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tv   US Senate  CSPAN  December 10, 2015 4:00pm-5:01pm EST

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>> 476. >> that's pretty good off the top of your head. >> where we have the biometric hits. upon the arrival they arrived and they are showing a document. >> they are all for immigration admissibility issues in relation to entering under the visa waiver program. >> so the question then is we caught it at entry for all of those or where are we picking it up? spinnaker was upon entry in the united states. stomach that is the recognition that we have looking at the passport and what we see and taking it further as well. >> it's based upon us interviewing the passport, reading the passport database performing the system and queries, taking the fingerprint and comparing them against the information on the fingerprint which is our biometric watch
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list which includes criminal information and other types of databases. >> it sort of is. i haven't heard about 476 number but i think that speaks to your point about piloting. we are collecting the biometrics now. if the end result of all of the those things is 476 hits done for the national security concerns it seems to me that is an awfully small benefit to deploy a worldwide biometric collection system. ..
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a higher priority of focusing on individuals that have traveled to known terrorist safe havens. the term has been thrown around multiple times it into being iraq and syria. the challenge, very few folks are going to syria checking documents in the airport. they're coming in from lebanon, from turkey. do you have a sense of confidence that when some of those around we're going to try to kick out individuals that have traveled to iraq and syria that we are catching all individuals that are traveling to iraq and syria, or we are not
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talking someone who went to visit a dying grandmother that is there that is a family member? talk us through the process of how someone would evaluate this person has traveled to known terrorist safe haven area we were not getting a passport stamp from syria. syria. >> so we would look at whether or not the intelligence community or the law enforcement committee has provided any information to us through their classified holdings that we could balance our information that we collect on the traveler against that to draw any associations more than just a name check. if you're using a cell phone or e-mail address we can connect to something, someone else picked up that we could relate to that, would probably be our most capable way of doing that right now. if they both travel that was continues through there or if they had, you know, if they were leading from the u.s. and going to a certain part of the world for six months, eight months
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with a return back and certain characteristics, that might also cause us to look closer at that one. >> but someone whose coming was a french national, a french national traveling to lebanon and is in lebanon 490 days and returned back to france is not going to show up and we don't know if that individual cross the border from lebanon to go fight in syria and then cross back and is now returning? >> no. that would not speak that wouldn't show at all. >> there's absolutely, those who seek to enter syria knowing that governments are watching out for that are going to break their travel, going to disguise the travel effectively. so this is why have to rely upon the intelligence community which is working cooperative with partners across europe to identify those persons that may
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be suspect. >> so that's one area because we hear that kicked around all the time. you talk about this reciprocal agreements of the times of our how we are going to other countries. he made mention rigorous inspections. do we have other nations coming and inspecting our facilities and are checking processes that are also coming during rigorous checks on us and our systems? >> not even nearly. not close to what we do. i mean it is not -- >> do other nations to come to our systems speak with no, no. it's not a requirement. what we do do is we offer to share best practices and show how we do do things that have our international comments and have this conversation. these ongoing dialogues but know they have not come in to inspect our facilities and our cbd inspection booths or anything.
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>> we are the big dog on the block. >> thank you. so in the san bernardino situation, that was a fiancée visa issue. are you able to speak to that issue in terms of what type of vetting we do in that instance? because i think people want to understand what happened there and how that differs from what we're talking about today on the visa waiver system. can anyone speak to? >> sure. my colleagues in the consular affairs services can speak to that. >> thank you, senator.
