July 15, 2014 - Issue: Vol. 160, No. 110 — Daily Edition113th Congress (2013 - 2014) - 2nd Session
BORDER CRISIS; Congressional Record Vol. 160, No. 110
(Senate - July 15, 2014)
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[Pages S4470-S4472] From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov] BORDER CRISIS Mr. COATS. Mr. President, as have many Americans, I have watched with increasing concern and increasing frustration the rapidly growing humanitarian crisis on our southern border. More than 60,000 unaccompanied alien children--mostly minors from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador--have been apprehended at the border in this fiscal year, and we have 2\1/2\ months remaining. The numbers are staggering. Another 40,000 family members--one or both parents traveling with their children--have also been apprehended just in this fiscal year. To put these numbers in perspective, in 2008, the number of unaccompanied alien children apprehended at the border was 8,000. Three years later, in 2011, the number had doubled. It had doubled to 16,000. This is a situation we perhaps didn't see coming, but should have. Today, of course, the numbers are staggering, as I mentioned. The number has skyrocketed. In fact, in April and May of this year, 10,000 have arrived. We simply cannot sit back and let this situation grow worse as it does day by day. We must now find a way to solve this crisis and stem the flow of unaccompanied minors entering our country. It is imperative that this Congress and this administration work together to do this and do this immediately. We dare not move toward our regularly scheduled August recess without accomplishing the solution or resolution of this current crisis, which is impacting children, impacting families, impacting communities, impacting many across the United States in terms of this crisis. As we do this, I think it is important that we be guided by some key principles, including laws that are currently on the books--laws that might need to be adjusted--as well as compassionate hearts in terms of how we deal with those who are here but will need to be returned to their homeland. First, clearly and foremost, we have to enforce existing law. Existing law says we need an orderly process. Immigration needs to be legal. It needs to be processed in an orderly way and in a way so that we can accommodate those who come from out of the country. I am the son of an immigrant who was processed through a legal process, a process that speaks for many of us not only here in this Chamber but for many across America. We are all in a sense immigrants. For over 200 years, we have come as immigrants through a legal process. Today we find a situation where our borders are being swamped with those who are attempting to come illegally, for whatever reason. More importantly, we have to make it clear to them that the law does not allow this to happen. So we have to get control of the border. We have to get control of our immigration process. I think all of us feel the need for immigration reform. Step No. 1 has to be securing our borders so we can convince the American people we can return to an orderly process of bringing immigrants to this country and not be overwhelmed by the illegal immigration flowing to our southern borders. It is also important because we need to let the families know and the children know their trip to America is not what has been promised them. Many believe this humanitarian crisis is focused on how we handle these children once they arrive at the border, and there is a need to address that issue. But in reality, the crisis for these children begins when they start their trip, given the dangers of the journey. We now know the children who are making these dangerous treks from Central America are often in the hands of smugglers, drug cartels, coyotes-- criminal elements that are delivering a false lie to families and individuals in these countries. They are basically saying, Get your children across the border and they will then be absorbed into American society and they will be in a better place. And, by the way, write us a check for $7,000 or $10,000 or $5,000, whatever the market bears, and we will ensure that your children arrive safely, and then you won't have to worry about them anymore. That is simply not true. Sadly, from the latest information that has come to us, in surveys that are being taken and investigations that are being made, the story is horrendous. Often, for those in the hands of those who are seeking to bring them along the approximately 1,500-mile trip from Central America to the Texas border, the reality of what these children are facing and what these families are facing is startling and it is an issue that absolutely has to be addressed. Doctors Without Borders exists in southern and central Mexico, and they did surveys of those who were attempting to make this trip. They indicated that 58 percent of their patients suffered at least--at least--one episode of violence along their way from Central America to the United States. One media network did an investigation that followed the path of Central American migrants, including children, and while their numbers have not been verified or documented, they are staggering. Even if the results are half of what they claim, it is a situation of immense humanitarian dysfunction. They found that 80 percent of all migrants will be assaulted, 60 percent of women will be raped, and only 40 percent will actually make it to the border. Let's say those numbers are exaggerated. There is some indication this media outlet was, perhaps, sensationalizing their numbers. Let's say it is just half of that. But if it is half of that, it is a situation we absolutely cannot tolerate. We absolutely cannot sit by and say the only humanitarian crisis is taking care of these children once they cross the border--making sure they have vaccinations, sustenance, and a place to sleep until we get them processed. Those who claim that need to understand the crisis that exists before they ever get to the border, and the impact on these children in particular. In 2010, when the narrative coming out of the administration was chipping away at our Nation's immigration laws through the abuse of prosecutorial discretion, this generated whispers of hope that ran rampant through the families of our Central American neighbors and gave a false confidence that if you illegally enter our country, once you are here, you will be able to [[Page S4471]] stay. The belief spread in 2012 when the President took his prosecutorial discretion a step further by essentially halting the removal of illegal immigrants who arrived as minors. There was a process where, of course, they were given a piece of paper, which basically said: You have to appear before a judge, who will determine whether you are able to stay in the country or whether you will have to be sent back home. The narrative there was: This is your document that allows you to stay in America. In fact, it was not that at all. But because of the overwhelming number of people who received these documents, allowing them to stay here until they were adjudicated by a judge--because that number now exists around 375,000, and there is no way we can possibly adjudicate these and make these decisions in a short amount of time-- those who arrived simply melded into the society, and most never showed up before a judge who was making a decision about their legality or illegality. A key part of what we have to do here, in my opinion, is a