(House of Representatives - February 06, 2019)

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[Pages H1381-H1383]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []


  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under the Speaker's announced policy of 
January 3, 2019, the gentleman from the Northern Mariana Islands (Mr. 
Sablan) is recognized for the remainder of the hour as the designee of 
the majority leader.
  Mr. SABLAN. Madam Speaker, I thank my friend from the great State of 
New York and the great city of New York for inviting me to speak on the 
need for comprehensive immigration reform for our Nation as a whole 
and, specifically, about how the broken immigration system hurts people 
I represent in the Mariana Islands.
  In 2013, the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill, 
with Republicans and Democrats voting together, that would have gone a 
long way to fixing immigration.
  The bill gave people who came here illegally but are now contributing 
to the economic prosperity of all Americans a way to come out of the 
shadows, and it provided for substantial improvements in border 
security--just what the President says he wants.
  The Republican-led House decided not to take the path the Senate had 
courageously shown us in 2013, but I hope that, in this 116th Congress, 
we can dust off that comprehensive immigration reform bill and breathe 
new life into it.
  Because our immigration problems still need fixing, we have a 
solution, ready-made, that already passed the Senate with Republican 
and Democratic votes.
  I worked with the Gang of Eight in the Senate who drafted that 
legislation. I was able to include a section that dealt with groups of 
people in the Mariana Islands who fell through the cracks when Congress 
extended U.S. immigration law to my islands in 2008.

[[Page H1382]]

  Let me begin by saying that none of the people I wanted to help came 
into our country illegally or stayed illegally. They were all lawfully 
present, but their situations were not understood or accounted for when 
Federal law was applied to the Mariana Islands. I have wanted to help 
them since my first days in Congress 10 years ago, and I will not stop 
working until they are pulled out of the limbo we left them in. Let me 
tell you about these people.
  Imagine you are the daughter or son of parents who came to the 
Mariana Islands before 1976, before our islands were even part of the 
United States. The Mariana Islands is your only home. You grew up in 
the Islands, went to school, have worked there ever since, raising your 
own family, always lawfully present.
  Then, three decades later, Congress decides to extend America's 
immigration borders. Suddenly, you are told you are a foreigner. You 
need a work visa or humanitarian parole or, otherwise, you will have to 
leave the only home you have ever known. Imagine.
  The Senate comprehensive immigration reform bill would have fixed 
  Imagine you are living in the Mariana Islands and the local 
government passes a law, as it has every right to do, that gives you 
permanent resident status. Then along comes Congress, 25 years later, 
and says the Mariana Islands is within U.S. immigration borders now. 
Oh, and by the way, you permanent residents, you do not have that 
status anymore. If you want to stay, you need a work visa or 
humanitarian parole; otherwise, you will have to leave your home, your 
children, your family. Imagine.

