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Lankford to Senators about Border Crisis: We can’t be flippant about the crisis at the border; we need to engage

CLICK HERE to watch Lankford’s remarks on YouTube.

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today spoke on the Senate floor about the state of our economy and inflation, as Democrats’ propose trillions in out-of-control spending, as well as the situation at our southern border. Lankford continues to advocate for enforcing our laws at the border and ensuring we stop the flow of illegal immigrants and not just ask them to turn themselves in when the line at the border gets “too long.”

This week, Lankford participated in a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to get updates on timelines and numbers regarding law enforcement at the border and the southern border wall that Lankford has been told by the Secretary are “coming.” Lankford recently released his bombshell report that found $2 billion in wasted taxpayer money to pay construction workers for the now-halted border wall contracts to babysit the steel on the ground while the Administration “studies” the wall, which was originally set as a 60-day study but is now past 200 days.

Last Friday, Lankford held press conference with Tulsa County Sheriff Vic Regalado to discuss Lankford’s report of $2 billion in wasted taxpayer money, the ongoing national security threat at our southern border, including the latest June report from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) about apprehensions at the border, and the Biden Administration “handcuffing” border law enforcement personnel from enforcing the law despite 20-year high numbers of crossings.

Excerpt

As America opens back up trying to manage all of the issues with COVID, very aware of masks, vaccines, and spacing, but companies have figured out how to do this but for some reason multiple agencies are not and it is causing real problems. It is not just problems in our economy with permitting and other things, some of the policies that have been put in place are causing real problems across our economy for just individuals. We have an unemployment rate in June at 5.9 percent. We don’t know what it will be for July. But it is getting better and better all the time. In Oklahoma, we have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country. We have a lot of people employed because we turned off the extra unemployment benefits at the end of June and people came back to work. That’s a good thing for them, for their families, for their kids and our economy. Because as we continue to reengage, that’s helpful. But what we’re seeing right now is inflation, consumer price increases like we have not seen in more than a decade. Consumer price index increased by 5.4 percent, that’s the most in 13 years. We are seeing the rapid rise in prices that Americans feel. It is a direct result of this $2 trillion bill that was done in March where it paid people not to work, and sent checks to individuals and did lots of other benefits. 

Many people, even economists from the Obama Administration said don’t do this, it will cause inflation. What have we seen in just the last five months, milk price is up, bread price is up, bacon price is up, price of gasoline is up, price of wood is up, price of building materials is up, price of rental cars is up, price of used cars is up, shortages in different supply chains. Things that we all identified in February and March and said we need to be attentive to if you dump $ 2 trillion into the economy, what does that do? In the middle of this dialogue about inflation rising right now, and everyone in America seeing the rising prices, there’s a conversation about trillions of dollars more of spending. What effect do you think that will have?

We’ve already seen the effect of what happened in March. What effect do you think it will have to add another as it’s being forecast $3.5 trillion in more spending? Sometimes we can’t wrap our head around this issue of millions, billions, trillions, because it seems like big numbers. There is a big difference between millions, billions and trillions. The best way I can think describe this is if you have a million seconds rather than a million dollars. A million seconds is about 11 and a half weeks. It’s a lot. But a billion seconds is 31 and a half years. That’s a big difference. Brace yourself because a billion seconds is 31 and a half years, but a trillion seconds is 31,688 years. These are big numbers that are being thrown around and it is hard to wrap our head around how much spending is really going on but the concept of throwing out $3.5 trillion is mindboggling.

Let me give you one more. A trillion miles, if I were to say how far is a trillion miles is if you left Washington, DC, today and flew to the planet Pluto 334 times. From DC to our farthest planet, 334 times, that’s one trillion miles. This is a lot of money that’s being thrown around and has real consequences knowing the debt and the borrowing and the tax changes, but how much things actually cost. I’m continuing to be able to challenge my colleagues when they discuss all these big numbers and say, ‘Let’s throw all of this money out there, it has no consequence.’ I tell you the people in Oklahoma feel what’s going on. They may not know, but they feel it in the prices every day, what’s going on in supply chains and they are very aware and the number one question I get asked when I’m out and about places in Oklahoma is, ‘Where is all of this money coming from?’ It’s a fair question.

