IMMIGRATION POLICIES; Congressional Record Vol. 160, No. 89
(Senate - June 10, 2014)

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[Pages S3521-S3524]
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                          IMMIGRATION POLICIES

  Mr. CORNYN. Mr. President, in recent weeks it has become impossible 
to deny the fact that we have a full-blown humanitarian crisis along 
the U.S.-Mexican border. Sadly, this crisis is directly the result of 
President Obama's own policies, and it involves tens of thousands of 
young children, some reportedly as young as 3 years old, risking their 
  Indeed, young children are traveling through extremely dangerous 
territory run by brutal drug cartels that prey on the weak in the form 
of human trafficking, rape, and even murder. This year alone tens of 
thousands of unaccompanied minor children have been detained while 
crossing illegally into the United States. A large percentage has been 
found in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas.
  To give the Senate an idea of what has happened and the timeline 
here, as recently as 2011 there were 6,560 unaccompanied minors 
detained at the border between the United States and Mexico. Then in 
2012 the President announced he was taking administrative action to 
defer deportation of a certain class of minors, most of whom had come 
here as young children but had since grown up, sometimes called the 
Dreamers. But this action in 2012 sent a message, apparently, to other 
people who were anxious to come to the United States. So you see in 
2013, there were 24,000 unaccompanied minors. It is projected, although 
the number is not known, that it will rise to 60,000, or the Senator 
from Arizona has said he has heard as high as 90,000 potentially of 
these unaccompanied minors.
  Mr. McCAIN. Will the Senator yield for a question?
  Mr. CORNYN. I will.
  Mr. McCAIN. I apologize if I am being redundant here, but how does 
the Senator from Texas explain to the American people how we have gone 
from, in 2011, when we start this chart, from 6,000, to now the 
projection, 3 years later, of over 60,000 and some say as many as 
90,000? But let's say it is 60,000. Does this not have to be some kind 
of orchestrated, organized effort

[[Page S3522]]

to account for this dramatic increase? If it is, who is doing it?
  Mr. CORNYN. I would say to the Senator from Arizona, he knows a lot 
about this topic, living in Arizona. But I think it is a combination of 
factors. It is, 1, the message that was sent by the unilateral deferred 
action the President ordered in 2012 saying that even children who come 
here meeting certain criteria would be low priorities for deportation. 
So the message was: If you can come to America, and you get here, then 
you are basically not going to be sent back home.
  I think it is also a combination, as the Senator knows, of the 
violence in the failed state status, nearly, of some of the Central 
American countries where most of these kids come from. But it is 
creating, as the Senator knows, a humanitarian crisis because we do not 
have the facilities to take care of this many minor children.
  Here again, these are just the ones who made it. The Senator knows 
how dangerous the trek is from Central America up through Mexico 
through areas controlled by the drug cartels. Many of these children, 
some reportedly as young as 5 or 3 years old, are obviously very 
vulnerable to being preyed upon by unscrupulous characters.
  Mr. McCAIN. Additionally, though, these children--when you are saying 
especially the very young ones, there has to be some kind of organized 
effort that is bringing them. The average 5-year-old or 6-year-old does 
not decide to leave home one day and come across the U.S.-Mexican 
  Mr. CORNYN. The Senator is exactly right. I did not answer his 
question. Let me try to do a better job. As the Senator knows, in years 
past, the migrants who came across the border typically were people 
looking for work. But now with the dominance of large swaths of Mexico 
and Central America by drug cartels, they basically are trafficking in 
people, in drugs, in guns, and anything that will make them a buck. 
Unfortunately, they have no scruples whatsoever and no concern for 
these young, vulnerable children. They recognize their parents are 
willing to pay money to them to transport them from Central America to 
the United States. But the problem is they have no control over what 
happens to those children when they are in the hands of the drug 
cartels and these transnational gangs as they bring them all the way 
from Guatemala, for example, which is 1,200 miles away from McAllen, 
TX. Many of these children suffer from exposure, in addition to being 
preyed upon by a variety of unscrupulous characters.
  Mr. McCAIN. Could I ask again? So these children now, ones because of 
the numbers in overwhelming our facilities, are in terrible conditions 
for someone, a human being in the United States of America: no 
facilities, no bathing, diet, overcrowding, being put on transportation 
and taken to Arizona and dropped off at bus stops, and yet not only is 
that a terrific problem, at least once they are there, they are not 
prey to some of the things they are prey to on the 1,200-mile trip 
which are horrible in many circumstances given the nature of these 
people who are the drug smugglers and human smugglers at the same time. 
So is it true that the dimensions of this humanitarian tragedy/crisis 
are something that deserve the attention of all of us? I am surprised 
it has not gotten a lot more attention than it has up to now.

