WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Kay Granger (TX-12), Chairwoman of the House Working Group to address the national security and humanitarian crisis at the southern border, spoke on the House floor today in the support of the House Republican Border Crisis Supplemental legislation.

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery

Thank you Mr. Chairman for yielding.

Mr. Speaker, As we speak, unaccompanied minors continue to be sent from Central America through drug cartel smuggling networks across Mexico and through our southern border.

Families are being lied to and manipulated by the coyotes. The $6,000 their families spend to send their children to the United States goes into the bank accounts of the most powerful drug cartels in the world. Since October, over 58,000 unaccompanied children have made the dangerous journey to the United States, and many more will continue to come unless we send a clear message that they will not be allowed to stay in the United States.

I have seen firsthand the crisis that has unfolded at the southern border in places like the Rio Grande Valley and South Texas. I have seen the women and children sleeping on the floor of a bus station in Laredo. I have seen motherless infants being cared for by any stranger who is around. I have seen the children who are alone in detention facilities in McAllen, Texas and I have seen the 1,200 kids who are being sheltered at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. And, most disturbing of all, I have heard the stories about the most god-awful journey no one should ever have to experience.

We are here today because we have a responsibility to stop this crisis. The president has failed to lead, so I firmly believe this chamber must act. Doing nothing is not an option.

Since June when the speaker asked me to lead a working group to provide policy recommendations on what we can do to address the crisis, I have been to the Texas-Mexico border twice and led a CODEL to Guatemala and Honduras to see where the children are coming from and why. I will be returning to the border tomorrow for a third time.

The members of the working group dove head-first into this issue to understand this crisis and provide recommendations for a short-term, immediate response.
The policies we recommended are not an attempt at immigration reform. They are serious solutions to address this crisis. I want to take a moment to recognize the hard work of the members of the working group who made policy recommendations to the conference and the expertise they all brought to the table. I want to thank:

Chairman of the Judiciary Committee Bob Goodlatte
Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee Michael McCaul
Chairman of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee John Carter
Chairman of the Western Hemisphere Foreign Affairs Subcommittee Matt Salmon
Congressman Steve Pearce from the Financial Services Committee
Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart from the Appropriations Committee

One of our conclusions from the last several weeks is that Congress should not provide more resources to the administration without changing the policies that have led us to the situation we are in today.

Administration officials, and officials in the Central American countries, have all said that we have to make changes to the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008. A month ago it appeared there was a bipartisan consensus forming on the issue. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said from the White House podium just three weeks ago, when discussing changes to the 2008 law that it is: “A priority of this administration, and if you listen to the public comments of Democrats and Republicans, it sounds like it’s a bipartisan priority.” I agree. And it is disappointing that the White House has backed down from their original statements on how we could immediately address this issue.   

We are not asking for a repeal of this law. We are saying we need to tweak the 2008 law so that all unaccompanied minors are treated the same as Mexican and Canadian children for removal purposes.  The policy changes included in this bill ensure that children receive a prompt hearing within seven days after they are detained, and require that a judge rules no later than 72 hours after a hearing.

Accelerating the hearing times requires more judges. I thank the chairman for including the necessary funding to hire 40 temporary judges until this crisis is under control. For repatriations, we are prioritizing “last in, first out.” This means that the last child to go into U.S. government custody will be the first one we send home.

After families have spent between $6,000 and $9,000 to send their children here, this will send a strong message to the families in the countries of origin that their children will not be permitted to stay. This is a message of deterrence. I also note that Chairman Rogers has prioritized funding for Central American countries to safely and humanely return these children.

With the surge of children there has been increased pressure on our Customs and Border Protection officials. This supplemental deploys the National Guard to assist high traffic states. This will free up the Border Patrol to focus on their mission. To fully support Customs and Border Protection’s mission, we include a provision to allow Border Patrol unfettered access to federal lands. Right now through a memorandum of understanding, Border Patrol officials are only permitted to pursue suspects onto federal lands. They cannot do regular patrols.

Finally, the supplemental includes a sense of Congress that children should not be detained at military bases. While this will not change the law, this provision addresses a serious and growing concern from members of congress. Not least of the concerns is that children should not be stored on military bases.  

The Congressional Budget Office has given its assessment of the policy changes in this bill. They have said that because the legislation allows for the children to self-deport, it will lead to immediate savings.

This is a smart, targeted bill that addresses the crisis immediately. I urge my colleagues to vote yes on the supplemental and show the American people that we are going to end this crisis.

Thank you, Chairman Rogers, and I yield back the balance of my time.