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, testified today during the House Rules Committee hearing on H.R. 5230, the House border crisis supplemental legislation. Granger discussed the Working Group recommendations included in the supplemental legislation.

Granger’s Opening Statement as Prepared for Delivery

Thank you Chairman Sessions and Ranking Member Slaughter.

I am proud to sit with Chairman Rogers today and testify on a bill that provides an immediate and targeted response to address the humanitarian crisis that is happening right now on our southern border.

As we speak, unaccompanied minors are being sent from Central America through drug cartel smuggling networks across Mexico and through our southern border. Since October, over 58,000 unaccompanied children have made this journey, 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. Congress cannot provide more resources to address this crisis without changing the policies that have led to the situation we are in today.

Since Speaker Boehner 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.

From meetings with State Department officials in Guatemala, to meetings with Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, those who are closest to the problem all say that we have to make changes to the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008. The policy recommendations the Working Group presented to the conference makes a tweak to 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 the supplemental also ensure that children receive a prompt hearing within seven days after they are detained, and with a requirement that a judge rules no later than 72 hours after a hearing. Accelerating the hearing times will require more judges. Our recommendation is that there are 40 temporary judges brought online until this crisis is under control.

For repatriations we are prioritizing last in, first out. This will send a strong message to the families in the countries of origin that their children will not be permitted to stay.  

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 CBP unfettered access to federal lands. Right now through a memorandum of understanding, CBP officials are only permitted to pursue suspects onto federal lands. They cannot do regular patrols. This has created high traffic areas for migrants who are doing far more damage to these protected lands than regular CBP patrols would.

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 housing children on military installations are the least cost-effective facilities to house children.

The Congressional Budget Office has given some initial feedback on the policy recommendations in the bill.  They have said that because the legislation allows for the children to self deport it will lead to immediate savings.

Thank you for your time and I look forward to answering your questions.