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U.S.-Mexico Border

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. GRIJALVA. Mr. Speaker, let me thank my colleague from Texas, Congressman O'Rourke, for organizing this discussion, a discussion that needs to happen. A discussion that talks about the border in a full context is drowned out by the shrillness, the overreaction, and a rhetoric that sometimes borders or crosses into hatred and fear.

I represent District 3 in southern Arizona, 300 miles of border between the U.S. and Mexico that I happen to have the privilege to represent. Border communities, such as Nogales, San Luis, and Sasabe are all part of this district that I represent. I grew up in those borderlands, borderlands that share a common history, heritage, and share a common dependency on the economic development and the jobs and the social welfare of those borderlands. That dependency is with our neighbors across the border in Mexico.

I want to talk a little bit about looking at this context in very human terms, in geographical terms, and in historic terms. The discussion on immigration reform, when it comes to the issue of security, has been about how much more can we do in order to satisfy, in order to accommodate, and in order to draw more support for a comprehensive immigration reform package. I understand the logic, but I--certainly with the Corker amendment--don't understand at all the overkill and the excess.

To double the number of border patrol agents without a strategic plan, without accountability for the 18, $19 billion that has been spent on this border up to this point, I think is throwing money, potentially good money, after bad.

Second of all, to look at technology as the answer, we should also be looking at addressing our ports of entry, addressing the very, very real need of understaffing among Customs agents that are essential both to security and the flow of goods and services, trade, and economic development.

My colleagues have indicated how many jobs depend on this trade. This is the second-leading trading partner in the world for the United States, Mexico is. We cannot have a border whose sole purpose is to shut down the availability of goods and services and to cripple and constrain the very trade that we need for economic development in this country. Many jobs depend on it, and certainly the health and well-being of the region depends on it.

The excess of security, based on the amendment to the legislation in the Senate, the overkill, as I called it--I think one has to harken back to discussions that have been before this floor in the past, and that has to do with how much is enough. I will take a very, very safe bet that regardless of how much, how many, and how much money is spent on security along that border--how high the fence is, how long the fence is--that there will still be those who get up on this floor and on the other Chamber's floor and demand more without a plan, without accountability, and without an audit for what's been done at this point.

Let me discuss the current state of security on the border--the largest numbers of deportations, the largest number of detentions, 20,000 Border Patrol agents on the border, largest number of apprehensions, and the reduction in unauthorized entries into this country, significant reduction. The plan in place to deter is, like it or not, working. And for us to layer that with additional money, additional personnel, is, I think, to me pure political symbolism and doesn't really address the issue of security.

If you want to address the issue of security, you must deal with the ports of entry primary, you must fully staff Customs, and you must have the very necessary blend on the border of security, trade, economic development, and necessary and important exchange with Mexico.

Two issues: the humanitarian issue in Arizona.

Arizona has been ground zero on the question of immigration and immigrants beginning with State Law 1070, which was thrown out by the Supreme Court, beginning with various legislative efforts at the State level to make immigrants a target in that State, many of those legislative efforts having been successfully defeated in the courts.

The flow of drugs should be the point of concentration, the organized crime on both sides of the border, the gunrunning there, drugs coming this way, people-smuggling and the abuses associated with that. If there is going to be a security initiative as part of this new comprehensive immigration reform, let's be focused, let's be real, and let's address the real problem and the humanitarian crisis.

Over 6,000 souls have perished in the desert in southern Arizona, in my district, and on the O'Oodham reservation--people desperate, people being left there by coyotes. It's a humanitarian crisis. If the money we are talking about for enforcement does not include rescue, humanitarian relief, then it's money that's not addressing the problem.

I guarantee you that, over a 10-year period, if 6,000 people were to perish in any other part of this world, we would be calling it a human rights and a humanitarian crisis. It doesn't get the attention it should, but the tragedy continues. With this increased security, people will look for further and further, more desolate areas in which to attempt or to be dropped off by smugglers. Again, the deaths will increase. I suggest that that has to be part of it.

Oversight in the context of security needs to be part of it. Human rights abuses along the border due to the increased militarization has to be part of it. A uniform policy for the use of lethal force has to be part of it. The GAO report on those very procedures I just mentioned has to be completed, and those recommendations need to be implemented before we continue to talk about giving more money without taking care of the civil rights, due process, and humanitarian crisis that we have on the border.

We have an opportunity in this Congress to finally reform this broken system of immigration. We have an opportunity to do it in a just, humane, fair, and secure way. As we go forward with the debate in this House, let us hope that the discussion is over facts, that it's rational, that we talk about the human quotient involved in this discussion and not the pandering, fear-mongering and divisions that have marked this debate in this House, to which the leadership of this House instructs its Members. Let this be a debate about the future of this country, not the divisions of this country.

I want to take time again to thank Congressman O'Rourke, a freshman who has taken leadership on this issue and on that of the borderlands, and I am very grateful for his organizing this.

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