don’t have the necessary answers to Congressional inquiries and the Senate Majority refuses to ensure this is indeed happening. Not once has Majority Leader Reid questioned the Administration’s account, much less asked the Department of Homeland Security or the White House to provide accurate, detailed information

While the Senate Majority plays defense for the President, the House held a hearing yesterday on this crisis, an additional hearing today, and more likely on the way. I support as many hearings as necessary to get straight answers from the Administration. If Majority Leader Reid would follow the House’s lead, we might actually get them. Better yet, he could follow House Speaker John Boehner’s lead and create a working group to develop solutions to the crisis. The fact is the records show that the Administration knew the surge at the border was coming and did nothing to stop it. This is why a Senate hearing on the crisis is unlikely as Majority Leader Reid will continue to walk lock step with the President.

Majority Leader Reid’s actions are not an accident. His strategy is designed to protect the President and allow his actions to continue unfettered. This needs to change. The American people are demanding accountability. They want the government to adhere to the laws on the books and quickly and legally repatriate anyone here illegally. Majority Leader Reid needs to stop blocking Republican efforts to answer their calls.

It was great to join Jonesboro’s KASU radio to talk about the issues impacting Arkansas. We discussed a number of topics in the news right now like the bill the senate approved last week to reform VA healthcare, foreign affairs and EPA rules that unfairly target Arkansas. You can listen to the interview here.