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Lankford Warns US Asylum Process Being Dangerously Gamed By Cartels

Lankford: “In the past year, 150 people were picked up that are on our terror watchlist coming across our southern border. That is more than the last five years combined.”

CLICK HERE to watch Lankford’s remarks on YouTube.

CLICK HERE to watch Lankford’s remarks on Rumble.

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today spoke on the Senate floor about our nation’s broken asylum system and the areas that need to be addressed in policy. Lankford reiterated what he’s said many times, that the criminal cartels in Mexico are coaching migrants from all over the world on what to say and where to go in order to “game” our asylum process and get into the country while they await an asylum hearing. Lankford pointed to a Washington Post opinion piece by Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas that also calls on Congress to fix policy, not just apply a “tourniquet’ of funding.

Earlier this week during the annual “Threats to the Homeland” hearing in the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Lankford’s questions focused on the broken asylum process, the Administration’s plan—or lack thereof—to dissuade people from coming to our border rather than processing them into the country more quickly, and the Administration’s request for additional funding for detention beds in their supplemental request to Congress.

Lankford reiterated in the hearing to Secretary Mayorkas that at a hearing in April when he asked Mayorkas if our immigration system is broken and being abused, Mayorkas responded, “Senator, yes, the asylum system is broken, and our entire immigration system is broken. There is unanimity about that, and it is our continuing hope that Congress will reform a broken system…”

As Senate Democrats continue to say that Homeland Security just needs “more money” to solve the wide open border, Lankford continues to affirm today more money will not solve our broken border security and immigration system and that instead we need real policy changes. Mayorkas proceeded to outline to Lankford his specific policy recommendations for Congress.


Lots of conversations happening right now about border security. Rightfully so. It’s not news in this Chamber or nationwide that the number of people crossing the border that are not legal—millions of them in the past three years have crossed the border asking for asylum.

Now, a lot of folks have said, ‘Hey, we want to help people all over the world. We are the United States of America. That’s who we are.’ I would say, I agree. We’re the United States of America, and we’re dominantly made up of immigrants in our country. That’s a good thing, and it’s a strength of this culture that we have of people that want to be able to succeed, want to be able to work hard, and be able to contribute to their neighbors and their families. Let’s draw them from all over the world.

But things have significantly changed.

Americans see it on the headlines in the news, but they may not understand the data behind it and how significant the change has been.

If I go back to 2010—ancient history—2010, that year we had 21,000 people cross our southern border and ask for asylum that year—21,000 in the year 2010. We now have 21,000 asking for asylum in three days now. There’s a huge shift.

What has occurred is that the cartels have found a gap in our law, a gap in our laws that’s not new, it’s just being exploited in a new way. They are recruiting people worldwide and saying, ‘I can get you into America for a fee,’ and they’re asking people worldwide to be able to give them thousands of dollars. They will get them across the border, teach them the magic words to say, ‘I have fear in my country,’ that meets the minimal threshold, no matter how many countries they have been through to be able to get there. They can say they have fear in my original country.

We allow them in and then put them in line to get to an immigration judge. The line currently in New York is 10 years long to get to a judge. So they wait 10 years to get to a judge on the first stage and then the next stage. It could be up to 20 years now with a backlog before they get an answer to the question: are you eligible for asylum?

By the way, statistics show the vast majority are not eligible for asylum. And everyone knows the joke. But there’s a gap in our law that is being exploited by cartels.

How can I say this so certainly? Well, Canada closed that gap two decades ago. Canada also saw the same gap that was being exploited there, and so they made a simple change in their law. That is, if you have crossed in another safe country and then come to Canada and want to ask for asylum, they’ll just respond to you, ‘You should have asked in the previous country.‘ That’s the international standard, by the way. It’s not crazy. That’s actually normal.

You see, asylum is the same as refugee status. It’s the same in international law. A refugee flees to a spot who is afraid and gets to a refugee center and says to the UN, ‘I have dramatic fear of persecution in my country,’ and if they do, then they actually share them all over the world including here in the United States. We take refugees here from all over the world. Asylum seekers are on the same standard. They’re supposed to go to the next safe place, get there, and request asylum. That is the international standard, but we don’t do that here.

Can I give you more evidence? So far this year we’ve had 45,000 people from India that have crossed our southern border, paid the cartels, crossed into our country, and said they have fear in their country from India. They take about four flights including through dangerous countries like France to be able to get to Mexico, the closest airport, and then literally take a bus rented by the cartels up to the border to be dropped off for their last delivery there to us. So they can say, ‘I have fear in my country.’

Listen this doesn’t make sense to just about everyone in the world. Just about everyone in the world has shifted on this except for us. We’re literally inviting people from all over the world to exploit our system.

I am a tall fences, wide gates person. I think we need good border security so that we know who is coming in but have wide gates so that we are open to legal immigration and say, ‘We want the interchange of people all over the world to come here, work here, grow their families here and invest in the future of America.’ But when we’re encouraging illegal immigration. That is a real threat to us as a country.

Don’t just take my word for it, ask mayors all over America. They’ll tell you. They don’t know what to do with the number people who are coming. This is not a red-state, blue-state issue, whether it be New York State and New York City who are saying, ‘Make it stop,’ or whether it’s areas in southern Texas and southern Arizona who are saying, ‘Our small communities are absolutely overrun. None of those folks are opposed to immigration. They’re just opposed to illegal immigration—what everyone knows is an exploitation of the system.

We should fix the system.

