Washington, D.C. – House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) today delivered the following remarks during the Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee hearing on “Restoring Enforcement of Our Nation’s Immigration Laws.”
Chairman Goodlatte: When the Obama Administration sailed off, it left in its wake a systematically dismantled immigration enforcement infrastructure. Through so-called “priorities” defined by the president, not Congress, the Administration dramatically scaled back immigration enforcement and allowed millions of unlawful and criminal aliens to remain in the country free of consequence. By terminating successful programs, including Secure Communities, the Administration permitted, if not encouraged, sanctuary city practices and policies. This left us with an immigration system more broken, more dysfunctional, and far friendlier to those that flagrantly disregard our nation’s immigration laws, especially criminal aliens.
The effects of eight years of not so benign neglect of immigration enforcement will be felt for many years. Earlier this month, two students at Rockville High School in Rockville, Maryland brutally raped and attacked a fellow student. Reports indicate that the perpetrators of this horrendous crime both entered the country as unaccompanied alien minors from Central America, likely drawn here by the Obama Administration’s policy of releasing such aliens to their relatives in the United States, often illegally present. This was a double tragedy, both because of its impact on a young girl’s life and because it could have been prevented by sensible immigration enforcement. School districts around the country are facing a gang epidemic partly fueled by the Obama Administration’s policies.
As this case and the countless others demonstrate, illegal immigration is not a victimless crime. Foolhardy jurisdictions continue to pass legislation and implement policies aimed at stymying Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers from enforcing the law. The same week as the tragedy in Rockville, a Baltimore City Council member introduced a resolution calling on ICE to only arrest those posing a “serious risk.” In discussing this initiative, the council member likened ICE officers to Nazis several times. Such rhetoric is reprehensible – creating a moral equivalence between genocide and a nation exercising a fundamental right and obligation of sovereignty. It is especially ironic given that the United States has long had the most generous immigration system in the world.
In a deeply troubling move, San Francisco even announced that it would no longer participate in the Joint Terrorism Task Force because of concerns that the task force’s duties may coincide with immigration enforcement.
Sanctuary policies often focus on ICE detainers, notices issued by ICE to allow it to take custody of aliens in law enforcement custody in order to initiate removal proceedings. These irresponsible sanctuary policies have led to a sharp drop in ICE’s intake of aliens from criminal detention facilities, which forces ICE agents to engage in the far more time-consuming and dangerous task of picking them up on the streets.
The Trump Administration is issuing a weekly report of declined detainers nationwide. During the first week of the Trump Administration, 206 detainers were not honored nationwide, leading to the release of aliens who were arrested for or convicted of sex assaults, aggravated assaults, arson, robbery, and many other serious offenses.
The new Administration, only two months old, has already started to right the ship. On January 25th, the President signed two executive orders aimed at securing our nation’s borders and strengthening interior enforcement of our immigration laws. These executive orders nudge the rudder of this massive ship in the right direction. I am encouraged that the new Administration’s enforcement priorities include all aliens who are threats to public safety and national security and restores the Secure Communities program. Just yesterday, Attorney General Sessions announced that sanctuary cities will be ineligible for Justice Department grants.
Progress at the border has been dramatic. The number of illegal aliens apprehended decreased by over 40 percent in the first month of the new Administration. Yet, while this is encouraging, many thousands still make the dangerous trek across the border in order to turn themselves in and game our asylum system. It is no secret that credible fear and asylum claims have been being rubber-stamped, with claimants released with work authorization as they await their hearings, some now scheduled for 2021. I applaud the president for addressing bogus credible claims in the executive order.
As much as I am encouraged by what the new Administration is doing within the current statutory framework, it also desperately needs new statutory tools to enforce the immigration laws. Over the past two congresses, this committee has approved such measures to provide such tools to the Administration including providing that unaccompanied minors are safely and expeditiously returned home, that the federal government will work with local jurisdictions that want to provide assistance in enforcing immigration laws, that sanctuary cities will lose federal funds, curtailing fraud in the asylum process, and to allow for the detention of dangerous aliens.