Elizabeth Espinosa | Valley Central
U.S. House of Representatives Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi says the influx of Central American immigrants along the border is not a crisis, but rather an “opportunity.”
Congresswoman Pelosi took part in a special press conference with U.S. Representative Filemon Vela at the Brownsville Events Center Saturday morning.
The two had toured a nearby Border Patrol facility that is currently housing Central American immigrants.
“This crisis, that some call it crisis, we have to view it as an opportunity,” Pelosi said.
The California congresswoman said it’s an opportunity for the United States to show the world how it deals with the women and children, who she says are refugees.
"It's a value that we will show the rest of the world how we deal with this,” Pelosi said.
The House Minority leader continued saying that we have to deal with the influx of immigrants with "decency" and "it breaks my heart" referring to the children.
When asked on how Congress should deal with the immigrants, Pelosi responded, “We have to take it case by case, due process and respect of law.”
Pelosi continued saying that, “We need to find the best solution to the problem, not necessarily the fastest.”
The immigration crisis has left Border Patrol facilities in the Rio Grande Valley filled with more immigrants than the building can hold.
Pelosi recalled that she saw on child immigrant in solitary confinement at the Border Patrol facility.
“We're here to thank Border Patrol, but the facilities do not meet the needs,” Pelosi said.
A large number of Central American women and children are crossing the border into the United States with false hopes of allowing to stay in the United States.
Pelosi is the minority leader of the U.S. House of Representatives and has been a leader in the plight to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
Press Conference Q&A:
Leader Pelosi. Any questions?
Q: Have you found any common ground in the House of Representatives with the Republicans to try to reach some sort of, you know – can you speak on that: common ground? Have you found any common ground given the situation after your visit? Is there something you can begin working on?
Congressman Vela. Well I think that, probably the best answer to that question is – because we just began our first week of recess since this really broke, other Members of both parties are coming down over the next week. And I believe that, moving forward, we will be working together hand in hand to make sure we provide a humanitarian solution to the immediate crisis at hand.
Q: Speaking on that same line, the extent to which this humanitarian situation has been politicized, do you think there is still a path forward on immigration reform?
Leader Pelosi. Well, I hope that while some may have tried to politicize it, I hope that was not the case. And I think anyone who comes here knows that this is not about an issue, it’s about a value and it’s a value that we share, all Americans share; that we will show how strong we are to the rest of the world on how we deal with this humanitarian opportunity, or crisis, that we have.
A few days ago I would have been more optimistic about immigration reform. I thought that we were finding a way because we’ve been very patient and respectful of the Speaker trying to do it one way or the other. I don’t think he gives us much reason to be hopeful now, but we never give up. So, there’s still the month of July and again, public sentiment is everything. And to the extent that people say that this is something that we want that hopefully that can change the minds of the – we have a bill, H.R. 15, that has a huge number of co-sponsors – almost every Democrat. But the one’s we don’t have, we’ll have their vote – about three Republicans on the bill.
But harkening back to this issue and your statement, the William Wilberforce legislation of 2008 which is directing some of the actions that we take now was strongly bipartisan. Democrats had the majority but Republicans were in the lead with Democrats on passing that legislation. It passed the House and the Senate unanimously and was signed by President Bush. And it spelled out the responsibility that we have in these cases of trafficking and the rest that we have to deal with.
So I think, you know, part of the legislation sprang from that. The former bill – the [Congressman Dick] Armey bill from Texas that established the Department of Homeland Security and addressed some of these issues – that was bipartisan as well. We just have to strive for bipartisanship. Just be calm; take a breath; let everybody have their say about how they want to characterize this, that and the other thing. But after all is said, not done, but all is said, the fact is: these are children, children and families. We have a moral responsibility to address this in a dignified way – I wouldn’t even say bipartisan, I would say nonpartisan way. And that is what we’re striving to do.
Did you have a question?
Q: During these tours what are you being told about the immigrants coming here? Why are they leaving their countries; is it due to immigration policy here or violence in Central America? There's also been talk of human smugglers spreading misinformation as well. What are officials here telling you?