There’s this back channel conversation right now happening on immigration as well. Right now, the news is focused on ten million other things, and I literally have people in my state saying, ‘Things must be going better at the border now because I don’t hear much about it anymore,’ and I smile at them and say, ‘I happen to be on that committee and be very engaged in the issues of border management and border security. Things are not getting better, they are getting worse.’ March was the highest number of illegal crossings in 20 years, it was beaten in April. It was beaten in May. It was beaten in June, and current trend, it will be beaten in July. Just last week, just in one week, the Rio Grande, just that one sector, in one week had 20,000 interdictions in one week. At one time they had 15,000 people that they were detaining. So what’s happening in that?

I keep hearing from the Administration we’re going to take on the root causes. The root causes is a simple way to say we’ll deal with this later. Because if you want to talk about root causes, it’s a statement of saying, ‘Basically the problems are in Central America, we can’t stop it.’ That’s a nice note except here’s a list of the countries that passed our border illegally just over a year. It’s over 100 countries individuals have illegally crossed the border. What about Brazil? What about Chile? What about Colombia? What about Guinea? What about Indonesia? What about Mauritania? Are we going to go after the root causes there? Nicaragua, the Philippines, Indonesia, Romania, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates. This is just a few of the people that have illegally crossed this year in big numbers.

Listen, this whole conversation about root causes is a distraction. We do need to be engaged in the western hemisphere. We do need to deal with our drug addiction in this country that causes the flow of drugs to move through south America, central America, Mexico into the United States, we need to be aggressive in how we’re handling cartels. But to somehow believe that if we poured enough money into the Northern Triangle that this would suddenly end, it’s false. We are the greatest country in the world. The root cause of immigration into this country is the great power of the United States, both for freedom and for our economy. People from all over the world want to come here. We have a million people a year that legally come to the United States, legally, a million. And folks that don’t want to wait in line, pay a cartel and move through Mexico to be able to get here literally from all over the world.

If we do not enforce our borders, these numbers will continue to rise as they have every single month in this Administration. Every month the numbers get bigger. We’ve got to get on top of this. I wish I could say the Administration is taking it seriously. I wish I could say they have a plan. I wish I could say they’ve released out their studies that they said they were going to do, but they’ve not released out their studies. They’ve not released out their plans. And I continue to ask week after week after week. The first hint that I got of what they plan to do came out in their budget. In their budget they reduced funding for ICE. They reduced the number of bed spaces for ICE. I was shocked. The numbers continue to skyrocket and their first release of what they plan to do on it they asked for a 1,500-bed space reduction in ICE capacity for detention.

Now, honestly when I got it, I thought I can’t believe they’re putting it in print, but I already know it was going on. Why did I know it was going on? Because as I track the numbers all the time, I’ve watched the number of deportations and ICE detentions dramatically decrease. Because while some people are focused on the border, they lose track of the fact that not only is this Administration not enforcing our southern border, they’re not enforcing the interior of the country. We have 6,000 ICE agents in the United States, 6,000 professional law enforcement career folks that are in the country arresting individuals that are illegally present in the country with the first priority for criminal aliens. That’s their first priority, safety and security of the United States.

Of the 6,000 agents in the United States, in May they did 3,000 total arrests. 3,000 among 6,000 agents in a month. That’s a record low because the Administration changed the rules for ICE agents on who they could interdict. The first big rule change they made is, ICE agents cannot arrest someone who is not legally present unless they get permission from regional leadership by name to arrest that individual. Meaning if they go into a place to arrest someone and they encounter one person that they received permission to actually arrest but also find three other criminal aliens there, they cannot detain or arrest them. They have to leave them, request by name later to go back and get them, and guess what? They’re not there. Shocking.

And it’s not all criminal aliens. There’s only certain criminal aliens that they’re now allowed to actually detain. That’s a big shift from every previous Administration. Let me give you an example that I actually gave to Secretary Mayorkas and asked specifically about some recent frustrating moments from our ICE Agents.

Just a few days ago ICE reached out on a previously deported alien by name. This person had been convicted of a sex assault of a minor under age 14. The alien was at large, and they asked permission to be able to go after this alien and to be able to do a street arrest. Remember they’d been deported before. They knew that they were in the area. They were a previous sex offender convicted. They were denied the ability to go after that person. They were told, ‘No. They don’t meet the standard.’

Case number two: another person that was previously deported, they had a previous conviction for indecency with a child, sexual contact. They were a registered sex offender. They believed they were in the area. They were asked if they could pursue arrest. Regional leadership told them no. They could not.

