Below are the video and transcript to the panel discussion “Immigration Wars,” which took place at the David Horowitz Freedom Center’s 20th Anniversary Restoration Weekend. The event was held Nov. 13th-16th at the Breakers Resort in Palm Beach, Florida.
Sen. Jeff Sessions: For 40 years really, the American people have been right and just in pleading with their Congress to create a lawful system of immigration that’s fairly enforced and that serves the national interest. It’s the politicians and the establishment that one time after another, that it always succeeded somehow in keeping the will of the people from being effectuated. It’s just amazing. I said in 2007 we’d offer amendments and they would offer things that would pass and we’d offer things, it wouldn’t pass, and I finally realized this was the test. If it worked they wouldn’t pass it. If it wouldn’t work, they’d pass it. You’ve seen that, Louie, I know, and the bills that come through. If they’re moving and got a lot of support you’d read it carefully and there’s one loop hole after another and it doesn’t work. So first the American people are right, decent and just in making that demand of their government.
Are we a sovereign nation or not? A sovereign nation controls its borders. If you have laws it should set forth criteria for entry that are objective and ascertainable and they ought to be followed. People who apply that don’t qualify should not get in, and those who qualify should get in. This is the right way America’s always thought about its business, and that’s the way we ought to do now, and that’s the biggest problem we’ve got.
The executive amnesty is one of the most breathtaking things I’ve seen since I’ve been in Washington. I do believe it is a constitutional crisis. It’s an overreach. It’s an attempt by the President to do what a lot of liberal federal judges used to do. This is the way they explain it. Well, Congress won’t act, so I have to act. When if Congress votes and rejects a bill, it is active. It has made a decision. This idea that just because you won’t pass the bill I want I’m now able to do it through my executive powers, is so far from the heritage of America, the constitutional order that we’re so proud of and served us so well is just beyond my comprehension. So I hope people will push back on that.
So in the first executive amnesty that we probably did not hammer enough with the American people, the people that were here illegally now up to 30/31 years of age, they are given an I.D. card with a Social Security number and it says work authorization across the top of it. Now the law of the United States is you enter the country unlawfully businesses cannot hire you, they commit an offense, and you’re not able to work. Simple enough, first thing you do is you come to a country illegally you don’t let people start extracting money from the country and so that deal was a presidential overreach, really. Because the President doesn’t have the power to authorize somebody to work in contravention of established law passed by the Congress of the United States. He’s the chief executive officer. He’s supposed to see the laws are enforced, not violate them by the millions, and now he’s talking about 5 to 6 million more, all of which would put us in a position I think of just collapsing any moral integrity that we have in the legal system.
So if the President, the chief executive, the prosecutor appoints immigration officers and ICE officers, if he just basically says, not only are we not going to deport anybody anymore, we are just gonna give you the right to work in the country, then I think we’ve reached a point in immigration law that’s really dangerous. I just think it’s, the American people that need to know the enormity of it. And what about the people who didn’t get it? So there’s 11 million here, and now we do 5. Is anybody going to deport the other 5 million? Oh, you didn’t get in somehow, you didn’t make the cut? There’s no plan to deport anybody else. They’re not going to deport anybody else.
Then finally I would mention this point, and the polling data is very strong on it. Asked a simple question. Should, at a time of high unemployment, millions of people unemployed, should we attempt to get our people working rather than bringing in people from abroad to take the jobs? And this is an 80 percent polling number. I mean we’ve got to get our people working. Wages are down since 2000, wages are down about $3,000.00, median household income, $2,300.00 for a family since 2009. This is not a healthy trend out there. Dr. Borjas at Harvard has studied this meticulously and has demonstrated how much of that was caused by this very large, unprecedented historically, flow of immigrants into our country. We are at about the highest level we have ever been and it’s continuing upward. So I wanted to say that.