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i am mr. ramotowski and i'm the deputy assistant secretary of state or visa services at the department of state. with respect to the san bernardino case yes, indeed, that was a fiancée visa, which is a type of visa issued to the fiancée of a u.s. citizen for the purpose of coming to the united states to get married within 90 days. and i can confirm as the department has oversight all applicable security checks were done for that individual, tashfeen malik. that includes an entity. it includes facial recognition screen. it includes interagency characters and screen. to include a review by the visa security units of immigration and customs enforcement, which has detachment in islamabad in our embassy there. it included full biometric fingerprint checks. and in all cases the result of
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those checks were clear. there were no indications of any ill intent by that individual at the time the vis visa was issue. >> there've been public reports there was some information that was wrong on the application. i believe on address. can you share what type of information or investigations are done at applications that are submitted to verify what the applicant is saying is true? >> that varies by application and by location. if we have doubts about a particular part of the application, our embassies and consulates have anti-fraud unit that can investigate further to verify the data on an application form. with respect to this particular case i will have to defer, there's an investigation in progress led by the fbi. we have shared all of our details and records with them, and we are working closely with
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him on any of the data that was provided. >> as i understand it in terms of certification it depends on the circumstances so it's not something done consistently on each application, for example, the information i would fill out on a form where i have lived, connections like that? >> we verify information that the officer has reason to believe that there might be something incorrect or inaccurate about -- >> snort is not routinely done, thank you. i wanted to follow up on, in the paris attacks, one of the attackers reportedly came through greece in a visa, as a refugee obviously and that has raised a discussion with you that in this committee about the vetting of our refugee program upon which many of us have raised concerns.
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but greece is that visa waiver country, and so presumably had that individual, pass through the refugee process and, how do we understand, are we confident, in for example, the information we get from greece? because, how confident are we come and go to use greece as an example in the information we get from greece. because as i hear the testimony here today and some of the prior hearings we've had on the visa waiver program, want waiver program, one of the things we've collectively been concerned about is that there seems to be a difference of what we're getting from certain countries and the breadth of the intelligence sharing and the depth upon the knowledge that we get. i'd like to know if you disagree with that last characterization, that there's a difference in this inconsistency, and if you can answer the greece question as well. >> so just to kind of levels at
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the start of your question, is that refugees cannot draw ball under the visa waiver program. so its citizens out of the deputy countries that can utilize the vwp travel for business or tourist reasons to fly to the united states. >> i understand that i'm using as an example of how people are using, going through countries. >> sure. i'm confident that all of the deputy countries have arrangements, that countries are sharing that information that we the united states are sharing our lives with other countries and in particular the greece i'm actually traveling there next week or i leave saturday, as part of our review process. i would get a great insight firsthand from greece. >> is my concern. we signed all the forms among, e
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country. we rely on this situation that the department answered lankford have talked about where you've admitted to us, and i think it's consistent with what our fbi director has said, essentially with the porous borders we saw previously in the "charlie hebdo" attacks that some of the attackers actually had traveled to yemen for trainin trained wih al-qaeda and then committed the attacks, and then we see the situation where europe is frankly overwhelmed in terms of the number of foreign fighters that have traveled to join up with isis and then returned to their shores. and so we've seen the fbi director say, listen, if you haven't made a ripple in the water in syria we may not know. we could basically for our databases until the cows come home but if information advocates in the database, then would not going to know and someone, therefore, it's not going to get that extra level of scrutiny that they should receive. and so i want to get at this
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issue of where are the countries that we're having the most album with come up with a lack of robust intelligence to make sure that it's not so much building out a form, it's not like we will provide you what you got. who is giving us the most, who is not giving us the most, where can we do better? i find it hard to believe that they are providing us every single country in this program all that they can and should do. i mean, are you telling me that every country in this program is doing all that they can and should do to provide us intelligence? >> can i have one thing to the question as well? for those migrants but to come and whether greece for wherever, how long do they have to remain in the country before they get a passport from that country? do we know what the system is for individuals that go into greece as a migrant, do they stay the two years and get a passport? >> appreciate that. >> you look like you want to --
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>> no, i just want to add to that specific point, that generally speaking various by country according to the own systems of laws and processes. that is something reviewed very closely by the visa waiver inspections we've been talking about. by my recollection, i actually led one or two inspections of the greece several years ago. greece has a fairly robust process for that. so it's difficult in greece to come as refugee and get a greek passport your imported our language requirements and things like that they enforce so that maybe, but it varies country by country according to the own laws. but as a general rule the visa waiver program and inspections required that the progress or the processes, you don't show up one day and then a week later have that country's passport. but it does a very. >> that's right, and just to make sure i answer your question as well. i'm very happy to talk about
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specific countries and where they are. i don't think it's appropriate in an open setting to discuss various specific countries or the levels of sharing -- >> so can you just answer me yes or no? are we receiving although we believe we can receive and full cooperation of robust intelligence sharing with every single country to their fullest extent in this visa waiver program? is the answer yes or no to that? >> i believe if they know someone is about individual -- >> are they sharing all their intelligence and they can share? >> they will share that with us. >> they will or are they? this is what we can to get back. we don't have to get into specific countries but we are trying to figure out is there more we need to push on on a cap of intelligence that will make this program stronger? >> so here's where the enhancements of secretary johnson announced in august is we have information sharing arrangements. that's not the issue.
