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Senator Lankford Continues to Push for Real Immigration Reform

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WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today delivered a speech on the Senate floor to discuss the need for Congress to actually fix the issues with immigration, child migrant reunification numbers from the Department of Homeland Security, and why we need the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). In June, Lankford gave a speech on the Senate floor about the administration’s policy of separating families at the border, the need for real immigration reform, and securing the border. Earlier this year, Lankford introduced a common-sense proposal called the Secure and Succeed Act, which contained a provision that would have enabled families detained at the border to remain together if a parent was prosecuted for illegally entering the country.


(4:49-6:19) Previous administrations have used what they call prosecutorial discretion. They have taken folks in and released them into the country and determined who to prosecute and who to not prosecute. This administration has stepped up and said, let’s take a moment that we’re going to prosecute everyone and try to be able to slow down the process. But there’s been a noticeable increase in something a lot of people have not noticed, that is the number of families coming across the border. Why would that be? It’s not just individuals crossing the border as a family, it’s individuals that are bringing children with them to cross the border because they’re treated differently over the past several years. Over the first five months of this fiscal year, over the first five months, there’s been a 315 percent increase in apprehensions of groups fraudulently claiming to be families. Let me run that past you again. This year, in the last five months, there’s been a 315 percent increase in apprehensions of groups that fraudulently claim to be families. Not a 315 percent increase in families. These are smugglers that bring a child with them, because they know if you bring a child with you, then you are treated differently in the border. Historically, you’ve been released. This administration has said to stop this, we’re going to start prosecuting and try to figure out who is actually a family, who is not a family, and to be able to figure out how to be able to prosecute this. Because there has been such a dramatic change. 

(6:20-7:36) Now, the numbers are just increasing for family units, period, that are coming. Let me run some of the numbers past you. According to the Customs and Border Patrol, there is a 407 percent increase in the number of family units detained in June of 2018 as compared to June of 2017. In May, it was a 600 percent increase. In April, it was an 863 percent increase. We’re seeing a dramatic shift in the number of units that are coming at us. No matter your view on immigration reform, increases of this kind of magnitude should cause us to be able to slow down and be able to ask some simple questions. Are the loopholes in our law and the prosecutorial discretion to release families to show up later for a hearing, is that causing more individuals to be able to pretend to be families or more families to be able to come? I think it’s causing more and more individuals to be able to come that are coming not as a family but that are coming pretending to be a family unit, though we also have obviously, family units that are coming as well. A key issue that we need to be able to address is pretty straightforward. Of the one million plus people that have come here illegally, should we have greater respect for those individuals that have gone through the legal process? I believe that we should.

(7:36-8:43) In fact, I had a small-town hall meeting in Lawton, OK just last week. There were lots of questions about keeping families together, which I am one of those individuals that say, ‘as often as we possibly can, the default position should be keeping families together.’ But for those individuals that were there at this meeting in Lawton, all the questions were about what are we doing in immigration, how are we handling this, how are we prosecuting, and are we treating people humanely? Rightfully so, those are reasonable questions for us as Americans. But at the very end of the town hall meeting, one gentleman asked me what about legal immigration? And, he asked it in a very specific way. Are there issues we should deal with with that? Well, I followed up with him and said, ‘why do you ask that’? The reason he asked that is because he is a legal immigrant going through the process and is in his final stages. In fact, just the week before he had received his green card. And he’s a little frustrated with people that are treated differently that came into the country illegally versus people who are actually doing it the right way.  

(8:44-9:35) It’s been interesting to me to be able to watch this whole movement about abolishing ICE and saying maybe we shouldn’t have ICE enforcement at all, no immigration and customs enforcement at all. Surprisingly, the entity that was created after 9/11 because the 9/11 terrorists were individuals that came into the country and overstayed their visas and they were not stopped, so ICE was created to help us with our immigration enforcement because we had just been penetrated by a group of individuals who were terrorists and killed thousands of Americans. Now, after that was created in 2003, there is this big movement as if we have lost all that we learned since 2001. That now there’s a whole group saying that maybe we need to just abolish ICE entirely.

(9:36-12:31) Let me run just through a few things on that. ICE last year seized 2,370 pounds of fentanyl. 2,370 pounds of fentanyl. Now that may not seem like a lot, just over a ton of fentanyl that they seized, but according to the DEA, two milligrams of fentanyl is a deadly amount of fentanyl to be able to take in. Fentanyl is laced into heroin or cocaine to dramatically increase the high. But if you have up to two milligrams of it, it’s not going to increase your high, it going to kill you. That amount of fentanyl seized last year is a deadly dosage amount for just over 537 million people. 537 million people could have been killed with just the amount of fentanyl that ICE seized last year. On top of that, ICE agents seized almost 7,000 pounds of heroin and one million pounds of narcotics were seized just in 2017. We also know that ICE freed 518 victims of human trafficking. They free 904 children from child exploitation. They picked up 800 MS-13 gunning members as an arrest and almost 5,000 members, of gang members, were taken off the street just by ICE. We hear a lot about ICE raids as if ICE is wandering around neighborhoods looking to be able to pick people up. I’d like to remind folks the majority of what ICE does is at the border, detaining individuals. In fact, last year ICE agents removed 62,913 more people who were detained at the border that arrested in the United States. ICE agents are law enforcement. They are enforcing the law of our country, and it’s quite remarkable to me to be able to hear people, some people even in this Chamber, discuss with seriousness abolishing federal law enforcement that’s taking human traffickers off the street, that’s taking gang members off the street, that’s taking lethal doses of fentanyl off the street, that’s taking tons of narcotics off the street. Why don’t we show them some respect, and if there are things that need to be done to be able to reform it, the ICE agents would be the first ones to step up to this body and to say, here are some ideas and some things that can be done to reform it. But, abolishing ICE—abolishing ICE is a ticket to lawlessness in our country.