Meijer Opening Statement in Irregular Migration Hearing
Ranking Member Meijer’s Opening Statement
Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this hearing today – the first of this Congress for the Oversight, Management, and Accountability Subcommittee. I am very excited and honored to serve as the Ranking Member of this subcommittee and am sure that this is the first of many productive hearings we will hold.
The hearing today is especially relevant as we continue to deal with the fallout of the crisis at our southern border.
Mr. Chairman, I strongly agree with your belief that we should not only be looking to regions when there is smoke. I firmly believe that we should be viewing the world not as a series of discrete problems to solve but one in which we maintain focus, we maintain awareness, and we address challenges that will be enduring in various forms.
Just a few weeks ago, I visited the border with several of our Homeland Security colleagues, including Congresswoman Harshbarger who is with us today. I know that Congressman Bishop has also been to the border with the Judiciary Committee, so we have all seen the issues and situation up close, as you, Mr. Chairman, have also seen in your recent trip to the border.
This crisis exemplifies the problems with our current system. While the need for comprehensive immigration reform, including more effective border security, is clear, it is also important that we understand why so many individuals and families continue to make the perilous journey to our southern border. Although I believe that the current crisis has been unnecessarily caused or accelerated by misguided policies, I also understand that there are complex, interconnected sets of factors that play into the decision to leave one’s country.
For the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, where most migrants are coming from today, these factors include systematic and entrenched corruption, poverty and food insecurity, violence, and a lack of economic opportunity that often precludes them from making a better life for themselves and their families in their home countries. If we recognize the humanity of each person making this journey, often coming from a place of desperation, the need to address this current crisis and find long-term solutions becomes even clearer.
Before coming to Congress, I saw communities struggle with these kinds of crises around the world. I led disaster response operations to assist communities impacted by natural disasters and spent two years in Afghanistan as a conflict analyst with the aid community, working to protect aid workers and those delivering vital assistance to others in need.
To be clear: I do not fault those who seek a better life for their families, but the current Administration’s reckless rhetoric and policies have encouraged hundreds of thousands of migrants to put themselves, and in many cases their family members and young children, in danger. Many actions taken by the Administration in the first few days in office have helped accelerate the crisis we’re seeing today. Specifically,
- Halting border wall system construction funded by Congress;
- Implementing “catch and release” policies;
- Eliminating the Remain in Mexico Policy to deter non-meritorious asylum claims;
- And cancelling Asylum Cooperative Agreements with our Central American partners that would have allowed migrants to seek asylum closer to home.
- CBP is on track to encounter more than two million migrants crossing the U.S.–Mexico border by the end of this fiscal year – more than four times the number encountered in FY20.
- Between February 19 – April 22, TSA assisted approximately 7,200 migrants at 10 border airports in document verification, allowing them to bypass standard government-issued photo ID requirements and board domestic flights.
- And according to Border Patrol agents, migrants are paying smugglers on average $4,000 to reach the southern border.
Without real metrics and closer collaboration between the different U.S. government agencies engaged in the region, there is little reason to believe that more money will lead to more progress. I look forward to talking about how to most efficiently allocate those resources during this hearing. This kind of long-term engagement will take sustained attention and focused effort, something that we can struggle to produce at times.
I’m honored to serve on this important subcommittee so that we can bring that focus, we can bring that attention, we can bring that effort, that dedication to not just viewing the world as a series of problems to be solved but challenges that we must manage and we must maintain attention towards, and we must be emphatic in ensuring that conditions improve.
One of the key frustrations with the issue of immigration since coming to Congress is that while the rhetoric and the conversation is happening at the national level, the impacts are felt most at the local level. I’m honored to have Sheriff Hinkley joining us here today from Calhoun County in my district, where over 100 unaccompanied migrant children were recently relocated to a non-profit facility for care. Michigan is always willing to help those who are vulnerable and in need, but we need to make sure the policies surrounding unaccompanied children have the most appropriate oversight to ensure humane care, appropriate conditions, and other standards are met. My witness today will be able to offer that needed local perspective and talk more about some of the local impacts this crisis, and immigration policies in general, have on states and localities.
Mr. Chairman, thank you again for holding this hearing. I look forward to hearing from our witnesses.