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the individuals foreign fighters that they are aware of, they are sharing. what we would like is, and would help and we appreciate with these requirements are codified in statute, is using that information for their border decisions. and pushing it out and then letting the united states no when they have an account of those individuals. that's kind of the peace where we are focusing on and pushing back and strengthen the vwp program. >> i think, my understanding is there's a minimum threshold to qualify for the visa waiver program. because of the audit, if you are not meeting the minimum threshold we can suspend the visa waiver program. we don't do. we done that with argentina, uruguay and belgian. the question, from my standpoint, are there any countries right now that are under review bu but we don't hae to name the countries, that we
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are not satisfied with that we may be evaluating for suspending the visa waiver program because they're not meeting the threshold? stipulating there is a variety of information, different countries, different capabilities provide information to i will always go back to the point what's the alternative? but i mean, where are we at in terms of special 30 countries? are they on meeting the minimum threshold or of? are some on the bubble or where are we at? >> thirty-eight countries, 19 produced a you get at the end of all the reviews we are providing reports to congress. each review is accompanied by an intelligence assessment. i'm not sure if we remembered to mention the important part of your. and the countries that may change their security posture in some respect, that gives us concern at all, we have a lot of different options. we can redo them more regularly. we can put them in provisional
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status. we can suspend them and certainly the last resort would be too man to many within. that's not want to jump to immediately because it is a global security program. and if everybody fail sophisticated measures that doesn't help our global committee an that would not help the united states either. so the are a few countries in the provisional status today. they get significant additional oversight monitoring, questions, visits. i'm happy to do that in a different setting. happy to do that in a different setting. >> so that is not classified in terms of -- >> that there's any type of security issue, i hesitate to announce it sound like. >> no. spring could i just jump in here? to determine support for this is a process that is ongoing.
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it's not like we take a photograph and take a photograph at in a cup usually we come back and take another like a photograph of the procedures. this is ongoing and the authors don't just last a day, a week or a month. they last an extended period of time. i think we need to be mindful, we don't, we haven't placed a process that says there will be changes in government, someone less cooperative, more committed to the original agreement. we want to make sure that we know there's been a change. if they do change is to their fannish to be in this program. they want to be in this program and we wanted to be in this program but we want them to be fully compliant with the conditions. >> absolutely, as do i. that's one of the benefits of the visa waiver program is the have to meet standards. countries that are just issuing visas to have to me. not only are we doing batting that is identical at different places, as the visa. they're also the additional
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standards and we get to go in and redo them to make sure they are maintaining the standards. we were talking to the betting on in budget travel ever connecting -- like other biometrics every time to travel. it could be a two-year has to but every time they called their meeting up with the cbp officer, taking a prince, having been checked, having an interview. that is a continuous and ongoing process. >> to provide some clarity let me just ask this question is if anybody disagrees with the. my sense is a can talk about databases and computing to improve them, nothing is ever perfect, but are we less safe or more secure because the visa waiver program after 9/11, have we continue to improve those databases? are we better off because of it or are we worse off? my sense is we are better off. not saying it is perfect am not saying there are things, you want to get to the point what are the things that have to be
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improved, but anybody this beaut -- dispute the facts because i think you are right there's always room to do better and the program is not static as senator carper mentioned the it's always evolving. reviews are ongoing. i think this is something also that senator carper said, country voted into program that includes both countries in the program i want to keep the status but we shouldn't lose sight of countries outside of the program who want to get in. the program serves -- but it serves as an incentive to raise their security standards. that our country on the outside looking in hussein some of these information sharing agreements because they want to get in even though that may not happen for another five years. >> i can say is the chairman of the european subcommittee on foreign relations, trust me, that i countries who want to get in. they are working hard spent and that benefits everybody. >> it's a powerful incentive. >> i would agree entirely the
