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Senator Lankford Seeks Answers on Human Smuggling Crisis at Southern Border

CLICK HERE to watch Lankford’s Q&A.

WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today attended a Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing on the current situation of unprecedented migration to our southern border. Lankford’s questions focused on the effects of existing US court cases and policies that hinder US Customs and Border Protection and other federal agencies from fully securing the southern border and processing migrant individuals, families, adults, and children through our overly complex and extensively delayed legal immigration and asylum processes. US Customs and Border Protections officials, Mr. Rodolfo Karisch, Rio Grande Valley Sector Chief Patrol Agent, and Mr. Randy Howe, Executive Director for Operations were among those who testified today at the hearing.

Lankford remains an outspoken advocate for keeping families together at our borders whenever possible and preventing human trafficking. In previous Homeland Security hearings in September 2018 and October 2018 on immigration issues, Lankford pressed agency officials on what the federal government is doing to solve the family separation and human smuggling issues at our southern border. In February 2018 Lankford then included the crisis of human smuggling in the fourth volume of his federal waste report, Federal Fumbles Ways the federal government dropped the ball on page 15. Late last year Lankford delivered a floor speech about the lack of legislative action to curtail illegal immigration at our southern border. After the federal government reopened and the border security dispute ended, Lankford voted to support President Trump’s emergency declaration at the southern border because of the ongoing humanitarian crisis.

Excerpts

On the Flores decision and TVPRA issues Congress needs to address (Starts at 01:04)

Lankford: In our hearing last week, TVPRA and Flores came up as the two biggest issues by far. Mr. Howe, Mr. Karisch, you were very clear to just say Congress needs to act. Last week, it was very specific. What we need Congress to do is address Flores and TVPRA.  Is that your opinion and what needs to be addressed?

Howe: Yes, agree—to allow families to stay together through the Flores agreement and the TVPRA to allow repatriation to non-contiguous countries.

Karisch:  Completely agree. 

Lankford: How many individuals do we have coming in family groups that are coming from Mexico?

Karisch: Very small number right now, Senator. I mean the vast majority…

Lankford: Give me a ballpark guess.

Karisch: I would have to get those numbers for you, but 65 percent of the Central American families that we’re seeing coming across the border but a very small percentage of Mexicans with families.

Lankford: So you’re saying 65 percent. Is that what you said? Those are families from…

Karisch: Central American triangle countries.

Lankford: So the other 35 percent of the folks are coming from where?

Karisch: Well, Mexico, but we’re also seeing them from different parts of the world in the people that we apprehend.

Lankford: You’d mentioned just in your region there are 50 different nations represented.

Karisch: Yes.

Lankford: I didn’t get the time period on that. Is that this fiscal year?

Karisch: Just for this fiscal year, yes.

Lankford: So in the last six months, you’ve seen 50 different countries coming that are family units?

Karisch: Not family units.  Single adults who are trying to evade arrest.

On the issue of “fake families” coming to the border (Starts at 03:48)

Lankford: The issue of ‘fake families’ was brought up—individuals that are coming with a child that is not their own and not directly related to. How has that changed in the last year or two in what you’ve seen?

Karisch: I will tell you that back in 2014 less than one percent of the males that were apprehended actually came with a child.  Right now it’s 50 percent.

Lankford: 50 percent?

Karisch: 50 percent of the males that are coming into this country right now have a child with them. They recognize that because of the floor settlement is that they’re not going to be kept in custody so that shows you exactly how they are exploiting a system, and right now because of volume it is very difficult for us to spend a great deal of time in interviewing every single person.

Lankford: So our laws are incentivizing people to be able to travel with a child. In other words if you get in with a child and put a child through this trauma of all the travel and the transit, then you get a more expedited process when you get here?

Karisch: Yes.

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