Fresh off a tour of the U.S. border with Mexico, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte said it is clear that Obama administration policies have lead to the recent surge in unaccompanied minors and family units illegally entering the U.S.
“This trip has confirmed that this is a disaster of President Obama’s own making,” Goodlatte told reporters on a Thursday conference call.
The Virginia Republican led a congressional delegation to the Rio Grande Valley Sector of the U.S.-Mexico border this week to learn more about the ongoing crisis of illegal immigration. The lawmakers toured facilities housing undocumented immigrants and met with officials and immigration enforcement on the ground.
Goodlatte stressed that there are things Obama can do to immediately quell the ongoing crisis of illegal immigration across the southwest border.
“If the president wants to stop this problem, he should enforce our immigration laws and quit using his pen and phone to create administrative legalization programs, which he doesn’t have the authority to do under the law,” he said, adding that there needs to be additional deterrents to illegal immigration and action to take on asylum fraud.
There also need to be more facilities to detain people and process them for removal quickly, Goodlatte said, adding that another way to stem the flow is for Obama to work with the Central American countries to keep children from leaving their countries and get Mexico to stop the influx at its southern border.
The chairman noted that if Obama offers “targeted fixes” for changes to the law to alleviate the problem, it would be something Congress would look at closely.
House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, also speaking with reporters after visiting the border, said that the president started the crisis with his words and can help mitigate it as well.
“The president started this crisis with his bully pulpit, in saying that effectively he was going to do the DREAM Act by executive order. He can use that same bully pulpit to say that that experiment has ended, it has caused this humanitarian crisis, and that in fact strict enforcement is going to replace it. That would send a strong message,” Issa said. He added that Obama can also “pick up the phone” and call foreign governments to get them to help repatriate their citizens quickly.
Since October, more than 52,000 unaccompanied minors have been detained illegally crossing the border and over 40,000 family members.
The congressman reported that the vast majority of unaccompanied minors are looking to meet up with illegal immigrant parents in the U.S. and come believing they can stay. He added that the delegation was told that the going rate right now to smuggle a person illegally to the United States ranged between $4,000-$8,000.
They further encouraged President Obama to visit the border — which he is not scheduled to do — when he is in Texas next week.
“I think simply if the president would ask these people who work so hard for him, ‘What can I do to help your job work better?’ I think they would tell him about the policies that he has put in place that have made their job harder and contributed to this surge of young childen and families coming north,” Issa said.
Both Issa and Goodlatte stressed that the Border Patrol is doing a great job in the face of the surge.
Goodlatte’s delegation consisted of House Judiciary members including Issa, Rep. Blake Fahrenthold (R-TX), Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), and Rep. Joe Garcia (D-FL).
After the call with reporters, Goodlatte’s House Judiciary Committee staff provided a list of three key findings from the Congressmen’s briefings in a press release:
1. The vast majority of Central American minors who are unaccompanied meet up with their parents who are already in the United States illegally. Further, these parents often had a role in smuggling the minors into the United States. While touring several federal facilities, minors traveling from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras stated that they came here to be with a parent who is already in the United States illegally. At a tour of the HHS facility housing boys ages 8-17, Members were told that the phone is ringing off the hook with parents looking for their children who they know made – and often directed to make – the dangerous journey to the U.S. While Chairmen Goodlatte and Issa were on a ride-along with the Border Patrol along the Rio Grande, they witnessed the apprehension of a mother and child from El Salvador and a 15-year-old boy from Honduras. The boy said he came to reunite with his mother, who has been in Los Angeles since he was six. Both said they were coming here in violation of law.
2. Border Patrol agents say the best way to stop this crisis is deterrence. Border Patrol agents stated unequivocally that the best way to stop the surge of Central Americans is deterrence and there must be an end of what is now essentially “catch and release.” However, it’s clear that currently there are little, if any, consequences for illegal immigration. Word has spread to the Americas and beyond that women and children are not priorities for removal, as outlined in the Obama Administration’s immigration enforcement “priorities.” Additionally, many of these minors and families are able to game the asylum process since most applications are rubberstamped for approval. In fact, an internal Department of Homeland Security report states there is proven or possible fraud in up to 70% of asylum applications.
3. Stringent environmental rules prevent Border Patrol agents in the Rio Grande Valley Sector from accessing federal lands along the border. Border Patrol agents cited restrictions on federal lands as a burden to doing their job of securing the border. The Departments of Interior and Agriculture currently have rules that prevent Border Patrol agents from accessing federal lands within 100 miles of the border under the guise of environmental preservation. The House Judiciary Committee has passed legislation, the SAFE Act, which would stop this foolish policy.