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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Senators also need to check snopes.com!! No kidding!

H. R. 1105 (Omnibus Appropriations Bill)

Amendments 629-631 failed!! Yay!! Leahy's statements opposing the amendments were surprising and welcome. It's the times like these when I have hope that the tide can change and we can have a policy that reflects the current understanding of the conflict, parties involved, peace and justice.


Kyl was trying to ban Palestinians from coming to the US as legitimate refugees based on a news story, aka urban legend. Unbelievable. You can read my letter asking to reject the amendments below, as well as the transcript of some of the discussion of the bill.

See the snopes link and scroll below to Kyl's comments in pink for the short cut- if you don't want to read all of Kerry's stuff.


Kerry and Lehy spoke out against it and some House Republicans wanted to ban aid to UNRWA. Take note in Kerry’s (lengthy) comments I got from http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/F?r111:1:./temp/%7Er111C0Biuf:e85440: (also see http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/R?r111:FLD001:S02900-S02902 for the “menu” of sections of this session) I’m pretty sure Kyl is referencing an urban legend (aka “news story”) his constituents contacted him about!! Somebody should check snopes before making bold statements and actions.
See: http://www.snopes.com/politics/obama/palestinians.asp

Kerry's comments are interesting, but totally ignore Israel's role in the oppression (it's all Hamas's fault, Palestinians are mostly interested in escaping from Hamas's rather than Israel's oppression??) and Palestinian rights for that matter; they were in support of the right end, so I can't complain too much. Leahy showed a bit better grasp of the situation.


***
Here’s my
pre-written ADC letter below.


Message sent to the following recipients:
Tim Morrison
Representative Butterfield
Senator Burr
Senator Hagan
Message text follows:


As your constituent, I am particularly appalled by some amendments made to
H.R. 1105 in the Senate. S. AMDT 629 & 631, sponsored by Senator Jon Kyl,
attack a the Palestinian civilian population and do so at a time when this
population is most vulnerable. It is shocking that any American legislator
would seek to deny entry to refugees to our great Nation. Further, these
amendments would also place restrictions on aid being sent to Gaza for
reconstruction after a 22-day war which left much of the already
impoverished strip in ruins.

I urge you to vote against legislation that includes these amendments in
the Senate chamber and, should you have the opportunity to review this
bill in conference I urge you to strike these hateful amendments from the
text.

Of all the deceptive "riders" which can be placed on large bills,
attacking a poor and suffering population in a distant land is a new low.
America should not send this message to the world.
***

from : http://www.senate.gov/galleries/pdcl/index.htm

Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Sen. John Kerry :
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Massachusetts is recognized.

AMENDMENT NO. 630

Mr. KERRY. Madam President, I rise to talk about two amendments offered by the good Senator from Arizona, Mr. Kyl, amendment No. 630 and amendment No. 629. I say to my friend from Arizona that I regret to sort of be in the position of opposing a couple of his amendments because these are subjects I would have loved to have worked with him on closely and I appreciate the relationship we have and the conversations we have had recently about a number of very important issues in front of the Senate.

So I find myself a little bit in an uncomfortable position, but nevertheless a necessary one, because, first of all, on amendment No. 630--which refers to the issue of requiring a report on whether more United States assistance to Egypt is going to improve Egyptian efforts to counter illicit smuggling in Gaza--we all agree we have to increase the efforts with respect to smuggling.

In fact, we agree so much that over the course of the last administration, and now continuing into this one, we have entered into new agreements with the Egyptians, with new technical means that are going to be applied to this effort, with an increased effort that is going to be taking place right now.

But the problem with the amendment is--it is a well-intended amendment, but again everyone here understands what the effect of this amendment is going to be. It is simply to keep us, if it were to pass, from enacting this bill before the current continuing resolution expires. Because given what we have heard from the House, a vote for the amendment is effectively a vote against the Omnibus appropriations bill and a vote for a year-long continuing resolution at last year's funding levels. That is what is at stake here.

But going from there, given the fact there are so many priorities in this bill we want to pass, and we need to, let me talk for a moment about the substance, just on the substance itself. I personally do not think this is the best moment or best way to go about achieving what we want to achieve with the Egyptians, who have been particularly helpful at this moment with respect to the efforts to try to seek Hamas-Fatah reconciliation, and particularly helpful with respect to some of the issues on the border at Rafah and with respect to the tunnels.

Moreover, the bill that is in front of us states that ``not less than $1,300,000,000 shall be made available for grants only for Egypt, including for border security programs and activities in the Sinai.'' So there is additional money here. There is money available to be spent on this task.

It also reflects the fact we have recently upgraded our efforts with Egypt. I think if we come along now and pass this amendment, we wind up saying that the efforts we have made are insufficient, and it is a slap in the face to the Egyptians in the process. So this is a sensitive time. It is an important time. I hope Egypt's good interventions--and I recently was in Egypt. I met with President Mubarak. I met with General Suleiman and the people involved directly in this effort. I am absolutely confident about their focus on the border, as well as their focus on these reconciliation efforts. So in the context of those efforts, this amendment is, frankly, not helpful to the broader interests in the region at this moment.