Republicans stopped it. Not all Republicans, but Republicans did stop it. You guys in the House, Louie and John, and the others were just heroic because they were trying to pass this thing and they just stood up and read the bill, fought back and were able to stop it right before we recessed for the election and I pleaded with them to also pass language that would block funding to execute the executive amnesty. So you have to have money to buy I.D. cards, to process all these people. Congress has the power of the purse. We barred the President from spending any money to close Guantanamo Bay and he can’t close Guantanamo Bay because it cost money to close it. And we do that all the time, every defense bill has things in it like that and other bills to do too, so we should simply say to the President — so the House passed it right before they left and I think it was a significant factor in the Senate elections that our candidates were demanding of Democrats, why are you blocking simple legislation that would block this President from executing an unlawful order? And that exit polling that Louie mentioned showed that 80 percent of the American people opposed executive amnesty, who voted in this last election. 80 percent. And so the way it would work in my mind, you fund an entire government of the United States or a portion of it and you simply say also, but you can’t spend any money to execute the President’s dream of unlawful amnesty.
Finally it was a near run thing, Louie. I really think it would have been bad, bad, bad had that bill passed without other things happening as it did on the your, and John’s leadership and others over there. It was a battle, there was a lot of courage, there was a lot of pressure came on. The last day they made Congress stay another day, people had their planes hooked up ready to fly and you all just shut it down and helped, I believe, put us in a position to preserve the rule of law. Thank you.
Moderator: Thank you, Senator. Congressman Fleming
Rep. John Fleming: Yes, thank you. It was great to be with you here for my first freedom session. First word about my two friends and colleagues to my left, Louie Gomer talks about speaking truth to power but trust me I’ve been there many times. He really does speak truth to power. Yeah, absolutely. Sometimes I slink down because I’m afraid something’s going to get thrown, but he’s very courageous when it comes to that, and his great leadership. He really does, he’s often times, may times, if not all the time, ahead of many of us in the House when it comes to where we’re going and what we need to do to stop that forward motion. Senator Sessions, vanguard on this and many other subjects, if you know anybody from Alabama you know just how highly respected Jeff Sessions is, so much so that I believe you didn’t have an opponent for your recent reelection. And members of the House, and I have a lot of good friends from Alabama, we kind of work together as kind of a southeastern — they all look to Jeff Sessions for leadership, so he continues to be a vanguard on this and many other issues.
You may recall Milton Friedman, the famous 20th century economist. He really said it best. He said you can have open borders, but you can’t have a welfare system. Now you can have a welfare system but you can’t have open borders, and that’s playing out today because really these were no problems until our welfare system, the infrastructure was put in place about 1965. That’s when we began to have border problems. Now it’s true that we all come from immigrants in one or way another, but the way it worked traditionally in America is it was the best and the brightest. The people who were willing to take the risk who came here for greater opportunity, and still many do. But what we also find is two important factors. No. 1, if they don’t find that opportunity they find a very comfortable safety net system here, upon which to stay. The other thing is that folks who immigrate here today, most of them come from countries where they look to the government. That’s their tradition, is the government takes care of him. Now when it destroys their civilization, when it destroys their economy, they look for another place to go and where do they come? They come here. But then what you see is a progressive lowered standard of living. Well, have we have seen that? Well look at California today. California today is not the California that we knew a generation ago and it’s going down rapidly, so these are all important factors.
Now Senator Sessions, we are pretty sure, is going to be our next budget chairman in the Senate and he will tell you that back in 1997 when we had the last balanced budget, two thirds of our budget was discretionary spending. That is what we plan to spend each year on defense and on our agencies and departments out there, things that we could cut spending or increase spending from year to year. Only a third was what we call automatic pilot spending, which is of course entitlement spending, Medicare, Medicaid, Welfare and all of these things. Today it’s reverse. It’s almost two thirds built in infrastructure spending which we can’t change from year to year and the other third is discretionary and it’s shrinking rapidly. The point being that if you were entitled to a benefit we have to pay you whether we have the money or not. We don’t plan that spending and so if we continue to grow our entitlement society we will eventually completely displaces discretionary spending and our ability to amount a defense, a common defense and to operate our government. Remember we’re $18 trillion in debt and so there’s no way we can have open borders, accepting peoples with our arms open, allowing them then to fall back on our safety net system and think that we’re ever, ladies and gentlemen, going to balance our budget. It just isn’t going to happen. So it’s important that we get honest about the situation. We do have a right to have sovereign borders; we do have a right to ask of people who come here that they carry their own weight. Otherwise this nation, as we know it, not because we dislike them, not because we’re xenophobic, but only because there’s only so much taxpayers can do to support people from other nations who come here. Many of them now when they come they refuse to learn our culture, they refuse to learn our language, they refuse to have or build the skills necessary to be successful in America. And as a result of that, that’s just an economic reality we have to understand, and if we’re going to remain the only super power in the world and our rightful place in leadership around the world, for what is good and what is generous, and to keep this world a peaceful place, we can’t allow our economic situation and the opportunities that come from that to diminish.
