WASHINGTON – The title of Thursday’s hearing, “Another Surge of Illegal Immigrants Along the Southwest Border: Is This the Obama Administration’s New Normal?” made it clear what Republicans think of the president’s efforts.
The Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, part of the House Judiciary Committee, gathered to discuss how President Barack Obama’s immigration policy has hurt the nation. The questions asked and the problems identified during the hearing broke down strictly on party lines.
Of the four witnesses, three were there to support the Republicans’ claim that the southwest border has devolved into chaos. The Democrats’ had a lone witness: Wendy Young, Kids in Need of Defense president.
The surge referred to the increase of illegal immigrants in 2014, as a growing number of people from Central America sought asylum in the United States.
According to Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., the committee chair, 60 percent of families detained by Border Patrol agents said that the immigration policies of the U.S. influenced their decision to make the trip. Goodlatte also claimed that as many as 177,000 unaccompanied minors and families will enter the U.S. illegally this year.
“There is no doubt that terrorists from ISIS-controlled countries are taking note of the lack of border enforcement,” he said.
Both sides used strong language, and the word “offended” was trotted out frequently. Rep. Raúl Labrador, R-Idaho, said he was offended by the administration’s lax immigration policy. Rep. Luis Gutiérrez, D-Ill., said he was offended that the committee kept claiming that it is illegal for immigrants to ask for asylum.
“That is not illegal!” Gutiérrez said, punching his fists in the air. “That is a law and a statute of the United States of America.”
With the exception of Gutiérrez, all of this expressed anger did not lead to contention among the committee members or the witnesses. There was no cross-examination; the committee members asked questions only of the witnesses selected by their party. The easy questions allowed the witnesses to shift effortlessly into talking points.
“Do you believe that the Border Patrol currently has the resources, including manpower, to adequately respond to the growing surge?” Labrador asked Brandon Judd.
“No,” said Judd, the head of the union for border agents, the National Border Patrol Council.
Later, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., asked if Young, whose organization helps provide legal support to immigrant children, could “give us some examples of the kinds of stories that you’re hearing?”
The Southern Poverty Law Center claims that the Center for Immigration Studies is “anti-immigrant” and that founder John Tanton is a white nationalist. Vaughan dismissed these claims as ridiculous.
Gutiérrez was the final committee member to speak, and he did not ask questions. Instead, he responded to the testimony of the witnesses and gave a fiery rebuttal.
“Yesterday I gave a speech on the House floor, and I said, ‘Watch tomorrow, the Judiciary Committee is going to have a meeting, and they’re going to a couple of things,’” Gutiérrez said. “They’re going to equate immigration with crime, and they’re going to say it’s all Obama’s problem. I pat myself on the back, because that’s exactly what happened here.”
Reach reporter Luke Torrance at [email protected] or 202-408-1494. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire. Like the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire interns on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram.
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