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program because it is underpinned by these requirements that we are continually assessing and pushing for improved upon absolutely makes safer in that regard because to remain a member, and actually there is the issue of the incentives and disincentives remaining a member or losing membership. that's important and there is self-interest. fundamentally these 38 countries are the countries we should be partnering with to strengthen global security. and whereas 9/11 was an experience that hit us and required hit us and the artist a breakdown stovepipes and improve our border security, these attacks in europe are galvanizing those governments, and they're pushing and understand the threat as we are, the forefront of the is a global phenomenon. it's not a small number of people. there is a disincentive to collectively improve the program. just getting to one of the questions that senator ayotte asked, we also our lady of strengthening this watchlist program. one of the things we've been pushing on it for governments to
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be better about sharing information with interpol, for instance. that's a new innovation to stress and pushe push that we ae seeing real improvement there. that something has to continue to build out. >> what kind of information speak with lost and stolen passport databases is the first one. but there's also sharing that can occur for other interpol databases but we're working with fbi. fbi has agents at interpol to help set up a foreign fighter database, and we're pushing countries to share the own watchlist data table but that interpol database. these are opportunities for us to strengthen the whole network of information sharing. >> these countries provide 75% of the records better in the lost and stolen database. >> the house just passed a visa waiver bill to strengthen it. i introduced a companion bill with some enhancements.
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can i go to the provisions and see if there's anybody who wants to comment on some of these things? we will deny visa waiver protections that individuals with connections to terrorist hotspots but if you have dual citizenship with iraq interested you can utilize the vwp or if you traveled to countries with significant terrorist activities, i think in the current threat environment that makes sense. does anybody disagree? but also understand it's not a perfect system as we talked about, but going back and forth over the turkish border. we may not have the information but isn't this a common sense enhancement? >> yes. and it can be difficult as we discussed. it gives us a binding declaration of what the person says. if they do come your and we can determine otherwise that they have been to these zones and they said no, we have the ability to charge them with fraud and misrepresentation. that is a lifetime bar from ever getting a visa. >> can i make a comment or ask a
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question about this point just to think about when we are advancing legislation. i had the honor of traveling with colleagues in my first year in the senate to the turkish border with syria. this obviously is a different situation than iso- was, not as prominent as it is now. one of our briefings was with a range of individuals, many of them u.s. citizens but many of them european who are part of ngos going in to provide humanitarian relief, or briefing us on sort of the status of the civil war at that point in time. we got to talk to some journalists who were venturing into trying to do war correspondents basically. how would we keep our country safe but also encourage that type of come if we want to encourage that type of humanitarian activity?
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let me also note one other important sector of people. folks who are trying to participate in the political discussions to get a new government in syria. and so trying to reach out to moderate syrians to form the new government. how do we deal with -- >> first of all nobody is denying access to people come into the country. it's not going to visa waiver, in other words, not waving the interview. >> right, but just generally spin and denial of the visa waiver program allows us to push people over to the embassy for the consular interview and a collection of the biometric. if they can overcome that reason and are eligible for a visa, state department and issuing. so i think we would look for some flexibility in those cases to look at the person's purpose or intent of travel to that region and if there's flexibly
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in the legislation, if not to go over to the embassy. >> we've had discussions with our european partners and they did mention the same categories, humanitarian workers, journalists in particular. there's one other category that has been known and that is the employees of international organizations, those women to syria to ensure that student government get away with chemical weapons. >> the bill does have that flexibility built into it. it demands stronger intelligence sharing which is occurring but it requires people to get kicked out. that's a powerful incentive to improve the process. nobody, we agree with that? enhance the screening of all travelers for the visa waiver protection countries. there's just a number of enhancement. i do want to hop down to preclearance because we haven't talked about that. it's one of the things we've added. hopefully we get that passed relatively quickly.
