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Sen. Cruz: In Order to Protect the Texas-Mexico Border, We Must Build the Wall

Questions CBP Commissioner on effectiveness of building a wall to prevent human trafficking at the southern border

March 6, 2019

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202-228-7561

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), member of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, participated in a hearing focused on oversight of U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the problems associated with human trafficking at the Texas-Mexico border. There, he questioned the Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection on the need for the United States to build a wall to protect its southern border, as well as ways to prevent human trafficking atrocities from occurring through illegal immigration. Sen. Cruz has been a leading advocate for securing funding for the border wall and has introduced the EL CHAPO Act and the WALL Act - two bills that would secure our border. 

“There’s been considerable discussion about kids, and Senator Feinstein mentioned that she and I had been working on legislation together--I remain hopeful--this ought to be an area of bipartisan cooperation,” Sen. Cruz said. “It seems to me that everyone--Republican and Democrat--should be able to agree number one that families should stay together. That the best place for a child is with his or her mom or dad. But the rub is number two, in what capacity. It has been the position of some congressional Democrats that in order to keep some families together, what CBP [U.S. Customs and Border Protection] must do is release both the children and the adults. I think that is a mistaken approach. The legislation that I have introduced, that I have been negotiating with Senator Feinstein, would mandate that families stay together. Stay together in a secure environment and then expedite the proceedings. So that if those families have a valid claim for asylum that claim gets adjudicated, adjudicated quickly, and granted. But, if they don’t have a valid claim of asylum, that claim gets adjudicated quickly, it gets denied, and they get put on a plane and sent home.”

Watch Sen. Cruz’s full line of questioning here. Full transcript below:

Sen. Cruz: “Thank you Mr. Chairman, Commissioner McAleenan, good to see you again. Thank you for your service and please express a thank you to all the good men and women of Border Patrol for all their heroic service each and every day keeping our country safe. I want to ask a simple question, in your judgment, in your professional experience do walls work?”

Commissioner McAleenan: “Unquestionably.”

Sen. Cruz: “So, if I understand it correctly, San Diego, the wall there was built in 1992, illegal traffic dropped 88 percent over 18 years and 95 percent over 23 years. We saw the same experience in El Paso. In El Paso the wall was built in 1993, illegal traffic dropped 72 percent over one year, and 95 percent over 22 years. Same thing in Tucson. Wall built in 2000, illegal traffic dropped 90 percent over 15 years. Yuma, the wall was built in 2005 illegal traffic dropped 95 percent over four years. Are those figures accurate?”

Commissioner McAleenan: “Yes, Senator.”

Sen. Cruz: “And does that reflect your professional experience that putting a physical barrier can have a significant impact decreasing and stopping illegal immigration?”

Commissioner McAleenan: “Yes.” 

Sen. Cruz: “And that’s both for human traffickers and narcotics traffickers?”

Commissioner McAleenan: “No question.” 

Sen. Cruz: “Let’s talk about a second topic which is kids. There’s been considerable discussion about kids, and Senator Feinstein mentioned that she and I had been working on legislation together--I remain hopeful--this ought to be an area of bipartisan cooperation. It seems to me that everyone--Republican and Democrat--should be able to agree number one that families should stay together. That the best place for a child is with his or her mom or dad. But the rub is number two, in what capacity? It has been the position of some congressional Democrats that in order to keep some families together, what CBP [U.S. Customs and Border Protection] must do is release both the children and the adults. I think that is a mistaken approach. The legislation that I have introduced, that I have been negotiating with Senator Feinstein, would mandate that families stay together. Stay together in a secure environment and then expedite the proceedings. So that if those families have a valid claim for asylum that claim gets adjudicated, adjudicated quickly, and granted. But, if they don’t have a valid claim of asylum, that claim gets adjudicated quickly, it gets denied, and they get put on a plane and sent home. In your experience, what is the effectiveness of a ‘catch and release’ system? A system that apprehends people crossing illegally and then releases them?”

Commissioner McAleenan: “It invites further unlawful behavior.”

Sen Cruz: “And what is the differential in terms of the timing for adjudicated cases between the detained docket where the individual is in custody versus the non-detained docket where they’re released?” 

Commissioner McAleenan: “[The] detained docket in my experience moves very efficiently, six to eight weeks. The non-detained docket is years.” 

Sen. Cruz: “One of the significant challenges with our current policy, is we have now created massive incentives to bring kids with you--because we have essentially turned a child into a get out of jail free card. To what extent are you seeing conduct from cartels deliberately bringing either unaccompanied minors or family units over with the intention of gaming the system in the United States?” 

Commissioner McAleenan: “So I can tell you Senator, that in the last ten months as Chief Hastings briefed yesterday, Border Patrol has identified approximately 1,700 individuals that presented as a family unit that had made fraudulent claims. And even more concerning, there was reporting this week of attorneys advising people on how to do this in Central America and providing fake birth certificates, fake indications of relationships before they depart from Central America to enable this process. You’re absolutely right that if you bring a child you will be released, you’re immune from the enforcement of the law between ports of entry. That’s not a situation that’s sustainable.”

Sen. Cruz: “So, let me underscore that point because it’s, I think, really quite stunning. You’ve seen an excess of 1,700 cases where children were with adults, you were told they were a family unit and you discovered that was fraudulent so whoever those adults where they were not actual family members of those kids?” 

Commissioner McAleenan: “Correct.” 

Sen. Cruz: “And let me ask you if a child is in the custody of a human trafficker or a narcotics trafficker, how frequently are you encountering physical abuse or sexual abuse of those children in the custody of traffickers?” 

Commissioner McAleenan: “It’s unfortunately a very common occurrence.”

Sen. Cruz: “So, if we were concerned with taking care of kids, we would want to do everything possible to prevent little boys and little girl from being in the custody of traffickers who are fraudulently using those kids to game our law enforcement is that right?” 

Commissioner McAleenan: “Of course.”

Sen. Cruz: “Well thank you for your good work in that regard.” 

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