01.08.18

Senator Lankford Pushes for DACA Fix and Improved Border Security on Senate Floor

Lankford: “Dealing with the DACA students that are literally caught in a place where they have no home is a compassionate thing to do, but along with our compassion, we also uphold the law.”

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WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today joined Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Thom Tills (R-NC), and Tom Cotton (R-AR) on the Senate floor to advocate for immigration reform that improves border security and fixes the DACA program. Lankford has offered a number of solutions for DACA and border security. Last year, he introduced the SUCCEED Act and the SECURE Act.

Lankford will join a group of Senators to discuss this at the White House tomorrow. Last week, Lankford met with President Trump and Senate Republicans to discuss DACA and border security. 

Excerpts: 

On the politicization of border security: 

This has been a topic that has been discussed for a while but not settled. 20 years this body has talked about solving some of the immigration issues. National security and immigration hasn't been a partisan issue until of late. Suddenly when President Trump brings it up, we have a bunch of people who used to be for border security who are now against border security because President Trump wants to do border security. Some of the exact same ideas that have been the gang of eight bills or previous investigators or even talked about with a secure wall or fence before. Almost every Democrat in this body voted for the secure fence act of 2006. It's interesting to me the number of people that contact us saying we do not want to build a wall, and I have said: “what about the 650 miles of wall that already exist that were put in place after 2006?” That, by the way, President Obama when he was then-Senator Obama wholeheartedly supported and voted for. This is now suddenly a partisan issue.

On the need for border security: 

We have half-a-million people a day that legally cross our border, our southern border alone, half-a-million people a day that cross back and forth, that legally go through the system. They're doing commerce. They're visiting family. There are all kinds of individuals that move back and forth through our gates legally every single day. We should ask a question: why are half-a-million people moving through legally but yet there are thousands and thousands that are moving through illegally? What's the difference and should we ask questions of some of those? Should there be a physical barrier in some spots? We have seen places in Yuma, Arizona where there isn't a physical border and there's a large city on the border, that they would cross the border quickly, commit a crime and move back. When a physical barrier was put in place a decade ago in Yuma, Arizona, the crime rate dropped dramatically in that area. A physical barrier helped and does reduce. While I've had people say if you build a 30-foot wall, there will be a 31-foot ladder leaning against it. That's true, but it slows them done and giving enough time in remote areas or heavily urbanized areas for people to be able to respond and be able to actually interdict those individuals. Walls don't stop people. They slow people down so you can do interdiction and say why are you going through the wall rather than the gates like half-a-million people are doing today? Why is that not happening? That is not unreasonable but it's become heavily politicized. 

We need to step back and to remove this from a conversation about presidents and about political parties and move it back to some basic commonsense things, things that this Congress used to do on wide bipartisan support. Things like a physical barrier. There should be a wall in certain areas of the southern border that don't have a wall right now. There should be areas of technology and other areas. There should be an area to have watchtowers with cameras. We should add additional personnel. We're talking about 3,000-plus miles on our northern border, 2,000 miles on our southern border. It's a lot of territory to be able to cover. Some of those areas, they don't even have broadband access to it so just getting information to the agents that work there takes a very long time or is unavailable. We do need to have some technology improvements in some of those areas. Should every part of our border have a wall? No, I don't think so. It shouldn't all have a wall but in areas where it's in heavily populated areas, it probably should because that provides greater security, quite frankly, on both sides of the border. Some of it is even more simple than that. There are areas where there's large amounts of cane that are growing up in the Rio Grande River and they can't see on both sides who is moving through because they can hide through the cane. Removing all that cane would provide tremendous visibility. It shouldn't be that controversial. That should be common sense, adding technology, adding sensor, adding greater visibility, adding a wall in areas that need a wall. But that isn't just the issue. 

On immigration reform and protecting DACA students:

The President wants to deal with a visa lottery, which is a system where 50,000 people somewhere in the world are just randomly drawn out of a hat to be able to become American citizens. Many of us have said for a long time that's a foolish way to do your immigration system. The immigration system should be based on what do we need in America. What jobs? What locations? Rather than say random pull out of a hat of people around the world. I understand there are millions and millions of people around the world that would love to be Americans. But in America, we want to be able to target those Americans who want to not be Americans but want to be a fabric of who we are, to be able to make decisions for ourselves as a nation and to be able to do it not just in our own policy but our immigration policy. That's not too much to ask. There are basic things that should be done. Dealing with the DACA students that are literally caught in a place where they have no home is a compassionate thing to do, but along with our compassion, we also uphold the law. Those kids should not be held to account for what their parents did, but their parents should not have the same access to the American system of being naturalized as the kids do only because the parents did intentionally violate the law. 

There are some DACA kids that have done some pretty remarkable stuff. Some DACA kids are some pretty amazing individuals. I tell folks in Oklahoma when I’m home, if I could identify for you 700,000 people somewhere around the world that spoke English, that are excellent students, that stood up every day in their school and pledged allegiance to the United States of America, that are in our military already, that are already working in our economy right now, are those the individuals that you want to reach out and be part of that one million people a year that become citizens? I've have yet to have someone tell me no, that's not who we're looking for. Everyone says that's exactly who we're looking for. I get to smile at them and say they're already here. They just happen to have grown up in this country already but they really have no home and they'd love to call this one their home. I'd like to give them the opportunity to be able to earn the ability to earn it, to be able to go through the process, to be able to get in line like every other person in the world, to be able to get in line but not have to return to their home country because they don't know a home country, but to be able to get in line here to be able to do it. 

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