A picture of Senator Richard Blumenthal
Richard B.
Democrat CT

About Sen. Richard
  • Protect Women’s Health from Corporate Interference Act

    by Senator Richard Blumenthal

    Posted on 2014-07-16

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    BLUMENTHAL. Mr. President, I am very honored to follow my colleague from Hawaii and her eloquent and powerful remarks, as well as the Presiding Officer from New Mexico, who knows much firsthand about this issue and has really been a leader in this body for me and others. I thank the Presiding Officer for that leadership.

    My view of this issue concerning the tens of thousands of young children making the difficult and dangerous journey to the United States from lands where they face violence and oppression is shaped by my meeting with some of them in my home State of Connecticut.

    I had the opportunity to do so recently on a number of occasions, and it has deeply affected my own approach because what I have seen in them really inspires me. It inspires me because I understand better the reasons they have come here. The reasons they have come relate to the violence, the threat of torture, and the oppression they see in the lands they are leaving. They are coming here, many of them, for family reunification.

    What struck me in speaking with these young children is they are coming here to reunify with relatives: their moms and dads, their aunts and uncles. They have come to be with members of their family and, of course, to seek education. They desperately want to go to school, and they want the opportunity simply for the freedom they see this country as epitomizing and embodying, the beacon of opportunity that drew so many of our forebears to this country, the lamp that is lit above the harbor of New York symbolically for all Americans, and the ideals this country embodies for the world. That is the reason people come and why our relatives, our own families came--one generation ago for me and perhaps more generations ago for others here.

    So what we face is, in fact, a humanitarian crisis. It is a refugee crisis of children seeking asylum, family reunification, and escape from oppression, torture, and death in intolerable conditions in their home countries.

    There is gang warfare that is a result of drug trading, pushed from Colombia to Central America to service better their customers in the United States. Their markets are here. This country provides the demand that fuels the trade--not only this country, of course, but all around the world.

    But these children are the innocent victims of the warfare--gang warfare, market warfare that is fueled by a drug trade they have nothing to do with inciting or spurring. They are truly innocent victims.

    The values this country embodies that drew them and drew our ancestors and our forebears to come are the values we must now remain true to serving. Among them is the ideal of due process and fairness to justice.

    To say simply that we will deport all of them en masse, ask no questions, and put them on a bus really is a disservice to those values and ideals that this Nation embodies for the world--a source of our power in dealing with the world. Our power is not the result only of our air superiority, our great naval fleet, our brave warriors on the ground. It is truly the ideal that our military service and our military might serves to safeguard around the world.

    Speaking of security, safety, and safeguarding our Nation, our border is secure, more secure than ever before--perhaps not perfectly secure-- and more has to be done for border security, which immigration reform would help to accomplish.

    The President has utilized an unprecedented level of resources in terms of both boots on the ground and advanced technology. There is no evidence to indicate any breakdown in border security.

    What we have on our border is not a situation involving huge numbers of immigrants slipping into this country surreptitiously; they are coming here openly, surrendering themselves to authorities or being immediately apprehended by law enforcement.

    This situation is entirely consistent with a fully effective border security apparatus.

    If the current situation were caused by lack of policies in the United States, we would expect to see a large number of immigrant children only in this country. After all, the United States' policies apply only to the United States' borders but, in fact, that is not what we see. There are children seeking asylum and refugee status in many other Western Hemisphere countries--including some of the poorest in the world--a documented 712 percent increase in asylum seekers from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala since 2009.

    We have seen no increase in illegal immigration from Mexico, which also would be happening if it were simply lax border security. Any way you look at the situation, the facts simply do not support the theory that America's border is in crisis. It is Central America that is in crisis--El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras are the sources of this humanitarian crisis.

    Rolling back the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act will not solve a border problem and it will not uphold the values and ideals of this Nation. The protections of this law in fact are central to ensuring the United States of America does not send innocent children into situations where they would be harmed and killed.

    So I would oppose a wholesale rollback of this law. We have to make sure that we do what is right and get this situation right, because the stakes are so very high. No one in this Chamber wants to be responsible for sending one child to their death because we failed to consider the complexity and provide the humanity this situation demands.

    Not only would rolling back the Trafficking Victim Protection Reauthorization Act do harm--and we must first do no harm--but it would also hurt law enforcement. This act helps enforcement and our law enforcement authorities to gain crucial actionable intelligence about trafficking. This law reflects the fact that I learned during my law enforcement career, one of the keys to putting criminals behind bars is working closely with victims. In fact, victims are essential, their cooperation is vital to making the law enforceable and making sure it is enforced.

    The Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act encourages victims of trafficking to turn themselves in and cooperate with Border Patrol agents, and provide U.S. law enforcement with the information they need. They are not interested in arresting children. They want to arrest the traffickers, the drug lords, the top of the chain. That is so very important for our colleagues to understand.

    The surge in drug trafficking and drug-related violence that has turned so many communities into war zones is driven by those gangs in Central America that are in turn driving also the flood of young children to this country. We have this crisis in common with them. It is a humanitarian crisis and a law enforcement challenge. Let us move toward immigration reform which will help to address that crisis by increasing border security, by enabling millions of people now in the shadows to have a path to earned citizenship, to make sure our values and ideals are upheld by the greatest Nation in the history of the world.

    I thank all my colleagues who spoke today, and most especially thank Senator Leahy and Senator Feinstein for their decades of committed work on this issue. I look forward to working with them, the Presiding Officer, and [[Page S4545]] the majority leader, who has led this Chamber and this Nation so well on this issue.

    I yield the floor, and I suggest the absence of a quorum.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.

    The assistant legislative clerk proceeded to call the roll.

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