repatriation plan. It is easy to just simply throw money out there and say we will come up with a plan later. I cannot support a provision that does not have policy changes to address this situation--policy changes that will allow us to inform our Central American neighbors that they must make every possible effort to engage with us in telling the truth to their constituencies and the parents of these children as to what lies ahead for them: the fact that they will be subjected to potential brutality, unspeakable, brutal efforts and consequences of this trip, as well as returned to their families and their countries. We have to together make this message clear that our laws require that these children be sent back, but we also have to make it abundantly clear they are putting their children at great harm and great risk to believe this narrative that says: They will be fine, they will be taken care of. Just give us the money and we will make sure your children become Americans and they will be fine in the future. Secondly, I think we need to go a step further. To deter children from making this journey, we have to return those who have already come. Included in a viable repatriation program has to be a streamlined process. I mentioned the number of the hundreds of thousands who are still waiting for their adjudication. There have been efforts and suggestions made by some of our colleagues on a bipartisan basis that we address and dramatically increase the number of judges who can go down to the border and make these decisions quickly so we can safely return these children home without having the horror of seeing these children rejected in different communities and no place to put them, as the numbers simply overwhelm our ability to care for them. The administration does have some flexibility under current law to move families and children through these immigration proceedings in an accelerated manner. However, I believe--and the Secretary of Homeland Security has stated--that we need to go further to change current law to treat all unaccompanied alien children the same. Now this is the President's own Secretary of Homeland Security, who has been to the border, whom I have met with and talked to several times, who is assiduously trying to address this issue in a bipartisan way. We need to work together to make sure we put the processes in place and the policies in place before we simply decide on a number and hope for the best later. We need to change the law to allow Central American children who qualify to choose voluntarily to return as well, rather than go through drawn-out immigration proceedings that should still lead to their removal and damage any chance they have to seek legal immigration in the future. This narrative out there, this story out there, is: Oh well, just go back across the border. Then maybe tomorrow you will get back here, and someone else will pick you up, and you will go to a different place, and you will start the process all over again, and you will finally get handed a piece of paper, and then don't worry about showing up in 12 to 18 months later. You can meld into society, and everything will be well. That absolutely has to be addressed. If we do not do that, we will not succeed with this process. We also need to use our leverage with these foreign countries to gain their cooperation if they refuse to cooperate with us--whether it is withholding foreign aid, whether it is any number of punitive measures. We need to make sure the governments of these nations understand the risk to their children, the harm to their children, and the fact that we are going to enforce the law, and that if they want to continue future relations with the United States through a legal immigration process, they have to work with us to convince their constituencies and give them the truth as to what is happening to their children--to engage in this process of working with us to stop this flow of illegals. Now, obviously, we have to provide reasonable care for those who are already here. The vast majority of the new funding the President is requesting would go for caring for the illegal immigrants who are already here. It includes housing, transporting, and caring for the children and families already in the United States. I believe it is our responsibility as a nation and as a compassionate society to care for the hurt and displaced. But we cannot simply open our arms and encourage all the world's children to strike out on their own, face endless dangers, and come to our shores with the belief that they will be welcomed and accepted and integrated into our society. We simply do not have the capacity to do that on a worldwide basis, and we see the trouble we are having from just three countries. What are we actually doing to stem the flow of unaccompanied alien children coming to the United States? And when will we begin to see the tide turn? That is something that has to happen and must happen initially. Finally, in addition to the care which we must provide--the sustenance and the health care and the bedding and the nutrition and the efforts we need to make; and thank goodness for so many nonprofit organizations, churches, and others that have volunteered to join us in this particular effort--but it cannot be an ongoing effort. It has to be something that is accompanied by significant changes I have talked about before in terms of policy. You have to stop the bleeding. You have to stop the effort first and convince the American people that we finally gained control of our borders before we can move to any kind of sensible immigration reform. This is going to be expensive. We are going to have to make sure the money we are spending is spent as part of a plan to address the problem--not just simply address it and have the problem continue, but address it in a way, on a one-time basis, that we put an end to this story: Send your children and they will be just fine. Mr. President, the time is moving on, and I know my colleague is waiting to speak and we have votes coming up. So let me shorten this by simply concluding, at the end of the day, we have a huge humanitarian crisis on our hands on our border. I believe we have a moral responsibility to swiftly address and solve this crisis. We have to understand that the crisis involves more than just unaccompanied minors. We cannot ignore the national security implications of a weak border. There are many dark powers in this world that wish to see the influence of the United States diminish--that wish to extinguish the beacon of freedom that we have been to the world. So for the sake of the rule of law, for the sake of our national security and the safety of these children, it is imperative we act now and get it right. It will only happen if this body, the Congress--the House and the Senate--and the President will work together to put in place, on an expedited basis, a sensible plan to address this humanitarian crisis. ``Save the children'' means: Don't put those children in the hands of smugglers, coyotes, criminal elements, only for them to go through the horrendous consequences that have become the humanitarian crisis we are addressing. With that, I yield the floor. I suggest the absence of a quorum. The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll. The bill clerk proceeded to call the roll. Mr. CORNYN. Madam President, I ask unanimous consent that the order for the quorum call be rescinded. [[Page S4472]] The PRESIDING OFFICER (Ms. Heitkamp.) Without objection, it is so ordered. ____________________