  Mr. CORNYN. I would say to the Senator from Arizona that I am a 
little surprised it has not gotten more attention either. That is one 
reason that motivated me to come to the floor today to highlight this. 
Tomorrow, before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Secretary Jeh Johnson 
of the Department of Homeland Security will be testifying. I hope he 
can provide us some answers, because what we need is a comprehensive 
look at what are the incentives that would convince parents to send 
their unaccompanied children up through this horrific trip through 
Mexico, some 1,200 miles from Central America, to such an uncertain 
fate here in the United States, much less along the way. We need to 
know what the President's plan is to deal with this.
  I know the Senator has spent a lot of time in places such as Jordan 
and Turkey that I have had the occasion to visit. One of our colleagues 
pointed out, this is like having refugee camps here in the United 
States, something nobody ever thought we would have.
  Mr. McCAIN. I would ask one more question. Does the Senator know of 
any plan or any idea of what our Department of Homeland Security and 
our Border Patrol and people have to deal with this? Do you have any 
idea what they have to address this issue besides transporting children 
from Texas to Tucson, AZ, and dropping them off at a bus stop?
  Mr. CORNYN. I would say to the Senator, I know some of it entails 
warehousing children at places such as Lackland Air Force Base, and the 
last report I saw, about 1,000 of them are located there. I am not sure 
what the plan is going forward. I assume some of it will be to try to 
reunite them with family members here in the United States. But if they 
do not have family members, then they are going to basically become 
wards of the State. I am not aware of any plan.
  The reason why I came to the floor today is to express the very 
concerns the Senator from Arizona has expressed about the causes and 
the effects of such a poorly thought out policy, which basically sends 
the message that anybody who can make it here, particularly minors, can 
come into the United States and we are totally unprepared, in my view, 
to deal with this humanitarian crisis. We need to be prepared.
  Mr. McCAIN. In other words, by making the decision the President of 
the United States made on deferred action, if you believe those numbers 
and they are accurate, that triggered a mass movement into the United 
States of America. So it is not an accident that these numbers have 
gone from 13,000 up to 60,000 or 90,000, depending on who you talk to. 
It is not an accident. So if it is a matter of policy, then that policy 
needs to be reviewed. Rather than cure the symptom, which we have to do 
because it is a humanitarian crisis, the humanitarian crisis is not 
going to be over until we address the root of the problem. Is that 
  Mr. CORNYN. I agree with the Senator from Arizona. I think this is 
not a coincidence. There is, in my view, very much of a cause-and-
effect relationship between this poorly thought out unilateral action 
by the President, without much knowledge of or thought given to the 
  As the Senator from Arizona knows, because he has certainly fought 
the fight to fix our broken immigration laws, and I have been involved 
in many of those myself, this is a direct result of the President 
basically trying to go it alone and basically trying to send a message, 
a political message, but one that gives very little thought to the very 
real-world human consequences of his political actions.
  The Senator from Arizona was talking a little bit about this trip 
from Central America. I would show my colleagues, as we know, Mexico 
has had a lot of security issues that have been dealt with by the last 
administration, President Calderon's administration, and now are 
continuing to be dealt with by the current administration in Mexico. 
But the Zetas, some of the hardest core of the drug cartels, 
essentially control large portions of this region of eastern Mexico. If 
you look from Guatemala, from Central America right at the bottom of 
Mexico here, the pathway these children would have to make all of the 
way up through Mexico into South Texas, into the Rio Grande Valley, 
essentially is through territory controlled by the Zetas, the drug 
  One question that is horrible to contemplate is how many of the 
children who started this long 1,200 mile or so trek actually made it 
to the end of their journey, and how many fell out along the way as a 
result of illness, as a result of criminal activity, such as 
kidnapping, how many were assaulted along the way. This is a crisis 
that needs to be addressed.
  I would point out to my colleagues, I have in my hand--and I ask 
unanimous consent that this document be printed in the Record following 
my remarks. I would read from it. This is a release from the U.S. 
Customs and Border Protection dated May 12, 2014. As of May 12, 2014, 
nearly 180 sex offenders were arrested in the Rio Grande Valley sector 
alone. That is so far in 2014. Can you imagine that amidst the 47,000 
children who have been detained since October of last year coming 
across the

