Rep. Gutiérrez Speaks About Raids and Central American Refugees on Floor of the House

Feb 3, 2016 Issues: Immigration

“I can honestly say that I have not seen such fear and anxiety in immigrant communities”

Washington, DC – On Wednesday, Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-IL) spoke during the Morning Hour on the floor of the House of Representatives (approx. 10 am ET) about Central American refugees and immigration raids carried out to round them up.  On Thursday, the Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing assigning blame for the refugees fleeing Central America to President Obama, while at the same time, the Obama Administration is saying raids in Central American communities in the US have substantially slowed the influx of asylum seekers and refugees.  Lost in the politics is any serious attempt to legislate, to do something about the broader issues that drive migration, that feed the black market, or that trigger raids on family homes and school children. 

The Congressman said:

I have not seen such fear and anxiety in immigrant communities, where mothers and fathers are keeping their children out of school because of the fear of being arrested by immigration authorities.  The home raids announced by the Obama Administration around Christmas have struck a nerve.  They have sparked rumors and panic and have multiplied as city after city have experienced raids or the rumors of raids.

But Thursday’s Judiciary Committee hearing will not address anything of substance and “will continue to feed the hucksterism and red meat politics that Americans hate…”  He concluded,

For all of the Americans that want a legal and accountable immigration system and all of the families that fear a knock on their door, this Congress again seems to have nothing -- and to do nothing other than let the demagogues and fear rule the day.  Mr. Speaker, that is a shame.

The text of the speech (as prepared for delivery) is below.

A video of his speech is here: https://youtu.be/FGFut1bLDOk

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 is the Co-Chair of the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

Floor Remarks

February 3, 2016

On Thursday, Republicans in the House are holding a hearing blaming the Obama Administration because thousands of children and young adults are fleeing three countries in Central America seeking safety in the United States and other countries.

The premise, as far as the Republicans on the committee are concerned, is that President Obama has not deported anyone or enforced any immigration laws. 

As far as they are concerned, the President’s executive actions – which, we should remember are for a different set of immigrants altogether and which Republicans have delayed until the Supreme Court decides on a lawsuit this Summer – but Republicans see them as a clarion call to everyone in these three particular countries to attempt to come to the U.S. 

It is not the rampant murders, the extortion, the forced conscription into street gangs, or the utter collapse of civil society and civil order that is driving people to risk their lives to seek safety here.  No, it is that President that Republicans love to hate – he is to blame.

I hope that at least a little time at the Judiciary Hearing on Thursday will be devoted to the problems our government faced over the past couple of years in handling young and unaccompanied asylum seekers from Central America. 

We know that some women were kept in lock-ups too long; that the term “humane family detention” is an oxymoron; that children were released to guardians who did not have the children’s best interests in mind and that some were forced into human trafficking situations that we should have been vigilant against. 

Those are the issues I hope we can focus on. 

We should be asking how can we remain a society that protects the innocent, cares for children who have put themselves in our care, and does so in accordance with the laws of this nation and the laws of basic decency.

Unfortunately, at this point, we know what Judiciary Committee hearings are not about: they are not serious attempts to craft legislation that creates an immigration system that works for the American people. 

Hearings in this Congress are not about how the Congress can create legal and controlled immigration alternatives so that people do not try to come illegally or spend thousands of dollars on smugglers and traffickers.

We will probably not discuss how a generation of Temporary Protected Status for certain immigrants has not created a long-term, sustainable situation in immigrant communities or sending countries so that immigration is safe, legal, orderly and voluntary. 

We will spend a lot of time discussing whether President Obama is to blame, but very little time actually discussing why people come in the dead of night, holding on to a freight train and running a gauntlet with smugglers, and not what can be done to have immigration where people come in the light of day, with visas, passports and a plane ticket.

We simply will not discuss how we get from this broken reality to a feasible and sustainable future of immigration,.  Rather, the Judiciary Committee will continue to feed the hucksterism and red meat politics that Americans hate -- and they hate it with good reason.

In the years since 2007 or 2008 when George Bush started ramping up raids and deportations, right on through the 2 million deportations of President Obama, I can honestly say that I have not seen such fear and anxiety in immigrant communities, where mothers and fathers are keeping their children out of school because of the fear of being arrested by immigration authorities.

The home raids announced by the Obama Administration around Christmas have struck a nerve.  They have sparked rumors and panic and have multiplied as city after city have experienced raids or the rumors of raids. 

Children taken as they go to school – as they go to school!! – the government has stopped them and arrested them. 

The fear and anxiety has nothing to do with Donald Trump or the fantasy that he has of deporting millions of immigrants or barring people from this country because of their religion. 

The fear and anxiety is born of decades of congressional inaction and leaders in Washington hoping that the problem would just go away.  But we will not be discussing that at the hearing on Thursday.

The path forward that will allow the country to move beyond the legislative roadblock imposed by the opponents of legal immigration, we will again not discuss how we make progress but rather how we blame Obama.

For all of the Americans that want a legal and accountable immigration system and all of the families that fear a knock on their door, this Congress again seems to have nothing -- and to do nothing other than let the demagogues and fear rule the day.

Mr. Speaker, that is a shame.

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