After Visiting Southern Border, Rep. Price Offers Three Amendments to Roll Back Anti-Immigrant Trump Agenda
WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 25, 2018) – On Wednesday, July 25, 2018, Congressman David Price (D-NC) proposed three amendments to the FY19 Homeland Security Appropriations bill that would dramatically roll back the Trump administration’s misguided and immoral immigration agenda. Last weekend, Rep. Price traveled to Texas to conduct an oversight visit of the southern border—including a tour of an immigration processing facility in Laredo and an immigration detention facility for children in San Antonio. Previously, on July 11, the Appropriations Committee passed an amendment by Rep. Price to increase oversight and transparency of the status of families separated by President Trump’s “zero-tolerance” policy.
“Last weekend, I had the opportunity to travel to our nation’s southern border to conduct oversight of President Trump’s anti-immigrant agenda, and meet personally with immigrants whose lives are affected by it,” said Congressman Price. “I’m pleased the Appropriations Committee recently passed my amendment to track families separated by the President’s “zero-tolerance” policy and hold him accountable for reuniting families. The amendments I offer today would take significant steps to reverse many of the most egregious immigration policies enacted by this administration.”
The amendments’ accompanying text, descriptions, and remarks are below.
- AMENDMENT 1 TEXT: The first amendment offered by Rep. Price will prevent any funds to be used to implement Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ guidance that victims of gang violence and domestic violence will no longer qualify for asylum in the United States.
- AMENDMENT 2 TEXT: The second amendment will prevent any funds to be used to carry out the Department of Homeland Security’s February 17’ guidance, which severely diminishes the ability of immigration officials to utilize common-sense discretion when enforcing immigration laws.
- AMENDMENT 3 TEXT: The third amendment, offered with Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), will prevent the Trump administration from revoking Temporary Protected Status (TPS) from hundreds of thousands of immigrants from countries like El Salvador and Honduras, where the living conditions have clearly not improved.
REMARKS AS PREPARED
Price Amendment #1 Remarks:
- Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
- My amendment addresses the Trump administration’s narrowing of the basis for asylum claims. The urgent need for the amendment was underscored for me by a visit last Friday to the Laredo Sector Centralized Processing Unit to see what happens to immigrants after they encounter CBP.
- I met with a 36-year-old man from El Salvador who was fleeing direct and deadly threats of violence from a gang. Facing certain death and potentially endangering the lives of his parents, he left home and embarked on the nearly 1,500-mile journey to join his sister legally residing in the United States.
- Unfortunately, due to a recent unilateral action by Attorney General Sessions, fear of gang violence and domestic violence no longer qualify as eligible claims of asylum. The Attorney General took it upon himself to overturn a 2014 precedent that had finally clarified years of uncertainty surrounding domestic violence.
- This guidance resulted in a USCIS policy memorandum stating “in general, claims based on membership in a particular social group defined by the members’ vulnerability to harm of domestic violence or gang violence will not establish the basis for asylum, refugee status, or a credible or reasonable fear of persecution.”
- This policy change will lead to higher denial rates by USCIS officers who administer initial credible fear screenings, meaning some immigrants experiencing gang and domestic violence will be removed before even given the chance to pursue an asylum claim.
- The memo then seemingly goes beyond the long-held asylum standard of whether or not a foreign government is “unable or unwilling to control the private actor.” It says that the immigrant must now prove that their government “condoned the private actions or at least demonstrated a complete helplessness.”
- Finally, the memo states that an immigrant’s illegal crossing of our border can count against his or her ability to receive a favorable asylum decision, which runs afoul of INA guarantees.
- It’s almost as if Attorney General Sessions made this decision in a vacuum.
- There is a well-documented and continuing humanitarian crisis in the Northern Triangle nations of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. The Council on Foreign Relations has characterized the region as “menaced by gang violence” while the United Nations Development Program states that “the problem of femicide and violence against women in the region has reached epidemic levels.”
- Meanwhile, the Trump Administration has decreased the amount of economic support and development assistance to the Northern Triangle countries. So, while we are cutting back on efforts to address desperate conditions in these countries, we are also giving those who seek refuge from these conditions a death sentence.
