Prepared Remarks of Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa
Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee
In response to Democratic comments on family separation
At committee hearing on “Citizenship for Sale: Oversight of the EB-5 Investor Visa Program”
June 19, 2018
I’d like to take a moment and respond to some of the comments my colleagues have been making about family separation. I find it ridiculous to suggest that Republicans somehow support the idea of separating families. That isn’t true, and trying to paint that stark picture ignores the complex legal realities of this situation.
As my colleagues know, the Flores v. Reno settlement—as it has been applied over time— effectively prohibits the Department of Homeland Security from maintaining custody of immigrant children in any context.
The way Flores is currently applied, DHS cannot keep immigrant children even if they are with their parents in a family facility. That’s right, Flores effectively prohibits the federal government from keeping families together in DHS custody.
So, because of the Flores decision, DHS is faced with a stark Hobson’s choice. On one hand, because of this settlement, they can choose to release any group of illegal aliens that appears to be a family, and the phrase “appears to be” is key here.
This “catch and release” policy not only results in the mass release of unauthorized immigrants into American communities, but also encourages smugglers, coyotes, and human traffickers to stage family units at the border to exploit the system.
As even the Obama Administration noticed, human traffickers were quick to exploit the release of family units. Their exploitation resulted in the dangerous trafficking of thousands of children across the Mexican countryside to be placed with their makeshift “families” near the border. What’s worse, DHS has effectively no way to verify if unauthorized immigrants are actually the family units they claim to be. I’m sure that’s equally as concerning to my colleagues.
The other side of this coin is that, again because of Flores, if DHS and DOJ seek to actually enforce the law, they must separate parents and children. Flores will not allow them to be kept together pending the outcome of the case.
So, to me, the answer to this problem appears very simple.
We can, and should, repeal the Flores settlement so that unauthorized immigrant families can be kept together pending the outcome of any proceedings. This would ensure the integrity of the family unit, and I’d like to point out that my amendment in February would have done just that.
If my colleagues on the other side had voted for it, we wouldn’t be in this situation and 1.8 million Dreamers would be on a pathway to citizenship.
Even so, as I speak I’m working with Republicans like Senators Cornyn, Tillis and Heller on legislation to address this issue. We can get a fix to Flores drafted, introduced and passed by unanimous consent this week. I hope my Democratic colleagues will join with us in this effort. It would end family separations, immediately.
Now, some of my colleagues have already indicated they’re opposed to repealing Flores and instead want to see Senator Feinstein’s bill enacted. While the Ranking Member’s bill is a good-faith attempt to address this problem, it has gaping problems. Just mandating that families cannot be separated, without repealing the Flores consent decree, leads only to one result: the codification of the last Administration’s failed ‘catch and release’ policies.
Her bill would effectively hamstring the ability to prosecute individuals for illegal entry because any border crosser would claim to be in a “family unit,” thus necessitating their release. Once released, we can all imagine how likely they will be to show up for a criminal trial or civil immigration court proceeding.
If my colleagues are serious about fixing this issue, they will support a repeal of the Flores settlement. However, if they won’t or can’t support a fix to Flores, then they need to be honest about what their real intent is: the mass release of unlawful immigrants into American communities.
I hope they’re serious about ending family separation and will join with Senator Cornyn and me to resolve this issue.