Sen. Cruz: It Is Imperative That We Enforce the Rule of Law in America, Not Mandate Catch and Release
Questions government officials on immigration enforcement challenges and reunification efforts for illegal immigrant families at the southern border
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), member of the U.S. Senate Committee on the Judiciary, participated in a hearing with government witnesses from the Departments of Justice, Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security to receive updates on the administration’s immigration enforcement challenges and immigrant family reunification efforts at the southern border. There, he questioned federal officials on topics including the rise of reported illegal immigration in the U.S., the dangers and risks children face trying to cross the border illegally, and the consequences of catch and release practices that hamper enforcement.
“As you know there is widespread agreement in Congress on both sides of the political aisle that families should not be separated--that the best place for children is with their parents, with their moms and dads,” Sen. Cruz said. “At the same time, I believe it’s imperative that we also enforce the law. We should not be adopting policies that effectively mandate catch and release, because that only serves to attract more people here illegally and to ensure that even more children will be subject to the abuse, to the horrific treatment that human traffickers subject them to. I’ve introduced legislation that would mandate families stay together, and at the same time would enforce the law and prevent a return to the policies of catch and release, and we’re engaged in ongoing negotiations with Senate Democrats to see if there will be bipartisan agreement behind that legislative agreement. I’m hopeful and optimistic.”
In June, Sen. Cruz introduced the ‘Protect Kids and Parents Act’ to expedite the asylum process and keep immigrant families together. He also toured immigrant detention facilities in Weslaco, Texas and hosted roundtables with local officials to discuss the process of receiving, detaining, and adjudicating immigrant families. In a prior Senate Judiciary Committee executive business meeting, Sen. Cruz raised concerns regarding immigrant families separated at the southern border and urged his colleagues to take swift action to address the crisis in a bipartisan manner.
Watch Sen. Cruz’s full line of questioning here. A full transcript is below:
Sen. Cruz: Thank you Mr. Chairman. Thank you to each of the witnesses for being here, thank you for the incredibly important work you do. These are challenging times for our country and the work you do, particularly the Border Patrol agents, the agents of ICE is difficult, it’s important. I will say Mr. Albence, in particular to the ICE officers, I want to personally thank the men and women that you serve with who risk their lives each and every day to keep this country safe. And in the political environment we’re in, there’s some in Washington who have taken to vilifying and attacking ICE. On behalf of 28 million Texans, let me just thank you for the work you do every day keeping us safe.
Mr. Albence: On behalf of the 20,000 dedicated men and women of ICE, I thank you.
Sen. Cruz: And I would certainly express the same to Border Patrol. I’ve spent a great deal of time with a great many of your agents and they are heroes who put their lives on the line on a regular basis.
Acting Chief Provost: Thank you, Senator, and on behalf of our 19,000 men and women, I thank you.
Sen. Cruz: Ms. Provost, the first several months of 2017, we saw a significant decrease in illegal immigration. Unfortunately, that decrease has essentially evaporated in 2018. Why do you believe it was that the numbers went down so dramatically, roughly a 70 percent decrease in the first several months of 2017, and why have they begun increasing again now?
Acting Chief Provost: Senator, in my personal opinion, I believe that the numbers did go down initially when the new administration came into office and discussions about border security became front and center. In regard to the numbers now going up, and we are currently at 22 percent higher compared to this time last year. At some point, once individuals see whether or not we do act and are hard on immigration, hardline on immigration, at some point in time, they start coming here. Then they speak to their family members and other things. Those are factors as well as many push factors from the countries that they come from. There are numerous pull factors, some of which we have discussed today as well, whether it’s economic or whether it’s the fact that court decisions impact that. So those factors, eventually the numbers started creeping back up on us.
Sen. Cruz: Now, there’s been a great deal of discussion of children coming illegally, and children being detained, but children also coming through human traffickers. As the men and women on this panel know, this is not a new problem. We have tragically seen thousands upon thousands of children coming for a great many years.
Acting Chief Provost, let me ask you, when kids are brought into this country by human traffickers, what kind of treatment do they get on the journey, and what kind of abuse are they potentially subject to in the process of coming here illegally?
Acting Chief Provost: Senator as you know, it’s a very treacherous trip that they are making. There are numerous factors that impact. Obviously, the transnational criminal organizations, they treat all people like commodities - it’s about money, it’s not about the care and well-being of those individuals. We apprehend large groups, both in stash houses in implorable conditions, as well as riding in tractor trailer trucks - which as we know, in San Antonio just a year, year and a half ago we had that tragedy. So, these individuals are put at risk day in and day out and that’s just what happens once they are along the border, not to mention the trip up. There are cases of rape, of abuse, of all different types of things that are happening to these illegal aliens that are coming - making that trip to the country.
Sen. Cruz: As you know there is widespread agreement in Congress on both sides of the political aisle that families should not be separated--that the best place for children is with their parents, with their moms and dads. At the same time, I believe it’s imperative that we also enforce the law. That we should not be adopting policies that effectively mandate catch and release, because that only serves to attract more people here illegally and to ensure that even more children will be subject to the abuse, to the horrific treatment that human traffickers subject them to. I’ve introduced legislation that would mandate families stay together, and at the same time would enforce the law and prevent a return to the policies of catch and release and we’re engaged in ongoing negotiations with Senate Democrats to see if there will be bipartisan agreement behind that legislative agreement. I’m hopeful and optimistic.
Mr. Albence can you share your thoughts about the consequences of catch and release, and what it does to levels of immigration?
Mr. Albence: Well again, I think going to the Chief’s point previously, I think you saw that initial dip after the middle part of last year when there was concern that the laws of this country would be rigorously enforced. Unfortunately, what the smugglers and the illegal aliens learned was that the loopholes that exist which facilitate this process and forces us to release these individuals shortly after apprehension, haven’t changed because they need congressional action to do so.
Sen. Cruz: And Mr. Albence, can you in your answer discuss the implications, the consequences of the Flores consent decree and how that constrains your enforcement abilities?
Mr. Albence: Absolutely. The biggest issue is that when we have a family held together, the Flores decision which was the settlement agreement from 1997 and then reinterpreted by the judge again in 2016 and applied the UAC requirements to family detention even though family detention did not exist in 1997. It requires us to release those individuals within 20 days of taking them into custody, and we cannot effectuate the entire immigration hearing process, credible fear process, asylum process, within that 20-day period. As a result, we have no choice but to release these individuals out into the communities, and most times we don’t see them again.
Sen. Cruz: Thank you.