                              {time}  1445

  The Senate comprehensive immigration reform bill would have fixed 
  Imagine coming to the Marianas as a foreign worker. You have 
contributed to economic growth and have been a lawfully present 
resident for decades. But Congress passes a new law, and suddenly, your 
status changes. Even if you have a spouse or children who are U.S. 
citizens, they cannot petition for you because they are too poor or 
  Under the Obama administration, at least you were granted 
humanitarian parole. But the Trump administration wants you gone by 
June 30, June 30 of this year.
  You must uproot your family, pull your children out of school, or 
leave them behind as orphans. Imagine.
  The Senate comprehensive immigration reform bill would have fixed 
that, too.
  Madam Speaker, I come from a very small community, compared to my 
colleagues here in the House, just 50,000 people. When I ask you to 
imagine the plight of those who were forgotten when Congress extended 
Federal immigration law to the Marianas, I do not have to imagine who 
they are. I know them individually. They are my neighbors. Some are my 
relatives. None are strangers to me. They are good people who came in 
legally and remained lawfully present. But their lives are precarious, 
and the Trump administration is tightening the noose.
  We do not have to imagine how to help them. The solution is before 
us. The Senate-passed comprehensive immigration reform in 2013, a 
bipartisan vote, a set of policies to fix our broken system and 
strengthen border security, I dare say could pass this House today. Let 
us act.
  Again, I thank the gentleman from New York for giving me this time to 
  Madam Speaker, I yield to the gentleman from Illinois (Mr. Garcia).
  Mr. GARCIA of Illinois. Madam Speaker, I thank my colleagues, 
Representative Espaillat and Representative Sablan, for yielding this 
time and for organizing this important hour to speak truth to power and 
provide an opportunity for the American people to hear the truth in 
contrast to the lies that were told by President Trump in how he 
propagandized about immigrants.
  I take this issue personally. The way the President has characterized 
immigrants denigrates the dignity and the humanity of millions around 
the world, including myself.
  You see, Madam Speaker, I was born in a tiny village called Los Pinos 
in the Mexican state of Durango. I am an immigrant.
  My mother raised me, the youngest of four, while my father worked in 
the United States as part of a World War II-era bracero program. He was 
a migrant seasonal worker, a pioneer of what would later become the H-
2A visa program.
  Eventually, my father got a job in a storage plant in Chicago, and my 
family immigrated to the U.S. in 1965. I still remember my first 
American meal at a gas station in El Paso, Texas, a bologna sandwich.
  Today, I stand on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives with 
great pride to have been elected a Member of Congress. But, also, I 
carry a heavy burden, both on my conscience and on my shoulders.
  The President's grotesque characterization of immigrants as rapists, 
drug dealers, and murderers is an affront to me, to my mother, to my 
family. Most importantly, it is an affront to my community and every 
single American, lest we forget that our Nation values immigrants.
  Last night, the President doubled down on his rhetoric of hate, once 
again falsely describing a security crisis at the border. Today, I want 
to make clear three points on why we so desperately need immigration 
  First, let me be clear: There is no crisis at the border. The only 
crisis we face is the inadequate response to the humanitarian relief 
that women, children, asylum seekers, and refugees want, while this 
administration abdicates America's moral duty to serve and welcome 
those most in need.
  The truth is that, Madam Speaker, migrants are escaping some of the 
harshest regimes in Central America, where political and economic 
turmoil threaten their lives. That is why they come.
  Contrary to the President's fearmongering, analysis from The New York 
Times and the Center for American Progress shows that illegal 
immigration is near an all-time low. In fact, apprehensions at the 
border have declined more than 75 percent since the year 2000.
  Most drug trafficking is coming through our ports of entry, not rural 
sections of the border.
  Just last year, we witnessed the horror of young children being 
ripped out of the arms of their parents. The children were detained and 
held in cold, lifeless cages, like animals, where they slept on 
concrete floors and were given little more than aluminum sheets to keep 
them warm.
  What a disgrace, Madam Speaker. How can the richest, most powerful 
country in the world not have the ability to do better?
  My second point, on the need for immediate immigration reform, is 
that we face a tremendous crisis here at home, where millions of 
hardworking, law-abiding individuals--our neighbors, relatives, and 
friends--live in constant fear of being ripped apart from all they know 
and those they love.
  Madam Speaker, there are more than 11 million individuals, including 
children, living in the United States who are currently undocumented. 
Of those, there are more than 3.6 million Dreamers, children who 
entered the U.S. before their 18th birthday, and more than 1.8 million 
children eligible for DACA because they were brought to the U.S. before 
their 16th birthday.
  Their parents brought them seeking refuge, opportunity, a chance to 
give their children a life free of the fear from hunger, abject 
poverty, and the violent drug wars that are ravaging Central America.
  At this point, I would like to shine a light on one young Dreamer who 
lives in my district in Illinois, in a suburban community of Chicago, 
and how she studies, she works, and she helps build communities.
  Back home, in the community of Little Village, where I have lived for 
the past 49 years, there is a story about a young woman named Elizeth 
Arguelles and the tamales that are making her dreams come true.
  Elizeth's mother began working as a tamale street vendor when she 
arrived in Chicago so that she could save money and bring her children 
from Mexico to join her in the U.S. When Elizeth arrived at about 7 
years old, she immediately began helping her mother make tamales. She 
would wake up at 3:30 a.m. to prepare the cart and sell tamales until 
7:30 a.m. before going to school.

[[Page H1383]]