[[Page S3523]]

border, that mixed into this pot of people were we know at least 180 
convicted sex offenders.
  This article continues to point out that:
  Additionally, agents have arrested more than 50 members of the Mara 
Salvatrucha gang, or MS-13, a notorious transnational criminal gang 
that started in Los Angeles, and about 14 members of the 18th Street 
  For my colleagues' information, many of them have heard about a train 
that goes up through Mexico that many of the migrants from Central 
America take in order to help them make their journey. This train is 
called the Beast, sometimes called the Beast of Death.
  The stories, and indeed the books, that have been written about this 
chronicle how horrendous this trip is. We can see in this picture there 
are young people and older people sitting on top of this train, riding 
it as far as they can, helping them make their journey up that eastern 
coast of Mexico from Central America, the 1,200 miles they would take 
to get from Guatemala City to South Texas. Many of them travel on this 
train known as the Beast.
  The stories of what has happened here, of people who have lost their 
lives, people who have been decapitated when the train has gone through 
tunnels, people who tried to jump on a moving train only to lose limbs 
after a fall under the train, will chill your blood.
  But the fact is the administration, and indeed the entire Federal 
Government, needs to deal with this crisis and needs to deal not only 
with the causes of it but what the effects are and particularly the 
humanitarian crisis involving this growing number of unaccompanied 
  Federal, State, and local authorities along the border have 
completely been overwhelmed by the influx. You can imagine that the 
Border Patrol, which is in the business of processing these children as 
they are detained and handing them off to Health and Human Services and 
other agencies, their attention has been diverted from their primary 
mission of border security because they have had to lend a hand to deal 
with the humanitarian crisis.
  With so many children arriving day after day and with so many of them 
lacking any identification documents, it has been tremendously 
difficult to figure out exactly who they are, why they left home, where 
they have family, and where they should be sent while their case is 
being processed.
  We don't know how many of them have been victims of human 
trafficking, for example, how many of them might qualify as refugees 
under U.S. law, how many of them are actually over the age of 18, and 
how many of them might have a criminal record.
  Can anyone at the White House or in the administration say with 
certainty the children being released from U.S. custody are leaving 
with an actual family member?
  The Senator from Arizona alluded to children being shipped from Texas 
to Arizona where they were left at bus stops and elsewhere, basically 
with a request that they reappear at a given time. But, of course, 90 
percent, I am told, never show up back at their court appointment.
  For that matter, can the administration say with certainty that none 
of these children have been handed over to an adult with a criminal 
record? The answer to both of these questions is no.
  In short, this is a complete mess, and the use of resources available 
to Texas and U.S. officials are under enormous strain. The 
administration estimates that roughly 60,000 of these unaccompanied 
children will be apprehended this fiscal year. Perhaps twice that many 
may be apprehended next year.
  We can see the trend here and, of course, all we know from this chart 
is what it was before the President's deferred action announcement, and 
we know what it is now. But the trendline is undeniable and appears to 
be growing at an exponential rate. The crisis we are facing now 
represents a tragic and painful example of the law of unintended 
  Two years ago when the President stood in the Rose Garden and 
announced a unilateral administrative change in U.S. immigration 
policy, he probably thought he was doing a good thing. But between that 
policy change and his broader failure to uphold our immigration laws--
indeed his statement that he essentially will not enforce broad swaths 
of those laws--the President has created an extremely dangerous 
incentive for children and their parents to cross into the United 
States under these sorts of treacherous and horrific circumstances.
  In other words, the policies that were supposed to be adopted for 
humanitarian purposes to help these children have created a genuine 
humanitarian disaster for these same supposed beneficiaries of this 
unilateral policy. While there is widespread violence and poverty in 
Central America, sadly, that is not something entirely new, and it is 
not the cause of our current crisis.
  President Obama's immigration policies, primarily his policy of 
nonenforcement, have encouraged untold numbers of parents and children 
to make a shockingly dangerous journey through the interior of Mexico 
riding the Beast, some of whom have been subjected to unknown horrors 
and treatment at the hands of the very same people who were paid to 
transport them.
  The stories I have read indicate that at stops along the way people 
are held up at gunpoint. If they don't turn over money to their would-
be assailant, then they are threatened with being shot and even killed.
  While we may have a rough idea of how many children are actually 
crossing into America, we will never know with certainty how many 
actually start that journey and never make it, how many die along the 
way, are kidnapped or perhaps sexually abused or otherwise mistreated 
because of the lawless conditions under which this takes place. But we 
do know the massive surge in unaccompanied minors is directly 
attributable to actions taken or not taken by the administration.
  Therefore, I would implore President Obama to immediately do five 
  No. 1, he should immediately declare that the so-called deferred 
action program--which I referred to earlier that he unilaterally 
ordered in 2012--does not apply to the children currently arriving at 
the border. One aspect of enforcement is deterrence, and so deterring 
the children from ever starting that long, dangerous trek has to be 
part of the solution.
  No. 2, the President should immediately discourage people in Central 
America and elsewhere from sending their children on such a dangerous 
  No. 3, the President should immediately begin to enforce all U.S. 
immigration laws and engage with the Congress in any changes he thinks 
are warranted and not simply ignore the ones he finds convenient or 
politically expedient.
  No. 4, he should immediately take steps to ensure that Texas and 
other U.S. border States have the resources they need to address this 
ongoing humanitarian crisis.
  No. 5, he should immediately start working with the Mexican 
Government to improve security at Mexico's southern border. This is a 
500-mile border between Mexico and Guatemala that, if it were better 
secured, would deter many of these children and other migrants from 
coming through Mexico and subjecting themselves to these dangerous 
conditions in the first place.
  If the President did all five of those, not only would it help us 
resolve the current crisis, but it would also help us prevent similar 
crises from erupting in the future.
  These children are being preyed on by drug cartels and human 
traffickers, and they are at high risk of being kidnapped, raped or 
even killed while traveling this long dangerous journey to the United 
States. But sadly, when they arrive here, we still have no way of 
guaranteeing their safety because of the lack of an adequate plan to 
deal with this humanitarian crisis.
  President Obama effectively created this problem and now he has an 
opportunity to work with us to fix it. I can only hope he does the 
right thing.
  I ask unanimous consent to have printed in the Record the U.S. 
Customs and Border Protection document I referred to earlier.
  There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in 
the Record, as follows:

