Washington, D.C. – House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) today delivered the following statement on the House floor in support of H. Res. 990, which expresses support for the officers and personnel who carry out the important mission of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Chairman Goodlatte: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I strongly support H. Res. 990, introduced by Clay Higgins to express our support for the men and women of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Recently, Democrats nationwide from the Mayor of New York City to Senators Gillibrand and Warren have recklessly called for the abolishment of ICE, the agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with enforcing federal immigration laws within our nation’s interior. They have used rhetoric that is both bewildering and deeply troubling. New York gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon has gone so far as to call ICE “a terrorist organization”.  The Democrat candidate for the 14th Congressional district of New York just yesterday stated that “[w]e have to occupy all of it.  We need to occupy every airport.  We need to occupy every border.  We need to occupy every ICE office.”

What is remarkable is that these calls would undo what has been our singular bipartisan achievement on immigration of the last two decades – the creation of ICE, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

The late Barbara Jordan was one of the most distinguished persons ever to serve in this body. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the NAACP’s highest honor, the Spingarn Medal, for the highest or noblest achievement by a living African American.  She was appointed by President Clinton to be Chair of the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform. Her Commission found that:

Immigration law enforcement requires staffing, training, resources, and a work culture that differs from what is required for effective adjudication of [immigration] benefits … [S]eparating enforcement and benefits functions will lead to . . . more effective enforcement …

The Commission was “particularly concerned that although the . . . removal system produce[d] more than 100,000 final removal orders each year, the system d[id] not have the corresponding capacity to remove the individuals subject to those orders.”  It noted that:

The system is bogged down with increasing number of aliens who are . . . put into [removal] proceedings, released due to a lack of detention space . . . never appear at their hearings, or are never deported after a final order of removal is issued. . . .  [We must e]nable the immigration system to deliver better on its commitment to actually remove those who are issued final orders.

Following upon the Jordan Commission’s recommendation, Sheila Jackson Lee introduced the Immigration Restructuring and Accountability Act, establishing an Office of Immigration Enforcement to “implement[] the removal of deportable and inadmissible aliens from the United States.” Ms. Jackson Lee has stated that she had “been a champion for years when it comes to restructuring the [Immigration and Naturalization Service].  I have been arguing for years that . . . we need to separate out the services and enforcement functions of the INS.”

In 2001, then-Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner introduced the Barbara Jordan Immigration Reform and Accountability Act, which proposed to abolish the INS and established separate offices for immigration enforcement and the provision of immigration benefits.  The bill was a bipartisan juggernaut.  It passed the Judiciary Committee by a vote of 32 to 2 and this body by a vote of 405 to 9.

Alcee Hastings stated during floor consideration that “I want to commend the authors of this bill …They have produced a bipartisan bill that is sure to improve … performance and accountability . . .   I think [Mr. Sensenbrenner and Mr. Conyers] have done an outstanding job . . .”

The Barbara Jordan Immigration Reform and Accountability Act was in effect enacted into law as part of the Homeland Security Act. In creating DHS, it transferred over the INS’s functions and placed responsibility over immigration and customs enforcement in the same directorate.  President Bush placed the final piece in the puzzle in 2003, when he submitted a DHS Reorganization Plan that created the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement with the primary mission of “[e]nforc[ing] the full range of immigration and customs laws within the interior of the United States”.

In that bygone era, House Democrats were committed to effective enforcement of our immigration laws.  This was further evidenced by the fact that in 1996 a majority of Democrats voted for Lamar Smith’s omnibus immigration enforcement legislation that was to be enacted as the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act.

That commitment has inexorably withered away. By 2005, only 36 House Democrats voted for Jim Sensenbrenner’s Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act. And just a few weeks ago, not one Democrat voted for either of two bills that would have resuscitated immigration enforcement — the Securing America’s Future Act or the Border Security and Immigration Reform Act.

House Democrats once worked collaboratively with Republicans to improve the effectiveness of federal immigration enforcement.  Now, it appears that they are outraged when ICE has the audacity to actually enforce the laws that we have enacted.

I urge my colleagues to vote for H. Res. 990. Let’s honor the work of Barbara Jordan, our Republican and Democrat colleagues who joined together to create ICE, and the brave men and women of ICE to whom we owe so much.