  Elizeth grew up in the United States, saved up money from selling 
tamales, and paid for college tuition, first at Morton College and now 
at Dominican University.
  Elizeth's immigration status, however, continues to present a 
challenge. Despite all her hard work and her study, her future is 
uncertain because she is a deferred action recipient. She doesn't know 
what will happen next.
  Despite those obstacles, she has proven that she values resilience, 
self-reliance, and ingenuity. Those are her values, and they are 
American values as well. Elizeth's story speaks to the values that make 
our country great.
  Unfortunately, ICE raids continue to terrorize immigrant communities 
and traumatize children like Elizeth who live in constant fear of 
losing their parents and their own futures. These young people yearn to 
go to college, to serve in our military, and to enrich our communities 
with their entrepreneurial spirit.
  Madam Speaker, Congress must create a path to citizenship to prove 
that, beyond a doubt, we welcome Elizeth and those like her to America.
  I want to end and make my third and final point. The status quo 
cannot remain, and the current legal immigration system is broken, 
creating decades-long delays for family reunifications and exacerbating 
workforce gaps that harm our economy.
  Madam Speaker, when we hear naysayers complain that immigrants should 
come to America using the legal route but fail to acknowledge the 
antiquated and broken state that our system is in--for many, processing 
time for family reunification visas can last between 18 and 23 years.
  Imagine how much can happen in 18 to 23 years, Madam Speaker.
  As of November 2012, there were 4.3 million people on the wait list 
for family visas and 113,000 waiting for employment-based visas.
  Those years-long wait times cause others to make an even more 
difficult choice. In Mexico, a group now referred to as Los Invisibles, 
the invisible ones, is growing. Los Invisibles, these invisible young 
people, refers to more than 600,000 American-born U.S. children living 
in Mexico.
  Because our broken system keeps families apart for so long, or it 
tears mothers and fathers away from their children, some have elected 
to leave America altogether--a real tragedy, a real loss for us.
  Perhaps in another life, I would have been one of those children and, 
because of the anti-immigrant policies of today's administration, the 
next U.S. Congressman won't stand here in the future to share the 
immigrant experience that I share with all of you today.
  The true crisis we face, the true danger we face, is the President's 
propaganda that flies in the face of truth. Immigrants don't worsen the 
Nation. On the contrary, immigrants help keep this Nation the strongest 
nation the world has ever known.
  We are your mechanics, your nurses, your farmers, your local brewer. 
We are your teachers, engineers, and law enforcement officers. We are 
firefighters, plumbers, and doctors. In some lucky instances, we are 
your Representatives in Washington.
  As the proud immigrant Representative from a district that is more 
than two-thirds foreign-born, I refuse to back down and sit silent 
while the President denigrates me, my family, and my constituents.
  As a Congress, we cannot sit idly by while thousands are denied 
humanitarian relief at the border while millions live in fear here in 
our communities and while millions more wait, separated from those they 
love and care for.
  Madam Speaker, I thank the gentleman from the Northern Mariana 
Islands (Mr. Sablan) for yielding me the time to share my story.
  Mr. SABLAN. Madam Speaker, I yield to the gentlewoman from Texas (Ms. 
Escobar), the CHC freshman Representative.
  Ms. ESCOBAR. Madam Speaker, I am here to correct the Record, to bust 
the myth, to make sure that Americans know the truth about my 
wonderful, generous, incredible community, El Paso, Texas.
  Last night, in this Chamber, as I was seated in the audience 
listening to the State of the Union Address, I heard our President 
misinform the American public. He said that El Paso, Texas, was once 
one of the most dangerous cities in America, and then a wall was built.
  Well, Madam Speaker, that is not true. El Paso is one of the safest 
cities in America. However, we have been a safe community; we have been 
a safe city. We are right on the U.S.-Mexico border, and we have been 
safe for decades.

                              {time}  1500

  The wall was built in El Paso, Texas, in 2008. Our ranking as one of 
the safest communities in America dates back to the 1990s.
  Many people wonder why El Paso is so safe. Why is El Paso, which is, 
again, right on the U.S.-Mexico border, one of the safest communities 
in America? Last night, in those conversations, I pointed to my guest 
at the State of the Union Address, Senaida Navar, who is a Dreamer; she 
is a teacher; she is an activist; she is exactly the kind of community 
member, constituent, citizen who makes El Paso and the country great.
  As these debates over comprehensive immigration reform, over border 
security, continue to get louder and, in fact, uglier here in 
Washington, D.C., El Paso has been, in many ways, at the center of 
those debates and those discussions.
  I will tell you, they should be. El Paso should be at the center of 
that debate.
  The reason why El Paso should be at the center of that debate is not 
because we were the site of the President's zero-tolerance policy, not 
because we were the site of the tent city at Tornillo, not because our 
processing center is the site where detainees are right now being 
force-fed through a nose tube against their will. We should be at the 
center of deciding the future of this country in terms of comprehensive 
immigration reform because of our generosity, because of our goodwill, 
because of our kindness.
  El Paso has absolutely set an example for our country, and we have 
done it with the way that we have opened up our arms to everyone and 
treated people with the dignity that they deserve.
  Madam Speaker, I thank Congressman Sablan for the opportunity to 
correct the Record.
  Mr. SABLAN. Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague very much for her 
  Madam Speaker, I just realized that today, this Special Order, we had 
four speakers, three of whom are immigrants: the gentleman from New 
York, the gentleman from Illinois, and this gentleman from the Northern 
Marianas. We are immigrants. The sky hasn't fallen.
  There is nothing to be afraid of. We are a country of immigrants.
  Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague, Mr. Espaillat, for organizing 
this evening's Special Order on the need for immigration reform.
  Madam Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.