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can anyone speak to the vantage of pushing out our borders entities preclearance countries? >> precludes gives us of the passively talking to address most of these concerns because we are able than to negotiate the authorities to operate on foreign soil and do a complete cbp inspection as if the person had flown here. so we can do is we can do the admissibility determination, the interview, the checking of documents, the fingerprinting, the searching of them and their baggage before they step on board the aircraft, u.s. government can put their hands on people and it belongs before the to get on board that transportation and fly her to the states. so that's why it gives us the best come and the information sharing and the relationships we build with a host authorities. because we are on the ground working side-by-side with the is also a tangential benefit of that. >> i was asking, i do know your -- any cause for concern for any
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of those? >> i think i would say from my perspective, the arctic this is an evolving program. it should be and there are a number of sensible ways to improve security, some of which dhs has already done and are some things that require statutory authority. i think that makes -- >> are we missing anything as you review these things? other things we should be looking toward? >> i will speak to one point, which has been noted, 38 countries, there's quite a wide variety of capability and different perspective on things like data private and the rest so we went to work with each of these countries, some large, some small, some better performing better, some that are not performing as well. the implementation we wanted to work close with those governments to ensure we can make, and as i said there's a common perspective.
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this isn't a typical conversation in terms of anyone rejecting the idea strengthen border security. everyone is part of the project. there may be some positives but the question of being able to implement each of the provisions within a fixed period of time may be a challenge but we'll just have to work through them. >> without identifying the country, i did just it was unabashedly for these countries. one of the complaints was some of the requirements, specifically their threshold in terms of how many visas are denied. desk audit outside their control to a certain extent. when you are going to embassy, applying for visa and now we don't like the way you look, i don't know. can you just sort of address that concern? >> yes, senator. >> watch the rest of this hearing in its entirety at c-span.org. we live in now to take you back live to this as members are returning following a recess.
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a senator: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from north carolina. a senator: i ask unanimous consent that morning business be extended until 6:00 p.m. tonight with senators permitted to speak for up to 10 minutes each. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. mr. tillis: thank you, mr. president. mr. president? i -- the president of the united states has fully refused to
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acknowledge the depth and the prevalence of savagery that is islamic terrorism, and he's refused to offer and implement a strategy to permanently defeat it. we're all too familiar with the consequences of islamic terrorism. fort hood, boston, oklahoma, chattanooga, ankara, mali, beirut, paris, and more recently san bernadino. while the president was in paris recently, he lectured the american people, not on the moral necessity to destroy isis but instead on our supposed lack of compassion and understanding regarding his latest plan to resettle 10,000 middle eastern refugees in america. i represent the great state of north carolina. it's a state that's provided refuge to those who have fought and died on america's side --
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the south vietnamese, lay oshaians -- laotians and cambodians. but the president's remarks were disingenuous. because what he didn't tell you and what he didn't tell the american people at large is that his own f.b.i. director has warned of america's inability to properly vet the refugees, an inability that only requires one in 10,000 chance to produce a catastrophic, tragic result. instead of acknowledging these well-founded concerns, the president hectored the critics of his plan -- republicans, democrats and everyone else in between. even after french authorities told him several members of the terrorist cell got into france masquerading as syrian refugees. syrian refugees with fake passports were caught trying to reach america through honduras and syrians have been arrested trying to cross into texas.
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let me tell you why this administration's rebuke is indicative of a foreign policy that is completely detached from reality. on october 29, 23 refugees died in a rocket attack at camp liberty in iraq. camp liberty is a former u.s. military base outside of baghdad that is home to more than 2,000 iranian refugees who are members of the main opposition group to the ayatollah in tehran. the refugees of camp liberty have been fully vetted by american intelligence services. mr. president, 80 iranian-built rockets struck the camp that is home to the mujahideen, an organization that has tried to fight the muscle las in tehran -- the mullahs in tehran. the ayatollah want the leaders and the families of these in camp liberty eliminated and their friends in baghdad are
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doing their bidding. the men, women and children at camp liberty have suffered numerous attacks, resulting in hundreds of casualties. nor is camp liberty, which was supposed to be a taxpayer home before the refugees were settled outside of iraq having met the most basic humanitarian needs. they lack clean water, they lack decent food, medical supplies and decent living facilities in every single day they go to bed at night worried if it's their last day on earth. the obama administration pledged to protect these refugees who put their lives and their children's lives on the line for freedom, yet it's done absolutely nothing to keep america's word. why unvetted syrian refugees and not a handful of refugees from iran that are fully vetted? to curry favor with the same regime that killed american soldiers during operation iraqi freedom, and operation new dawn?
