Every month, more immigrants are crossing our border, worsening the ongoing humanitarian crisis. Even as Congress has agreed to provide emergency assistance to communities ravaged by natural disasters, Democrats have refused to include any assistance to help improve the situation on our southern border.
Last month, in May, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) encountered over 144,000 migrants – twice the population of Johnson City, Tennessee. Also last month, CBP apprehended a group of over 1,000 migrants, the largest single group ever apprehended at our border (the previous record was 424). Many are ill when arriving at our border, and border patrol agents are taking around 71 daily trips to the hospital so that migrants’ illnesses can be treated. It is unconscionable that we have not provided our government the resources necessary to address this humanitarian crisis.
While House Democrats have refused to provide any additional resources to help deal with the record influx of migrants making the journey, they are instead engaging in shameful rhetoric in an attempt to stop the Trump administration’s effort to enforce our immigration laws.
Just this week, Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, who previously expressed support for abolishing the agency that enforces our immigration laws, compared the humane treatment of migrants who have crossed our border illegally to concentration camps used by the Nazis in the Holocaust. How can we be expected to work together and find common ground if House Democrats believe enforcing immigration laws is equivalent to the systemic persecution and extermination of over six million Jews?
Instead of being willing to confront the crisis on the border, House Democrats instead passed a bill last week that would provide amnesty to 2.3 million illegal immigrants. Their bill, H.R. 6, would also allow aliens with up to two misdemeanors, multiple DUI convictions or misdemeanor firearm offenses to receive green cards. It would also prohibit the use of gang databases to identify those connected with gang activity.
It is not an exaggeration to say this will greatly exacerbate our crisis by sending a message to millions of people throughout Central America that if they can get here, House Democrats have no intention of turning any of them away.
One question I get a lot is why are migrants being detained and not being returned to their country of origin if they have crossed illegally? One factor is the court decision known as the Flores Settlement and the other is the immigration rules established under the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA).
Since 2015, the Flores Settlement (according to a California U.S. court) requires that children cannot be in custody for more than 20 days. The TVPRA requires migrants from Central American countries like Guatemala and Honduras, to be detained and undergo lengthy removal proceedings, unlike migrants detained from Mexico or Canada who can be immediately returned to their home country.
When the law was passed in FY 2007, there were 16,307 illegal immigrants from Guatemala alone, but that number increased to 115,722 in FY 2018. Our border apprehension facilities are designed to hold 4,000 migrants at a time, but there are over 19,000 currently in custody. The fact of the matter is that our border officials and facilities are not equipped to hold this number of people.
We must change our laws so that all nations follow the same rules. That’s why I’m a cosponsor of the Fix the Immigration Loopholes Act, which would fix the Flores Settlement so families can be kept together in custody, would keep children safe by prohibiting officials from releasing a child into the custody of any person besides a parent or legal guardian, would ensure unaccompanied alien children can returned home safely and would strengthen our asylum system.
President Trump is using every available tool at his disposal to secure our border. His administration’s recent agreement with Mexico resulted in 6,000 Mexican National Guard members being deployed to better secure their southern border. The agreement also included an expanded program that will allow asylum seekers to reside in Mexico until their legal cases moved forward, to help lower the number of migrants waiting to seek asylum in U.S. custody.
This is a positive step, but it is up Congress to fix this problem for good by changing our laws and appropriating the necessary funding to secure our border, reform our immigration and asylum laws, and help ensure all migrants who come to the United States receive appropriate care and treatment. I’m here, ready to work with my colleagues on a bipartisan immigration reform.