- My amendment would prohibit any federal funds from being used to carry out these policy changes. While some may argue that the USCIS memo doesn’t completely rule out the possibility that survivors of domestic or gang violence could qualify for asylum, there is no doubt that it diminishes the already limited likelihood of success of these claims.
- It is just one of the many heartless steps the Trump administration has taken to abandon the promise of America to be a source of refuge for those escaping persecution and oppression.
- I urge support for the amendment.
Price Amendment #2 Remarks:
- Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
- My amendment addresses the priorities governing immigration enforcement, the inevitable exercise of prosecutorial discretion.
- Under Donald Trump’s leadership, DHS has ignored the policies and priorities of the Bush and Obama administrations, abandoning the focus on dangerous criminals in favor of a wide-net approach that has led to a surge in immigration-related arrests, sowing fear in our communities and tearing families apart.
- Nationwide, total arrests of undocumented immigrants by the Trump administration in the first half of FY18 rose about 27% compared to the same period last year, with arrests of non-criminal immigrants more than doubling.
- During my tenure as Chairman of this Subcommittee, we worked with Secs. Chertoff and Napolitano to more sharply focus immigration enforcement on the removal of individuals who have committed serious crimes or pose a threat to our communities.
- This approach doesn’t provide a “free pass” to anyone, but it does assume that discretion will be exercised by enforcement authorities—something that every law enforcement agency does.
- Should local sheriffs commit equal resources and attention to the person running a stop sign as they do the person committing armed robbery?
- Of course not! Prioritization of the most dangerous individuals is a basic tenet of law enforcement, and it should also inform our approach to immigration enforcement.
- My amendment would prevent any federal funds from being used to implement the administration’s February 2017 guidance which can only be characterized as a serious impediment to prosecutorial discretion. To be sure, it contains mixed and inconsistent directives, but its thrust is to put all alleged violators of “immigration laws” on the same footing.
- In my own district, I have seen the results of this misguided policy-with agents rounding up non-criminal members of my community indiscriminately. I have spoken to ICE and DHS leadership about the recent surge in arrests, and I have yet to find one arrest that show any evidence of targeting. I imagine that every Member of Congress has similar stories.
- I urge adoption of my amendment, to ensure immigration enforcement agencies focus their efforts, and their limited resources, on those who actually pose a danger to our communities.
Lowey-Price Amendment #3 Remarks:
- Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I rise in support of the Lowey-Price amendment.
- Thousands of individuals from around the world currently reside in the United States under a Temporary Protected Status designation. Recognizing the dangers that these individuals would face upon returning to certain nations, our government has permitted them to live and work in the United States for a limited time.
- Since taking office, the Trump administration has set an end date for TPS protections for individuals from El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, and Sudan—a decision directly affecting the lives of nearly half a million people currently residing in this country, and indirectly affecting millions more.
- I understand that TPS is temporary by nature. However, the President’s decision to target these nations appears to be based more on the his anti-immigrant impulses than on any significant improvement in the circumstances that led to the designation in the first place.
- Many of the nations targeted by this administration’s TPS decision remain unprepared to receive these individuals. Conditions have not sufficiently improved since previous extensions, and the potential return of hundreds of thousands of former TPS holders would likely bring destabilizing consequences to their home countries.
- In fact, documents released last week demonstrated that the intelligence community warned DHS of these facts and more. They forecasted that ending TPS would cause more, not less, undocumented immigration.
- Congress needs to have an honest debate about TPS--determining when and where it is appropriate to terminate protections.
- Our President seems to have the opposite rationale: his goal is simply to rid our nation of as many immigrants as possible, and I believe he sees TPS as a ripe target.
- So it seems that our only recourse is to place funding restrictions on his actions. We can’t force Congress and the President to have an open dialogue about TPS, but we can say that you can’t use any money to end TPS protections in the upcoming fiscal year.
- The amendment I offer with Congresswoman Lowey would prohibit any federal funds from being used to arrest, detain, or remove law-abiding TPS beneficiaries from our communities.
- I urge support for our amendment.