Senator Leahy: “The refugee crisis has come to our own border”

Calls On Senate To Pass Emergency Supplemental To Address Refugee Crisis At Southern Border

WASHINGTON (Wednesday, July 16, 2014) – Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) called on all Senators Wednesday to support the nation’s humanitarian and refugee efforts by passing the emergency supplemental to respond to the crisis at the Southern border.

Leahy, who as chairman of the Judiciary Committee steered the Senate’s passage of comprehensive immigration reform last year, reminded Senators of “America’s role as a human rights leader and our long history of providing refuge to those fleeing persecution and violence.” While the nation’s geographic location has thus far shielded it from the influx of refugees other countries have faced, Leahy noted that today, “the refugee crisis has come to our own border.”

The $3.7 billion emergency supplemental would provide needed resources at the Southern border, where tens of thousands of children from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras are being held. The supplemental would increase the efficiency of our immigration courts and provide urgently needed shelter and care for these vulnerable children.  It would also provide $300 million to address the lawlessness, lack of educational and employment opportunities, and other root causes of migration from these countries.  Leahy, who also chairs the Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations, noted that this critical funding should not be passed on the condition that protections are lowered for these refugee children.

“Some Members of Congress are proposing that the way to solve this problem is by amending the Trafficking Victims of Protection Act to make it easier to deport these children by rushing them through a superficial hearing without access to counsel or child welfare specialists. That is unacceptable,” Leahy said in a floor statement. “We are talking about young children – six, seven, eight years old – who have experienced horrific violence and do not speak English.  It is unconscionable to push them through our complicated legal system, terrified, alone, without a lawyer, only to be summarily deported back into the very danger they fled.  I will do everything I can to prevent such a travesty.”

Instead, Leahy called on the House to pass the bipartisan Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, which would double the number of border patrol agents and authorize the completion of a 700-mile wall at the Southern border. The bill, which passed the Senate on a bipartisan vote of 68-32 last year, also includes tougher provisions to fight against human smuggling and enhanced penalties in situations that result in serious bodily injury, death, bribery, or corruption.

“The world’s eyes are watching to see how we respond,” Leahy said. “We can either make good on the promises enshrined in our laws or we can decide that it’s just too complicated and rewrite the law. If we do that, if we choose to send these children back into harms’ way, we are turning our back on the very principles on which this nation was founded.”

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