Editor’s Note: Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-IL) spoke on the House floor on May 3rd regarding the omnibus budget agreement.
I will admit that I am pleased that the deal worked out between Democratic Leadership and the Republicans to keep the government open until October does not include funding for the President’s “tremendous” border wall. But let’s put that in perspective.
A border wall will not deport thousands of people living and working in the City of Chicago or moms and dads in my neighborhood.
A border wall will not deport anyone and I seriously doubt it would do a good job of keeping anyone out, either.
Building a three-thousand mile wall is a hugely expensive boondoggle to solve a policy problem we do not have.
Are policy experts and pundits really discussing whether 5th century technology plays a role in modern homeland security?
Border apprehensions have been going down steadily for years and now we have people fleeing violence and persecution who are so scared of us, they are deciding not to come to America and are applying for asylum somewhere else. They are not taking their legitimate claims for political asylum and safety to the nation that is the hallmark of freedom.
So, while even Donald Trump admits that border apprehensions are significantly down, it is not necessarily for reasons we should be proud of. But a wall?
Are policy experts and pundits really discussing whether 5th century technology plays a role in modern homeland security? The Great Wall of China boosts tourism; it is not factor in national security at this point.
What concerns me more is the spending on deportations that is still included in what we will be voting on this week…today.
$1.2 billion of Trump’s original $3 billion request for border security and interior enforcement is still in there – and any money we give those agencies at this point will find its way into funding the President’s mass deportation agenda.
Now, imagine if we were applauding the approval of a budget that had $1.2 billion in new funding to roll back Roe v. Wade…adding additional federal money to restrict women’s health care and reproductive rights…
I’d never do that.
Or what if Trump asked for $3 billion, but we only gave him $1.2 billion to undermine workplace safety laws and labor rights…
I’d never do that.
Or $1.2 billion to defeat environmental regulations that protect clean air and water…
Would we celebrate? No.
Would we celebrate $1.2 billion in additional money to weaken the civil rights act or the voting rights act?
Would we celebrate more money to combat and weaken same-sex marriage or take away transgender rights?
Adding $1.2 billion dollars to the budget to make it easier for the U.S. government to deport people should never be celebrated by any of us, and certainly not in the era of Trump when we know their number one policy priority is to scare immigrants into leaving or into not coming in the first place.
Look, the people who will be deported with the money we are voting on are usually people with no criminal background and deep roots in their communities. They are parents, teachers and business owners, mostly people of color, who have lived and worked here a long time. And some have to seek refuge as is their right under our laws and international law.
Yes, some are dangerous criminals, but don’t believe the hype. The Trump Administration and Attorney General Jeff Sessions are overhauling who we define as serious criminals so they can make their deportation force look benign or even beneficial to America.
Mr. Speaker, I will not be voting for the omnibus bill because I do not believe that it is okay to slip another billion here or there into the budget to break up families, put moms and dads in detention, or send DREAMers out of the only country they know.
I have looked into the eyes of kids, U.S. citizens whose parents are being deported.
I have spoken to teachers in Chicago and elsewhere who have to deal with the fear in their student’s lives every day.
I have worked for decades with families who have complied with every order they have been given by Homeland Security and have reported to authorities like clockwork – but now they are desperate because the new President has ordered them out.
I cannot turn around and bless more money for the machinery that is grinding up their families.
I won’t do it.
I cannot turn my back on the Latino community and the alliances we have made and our allies in immigrant families from across ethnicities by supporting funding that will be used to detain immigrants in private jails and put them on airplanes out of the country.
As long as we are short-changing health care in Puerto Rico and subsidizing the deportation of families in Chicago, you will not have my vote.
Rep. Luis Gutiérrez is in his 13th term representing the Fourth District of Illinois. He is a Member of the Judiciary Committee and is the Chair of the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.