So I look forward to responding to questions as well but I think it’s important that we understand that there really is a serious economic issue behind this that even Republicans seem unable to understand. I understand why Democrats want to do this. Because as immigrants come into this country, they’re going to vote. Usually they’re going to vote two to one Democrat. I understand why they do it. I don’t understand why Republicans want open borders and amnesty. We hear that maybe it’s the Chamber of Commerce that somehow businesses want cheaper labor. I’m a business owner; I have 500 employees still today in my private business. I can tell you I’m not interested in that. I want to have good American workers who are skilled and trained.
And finally I will tell you that we actually had a debate about a year ago. Cato Institute said that it’s going to help our economy to really have open borders and amnesty. Okay fine, then Robert Rector, who as you may recall from the Heritage Foundation, the guy who led the effort to put work requirements into Welfare, Welfare reform under Clinton that really dramatically improved the situation in those days, which since have been wiped away by President Obama. And we have a debate between the two and Robert Rector went through line by line and in great detail to show how open borders are going to destroy our economy and our future and our opportunities that we hope are going to leave a better nation to our children. The Cato Institute every time their answer was this, we have computer models that tell us that it’s going to make our economy better. Well folks you can make a computer model say anything you want, it’s always garbage in and garbage out. So once again thank you and I look forward to this important discussion.
Moderator: Thank you Congressman. And Mike Cutler
Michael Cutler: It’s absolutely a pleasure to be here and a privilege to share the stage with three true leaders in the Congress. For all the complaints we hear about Congress we do have some real good guys and Jeff Sessions in particular. I’m going to tell a quick anecdote and then we’re going to get into what I want to say, but after 911 I started doing everything in my power to try to wake people up to the immigration issues, the immigration component to the terror attacks. The ashes landed on my home. My neighbors died and I had testified four and a half years earlier before a House Immigration Subcommittee Hearing on the nexus between visa fraud, immigration benefit fraud and terrorism. Yes we had two terror attacks in ’93 and it was because of those two failures of the immigration system that those attacks were possible. And my wife and I — as you know, if you’re married you know how the back and forth goes — kept thinking, well, what are you doing? You’re spending all this time and effort and it’s going nowhere.
And I wrote an op-ed for the Washington Times back in ’07 that I had testified before three House and one Senate hearing about comprehensive reform. And I wrote a commentary with bleary eyes and I decided to rename it. I’m working on my candor, but you tell me if I’m being successful. I called it the “Terrorist Assistance and Facilitation Act.” I think we’re getting somewhere but I think Senator Sessions liked it so much that he quoted me on three separate occasions. The last time you did this, Senator, I got a frantic phone call from one of the 911 family members, a former New York City police officer whose son-in-law was obliterated on 911. I’m getting a little choked up. He said Mike, quick, put the TV on and go to C-SPAN. I said, Bruce, I’m in my car, I can’t. He said shut up and listen and he held the phone next to his TV and there was Senator Sessions from the floor of the United States Senate quoting me by name, urging his colleagues to take my advice and telling them that I had referred to comprehensive reform as the “Terrorist Assistance and Facilitation Act.” My wife gets into the car, I’m in Brooklyn, and she looks at me and says, “Are you okay?” I said, “Why?” She said, “I’ve never seen that weird look on your face.” I said, “You mean more than usual?” and she said, “What happened?” and I told her the story, and a couple of days later — so many people love to plagiarize and we’ve all experienced it, but not Senator Sessions. This man is a class act from square one to whatever square you want to go to, sent me a certificate to commemorate this. So this package comes, my wife opens it, it’s from Washington and her eyes get bigger and bigger and bigger and she turns to me and says, “My gosh, do you see what this is?” I said, “Yes.” I said, “Are we done arguing?” She said, “Yes,” and she ran out and framed it and it hangs on the wall in my home and I want to thank you for that, Senator. So when I heard I was going to be here and I heard that Senator Sessions was going to be here, I said, “Well, I hope I get to see him,” never thinking that I would have the privilege of sharing the stage with these three amazing leaders, so I thank all of you for all your dedication and hard work on our behalf.
