Statements and Speeches

“Mr. President, I rise today to express my bitter disappointment in the Senate for refusing to move forward with the President’s request for emergency funding to deal with the humanitarian crisis we are facing on our southern border with Texas. 

“Ordinary working people do not close up shop with urgent work still undone, and neither should we. And there is plenty of blame to go around; as I speak, there is a strong chance the House will leave town without taking action on this crisis either. The Administration has asked for money, but has yet to speak clearly on what changes it needs in the law governing how we handle child migrants at the border.

“As we all know, over the past several months, our nation has experienced an unprecedented surge in migration from three countries: El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.  People from these countries are fleeing desperate, violent conditions and a large number of them are families, and unaccompanied children—some as young as four years old. 

“The President and Department of Homeland Secretary (DHS) Johnson responded with an all-hands-on-deck effort. The Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) is coordinating   the response to the problem. The Department of Defense is providing emergency beds for unaccompanied minors. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has greatly expanded its ability to detain and remove families.  And, we have surged Border Patrol agents, immigration judges, and other personnel to the border to help process people. 

“These measures have been working. For example, the amount of time people are detained before they are removed has decreased from over a month to as little as four days in recent weeks. Migrant children who were languishing in crowded border patrol stations are being screened and relocated more quickly. But these emergency measures are expensive, and none of federal agencies involved have the money they need to sustain the aggressive steps they are taking to deal with this situation. In fact, many agencies have indicated that they will run out of money in a matter of weeks without action – some even in a few days.

“So last week, Senator Mikulski introduced a bill that would provide $2.7 billion in order to address the situation and ensure that the agencies charged with securing our borders don’t run out of money this summer. More importantly, it would also address some of the underlying root causes of the problem we face.

“But here we are, the day before Congress leaves town, and what have we done to address this crisis? Mr. President, the answer is nothing.

“The consequences of our inaction will be severe.  Let me give you some examples of what will happen if Congress continues to do nothing.

“Families apprehended at the border will be released. Why? Because Immigration and Customs Enforcement doesn’t have the money to add the 3,000 detention beds it needs to house families until they can be returned to their countries;

“Undocumented migrants scheduled to be deported will stay here. Why? Because ICE won’t have the money for transportation.

“People currently being detained will have to be released. Why? Because ICE will have to reduce its detention population. 

“Undocumented immigrants waiting for their immigration court cases to be heard will have to wait longer.  Why? Because we are not adding the 40 immigration court judges that the Administration requested.

“We also won’t be able to hire the 82 immigration prosecutors and 100 repatriation personnel that DHS was planning to hire in August. Why? Because we won’t be able to afford them.

“Health and Human Services will have to cut back on the number of children it can house.  This means that children will have to stay at Border Patrol stations longer and agents will be forced to care for children instead of patrolling the border. Why? Because Health and Human Services won’t have the money it needs.

“I am frankly stunned that we here in Congress do not have a sense of urgency to pass this bill and make sure that this doesn’t happen. I guess my colleagues believe that we can just move money around in order to patch the holes in these agencies’ budgets.  We are robbing Peter, to pay Paul.  

“Because of Congress’ inaction, the Administration will be forced to ask for an emergency reprogramming to get the agencies through August. But this reprogramming will also have severe consequences—consequences that I don’t think many of our colleagues seem to understand.

“Our border security will be reduced. Why? Because CBP will have to cut back on aerial support for Border Patrol agents on the border.  When I was in Texas and Arizona last year, I heard frontline agents say again and again that aerial support was the single most important force multiplier that they had available to help them secure the border.

“People and commerce trying to get into this country will be forced to longer delays and intrusive screenings at our ports of entry. Why? Because CBP will have to take money that was going to be used to fund sophisticated scanning equipment to pay for caring for unaccompanied children at the border.

“The Coast Guard will have to stop doing maintenance on many of our Coast Guard vessels. Why? Because the Coast Guard’s funds will be shifted.

“FEMA will have less money for disaster response just as folks in coastal states, like Delaware, are gearing up for the height of hurricane season. Why? Because DHS will have to raid its Disaster Relief Fund in order to make ends meet.

“Mr. President, this is no way to respond to a crisis—a crisis that we’ve be talking and talking and talking about here in the Senate for months!

“Finally—and in my mind, most incredibly—we will leave here without doing anything to address the underlying factors that explain why this surge is happening in the first place. The President and Senator Mikulski included $300 million in the supplemental package to address what I believe to be the root causes of this surge: the lack of economic opportunities, jobs, and hope in Central America, combined with increasing violence and insecurity in the region. Make no mistake about it, these funds are an emergency.

“I am not suggesting that any of this will be quick or easy fix.  It will require a sustained investment—and focus—on the region by the U.S. and also by a number of others. But if we turn our backs on these countries now, I am convinced that we will be back here again 10 years from now dealing with another expensive humanitarian crisis on our border.

“But today, we are left with empty-handed, and all by our own doing. Mr. President, again, we have been seeing this humanitarian crisis play out for months now. We have heard the heartbreaking stories of the Central American children and families arriving at our borders.

“I believe that we have a moral imperative here to address this crisis with a humane response and one that honors our obligations under U.S. and international law – and is consistent with the admonition that we should love our neighbors as we love ourselves while taking care of the least of these in society. We haven’t even come close to meeting the moral imperative and I’m deeply disappointed.

“Over the next few weeks and into September, I urge my colleagues in both chambers to think about “the least of these” that we have left behind today and to work harder to come together and find a compromise to this challenge. I also urge the Administration speak more clearly about what it needs, and to work with us to find a path to get it done.”