At a Wednesday hearing on the surge of illegal aliens crossing the border, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said “These individuals know that the Administration’s policy of non-enforcement of our immigration laws presents a golden opportunity for unaccompanied minors and families with minors to come to the U.S., most likely to be released with very little chance of ever being removed…It is often said that Nero fiddled while Rome burned. Unfortunately, it seems Obama fiddles while our borders implode.”
Chairman Goodlatte discussed a report showing that 95 percent of recent border crossers in the Rio Grande Valley sector said they came to take advantage of a new law that grants a “free pass” to women traveling with minors and unaccompanied minors. He said, "The truth is that this administration has dramatically altered immigration enforcement policies. The timing of the change in policies correlates closely with the steep uptick of individuals showing up at the border. "
The Chairman used as an example the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and cited a statement by former ICE Acting Director John Sandweg, “‘If you are a run-of-the mill immigrant here illegally, your odds of getting deported are close to zero .’ Apparently, those arriving at our borders now know this.”
Republicans questioned whether the Administration is ensuring that released illegal-alien families and (unaccompanied alien children (UACs) are showing up for their hearings and getting deported. Chairman Goodlatte asked Thomas Homan, Ice’s head of removal operations, if it was accurate that ICE removed under 2,000 UACs each year since 2011 when the major border surge began. Homan said, “Yes. Last year, we removed 1,800.”
Rep. Goodlatte responded, “Part of the White House’s mantra on this matter is that everyone is being put into removal proceedings. Yet, as reported by the NY Times this weekend, that doesn’t really mean much when some will wait years for their first court date. Then there will be procedural moving and posturing that will last years even if the aliens show up for their court dates – which many will not.” He asked Homan, “By the time a removal order is issued, won’t these individuals be so low on the totem pole for removal that ICE’s state priority is … that they’ll never actually be removed?”
“I can say that every unaccompanied child and every family unit member are served with NTAs and scheduled to be put in front of an immigration judge, so that they have their proceedings scheduled, but it’s years out. There’s a lack of immigration judges, so some of these hearings take years. It can take two years. It can take five years. Last year we removed 1,800, but again as I said about the immigration courts: When we looked at all the unaccompanied alien children that were filed with the immigration court in the last five years, 87 percent of them are still in proceedings. We have no final orders,” Homan said. According to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, the federal immigration court system has a backlog of more than 360,000 cases.
The Obama Administration used the hearing as an opportunity to press for a comprehensive amnesty, but Chairman Goodlatte said the Administration’s preferred solution – the Senate-passed bill – would not address the surge of UACs crossing the border. He said, “The Senate bill does not contain any provisions that address the problems in current law that would allow us to more effectively address the current surge at the Southern border…You could line border patrol agents shoulder to shoulder at the Southern border and it would not matter due to this administration’s policy.”
An estimated 90,000 unaccompanied alien children (UACs) will apprehended in 2014, a 1,381 percent increase since 2011. The number anticipated for next year is 142,000, a 2,232 percent increase. The vast majority of UACs from from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.
Updated: Thu, Jul 10th 2014 @ 12:05pm EDT