Secure the Border Act 2023

Floor Speech

Date: May 15, 2023
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. CONNOLLY. Mr. Speaker, I rise to oppose H.R. 2, the ``Child Deportation Act.''

I remind my colleagues that seeking asylum is not a privilege, it's a basic human right, enshrined in Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

I cannot support a bill that will deport unaccompanied children, end asylum, restart the disastrous ``Remain in Mexico'' policy, jail immigrant families, and impose restrictions on NGOs, including faith- based organizations that provide shelter, transportation, food or legal assistance to vulnerable immigrants and asylum seekers.

I have to tell you Mr. Speaker, I couldn't believe my eyes when I read that in the very first part of this bill, Section 102 of Division A, Republicans would actually seek to restart border wall construction with U.S. taxpayer dollars.

I don't know about my friends on the other side of the aisle, but I was under the impression that not only had Trump finished the wall, but that Mexico had paid for it.

The truth of the matter is that Trump only built 80 miles of his wall in places where no kind of barrier existed previously. That's not even 5 percent of the total southern border.

But that's not all. The Trump administration eviscerated our asylum and refugee admission program, and effectively denied those fleeing violence the right to seek asylum.

Mr. Speaker, no one chooses to be a refugee, and in the face of nearly 100 million people forcibly displaced worldwide, the highest level ever recorded, America must reclaim its status as a safe haven for the downtrodden and once again open its door to refugees.

But opening our doors to refugees and immigrants is not just about our compassion and humanity.

It is estimated that draconian Trump-era restrictions on asylum seekers, many of which are included in H.R. 2, permanently shrank the United States economy by $9.1 billion each year of his administration.

The Trump party claims they want to grow the economy, but not at the expense of their own xenophobia.

Mr. Speaker, it's difficult to imagine that this Republican conference could offer a serious bill that would address the situation at the border.

This is the same Republican conference who had prominent members calling for defunding the Department of Homeland Security just months ago.

This is the same Republican party that voted against $7.2 billion for Border Patrol operations, which included the hiring of 300 more border patrol agents.

Mr. Speaker, Emma Lazarus's poem, ``the new colossus,'' written just 18 years after Lee's surrender at Appomattox Courthouse, cast into bronze at the turn of the 20th century inside the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor, provides the instructive message that Lady Liberty herself represents.

``Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.''

The only thing Republicans have forgotten to do in this bill is amend Emma Lazarus' poem to say, ``Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free and send them back to face the violence they are fleeing.''

Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to oppose this inhumane, wasteful, dogmatic legislation. The priorities of this body must include passing comprehensive immigration reform, protecting dreamers, rebuilding the asylum system, and meeting our labor shortage needs. This bill falls remarkably short.