Secure the Border Act of 2023

Floor Speech

Date: May 11, 2023
Location: Washington, DC


Ms. JAYAPAL. Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong opposition to H.R. 2, the Secure the Border Act.

From day one, Republicans made clear that they would pursue an unworkable enforcement-only approach. I was encouraged when I saw some of my Republican colleagues courageously standing up to their caucus to fight to protect access to asylum.

Yet, here we are today, debating a cruel, extreme, and unworkable bill that guts asylum for everyone who does not live in a neighboring country or cannot afford to fly directly to the United States to seek protection.

It is a bill that bars anyone who seeks protection by entering the country between ports of entry from ever being able to obtain asylum, even if they are an unaccompanied child or fleeing from a totalitarian dictatorship.

It is a bill that decimates Customs and Border Protection's ability to process people for asylum at ports of entry.

It is a bill that mandates indefinite family detention and the detention of children.

One Republican colleague told us that ``trying to ban legitimate asylum claims . . . is very anti-American.'' His words, not mine.

Another Republican said: ``It will never pass the Senate if we are only talking border security.''

Yet another Republican cautioned against only moving border security legislation, saying: ``It is immoral. . . . And it is wrong that we as a society allow for millions and millions of people to live in the shadows.''

Mr. Speaker, I was encouraged by those comments because it showed me that there were people on the other side who understood, at least at some level, that what happens at the border is simply a symptom of an improper immigration system that desperately needs to be modernized to meet the needs of our economy and our families.

I thought that perhaps we would be able to work together in a bipartisan way on those pieces instead of trying the same 30-year-old failed strategy of cruel enforcement-only methods that can continue to destroy legal pathways and violate our values. We all know those simply don't work.

Unfortunately, it sounds like the Speaker has tempted those individuals who were talking with their values to now vote ``yes'' with a few meaningless concessions and promises. Their constituents will still know exactly what they are doing when they vote ``yes'' on this bill.

The bill before us today has only gotten more extreme than when those initial comments were made. It still ends asylum. It still strips protections for unaccompanied children. It still mandates the detention of families and children. It will still wreck our economy.

What Democrats are committed to, what our families and our country need, is to have an updated, orderly process for people to come to America, to stay, to work here, to be with their families and their loved ones, to have the ability to travel back and forth, to be seen in a country that too often uses immigrants without giving them full dignity and respect.

The immigration system is made up of many different legal pathways-- whether you are a refugee fleeing war and economic devastation, an asylee who is fleeing persecution, or a worker who is seeking to come here and work in the many fields that demand immigrant labor and skills, from agriculture to healthcare; whether you are a child, a parent, or a sibling who seeks to be reunited with your immediate family; or whether you are somebody who wants to start a small business or lead a major company.

Unfortunately, the previous administration stripped so many of those pathways, decimated the funding to process those who seek to come in, and did nothing for those who have been here often for 15 years or more.

That is why Democrats have put forward real, bipartisan solutions to humanely fix and modernize the immigration system, including the recently introduced comprehensive bill by Linda Sanchez to reform our immigration system in a humane way.

Immigration has been the unique genius of America's history, necessary to our economic vitality, necessary to the success of the country.

We know what we need to do to fix the system, Mr. Speaker. That is not a question in terms of policy. In fact, just 10 years ago, a bipartisan, comprehensive immigration bill passed the U.S. Senate with 68 bipartisan votes only to come to this floor, the floor of the House, where the Republican majority refused to bring it to a vote. Why? Why, Mr. Speaker, did it not come to a vote in the House with that huge of a bipartisan majority in the Senate? Because Republicans in the House knew that it would pass in a bipartisan way, and somehow my friends on the other side think that it benefits them to have an immigration system that is broken so they can continue to vilify and demonize immigrants who are here and stop them from doing the work they need to do and from being respected. We need to call this hypocrisy out over and over again.


Ms. JAYAPAL. Mr. Speaker, the American people support immigration. We are ready to work with serious Republicans to pass meaningful reforms, not an enforcement-only strategy that will continue to be a failed strategy no matter who is in the White House, but actually a strategy that allows people to come to this country that upholds our values and that is not un-American but is the very essence of what America stands for, for so many people around the United States, including me, somebody who came here at 16 years old by myself to this country.

Now, after so many years of fighting for this country, I am able to be here as a United States Congress Member. Those are the values that we need to remember.

Vote ``no'' on this extreme, unworkable, cruel bill. It is a patchwork of overlapping and contradictory bills that are just about enforcement only, not about real solutions.

Mr. Speaker, it is clear that my friends on the other side do not have real solutions to this issue and just want to keep this out there so we can continue to demonize immigrants. Democrats will not stand for it. Vote ``no.''