In Floor Speech, Rep. Gutiérrez Calls for End to Home Invasion Raids

Jan 6, 2016 Issues: Immigration

“Raids will not bring us order. Raids will only bring misery.”

Washington, DC – On Wednesday, standing on the floor of the House of Representatives, in front of the iconic AP photograph of the April 2000 immigration raid in the home where Elian Gonzalez was living, Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL) denounced recent home invasion raids conducted by the Obama Administration and ICE targeting Central American families.  Rep. Gutiérrez (D-IL) said “We do not want to repeat the scene from April 2000...That vision of terror is seared into America’s memory and should not be repeated.”  But fear seems to be the point of the raids, the Congressman said.

“The government is saying they could be coming to your house and they could be coming at any time. Already, we are seeing signs of panic.  We hear that children are not going to school and parents are not going to work out of fear.  Not even a week into the New Year and 2016 has turned into one of fear and hiding.”

At least 121 children and adults were taken in raids that started over the weekend.  Most are going to privately-run, for-profit family detention centers, the same centers used when asylum seekers from Central America come to the United States and that Rep. Gutiérrez and others have been trying to close down.

“I have gone to the detention centers in Texas and met with the moms and kids who were detained there when they came in. One woman summed up their plight concisely by saying, ‘In Honduras, my family and I could live in poverty, but we could not live in peace.’ Raids will not bring her peace.  Raids will not bring us order. Raids will only bring misery.”

He said that the policy being carried out is not consistent with the values of the Democratic Party:

“This is not the Democratic Party’s solution to immigration questions, nor should it be America’s. We expect heated calls for raids and deportation from the other side.  We hear their calls for walls, bigger jails, and further restrictions on legal immigration.  We will fight their efforts to erect religious or economic barriers to who can qualify for a chance to come to America. Our Party has rejected those calls, with good reason. Americans want order and legality in immigration, not deportations and families forcibly split apart or exiled.”

A video of the Congressman’s speech is here: https://youtu.be/bqNBMoknJGE

The text is below.

FLOOR SPEECH 01/06/2016

(As Prepared for Delivery)

Mr. Speaker:

Over the holidays, the Obama Administration sent a very special Christmas greeting to immigrant families.  They launched a series of home raids targeting Central American asylum seekers and immigrant families with children. 

As its New Year’s resolution, it is clear the Obama Administration is embarking on a new enforcement initiative to deport certain Central Americans who entered the U.S. in 2014.

Last weekend, 121 children and adults were taken into custody and most were sent to family detention centers -- a kind of privately-run, for-profit family jail.

They will probably be deported, just like the two million before them deported by President Obama.

How they are treated and whether they get meaningful and true due process remains a question mark.

What is undeniable is that such raids strike maximum fear in immigrant communities. 

The government is saying they could be coming to your house and they could be coming at any time.

Already, we are seeing signs of panic.  We hear that children are not going to school and parents are not going to work out of fear.  Not even a week into the New Year and 2016 has turned into one of fear and hiding.

But let us be very clear.

Deporting families will not resolve the violence and corruption that push people from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to risk assault, rape, and murder to seek refuge in the United States.

Deporting families will not weaken the gangs who terrorize and extort their own people in Central America.

Deporting families will not solve America’s immigration problem. 

Deporting families will not strengthen border security.

Deporting families will not create legal channels that allow immigrants to come with visas instead of smugglers.

Deporting families will not reduce the insatiable demand in the United States for the drugs that fuel the gangs, the guns, the smuggling operations, and the ruthless violence in Central America.

The raids by the Obama Administration on families from Central America must stop.  They are a cruel reminder of a discredited policy. 

We do not want to repeat the scene from April 2000 when armed agents forcibly took Elian Gonzalez from his house in Miami.  That vision of terror is seared into America’s memory and should not be repeated.

But even the raid on the home of Elian Gonzalez was carried out after all peaceful means of negotiation were exhausted.  Surely there is a better way to take action when people have exhausted all of their legal remedies than to send armed agents into neighborhoods, apartment complexes, and family homes.

Those who are being deported are the ones most likely to have had no attorney, no understanding of the laws and the practices of immigration courts, and now could be vulnerable to attack and murder back in Central America.

It is a fact that some of the people the U.S. government has deported in the past have ended up dead in days, weeks, or months after their return.  We have to make sure that same tragic fate does not wait for the individuals and families the government is currently rounding up.

Along with other Members of Congress, I am seeking answers from Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson as to why this policy is needed, why it was launched to instill fear in immigrant households over the Christmas, New Year’s, and Three Kings holidays, and why family detention centers I have been trying to close are now filling up with new families awaiting deportation.

This is not the Democratic Party’s solution to immigration questions, nor should it be America’s. 

We expect heated calls for raids and deportation from the other side.  We hear their calls for walls, bigger jails, and further restrictions on legal immigration.  We will fight their efforts to erect religious or economic barriers to who can qualify for a chance to come to America. 

Our Party has rejected those calls, with good reason.  Americans want order and legality in immigration, not deportations and families forcibly split apart or exiled. 

We do not need to repeat that scene – multiplied by hundreds or thousands of times across the country.

What we need to do is not easy, but it is the right thing to do. 

We need to take steps to solve the problem of gangs, weak and corrupt governments, and people who have no hope for a brighter future – right here on our continent, not just half way across the world. 

And serious aid is more than giving more money to their police.

It is more than putting U.S. personnel in their countries to tell moms and children “no, you cannot seek refuge in the U.S….”

It is more than working with Mexico at its Southern Border.

We need to give mothers and fathers and children a way to live in their own countries.

I have gone to the detention centers in Texas and met with the moms and kids who were detained there when they came in.

One woman summed up their plight concisely by saying, “In Honduras, my family and I could live in poverty, but we could not live in peace.” 

Raids will not bring her peace. 

Raids will not bring us order. 

Raids will only bring misery.

Rep. Gutiérrez represents the Fourth District of Illinois, is a Member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, is a Member of the Judiciary Committee and the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, and the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations. 

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