Our immigration laws are not a single issue, but a singular issue because they impact every challenge and threat that America faces today. I started working for the INS in 1971 as an immigration inspector at Kennedy Airport. Did that job for four years, for one of the four years I was assigned as an adjudications officer doing the marriage interviews, like you’ve seen in the movies. And when I worked with the law firm retained by Governor Jan Brewer to defend that state against the outrageous lawsuit over SB1070, I said that for that four-year period that I had that inspector’s badge I had my eye to the peep hole on America’s front door. Houses come equipped with doorbells, peepholes and door locks so we make certain not to allow people into our homes to pose a threat to our safety or wellbeing. Why in the world shouldn’t the United States as a minimum do that for us and our nation today?
I happen to be registered as a Democrat, I’ve always voted as an Independent. I think anybody who votes a straight party line without paying attention to who the person is, is an idiot. I have campaigned for conservative Republicans. I don’t care if you’re with the Hopping Kangaroo Party, there’s only one question for me in this day and age. Do you stand with America and do you stand with Americans? I became a special agent in 1975. In 1976 I tripped over a PLO plot to blow up an Israel oil refinery. Thank God we prevented it. For the balance of my career I had a wonderful relationship with the Israeli National Police. It was my introduction to the nexus between immigration and international terrorism. 1988 I was assigned to the Unified Intelligence Division of DEA as the first INS agent assign to that position and in ’91 I became a senior special agent with the Drug Task Force, Organized Crime, Drug Enforcement Task Force. I spent the next ten years there. And I want you to understand something, with all the nonsense about the arrest statistics — I was on with Neil Cavuto and Neil said, “Well, if arrests are down it means that there’s fewer here,” and on and on and on. I said, Neil, I don’t trust the arrest statistics and it’s just not the Mexican border. I don’t know why we’re so fixated on that one border. I wrote an article for Front Page Magazine. I’m honored to be a columnist for Front Page, and I called the border security the immigration colander. This notion that if we halfway, kind of, sort of plug one hole in the bottom of the colander that you use to drain pasta that now we can use it as a bucket to carry water is nuts. We are a country of 50 border states. In fact there’s an excellent film that just came out by the Tea Party Patriots. I’m very pleased to be in it, Jeff Session, Louie Gohmert are also in that film, and it’s called the “Border States of America,” and they borrowed my tag line, the subtitle is “Every State is Now a Border State.” See, we have 50 border states. Any state with an international airport, any state that has access to our coastline, any state that lies along the northern or southern borders are all border states. Now when aliens run our borders they don’t come by the way Neil Armstrong went to the moon. They’re not coming to stand on our side of the border, plant a flag, grab a couple of rocks and go home. They’re headed for the rest of the country, and people that are evading the inspection process know they’re excludable, and we’ll get into it in one moment about who we’re trying to exclude and who we’re supposed to exclude, but I said to Neil, this notion of figuring out who’s here based on arrest statistics is kind of like trying to take attendance by asking people not present to raise their hand. It doesn’t work.
You want to know if the border is secure, do you want a really great solid metric that can’t be screwed around with? Look at the price and availability of heroin and cocaine. Those poisons are not produced inside the United States. Every gram of heroin, every gram of cocaine present in the United States provides graphic evidence of a failure of border security and they fund the cartels, the proceeds, those proceeds fund terrorism. Those proceeds are funding the people who want us destroyed and those drugs are a big part of the violent crime we’re facing in cities across America and in destruction of American lives. So let’s come back to a primary idea. America’s immigration laws and America’s borders exist for two primary reasons. Protect innocent lives and the jobs of American workers. What is unreasonable about that? And now you mention the 911 Commission, so I want to read two quick sentences, and this is from the 911 Commission Staff Report on terrorist travel, and you should know that I provided testimony to the 911 Commission. I’ve arrested several terrorist in my career in fact. This is to be found in the preface, the very beginning of the 911 Commission Staff Report. These are the agents and attorneys who worked with the 911 Commission. It starts out by saying,
It is perhaps obvious to state that terrorists cannot plan and carry out attacks in the United States if they are unable to enter the country. Yet prior to September 11 while there were efforts to enhance border security, no agency of the U.S. government thought of border security as a tool in the counterterrorism arsenal. Indeed even after 19 hijackers demonstrated the relative ease of obtaining a U.S. Visa and gaining admission into the United States, border security still is not considered a cornerstone of national security policy. We believe for reasons that we discussed in the following pages that it must be made one.