AMENDMENT NO. 629

The second amendment, No. 629, would prohibit the use of any funds in the omnibus to resettle Palestinians from Gaza into the United States.

Now, let me first point out, in 2008 the United States did not resettle anyone from Gaza. So this is an amendment, this is a solution in search of a problem. The fact is, there is no problem currently. But let's assume--let's assume for the purposes of argument--in the future a Palestinian escaped from Gaza to get away from Hamas oppression and applied to be resettled in the United States. This amendment would prevent that resettlement.

Now, obviously, any Palestinian refugee ought to be subjected to a complete and thorough battery of security checks, screens, background checks, as we do already for any refugee from anywhere. And, of course, we want to be assured that an asylum seeker does not have ties with Hamas, with Islamic Jihaddists or any other terrorist organization.

But the point is, we already have exactly those kinds of security screens and background checks. We have them in the regular Department of Homeland Security resettlement procedures. So I see no reason to make an exception to the normal procedures that suddenly singles out a resident of Gaza. It also sends a message, not just of indifference, but, frankly, of hostility to tens of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza who are victims of Hamas.

Now, I just was in Gaza. I became--unbeknownst to me; I did not realize it at the time--the highest ranking American to go into Gaza in something like 8 or 9 years, and I saw thousands of kids roaming around the rubble of Gaza. I met with Fatah businessmen and others, with people who are struggling to make ends meet and pull their lives together. If one of them were to escape because of the oppression of Hamas and wanted to come to the United States, it would seem, given the daily deprivations and brutality of Hamas militants, the United States, commensurate with our highest values and the traditions of this country, would not want to refuse the possibility of asylum to those folks.

In fact, this amendment assumes that every resident of Gaza, regardless of age, background, political opinion or any other distinguishing characteristic, is pro-Hamas and ineligible for consideration for resettlement in the United States, even if they are lucky enough to escape from Gaza. It ignores the fact that a whole bunch of folks in Fatah were killed by Hamas and some of them knee-capped and otherwise assaulted in the course of the recent war because they weren't part of Hamas.

It is unnecessary. There are ample laws on the books which prohibit entry into the United States of any person who has been involved in terrorism or other crimes. During the Cold War, we did not bar Russians from coming to the United States, just as we don't bar Cubans or North Koreans from entering the United States, even though they live in oppressive regimes that we object to--or did live, in the case of the Soviet Union, in that situation. This amendment, therefore, is not only unnecessary but it would establish for the first time since the passage of the 1980 Refugee Act a law that discriminates against a particular nationality in a particular geographic region.

I urge my colleagues to vote against both these amendments, and I yield the floor.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Arizona.

Mr. KYL. Madam President, while my colleague from Massachusetts is still here, let me advise him of two things with respect to amendment No. 629. First of all, it was certainly not my intention that we deal individually with political asylees, but the amendment could have been read that way and I appreciate the point. Secondly, it was a response to a news story which gained a great deal of attention from my constituents related to the January 30 order by the President, ordering $20 million for urgent relief efforts to provide migration assistance to Palestinian refugees. That has gotten a lot of attention from folks. They wanted to know what we were doing.

We have talked to the State Department, and while I haven't withdrawn the amendment yet, we have received assurances from them orally that--and I believe and hope we will receive assurances in writing--that was not the intention of that order. Assuming that is the case, there would be no need for the amendment, and it would be my intention tomorrow to withdraw it. I hope they will have something to us in writing. If not, if they have a spokesman of high enough authority to provide the assurance orally, that will suffice as well, but we will want to get that.

I will speak to the other amendment, but I wished to respond to my colleague.

Mr. KERRY. Madam President, I appreciate the comments of the Senator. As I said, I know he works reasonably on these things and I look forward to working with him on it and I thank him.


I thought these comments were interesting and worthwhile:

Chairman of the Judiciary Committee Sen. Patrick Leahy:

"I have to think back -- I read about my family 150 years or so [ago] when they came to Vermont, on my father's side, the Irish. I'm sure if we had a law like this in place; it is questionable whether they could have come in. The Irish were fighting to keep their land. If they were fighting to keep their rights, fighting for the ability to vote, and they live[d] in what is now the republic of Ireland, they were considered terrorists."


And on the other side of the issue, making a bad resolution even worse:

House Republicans lead by Rep. Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), along with Reps. Boehner (R-OH), Cantor (R-VA), Pence (R-IN), McCotter (R-MI), are calling on Senate colleagues to amend the HR 1105 to bar funding for UNRWA and the Palestinian Authority.
http://www.peacenow.org/printview.asp?sid=6&cid=6011&rid=&prevaction=&scrollaction=&purl=roundup.asp


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