Photo: Luis Gutierrez
Today, Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-IL) joined at least 14 of his colleagues from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to say that July will be a month of action for the CHC to defend children fleeing violence and to push for prosecutorial discretion and executive action by the President to address the continuing immigration and deportation crisis in America. The CHC Members said they plan to fight to ensure that the law of the United States is being followed when it comes to children from Latin America seeking safety and that the President act within the law to improve America’s immigration system as he pledged to do on June 30 after Republicans made it clear they were not going to help.
The following is Congressman Gutiérrez’ opening statement from today’s press conference. A segment of his remarks recorded on video, in Spanish, can be found here: http://youtu.be/nOkZ_OgxWSU and http://youtu.be/AyHU0nfgl1k (Video en Español). A release with additional quotes from CHC Members is coming separately from the CHC Press Office (http://chc-hinojosa.house.gov/). Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez represents the Fourth District of Illinois, is a Member of the Judiciary Committee and the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, and is the Chairman of the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
Rep. Gutiérrez remarks:
The CHC is unified in supporting the fair treatment of children fleeing violence who are apprehended at our border and we support the President following the law and giving children a meaningful day in court to protect their rights under our laws.
When children are being demonized – in this case, children from Latin America – when they are being vilified; when their legal rights are being questioned and their due process rights threatened; when adults are stirring up fear of children – children—we want to make it very clear that the Congressional Hispanic Caucus will join together with other Democrats and other people of conscience and defend those children so they are treated as they should be treated under U.S. law.
The Congress created the law for how we treat children at our border seeking safety in a humane and careful manner and we voted on this procedure not once, not twice, but on at least three different occasions—when cooler heads prevailed.
In 2002, 2007, and by a voice vote in 2008, Congress mandated the process that the President should follow.
These were not Democratic Bills rammed through on a partisan basis. These were bipartisan bills – remember those?
Lamar Smith of Texas who opposes legal immigration voted for this procedure. Louie Gohmert of Texas who talks about immigrants as disease-ridden criminals voted for it. So did Steve King of Iowa who wants to electrify the fence.
And George W. Bush signed them into law. When cooler heads prevailed, when their wasn’t a humanitarian crisis to exploit, a President they hate, and an election right around the corner, Republicans joined Democrats in saying we should treat children at our doorstep in a humane fashion.
I think we should speed up the processing of children and families detained at the border to make sure they are not warehoused in overcrowded conditions, to make sure there is a strong deterrent message getting back to Central America so children do not risk their lives in the first place, and that they get their day in court as the law mandates.
I plan to support the President’s budget request, but we must make sure we do not short-circuit justice for the children and I think all of us agree that that is a top priority.
At the same time, we are urging the President to act boldly under current law to extend prosecutorial discretion and take other executive actions to fix our broken immigration system now that Republicans have failed to allow legislation to proceed.
I want the President to be as bold and generous as the Republicans have been petty and mean-spirited on immigration. We cannot let the current turmoil at the border – which we would be doing an even better job of controlling had this Congress addressed immigration reform – we can’t let this crisis distract us from the fact that record-breaking levels of deportation—and the threat of deportation—are taking a devastating toll on American communities.
The CHC has laid out a sensible, legal, thoughtful menu of items for the President and Secretary Johnson to consider and we will fight for executive actions that fix what the President can fix under current law now that Republicans have made it clear he is on his own.
I think the President can take actions to put all of those who would have been legalized by the Senate bill, for example, in a safe place and take them out of the deportation queue so we concentrate our resources on high priority deportations. Even though the bill was stopped by House Republicans, the President has the latitude to put that large a group in a safe place. And we will work with him and build support across the country for him to take action.
Clearly Republicans would rather sue the President than help him solve national problems. They say he does not follow the law and now they are complaining when he does follow the law. They cannot have it both ways. On immigration and the treatment of immigrants – especially children – Republicans will have to contend with the CHC.