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i hope not. president obama has willfully ignored 40 years of hostility from tehran. if the president does not recognize that we are at war, the ayatollah certainly do. they are the chief sponsor of global terror. they have imprisoned american journalists. they have tested long-range missiles. they just completed another test in violation of international treaties over the past couple of weeks. they have never stepped back from their desire to obliterate israel and to destroy the united states. this is the obama doctrine. the president sees america, american foreign policy as the problem. he views israel as an obstacle to peace and iran is treated as another oppressed constituency with legitimate grievances against the west. so much so that when millions of iranians took to the streets against the mullahs, president
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obama did nothing and he said nothing. the old american alliances are collapsing in confusion and fear and the only answer from the administration seems to be to clear iran's path to a nuclear weapon. section 227 of this year's national defense reauthorization act memorializes congress' desire to see that our friends at camp liberty are protected and relocated outside of iraq in accordance with international conventions. mr. president, the children of camp liberty are dying and the bad guys are watching. they are watching to see if the president of the united states tosses aside another american friend, clearing the way for a new persian empire, a tyrannical empire armed with nuclear weapons. mr. president, i'll end with the thoughts and the -- the thoughts
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of tom turansky, a survivor of the soviet gulag. he says today an american president has once again sought to achieve stability by removing sanctions of a brutal dictatorship without demanding anything in return. we are at a historic crossroads. the united states can either appease a criminal regime, one that supports global terrorism, relentlessly threatens to eliminate israel and executes more political prisoners than any other or stand firm in demanding change in its behavior. mr. president, i don't think a lot of people know about camp liberty, but i want you all to know that there are 2,000 people over there who are fighting for freedom in iran. the american people committed to protecting them and to getting them to a place where they can be safe. these are refugees who are fully vetted. they have gone through all the
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processes that we're wondering whether or not the syrian refugees can. let's at least show good faith by fulfilling our promise to the people in camp liberty and making sure that the american people know and that the people in camp liberty know that we care about them and we wish them the very best that they can achieve, and that's not in a camp somewhere in iraq. so thank you, mr. president, and i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk shall call the roll. quorum call:
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quorum call:
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mrs. ernst: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from iowa. mrs. ernst: mr. president, i ask that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. ernst: thank you.
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mr. president, i rise today to honor my friend and iowa's own governor terry branstad. this weekend marks a milestone, the nation's longest-serving governor working for our great state of iowa. our governor has devoted his life to public service and has worked tirelessly to ensure that iowans' voices are heard through his 99-county tour. i've also had the great honor of serving under the goanc governor during my time in the iowa national guard. governor branstad and i have had countless conversations about the military and our veterans. we both know that these men and women are well-trained and have selvesly sacrificed in defense of our freedoms and our way of life. that's why we must ensure that our veterans are properly
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prepared to transition back to civilian life. as a veteran himself, governor branstad recognizes just that. it was governor branstad who led significant efforts to help veterans find work across iowa following their launch of the home-based iowa public-private initiative in november of 2013. since then, home base iowa has succeeded in helping over 1,500 veteran in eyia find work, getting 900 businesses to join home base iowa initiative. there are also 24 home base iowa communities around the state, and we have 16 educational institutions that are working with the initiative and have been deemed certified higher academic military partners. of that great participation and
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success, thanks to the governor's leadership, through the years, our state has been incredibly fortunate to have a governor who truly cares about the people and our veterans. the fact that he continues to wear his uniform for various veterans' events in iowa further illustrates his support, his leadership, and his commitment to our men and women in uniform. goirch is someone who truly cares about serving others, and we are incredibly fortunate to have a leadership like him. in light of his major and well-deserved milestone, we honor governor branstad's steadfast commitment and leadership to the people of iowa. and with that, mr. president, i yield the floor and note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll.
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quorum call:
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quorum call:

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