Oversight Republicans call out Democrats for using coronavirus to advance their radical immigration agenda

Published: Apr 17, 2020

Today, Ranking Member Jim Jordan, joined by other Committee Republicans, called out Washington Democrats for their cynical efforts to exploit the coronavirus pandemic “to advocate for their extreme changes in immigration policy,” and lauded the Trump administration’s effort to enforce America’s laws and defend our borders while prudently working to mitigate the impact of the disease.

“This concept ought to be simple: We should not turn our back on the citizens and lawful immigrants of this great country to favor those that broke the law and came here illegally or overstayed their visas,” Ranking Member Jordan said during an Oversight Committee briefing with officials from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

“And that is especially true when this country is in the middle of a dire public health crisis,” Jordan added.

During the briefing, which was conducted via conference call with acting ICE Director Matthew Albence and acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan, Jordan criticized congressional Democrats for responding to the pandemic with radical demands like eliminating ICE enforcement actions and closing down detention facilities.

“Despite calls to just release potentially dangerous illegal immigrants back into our communities, you have both continued to uphold the rule of law while utilizing special authorities to ensure detainee health and safety,” Jordan told Albence and Morgan. “These are unprecedented times and I really appreciate the amazing effort we have seen from the director, the commissioner and the rest of the administration to help keep the American people safe and combat this virus.”

In response to the pandemic, ICE has reduced the population at its roughly 200 detention facilities to 70% or less to increase social distancing and protect officers and detainees, Albence told lawmakers during the briefing. The agency has also implemented screening processes of new detainees, which include isolation of new admissions and spacing out dorms and cells holding detainees. ICE’s 70 percent occupancy rate has helped with these practices, Albence said.

Rep. Chip Roy, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, emphasized the importance of continuing to enforce America’s immigration laws during this public health crisis.

“We’re seeing in real time right now why it is critically important that we have the resources to secure our border. We’re blessed to be in a position right now that we have a smaller number of detainees as a result of increased enforcement and are able deal with that more effectively,” Roy said. “We can’t allow the rule of law to be undermined because we have a pandemic. We have to adapt our procedures to address the fact that we have a pandemic.”

“While Americans are forced to stay at home and out of work, Democrats want to release detained illegal aliens, the majority of whom have criminal records, and also provide them with stimulus checks,” said Government Operations Subcommittee Ranking Member Jody Hice. “It’s unthinkable that anyone would push to give those who have broken the law more freedoms than law-abiding Americans.”

Background:

  • While Democrats have tried to use this pandemic as an excuse to advance their open borders agenda and undermine immigration enforcement, the Trump administration has been working tirelessly to protect America’s borders and enforce our immigration laws while taking informed, prudential actions to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on both aliens and law enforcement officers.
  • Several congressional Democrats have called on ICE to release all of its detainees, halt enforcement, and stop arresting removable immigrants since last month.
  • Due to decreased traffic at the southwest border, most of ICE’s detainee intakes are coming from the custody of other law enforcement agencies, according to Albence.
  • ICE has also released some 693 individuals from detention based on their medical risk for coronavirus complications. In doing this, ICE took into account flight risk, public safety risk, and national security concerns for each detainee, according to Albence.
  • ICE has also also been utilizing CDC-suggested practices such as continuous monitoring, medical isolation, and cohorting and has suspended social visits at its detention facilities.
  • In addition to its critical immigration enforcement mission, ICE has been working around the clock to repatriate Americans trapped abroad, which has led to over 1,000 Americans and lawful permanent residents returned safely home on ICE flights.
  • CBP has been working to repatriate illegal immigrants to Mexico to keep custody numbers down. 80 percent of those being apprehended at the southwest border are being returned within “a couple of hours,” thereby protecting both migrants and CBP officers from coronavirus exposure, Morgan said.
  • CBP has made “incredible progress” in strengthening security at the southwest border under the Trump administration and is therefore, in a “better position today to face global pandemic that we’re faced with today,” Morgan said. “Borders also matter when it comes to mitigating the impact of infectious diseases,” he added.
  • CBP continues to report massive drug seizures, including over two tons of dangerous narcotics at a sophisticated border tunnel in San Diego, as cartels attempt to take advantage of this pandemic.