Senator Lankford Urges Senate to Act on Obvious Immigration Problems

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WASHINGTON, DC – In a floor speech, Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today criticized the Senate, and Congress, for not solving the nation’s many immigration problems. Lankford specifically talked about the Senate’s failure to meaningfully secure our border, keep migrant families together by fixing the Flores Agreement, or enacting a solution for DACA.


On the nominations process slowing down the Senate overall:

Our days are busy and full. For some reason, we’re not getting to some of the biggest debates that need to be completed. I have had a real push in the nominations process to say we spent 100 days in the last 18 months just on a quorum call waiting on a nomination to be able to come up. That hasn’t happened. In fact, in the last five presidents combined, there has only been 25 requests for additional time for any nominee in five presidents. This time in 18 months, there has been 100. It’s slowing the body down. We have to be able to fix that.

On the Senate not solving immigration problems:

The nation is once again looking at the issue of immigration because of what we’re watching happening on the border with families. Americans are people of great compassion. We do not want to see families separated, but we also understand the basics of the law. So how do we deal with all these things together? I would say first this body has got to learn how to be able to focus on solving the issue of immigration rather than just complaining about the issue of immigration. We can’t have it come up every once in a while, while it’s in the news and then work on something else when the news stops focusing on it. We have got to solve this issue.

On fixing family separation and the Flores Agreement:

What’s currently separating families is not a new issue. Some people believe that it might be, but it’s not new. This comes out of a Flores decision from 1997. Every single president has struggled under this Flores decision from a court in California. That court said you can only detain children 20 days. Well, it takes 35 days to do a hearing. So the court set up an impossible situation where it takes 35 days to do a hearing. You can only hold children for 20 days. So every administration has had the same problem. Do I release people into the country and tell them to show up for what’s called a “notice to appear” at a future court date so their family can stay together, or do I separate families? Previous administrations have said I will just release people into the country, and we’ll tell them at a future date to be able to show up at a hearing. Well, there are a couple of problems with that. One is thousands of upon thousands of those individuals never show up for their first hearing, their “notice to appear.” The vast majority beyond that, after they show up for their first hearing, are given what’s called a “notice of removal,” to say you don’t qualify to be in the country legally, so you need to leave. The problem is 98 percent of those individuals then don’t leave. Once they get that “notice of removal,” they find a way to be able to disappear into the country, move to a new city, and they’re gone. Well, this administration is struggling with that to say what we have created is an incentive to come into the country illegally. That if you cross the border and bring your family, you will be released into the country and then you can just disappear and no one will ever go and try to find you. That’s a problem with just our legal system, period. Now, I’m not cold to immigration. Quite frankly, I am grateful that we are one of the most open immigration countries in the world. We have 1. 1 million people a year that become legal citizens of the United States, going through the process the right way – 1.1 million a year. I just spoke at a naturalization ceremony in Oklahoma city. If you ever come to one, and I encourage every American to be able to go to one of the naturalization ceremonies. But take kleenex with you. They are incredibly moving events to be able to watch people from all over the world stand and raise their right hand and be able to take the oath of becoming American citizens.

On fixing border security:

Can we agree on basic southern border security that used to not be a controversial thing. In 2006, this body passed the Secure Fences Act. It added 650 miles of fence and border on to our southern border. That vote passed with overwhelming support from this body, from Republican and Democrat. Outspoken conservatives like Chuck Schumer and Joe Biden and Senator Barack Obama voted for the Secure Fences Act in 2006. This used to not be a partisan issue that we would have basic border security. 650 miles of fencing is now on our Southern Border today because of the bipartisan Secure Fences Act that passed with overwhelming support from this body in 2006. Can we still agree securing our southern border is a good thing or is that suddenly a partisan issue? …Every nation wants to just know who is coming in and out of our borders.

On fixing DACA:

We should also be able to fix the issue about DACA. I’ve raised in this body multiple times and I’ve talked about it often at home. We have a couple of million kids that have grown up in this country that their parents illegally crossed the border. They were infants and children at the time, and they have grown up in this country. They don’t know another country. Now their parents violated the law. Those kids did not violate the law. What do we do with them?