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Senator Lankford Discusses Lack of Legislative Action on Border Security and Immigration Issues at Our Southern Border

CLICK HERE for the video of the entire floor speech.

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today delivered a his 10th floor speech on the Senate floor about border security issues at the US southern border and on the consequences of a lack of real congressional action to solve immigration issues including, the asylum process, the process for keeping families together when they enter the US, border security, and other policies that haven’t been updated since the 1990s. 

In June 2018, Lankford released an episode of his podcast, “The Breakdown with James Lankford” specifically discussing the immigration debate in Washington and the family separation issue.  And in July he spoke on the Senate floor in yet another attempt to urge Congress to act immigration issues. 

More recently, Lankford joined Senators Portman, Blumenthal, and Carper to introduce a bill in September 2018 to address care for unaccompanied minors while in federal custody and questioned witnesses from US CBP and ICE about ways to solve immigration placement issues for immigrant families with children.


On the current southern border situation…

(Starts at 1:16): This is the 10th time I’ve come to this floor to talk about immigration in just the last three years. Earlier this year, in February, we had a tremendous amount of work that was happening here in the Senate to try to come to a set of agreements about how we can manage immigration policy in the United States, and those agreements failed. While InSight was traveling 300 million miles, this Senate still did nothing to be able to resolve the issue of immigration.

And we watched today, several thousand people in Tijuana living in a soccer stadium after they left out from Honduras, traveled into Guatemala—Guatemalans deporting several thousand of them—and saying, ‘You didn’t cross legally from Honduras into Guatemala.’ And then they approached the border between Guatemala and Mexico, and Mexico put their law enforcement and their military on the border and said, ‘You can’t just cross the border illegally from Guatemala into Mexico.’ And then they charged the bridge, overran the law enforcement and the military of the Mexican police, went around into the river and regrouped again and continued to move forward through Mexico.

On border crossing at the southern border…

(Starts at 5:59): Last year, there were 400,000 people that were arrested illegally crossing our southern border. 400,000. Now, again, that may seem like an incredibly large number, but let me put it back in perspective. Half a million people—that would be 500,000 people—legally cross our border on the south every day. So we had 400,000 people arrested crossing our southern border illegally—400,000—but yet over the total of an entire year, 400,000 people arrested, but every single day, 500,000 people legally cross our entire southern border. As I mentioned, 100,000 of those just at San Diego. These Americans need to make decisions about how we’re going to handle immigration, and I think we’ve got to get some numbers and some perspective in place because all the attention seems to be distracting us from the actual facts and numbers.

On family separation…

(Starts at 7:04): There’s been a lot of conversation about family units and about what does it mean for family units to be able to come in and should family units be separated. And let me make it very clear: I’ve been very outspoken to say family units need to stay together whenever possible. We are Americans. We’re very passionate about families. If a family unit crosses the border illegally, as much as possible, we need to keep that family unit together. That may mean we need to have them in a spot, in a detention unit or someplace where they can actually stay together as a family as much as possible. But for whatever reason, the courts have not allowed us to be able to go through that system. I think that’s something that this Congress needs to respond to and needs to be able to step up to, but this Congress has been unwilling to be able to do the votes that it takes to be able to make sure family units actually stay together because the drama of tearing families apart looks so much better on TV. But what’s been the result of that? What’s been the result is a massive increase in the number of children that are coming to our border. This may sound familiar to you, and it should.

On the human trafficking of Central American children…

(Starts a 11:42): Some may have noted over the weekend, a Washington Post story that was titled, ‘For Central Americans, children open a path to the US And bring a discount.’ The Washington Post story was a story that they’re doing research in Central America. These human smugglers—what they’re doing now in their business—they detail the story that it will cost $10,000 if you travel as an adult, but if you bring a child with you, you and the child can come for $4,500. So it’s half price if you bring a kid. And families are so desperate in that area to get some kind of assistance, literally adult males mostly are going to families and say, ‘Let me take your child with me. I’ll get a discount, and then I’ll send you some cash back, and I’ll try to enroll this child in an American school or find somebody to be able to take care of them.’ And we have individuals showing up at our southern border now that are bringing a child they’re not related to because they get a discount on their human smuggling time, and they get more expedited process to be able to actually get across the border to request asylum, though they’re not actually requesting asylum. Do we not see what’s happening?

We are encouraging the human trafficking of children from Central America from unrelated adults to come. It has a nickname in Central America, now that the Washington Post story highlighted. It’s called adoptions. That’s the new nickname. I’m going to take my child and adopt them out to some unrelated adult, and so they can get into America cheaper and faster, and hopefully things turn out for that kid as well. A broken immigration system is encouraging this. And we need to address it.

On the border fence…

(Starts at 14:21): Congress provided the funding and DHS has done 18-foot high bollard-style fencing—open fencing that you can see through, not the solid sheet metal that’s up there. And the actual final results haven’t been released on it yet. The border agents on the ground said they used to have 10 crossings a day through the old-style fencing; now they have one illegal crossing a month through that new fencing. And for all of the whining and all of the conversation that I hear, if you build a fence, there’s just a ladder, it’s dropped from ten a day to one a month just when the fencing changed, and it allows our agents to be able to see a danger or risk on the other side and to be able to respond to it.

(Starts at 16:59): This is not just about fencing, it’s also about technology and DHS has done both, and it is a making a difference. But while the cameras are focused on children coughing with tear gas at our southern border, we need to ask ourselves a question: What are we doing in the policy here that’s encouraging people to bring children to the border thinking they are going to get faster access if they can illegally cross? Why is this happening? How do we stop it with our policy?

On the areas Congress needs to address…

(Starts at 19.12): Let’s honor people who do it the right way. Let’s fix broken areas of the system that are encouraging parents to bring children illegally across the border because they get a discount. Let’s find a way to be able to work out work visas. Let’s deal with issues like temporary protected status that needs to be resolved. Let’s deal with the issues of our immigration, but let’s not continue to stall. If the Mars InSight probe can travel 300 million miles in five months, surely this Congress can sit down and resolve the immigration issue in a few months.