Senator Jeff Sessions argues that "lax enforcement" of border security is driving the illegal immigration "surge." Sessions, a Republican senator from Alabama, made the comments today on the Senate floor.
"Colleagues," Sessions began, "today there is an unprecedented crisis unfolding on our border. This crisis threatens the very integrity of our national borders, our laws, and our system of justice. It is a crisis of the Administration’s own making, and a crisis that the Administration continues to encourage."
Sessions would add, "contrary to the Administration’s claims that illegal immigrants are acting on mere rumor and misinformation, it is not only the rumor but the reality of lax enforcement that is driving the surge. It is also the lack of a clear message not to come unlawfully."
A leaked May 30 internal memo written by top Border Patrol official, Deputy Chief Ronald Vitiello, said: ‘Currently only three percent of apprehensions from countries other than Mexico are being repatriated to their countries of citizenship, which are predominantly located in Central America.’
I repeat: only three percent are being returned home.
According to the former head of Enforcement and Removal Operations for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Gary Mead, ‘It’s taking a year or more in some places for these people to come up on a hearing and many times, they don’t have an attorney, or they’ve lost an attorney, and they get an extension, and maybe it's two years before they have a hearing. And in the interim period, they enroll in school, or they get a job, or they are reunited with family members, and then they are no longer an enforcement priority.’
Even if, after two or three years, a hearing judge finally orders removal—assuming they show up in court at all—many illegal immigrants simply ignore the order. And, having now been here for a period of years, no one makes them leave. As former ICE Director John Sandweg said, ‘If you are a run-of-the-mill immigrant here illegally, your odds of getting deported are close to zero.’
Yesterday, Byron York published in the Washington Examiner the findings of Jessica Vaughan, director of policy studies at the Center for Immigration Studies, which show that the United States deported a total of 802 minors to Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador in 2011; 677 in 2012; and 496 in 2013. Weighed against the tens of thousands pouring in, it is clear that, once again, the reality—not merely the rumor—of lax enforcement has influenced decision-making in Central America.
York quotes ex-ICE Official Gary Mead: ‘If you’re getting 90,000 a year, or 50,000 a year, or even 25,000 a year, and you only remove 1,200, you’re not eliminating the backlog.’
Additionally, those here illegally have taken advantage of an asylum system that is easily open to abuse and that the Administration has sought to widen rather than narrow. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte stated recently that ‘many of the children, teenagers, and adults arriving at the border are able to game our asylum and immigration laws because the Obama Administration has severely weakened them and many thousands have already been released into the interior of the United States. What does President Obama plan to do with those who have already been released from custody?’
That’s a good question.
So we have a situation now where illegal immigrants seek out and turn themselves in to border patrol so they can be brought into the United States, be united with family members, apply for jobs, attend schools, have children in U.S. hospitals, and stay in the United States—whether through skipping court hearings, receiving asylum, or simply ignoring orders to leave. We can all expect, five or ten years from now, politicians in this very body to say that these illegal immigrants ‘came here through no fault of their own’ and are entitled to citizenship. Is this a policy of a great nation? It’s a policy of a nation that advocates for open borders, but it’s not a policy that’s compatible with a system of law, duty, and order.
And the chaos continues.
Indeed, the President actively continues to incentivize even more illegal immigration—he reauthorized his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for two years and held a White House ceremony honoring ten DACA recipients; he recently unilaterally authorized an additional 100,000 guest workers; and now the Justice Department is hiring lawyers to represent unaccompanied alien children in immigration court, to maximize the number who will receive permission to stay.
Claims that DACA does not apply to these new arrivals is simply a distraction. DACA is a unilateral action that established the precedent that those who come to the United States at a certain age will receive special exemptions from the law. ICE officers report that they are often forced to release even high-risk individuals, of unknown ages and dates of entry, who simply assert ‘DREAM Act’ privileges.
In the internal Border Patrol memo, Deputy Chief Vitiello stressed that the only way to stop the flow is to show potential illegal immigrants that there will be real consequences for their actions: ‘If the U.S. government fails to deliver adequate consequences to deter aliens from attempting to illegally enter the U.S. the result will be an even greater increase in the rate of recidivism and first-time illicit entries.’
Our immigration system is unraveling before our very eyes. The American people have been denied the protections they are entitled to under our immigration system. Washington is failing the citizens of this country in the most dramatic way.
So I am calling upon all leaders and officials in this town to take the firm, bold and decisive steps necessary to restore order and restore our borders. This is also so important for the children who are placed in such danger.
What is the way to fix this?
The President must send a clear and simple message: Do not come unlawfully. If you do, you will be returned home.