07.10.14

Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) Appropriations Committee Hearing On The President’s Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Request Relating To The Southwestern Border

[The Senate Appropriations Committee Thursday afternoon held a hearing on the President’s emergency supplemental appropriations request to address the humanitarian crisis of unaccompanied children arriving along the Southwestern border.  Witnesses include Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.  The President’s request includes $3.7 billion for the protection of the health and safety of these children, detention and enforcement at the border, final resolution of immigration cases, and deterrence efforts in Central America to prevent families from sending their children on these often highly dangerous journeys.  Leahy is the panel’s most senior member and also chairs the Judiciary Committee, which oversees immigration law and agencies.  Last year, Leahy steered the bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill through the Judiciary Committee and its strong approval by the full Senate.  The hearing began at 2:30 p.m.]

Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.)
Appropriations Committee Hearing
On The President’s Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Request
Relating To The Southwestern Border
Thursday, July 10, 2014

Let’s not parse words.  The emergency resulting from the influx of tens of thousands of unaccompanied children along our southern border is nothing short of a humanitarian crisis.  Vermonters recognize this. And although there are no easy solutions, one thing is clear: our response must be consistent with our moral and legal obligations to protect those fleeing violence – especially when they are children and families.

Secretary Johnson, you just restated in your testimony that our borders are not open to illegal immigration.  I agree.  But I am concerned by some of the rhetoric coming from this administration about the future of these children and where it may lead. 

Make no mistake: I do not believe that all of these children qualify for immigration protection. But some do and our laws protect them. The United Nations Human Rights Commissioner has found that more than 50 percent of these children have been forcibly displaced from their home countries, fleeing gang-violence, rape, domestic violence and human trafficking.  We routinely ask other countries to support refugees fleeing violence.  Now it is our turn. Yes, the situation is complicated.  Yes, it requires resources.  But a country as great as ours can handle it. We must not return to the shameful days when we shut our doors on refugees because it was complicated to take them in.

I do not accept that the solution to this humanitarian crisis is to eliminate protections for the most vulnerable among us.  Doing so will not address the real issues of why they are coming and it is beneath who we are as a great nation.  

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LINK to LIVE webcast of the hearing: http://www.appropriations.senate.gov/webcast/full-committee-hearing-president%E2%80%99s-emergency-supplemental-request

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