Now I want you to know on 911 there were 26 visa waiver countries. They warned us that the way that visas were processed created vulnerabilities. Today we have 38 visa waiver countries. Chili became number 38 March 31 of this year in large measure of pressure being applied by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, they created a program known as the Discover America Partnership. They’ve joined with hotel hospitality travel industries, and they’re pushing for it and they’re spending a ton of money. Isn’t it nice to know that the people responsible for room service are now making national security decisions for the United States of America? Think about it.
Now this is on Page 98 of that 911 Commission Staff Report:
Terrorists in the 1990s, as well as the September 11 hijackers, needed to find a way to stay in or imbed themselves in the United States if they’re operational plans were to come to fruition. As already discussed, this could be accomplished legally by marrying an American citizen, achieving temporary worker status [think of the DREAMers] or applying for asylum after entering. In many cases the act of filing for immigration benefits sufficed to permit the alien to remain in the country until the petition was adjudicated. Terrorists were free to conduct surveillance, coordinate operations, obtain and receive funding, go to school and learn English, make contacts in the United States, acquire necessary materials and execute an attack.
The DREAMers are not even being interviewed, folks. We’re giving identity documents to people who could be as old as 31 years of age and the magic word is “I came in when I was 15.” They’re in. There’s no field investigations. What could possibly go wrong? Please understand what we’re talking about. And when I’m accused of being anti-immigrant I’ll end by saying this, and I hope you guys have some great questions so we can go further with the conversation, but let me tell you something: If you look at how bad it is right now, if we go down this path of providing these documents and we allow ourselves to be intimidated — when people say to me you’re anti-immigrant, there’s a very easy answer. I am pro enforcement. The same laws that tell us who to kick out and who to keep out also tell us who to let in. Every year this country admits more than a million lawful immigrants, more than the rest of the world combined. Every year this year provides naturalization, citizenship, to more than a half-million new citizens. These are the laws that I support, that I enforced and administered for 30 years. How in the world can you be anti-immigrant when you support the laws by which we admit more immigrants legally than the rest of the world and we are now admitting more foreign workers legally entitled to work in the United States each month than the number of new jobs we’re creating? My suggestion is this, rather than create jobs, we need to liberate our jobs and get Americans back to work. Thank you.
Rep. Louie Gohmert: I can’t emphasize it enough. You heard me, you’ve heard everybody up here. John Fleming and I border, we share the Louisiana-Texas line and he’s an MD. Wouldn’t you have loved to have a doctor with his demeanor? He’s brilliant. His integrity is impeccable. You’ll never tempt him to break his word, to be dishonest, and I can’t tell you what an honor it is to serve with a guy like that. Just methodical, brilliant and impeccable integrity. And then Mike has said many times, and it’s caught on big, but every state is a border state, and some of us, I think everybody up here, is pushing to have an analysis done of the enterovirus strain, that all of a sudden just appeared in all these different states at the same time. It happened to be states where ironically our health and human services department shipped people without proper bedding medically all over the country and then all of sudden this enterovirus that’s killed more people in the U.S. than Ebola. It is a danger, and then quickly, just so you understand, even though we have a lawless President, there are people that believe in following the law that are still able to come up with ways to enforce it around our President. Spent many days and nights on the border in the last months, and you’ve seen on the news there’s a place, Anzalduas Park, south of McCallen. There’s a big park on the Mexican side, a park on the American side, and people buy guys on jet skis to bring them across, and I’ve seen several guys do that. The last one was a Chinese national. Why he was there, but anyway, he paid them to bring them across. But each time they come across a constable — they don’t come if they see any border patrol trucks or anything, but they come across and then all of a sudden the constable appears and arrests them. And so I asked the constable, I’ve seen you do this a number of times. You know after the Supreme Court case in Arizona, case said you can’t, local and state law enforcement, can’t enforce federal law. I’m thrilled that you’re doing that — and they turn them over to the border patrol — but what’s your basis since the Supreme Court said that? And the constable said, “Did you pay $4.00 to get in the park?” and I said, “Yeah,” and he said they didn’t, they’re trespassing.
