“With the undeniable evidence of this crisis now firmly in the public spotlight, I was hopeful we would finally see a serious effort by Democrats to end the crisis. Instead, they have decided to markup H.R. 3239, a bill that will do absolutely nothing to address the root causes of the crisis, and, in fact, will make it worse. . . . Perhaps the worst part about this bill is it increases the incentive to exploit children to gain entry into the United States.”

 

WASHINGTON — Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, made the following opening statement at today’s markup of H.R. 3239.

Below are the remarks as prepared.

Ranking Member Collins: Thank you, Chairman Nadler. As administration officials have been saying for months, the current migration flow and resulting humanitarian crisis has overwhelmed the government’s ability to adequately respond.

In January, I introduced H.R. 586, the Fix the Immigration Loopholes Act, to modernize our laws and address the perverse incentives fueling illegal immigration. Democrats didn’t bring that bill to a markup. In fact, they didn’t markup any bill to address the crisis, and instead marked up H.R. 6, an amnesty to exacerbate the crisis.

With the undeniable evidence of this crisis now firmly in the public spotlight, I was hopeful we would finally see a serious effort by Democrats to end the crisis. Instead, they have decided to markup H.R. 3239, a bill that will do absolutely nothing to address the root causes of the crisis, and, in fact, will make it worse.

As the system was intended to work, individuals encountered by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) remain in CBP custody for short periods of time to complete processing, generally no more than 72 hours. Those individuals are then transferred—adults enter Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody, family units are released into American communities, and children are entrusted to Health and Human Services (HHS) care.

The enormous and unprecedented numbers of migrants crossing, however, has overwhelmed the system. ICE detention and HHS shelters are full. CBP is forced to release virtually all family units as soon as the processing stage is completed. In short, what administration officials have been warning of has come true — the system has broken — but, are we marking up a bill to fix legal loopholes incentivizing mass illegal migration? No. We are marking up the “Humanitarian Standards for Individuals in Customs and Border Protection Custody Act,” a bill with a nice name, but that is actually unworkable. It would significantly and severely impact CBP, but my colleagues haven’t bothered to talk to the agency about its effects.

To be clear, CBP should comply with the custodial care requirements set out in their Transducer Electronic Data Sheets standards and should treat all detainees with respect.

How is the one-size-fits-all approach of this bill completely unworkable? The requirements of H.R. 3239 apply to hundreds of CBP facilities — no matter how big or small, urban or remote, or even how busy or idle.

For instance, even though my colleagues keep offering anecdotes from along the southern border, this bill would apply to a very busy airport like Hartsfield Jackson, which sees millions of passengers a year; or an extremely remote port of entry like at Poker Creek, Alaska, which is only open for a few months each year; or a Border Patrol substation like Big Bend, Texas, which normally houses no more than 10 detainees per day; or an isolated forward operating base like Camp Bounds, Arizona; or a seaport like Port Ferry, Washington; or even the Truth or Consequences Border Patrol checkpoint in New Mexico. Am I making my point? As the men and women of CBP are doing everything they possibly can to confront the crisis, H.R. 3239 would impose burdensome and often impossible standards of care onto those facilities.

In addition to an initial medical screening of all migrants entering CBP custody, H.R. 3239 would require CBP to provide additional, free — for the alien — medical services. The bill states, where practicable, CBP shall have on site, in addition to licensed medical professionals they already have to conduct medical screenings, “licensed emergency care professionals, specialty physicians (including physicians specializing in pediatrics, family medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, geriatric medicine, internal medicine, and infectious diseases), nurse practitioners, other nurses, physician assistants, licensed social workers, mental health professionals, public health professionals, dieticians, interpreters, and chaperones.” If impracticable to have them onsite, CBP must have them on call. Our Border Patrol should be out interdicting narcotics, preventing illegal immigration and stopping child trafficking, not setting up full-service hospitals at every single facility.

The bill would also prevent CBP from housing individuals outside in temporary facilities, and require all facilities to be climate controlled, while simultaneously limiting the number of people a CBP processing facility can house. CBP will therefore be forced to release even more people into the U.S. interior, since this bill would limit its ability to respond to migrant surges. The bill also mandates the provision of private shower facilities, which may not be appropriate in a custodial setting, and it even mandates — I kid you not — a gender-specific toilet-to-detainee ratio.

Perhaps the worst part about this bill is it increases the incentive to exploit children to gain entry into the United States. Smugglers know migrants will be released into the U.S. interior if they bring a child, because of a legal loophole created by the Flores settlement agreement. The loophole currently only applies to parents or legal guardians. DHS continues to see adults fraudulently posing as a child’s parent or legal guardian, to use the child as a “passport” into the United States.

This bill rips the existing loophole open even further. Instead of only benefiting parents and legal guardians, this bill would extend it to mere “adult relatives” of a child.

H.R. 3239 is unworkable, will do nothing to address the border crisis and increases the likelihood children will be trafficked. I urge my colleagues to oppose this misguided, dangerous bill.