[[Page S3524]]

      [From the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, May 12, 2014]

 Nearly 180 Sex Offenders Arrested by RGV Sector Agents so far in FY14

       Edinburg, TX.--U.S. Border Patrol agents from the Rio 
     Grande Valley Sector have arrested nearly 180 illegal 
     immigrants with prior convictions for sex offenses so far for 
     fiscal year 2014, which began Oct. 1, 2013, and goes through 
     Sept. 31, 2014.
       The majority of the sex offenders have convictions for 
     sexual assault crimes involving children. Some of the more 
     heinous offenses include: sexual assault of a child; sodomy, 
     lewd or lascivious acts with a child under 14; aggravated 
     sexual assault of a child; and aggravated indecent assault 
     and corruption of a minor. The sex offenders have convictions 
     for crimes that occurred in states from coast to coast as 
     well as in the Rio Grande Valley.
       In addition to the arrests of convicted sex offenders, 
     agents apprehended three illegal immigrants over the weekend 
     who have arrest warrants for sex-related crimes. They include 
     a Mexican national wanted in FortWorth on a continuous child 
     sex abuse charge; a Salvadoran wanted by the Loudan County 
     Sheriff's Office in Virginia on a charge of adultery/
     fornication: incest with a child between 13-17 years of age; 
     and another Mexican national wanted by the Travis County 
     Sheriff's Office on a charge of indecency with a child/sexual 
     contact The three men were turned over to the Hidalgo County 
     Sheriff's Office pending extradition.
       Additionally, agents have arrested more than 50 members of 
     the Mara Salvatrucha gang, or MS-13, a notorious 
     transnational criminal gang that started in Los Angeles, and 
     about 14 members of the 18th Street gang.
       The Rio Grande Valley Sector is part of the South Texas 
     Campaign, which leverages federal, state and local resources 
     to combat transnational criminal organizations. To report 
     suspicious activity, call the sector's toll-free telephone 
     number at 800-863-9382.

  Mr. CORNYN. I yield the floor.
  The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from California.
  Mrs. BOXER. As a Senator from a Western State, as is my friend from 
Texas, I hope the American people understand the only thing the 
Republicans can do for whatever happens is blame President Obama: Oh, 
it rained today--it is President Obama.
  How about the most obvious point--that the Republican House has 
failed to take up an immigration bill. The Senate did it in a 
bipartisan way. I applaud that bipartisanship. We did it a long time 
ago. The fact that the Republican House refuses to do it never passes 
the lips of my Republican friends in the Senate.
  If we want to correct our immigration system, we have to sit down and 
do the hard work, as we did in the Senate. There is no question that we 
are facing a crisis with children from Central America running away 
from gangs, violence, rape, and deprivation. There is no doubt about 
it. The fact is we can deal with that, but we have to look at the laws, 
and that is why we want to set the rules in a bill.
  There is lawlessness because we haven't updated our laws. For 
example, we have to make sure these short-term holding facilities have 
humane conditions. We can do that by law.
  I want to say to my friends on the other side of the aisle, because 
it is cloudy one day, don't blame the President. Because it rains the 
next day, don't blame the President. If you wake up with a sore throat, 
don't blame the President. When you have trouble at the border, look at 
your own party, which has held up immigration reform. If we can do it 
over here, they can do it over there. The whole world is watching.
  It is the same way with the veterans. I am hoping and praying that 
this new effort by Senator Sanders and Senator McCain will bear fruit 
in the Senate on a VA bill. But remember that the Republicans 
filibustered the last Bernie Sanders bill, which would have added 
clinics, which would have addressed the problems. They filibustered it.
  Keep your ear open here. We have a chance to address so many issues.