Case number three: this just happened last week. Previous deported alien twice so this means they were in the third time in our country illegally. Previous convictions for alien smuggling. That is, trafficking of people, theft, illegal entry. They knew they were in the area. They asked if they could do the arrest. Regional leadership told them no. I could go on and on.

ICE has a different set of rules now than what they’ve had in the past. It’s not just criminal aliens anymore. It’s they have to be a really high criminal alien. I could give you lists of people that have multiple DUI offenses that ICE Asked if they could detain them, and they were told no.

Listen. We’ve all said in this room we should engage with criminal aliens and criminal aliens should be deported. I don’t know of a person in this room that hasn’t said it. We stopped in May deporting criminal aliens. Are we going to do nothing about that? If you don’t believe me, call Secretary Mayorkas. He will send you a copy that I have as well of the interim guidance that was put out in May for ICE Agents limiting who they could deport and the process for deportation.

I’ve asked him specifically if someone goes to pick up a criminal alien and there are other aliens that are there, can they be picked up and the answer has been no. We have a problem, not just on our southern border but what’s happening in our country in the issue of enforcement. And we would be wise if we would pay attention to this. I’m fully aware there are many individuals in this body that do not like the southern border wall. That’s been a topic of great debate in this room for several years.

But is this body aware that in January of this year when President Biden paused, quote-unquote, the border wall construction and said, ‘I’m going to spend 60 days studying it,’ that 60-day study is still not complete, 200 days into the presidency. He’s still not completed the 60-day study. On top of that, the pause of that construction during that time period, we’re still paying contractors to not do construction.

So far this year we have paid contractors $2 billion, billion with a b, $2 billion not to construct the wall. Now you may think it’s a waste to construct the wall. I do not. But please tell me you at least believe it’s a waste to not construct a wall and still pay contractors to  not construct a wall.

We’re currently paying contractors $3 million a day to watch the materials that have been delivered by January 20 that were sitting on the ground. For steel, for fiber, for cameras, for lighting, for roads, we’re paying $3 million a day to have them watch the materials on the ground to make sure they’re not stolen, $3 million a day. That is a waste. And as people cross our border in record numbers, a new policy has been instituted on our southern border called a notice to report. This again has never been done by any administration.

A notice to report is when the line gets too long on the southern border, when people are crossing the border, when they’re trying to check everyone in. If the line gets too long, Border Patrol are constructed to grab the folks at the back of the line, give them a notice to report. That’s a card telling them where ICE agency offices are around the country, and they can just go ahead and go and turn themselves in at whatever ICE agency they want to turn themselves into anywhere in the country. So far 50,000 people this year have been given one of those cards at our southern border and told, ‘Turn yourself in, wherever you go in the country,’50,000.

My shock as I’m trying to track the number, 13 percent have actually done it. I was surprised the number was that high. But that means 87 percent of the people that we’ve handed a card to and said, ‘Turn yourself in wherever you go in the country,’ have not—87 percent. We have no idea where they are of that 50,000 people that were released into the country because the line was too long at that moment.

Listen, we can disagree about a lot of things on immigration, but handing people a card and say, ‘Just travel anywhere you want to go in the country and turn yourself in when you get there,’ can we at least agree that’s a bad idea? Can we at least agree paying contractors $2 billion not to construct a wall is a bad idea? Can we at least agree that criminal aliens that had been previously convicted and are being picked up for another charge should at least be deported in the process? Can we at least agree that if you want to deal with the, quote-unquote, root causes in the Northern Triangle and southern America does not deter the people from over 100 countries that have crossed our southern border this year illegally. There is a bigger problem.

Can we at least agree that we should address this?

We have a great deal of work to be able to be done. I would encourage all of us to get the facts, to get the details of what’s really happening, and to understand that when over a million people have illegally crossed the border just this year—that we know of—that’s a problem. And it’s a problem that hasn’t been there in the past anywhere close in this kind of number. And we should address it in this body.

I’ve written letters. I’ve made phone calls. I’ve done reports. We’ve done research. I’ve sat down with Secretary Mayorkas. I’ve held nominees for DHS. I’ve done everything I can do to bring this issue to the forefront. And though others seem to ignore it, this is an issue that we should not ignore. National security is not something we should be flippant about, and not everyone crossing that border is just coming for a job. We should engage.

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