Now this is more than dollars. It’s been a lot of conversation in this body lately, ‘We’ll just add more money to it. They just need more dollars.’ Well, I would say not only do I not agree with that, Secretary Mayorkas, the head of Homeland Security doesn’t agree with that. This week, on Wednesday of this week, he released an opinion piece published in the Washington Post, which I would encourage every one of these members to be able to read.

There you go, you just heard a Republican say, ‘Read the Washington Post.’ It’s a new day.

If you read that opinion piece from Secretary Mayorkas, in it he calls the funding request for DHS a ‘tourniquet,’ saying what they really need is a change in law to be able to make a difference for what’s happening on the southern border. It’s not dollars that are needed. It’s policy changes that are needed—both this Administration enforcing different policies, but it’s also us fixing obvious gaps.

Around 6,000 people a day that are crossing the border illegally—6,000 a day is the current number. Half of those are released under something called ‘withholding.’ Now I would dare say most of the folks in this room and of the five people watching C-SPAN right now, most of those folks are not familiar with the term withholding.

Withholding is a new thing that’s being exploited by the cartels. It’s another gap in our system like asylum is. It says basically, ‘Hey I’m afraid’—not asylum necessarily—‘but I’m afraid of violence in my country, I want to go to an immigration judge,’ and as soon as they say that, they end up in a line that’s 10 to 20 years to get to an immigration judge. Then their next step is, once they’re in, they snap a picture of their new little document that they have, send is it back to their family, and say,  ‘I paid this cartel, said these words, and I’m in the country.’ And everybody else keeps coming from there.

We should fix this gap, if we know there’s a problem. Why? Because it’s just being exploited in sheer numbers. It’s because we don’t know who the folks are. Many of the folks that are coming to work and connect with family, I get that. They should come through a legal route and we should encourage them to be able to do that. But some of these folks are not coming for good.

In the past year, 150 people were picked up that are on our terror watch list coming across our southern border. That is more than the last five years combined. Just in the past year. And those are the people we picked up. This past year over a million people crossed our border that literally the Border Patrol could see in the desert but couldn’t get to. We have no idea for those million. They weren’t turning themselves in like some other folks are. They’re in camo and running from Border Patrol. And right now Border Patrol can’t get to them because they’re processing so many other folks, they don’t have the manpower to do it.

So the conversation is, well let’s add more manpower. The problem still remains. We may have more manpower but we still have millions of people crossing and mayors all over the country saying, ‘Make it stop. We want a legal process to go through.’

There is a way to be able to do this. And we should. In the past two years, 70,000 people in the just last two years have been released into the country that are considered by DHS ‘special interest aliens.’ These are folks from Syria, from Iran, from Iraq, from other areas of known terrorism. They weren’t on our terror watchlist, but we don’t have any criminal records for them, but where they’re from and their specific areas caused national concerns. What happened to those folks? Those 70,000 were released into our country awaiting a hearing ten years from now. That’s what happened to them—because the system is being gamed.

If there’s any lesson we should have learned from 9/11, where 19 people that were not legally present in the country killed thousands of Americans, it should be we’ve got to be able to manage legal immigration, to encourage legal immigration, discourage illegal immigration. It’s an issue that I talked about over and over again in this body, but it’s an issue that continues to rise in the hearts and the minds of the American people because more people are feeling it nationwide and in more states, and they’re just asking a simple question, and they usually catch me and say a simple statement, ‘I’m not anti-immigrant. I just want it to be legal.’

That shouldn’t seem like a radical idea to a body that makes law that we would want things to be legal in America. But for whatever reason, it has become more and more challenging to just follow the law and to make clear law.

One other thing—the Administration a year ago, just last week, put in a new Venezuela policy We’re at the one-year anniversary of it. They put a new Venezuela policy where they would limit access to only a certain number. They did see a decline a year ago for a couple of months. But if you go back to October of last year, we had 22,000 people that were crossing from Venezuela a month. If you look at September of this year, we had 66,000 people from Venezuela crossing a month. The Venezuela policy didn’t work.

So you know what the Administration did in October? They started actually returning people back to Venezuela, if they crossed and said, ‘You’re not eligible for asylum.’ Within days the number of Venezuelans trying to cross the border plummeted. Just enforcing the law changes dramatically the policy and the reality on the ground.

Right now Border Patrol and CBP are processing people that they know are a threat to the United States. They know. When I visit with Border Patrol, they will often say to me, ‘I picked up a person between ports of entry that was running, 25 years old with two other 20-somethings all dressed in camo in the night trying to get across. We encountered them within 24 hours they were released.’ And they’re nervous because they have no idea where they’re going or what they’re going to do. And as law enforcement, they did their best to interdict, but the current policy just releases them into the country anyway. That’s not right. This body should find a way to be able to solve the border crisis and not just ignore it.

We should be able to come together and figure this out. Our country is at risk. This is a national security issue. Not to mention drugs and everything else that the Border Patrol can’t go interdict because they’re processing so many migrants at this time. It’s not that migrants are going everywhere, and I’ve heard it a lot, ‘There’s migrants all over the world.’ That’s true. But the folks that are coming here because it’s the greatest country in the world, and I don’t blame them for coming here, but let’s encourage them to do it legally, not through a process that we all know is being gamed and is illegal.

Let’s empower those families to be able to move here if they fit who we are as Americans and that value and they passed their background checks. Let’s invite them to be a part of us as Americans. Let’s not have the person screening people coming into the country, the cartels in Mexico because that’s who is currently controlling our immigration policy are the Mexican cartels, not us. That should not be so. And I would hope this body would work in the very short period of time in the days ahead to resolve that.