05.02.19

Vice Chairman Leahy Statement on Hearing to Review FY 2020 DHS Budget Request

All reasonable observers would agree that our southern border is experiencing a humanitarian crisis that deserves our attention. We are seeing a large number of asylum seekers and migrants – mostly families and unaccompanied children fleeing for their lives – arriving at our border, creating significant strains on our ability to treat all of them humanely and with due process.

But a serious crisis demands serious solutions. Acting Secretary McAleenan: I genuinely believe you are here in good faith to discuss serious, legitimate solutions to this humanitarian crisis.  It is the President’s seriousness I question.  Faced with this real crisis, he has responded with little more than twitter rants and rhetoric to rally his base.  Many of his ideas have veered from retaliation to downright lawlessness.

We all know what the President thinks of asylum seekers and immigrants.  He has demeaned the attempts of these vulnerable human beings to obtain refuge in our country as a “big fat con job.”  He says this of families, women and children, who, fleeing violence and dangers most of our citizens could not comprehend, have taken a perilous journey north in the hopes for a better life.  They are tired, they are desperate, and they are asking for our help. 

Instead of working with Congress to find bipartisan solutions, the President seems intent on taking steps to make the problem worse. 

He threatened to close the border, which, in addition to wreaking havoc on our economy, would only have pushed more asylum seekers to cross between the ports.  He has threatened to cut off aid to Central America, aid that is aimed at alleviating the conditions that cause people to flee to America in the first place.  He puts obstacles in front of asylum seekers crossing at legal points of entry and then vilifies them for trying to cross another way.  He declared that migrants had no right to claim asylum between the ports, even though the law clearly grants such a right. 

And the President’s singular focus on building the wall does nothing to address the influx of asylum seekers, most of whom turn themselves into border patrol once they reach U.S. soil and are then escorted through gates in the fence.   

Ultimately, the pattern of this President has been to defy our laws, threaten extreme measures, and promote policies that do nothing but exacerbate the crisis we are faced with.  That’s just not serious leadership.  So I envy you not – you’ve got a tough job in front of you, made even more difficult by a President who does not understand these complex issues and is more interested in his press coverage on a friendly, cable news network than actually governing.  

I am willing to work with you on sensible, smart, and serious ideas.  The issues facing our country and the Department deserve no less.  Let’s just hope the President doesn’t get in the way.

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