I rise today to talk a bit about the Secretary of State nominee, as well as President Trump's recent executive order on refugees. I believe that we need a Secretary of State who will clearly stand up to Russian aggression. I'm concerned abou tthe nominee's past statements and his relationship with Russia. I am not going to be voting for him. If he is confirmed, I hope that we can work with him and some of his newer statements have been positive on taking that on, as well as some of the many issues confronting our world.
The reason that I'm so focused on Russia is, first of all, we have a significant Ukrainian population in Minnesota. We're very proud of them. And also I was recently in Ukraine and Georgia, as well as Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia with Senators McCain and Graham. And I saw firsthand the meaning of Russian aggression on a daily basis. In these countries, the cyberattack is not a new movie. They have seen it many times before. It is a rerun. In Estonia in 2007, they had the audacity to move a bronze statue of a Russian fighter from a town square where there had been some protests to a cemetery, and what did they get for that? Well, they got their internet service shut down, and that's what they did. In Lithuania, they decided -- something you could imagine happening in our own country -- that on the 25th anniversary of the celebration of the intelligence of their country, they invited as an act of solidarity, the members of Ukrainian Parliament who were in exile from Kiev from Crimea, which had been illegally annexed from Russia. And they invited to meet with them and celebrate in Lithuania. What happened to them? Again, cyberattacks on members of parliament.
This is not just about one political candidate. What we saw in the last election in the United States, where now 17 intelligence agencies have collectively said that there was an infringement that there was an attempt to influence our elections in America. And it's not just about one country. It is an assault on democracies across the wrold. And I think that we need to take this very seriously. Not just from an intelligence standpoint, but also from a foreign relations standpoint.
That is why I introduced the bill with Senator Feinstein, Cardin, Leahy, and Carper to create an independent and nonpartisan commission to uncover all the facts. It is also why we have a sanctions bill, which is nonpartisan led by Senator McCain and Senator Cardin. What we do matters, and I think you see that not only with regard to our relations with those countries in the Baltics, but also with what we have seen in just the past few days because of this executive order. I hope that having a Secretary of State in place would help, as well as more involvement from other agencies, so something like this would never happen agagin.
As a former prosecutor, I have long advocated for thorough vetting. I have supported strong national security measures. I believe that the number one purpose of government is to keep people safe. But I don't believe that is what this executive order did. In fact, it created chaos. I'm on the bill to reverse and rescind this order. I hope that the Administration--I know they have taken some steps to respond to all of the problems that have--we have seen in every state in this nation. But what really happened was with the stroke of a pen, the Administration excluded entire populations from seeking refuge. And I do think that it's gotten a bit forgotten, that it is not just the seven or so countries that were identified by the Administration. The refugee program has been stopped all over the world.
And on Sunday, I met, along with Senator Franken, with a number of our refugee populations. To give some background, we have the biggest population of Somalis in the nation in Minnesota, and we are proud of our Somali population. We have the second biggest Hmong population. We have the biggest Liberian population. We have the biggest Oromo population. We have the population from Burma. These are all legal workers. They come over as refugees. They are legal when they come over. Many of them get green cards. Many go onto become citizens. We have people who are on work visas, people who are on student visas. And the faces that I saw and the people that I met, these were their stories.
An engineer from 3M who doesn't think he can go back to visit his father. A Marine, a former Marine from one of the affected countries who doesn't believe his brother can now come in and visit him. Two little girls in bright pink jackets who stood with us because they had waited for years for the arrival of their sister. The mother, a Somali woman within a refugee camp in Uganda. And she was pregnant, and she finally had gotten her papers to be able to come to America, get out of the refugee camp with her two children. But because she was pregnant when the papers came through, she wasn't able to apply for what would be her third child. The baby was born, and she had a "Sophie's choice". Was she going to stay in the refugee camp with the two older girls or was she going to bring them to safety--in Minnesota--with so many friends and relatives that she knew and then having to leave the baby behind?
She decided to leave the baby with friends at that refugee camp, and for four years, she worked to get that baby to Minnesota. And she got it done. And that baby was supposed to get on a plane and come to Minnesota this week, courtesy of Lutheran Social Services in Minnesota that had worked with the family. Right now, the latest news our office has had, that's not happening. Why?
This four-year-old is not a green card holder. This four-year-old is a refugee--a refugee that's coming to finally be with her mom and her sisters. And to explain to a--what looked like about an eight-year-old and a ten-year-old why this is happening is really--there's no words to explain why it is happening.
I truly appreciated that some of our Republican colleagues joined the chorus to say that the vetting rule had not been vetted. Many of them pointed to the implementation problems with this rule, and others, such as Senator McCain and Senator Graham also talked about the fact that this was simply a self-inflicted wound in our fight against terrorism. And we've heard much of that, I know, from my colleagues about what this means to moderates that we are attempting to work with in these Muslim nations, as well as our allies across the world.
So I think I leave you with this, Mr. President. This is about our economy. I remind our friends--and I know I see Senator Rubio here, who understands the economic value of immigration--that over 70 of the Fortune 500 companies in America are led by immigrants, including in my state: 3M, Best Buy, Mosaic. That 25 percent of our U.S. Nobel Laureates were born in other countries. That at one point I had to figure that 200 of our Fortune 500 companies were started by immigrants or kids of immigrants. That's our economy.
There is the moral argument best reflected in the story I just told of those two little girls in their bright pink jackets in the middle of a Minnesota winter. But then there is also the security argument. So we plead with the Administration to reverse this rule, to rescind it. Certainly we can work on more vetting measures. As we know, the refugee vetting already takes 18 months, two years, three years. More work with biometrics. But there is no reason to do this on the backs of people that have followed the rules, that have followed the regulations and have done what's right and simply want to be part of our country--or in most cases are already a part of our country.
Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor.