Behind every number is a name. The southwest border saw 14,855 family units apprehended in fiscal year 2013 but 84,542 this May alone. When each of those family units represents potential victims for smugglers and cartels to exploit, it’s baffling that House Judiciary Democrats — who have jurisdiction over immigration issues — have not offered one bill to stem what’s driving this border crisis.
Democrats are loath even to discuss the policy defects that endanger women and children by the tens of thousands. Since 2015, the Flores settlement decision has incentivized fraud and human smuggling by guaranteeing that any adult who arrives at the border with child in tow could avoid being detained. The ruling was a legal miscalculation former President Obama unsuccessfully appealed to have overturned.
As a result, in Guatemala, a 51-year-old man purchased an infant to bring with him across the border. The man paid $80 for the 6-month-old — roughly the cost of drinks and appetizers at your average D.C. restaurant.
A Homeland Security official rescued that child, but others get recycled. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has discovered rings of criminals in different U.S. cities who are using the same children repeatedly to cross the border. So, while Judiciary Committee Democrats might argue their legislative dance cards are filled up with faux-impeachment proceedings and messaging bills, we must recognize the status quo supports child smuggling and, through their inaction, Democrats are supporting the status quo.
The speaker of the House and chairman of the Judiciary Committee control our committee’s agenda. This Congress, we have held three hearings related to border conditions, but holding hearings until a problem is solved is like screaming at a wall until it changes color. Not one of these hearings helps the children being bought or women being assaulted as a result of broken policies that empower cartels and human traffickers. Hearings don’t send bills to the floor.
Because fatal flaws in the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) and Flores decision have gone uncorrected, they have given rise to a border-crossing industry that fosters organized crime, conceals abuse, and jeopardizes lives as a matter of course. For every 15-year-old girl that DHS rescues from a man who raped her the evening before they crossed the river into America, countless other cruelties go unaddressed.
Border Patrol has already made over 3,800 humanitarian rescues this fiscal year, with agents jumping into flowing water to save migrants almost daily. Fully aware of this, Democrats most recently used their political capital to promote a bill that would actually expand the Flores loophole, driving more vulnerable people into the hands of smugglers who treat them like chattel. Judiciary Committee Democrats’ refusal to consider bills to solve the crisis is legislative malpractice — and approaching depraved indifference.
With vast taxpayer resources directed south, there’s not a single immigration problem we can solve until the border is no longer in crisis. A bill that Congress and this president could agree on has been referred to the Judiciary Committee. The Fix the Immigration Loopholes Act has three main provisions to repair the policies fueling the border surge, and two of those come straight from President Obama’s playbook. The only real solution is to pass a bill, and the only path forward is bipartisan.
What’s the alternative? So far this Congress, Democrats seem inclined to let the border fire burn until they recapture the Senate and White House because they can’t stomach working with their colleagues from red districts. Democrats, though, took a pass on rehabilitating the immigration system even when President Obama had the House and a filibuster-proof Senate. My friend Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) can testify that, in 2018 — with a Republican Congress and White House — we passed criminal justice, copyright, and privacy reforms by working across the aisle.
A divided Congress can be deceiving. Hearings give the majority a forum for talking without taking action. With Customs and Border Protection overwhelmed by the migrant surge, families are being released upon arrival. The de facto open border hurts the children Democrats say they want to protect because it perpetuates the victimization running rampant along the path from Central America to our southern border. The Judiciary Committee must take up the Fix the Immigration Loopholes Act or another bill that would cut to the roots of the border crisis.
Democrats and Republicans have different visions for immigration reform, and I understand sometimes compromise feels like failure, but right now the only winners in the border debacle are gangs and criminals who traffic drugs and other humans. The conditions on the trek to the border are brutal, and it is Congress’s duty to produce viable legislative solutions. Republicans and Democrats share the blame as well as the responsibility to act. The Judiciary Committee is ground zero for solutions, so why aren’t we considering them?
President Obama was right to try to reverse the Flores decision and repair the TVPRA, and President Trump is right to support those goals today. House Democrats are wrong to sideline clear, bipartisan solutions in favor of hearings in which lawmakers do more talking than listening. I hope the House speaker and Judiciary chairman take their cue from the record number of Americans who see the immigration crisis as the biggest challenge facing our country and allow us to vote on a bill to end that crisis.