Moderator: Thank you, Congressman Gohmert. We’re going to start the questions.
Audience Member: I’m Bob Lawn. I’m from California, and my question is, just direct to the panel is, I’d like to, instead of talking about policy, I agree with policy, but I’d like you to talk about strategy. We know that Barrack Obama doesn’t care about policy. He only cares about winning the presidency for the next Democrat and that the reason that he’s doing what he’s doing is to activate the Hispanic base ’cause he knows that they often don’t vote, but the one thing that activates them is that you can, everybody’s distracted by this issue, and I wonder what things can be done by Republicans to strategically tell people in the Hispanic base or find ways to counter his tactics in this situation? He knows that we will come in and talk policy and do what we do in order to turn off that base. Are there ways for us to let the Hispanic American voters who have Hispanic heritage know that we care about them and kind of counter what he’s trying to do?
Moderator: And just again to save time I’m going to ask our Republican Congressmen and Senator here to caucus and pick one of them to answer that question, just to save time.
Rep. John Fleming: Apparently I’ve been chosen for that.
Michael Cutler: Congatulations.
Rep. John Fleming: Let me first of all say that the thing we haven’t done as Republicans and what we should do really as Americans is attack the myth that we have to be pro-amnesty, pro-open borders in order to win elections. The data doesn’t support that. Even when you, and Louie was quoting this a few moments ago, if you ask the immigrants, people who are here already, they don’t want to be displaced by other immigrants. What’s important to them is again kitchen-table issues just like everything else, so somehow somebody has gotten into the heads of Republicans, again I told you, Democrats, we know why they’re doing what they’re doing, but we need to get Republicans turned around on this issue to say look, this is not popular with the American people, it’s not even popular with recent immigrants and that what we really need is, again, a nation where people can have jobs and an economy again and get off this idea that we have to have open borders to win elections and that we’ll never get a President again. That is absurd, folks. Just look at the pyramid we have today. We have more Governors, more State Houses than we’ve ever had in probably a hundred years. We have the largest House majority than we’ve had since 1929 or 8, it depends on what number you land on, and in the Senate we’ve regained just in a few short years. The American people are with us on these issues. … I’ll toss this, but I really think that’s a myth. I think that people of color are with us as well. We just don’t recognize it.
Michael Cutler: I just want to take 30 seconds. You know it’s amazing that the same journalists who jump up and down and talk about race, politics and police officers that profile, when you can say that everybody who’s last name is Rodriguez thinks and votes the same way, or every Jew thinks and votes — I’m Jewish. I get crazy when I hear this. It’s an insidious form of racism and profiling and they need to be talked about, and by the way, immigration laws don’t distinguish by race, ethnicity or religion and the members of the ethnic immigrant communities, Russian, Asian, Latino, Caribbean, doesn’t matter, they’re at the greatest risk from illegal immigration because that’s where the gangsters and the fugitives set up shop, set up houses of prostitution and peddle narcotics. If you want to win their votes, tell them the truth, that this is about protecting them. The grounds for exclusion are aliens with dangerous diseases, mental illness, convicted felons, human rights violators, war criminals, spies and terrorists. Who do you want living next door to you if we fail on that mission?
Louie Gohmert: During those nights I’ve spent down on the border, I was talking to an Hispanic Border Patrolman, and this is follow up to what you’re saying, and you’ve heard there are so many tens of thousands of children that come across unaccompanied — not a single child, young child, ever comes across unaccompanied. I’ve watched them separate after they get over to our side, but they don’t cross that river unaccompanied. But this Border Patrolman said we’ve got all these form questions we ask, and he said, I will ask, we’re supposed to ask, why did you leave your home country, Guatemala, El Salvador, and come here, and he said over 90 percent of the time they say to get away from gang violence. And he said since I speak better Spanish than a lot of them I don’t let them get away with it and I bear down on them and I say, now you may find some Gringo that buys that stuff, but you and I, you paid a gang to bring you into this country, so don’t tell me you came to escape gang violence, and he said then of those 90 percent that say that, 90 percent of them say well, you’re right, but we were told to say we’re coming to escape gang violence. They know the game and we need to get engaged.
Moderator: Thank you Congressman and thank you everybody for attending today.
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