Congressman Vela. Tyler, we are being told by the agencies it’s a variety of factors beginning with the socio-economic and conditions of violence in Central America. The effort to reunify with parents and family members who are already here – we heard the story of a mother who hadn’t seen her child in ten years. The last time she saw her was when she was five and now that child is 15 and has made that very difficult trip. And of course, the Administration has acknowledged that there are some stories from some of the people that are coming here that they believe that they have a pathway here once they get here. So it’s a very complicated and very – there’s so many factors at play that, as, you know, we move forward, we’re just going to have to sort a lot of that out.
Leader Pelosi. If I just may add to that. Congressman Vela is such a tremendous intellectual resource on this because this is something we have to be very smart about. In Central America and especially El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, there is – I mean, Honduras has the most murders in the whole world per capita, or whatever. There is tremendous violence and it is threatening to the lives, especially to young people, young girls in particular. And so that’s one of the motivations. And that’s why when we deal with this, many of these kids will be repatriated with families in the U.S., some of them maybe not, strictly speaking, fully documented, but many of them legal residents of the United States.
So I think we have to take it on a case-by-case basis. We don’t want our good nature abused by those who would misrepresent what’s happening in the United States on the subject of immigration to affect how we deal with a refugee problem – a refugee problem somewhere else in this world, a refugee problem right at our front door. So it is you know, case-by-case. We must have due process; we must enforce the law, but we must – and that law includes respecting of the claims of persecution or violence at home especially for juveniles.
Q: Are there any funds coming to the local law enforcement?
Congressman Vela. I'm sorry, what was the question, again?
Q: Any funding coming to the local law enforcement of the area?
Congressman Vela. When we get back, we’ll be working on those things. We have a Homeland Security Committee hearing next week in McAllen. Members of both parties will be there and those are the kind of issues we’re going to be exploring.
We’ve got one more question.
Q: Mrs. Pelosi, on Monday Governor Perry said our borders are not secured. After the tour this morning, how do you feel about our nation's security?
Leader Pelosi. Actually, just the reverse. Many of these people turned themselves in. This isn’t about a porous border; this is about apprehension. Many, many more people are, shall we say, mutually apprehended. So, this isn’t really about that. That’s an excuse, not a reason. But I’ve heard the Governor say some sympathetic words about welcoming newcomers to our country. In other words, why don’t we just put all that aside and talk about what we’re going to do to help these children and families and in doing so, making it safer for them to stay at home or have due process in how they might seek asylum or refugee status in the United States.
And so I’m not going to take any bait on what one partisan said or the other. I think we all agree – I would recommend to you all to read the nonpartisan statement from the Catholic Conference of Bishops, again, I mention, presented by the Bishop of El Paso, who is head of this committee on this unaccompanied children issue. It talks about, again, at the best interest of the children, to determination; it talks about dignity and worth; it talks about some practical matters as regard to the region – when I say the region, Central America. It talks in a very, very value-based, idealistic, pragmatic way to deal with this issue with dignity. And that’s what we intend to do.
So again, people will say this and that. The fact is, the reality is: the children are there and we need to address the problem. It breaks your heart to waste one ounce of energy on anything other than just addressing the problem.
Can we just have a woman ask a question? Because we do have to go, but not before we hear from a woman.
Q: Well speaking of due process, with only 240 immigration judges and 40,000 to 50,000 new entries, immigrant children in the past year. How will immigration judges handle all these new cases with all the backlogs?
Leader Pelosi. And of course the attorneys to help the children but some of the people that we heard from before in the advocacy group had some suggestions about that. Mr. Hinojosa, who was with us earlier and was in McAllen yesterday and was with us when we toured the facility today, said there may be some ways to get retired judges to come back on duty. But Sister Pimentel may have something to say about that on the judges. The question is how can a process end up this quickly if we don’t have enough judges?
Sister Pimentel. Well, I think that as long as we can all come together to find a solution to that it can happen. Because what I see, there’s a lot of real goodness. We need to make sure that the kids do get due process and that this is taken care of the right way. So I think that’s important and that can happen. Thank you.
Congressman Vela. I’ll just address that for a second really quickly, because there’s a lot of – that’s a very good question and a lot more needs to be done on it. I can tell you that on Friday, Congresswoman Jackson-Lee, who is one of our senior Members on Homeland Security, was preparing to file a bill to add a significant number of judges to the system. But we’re going to have to do a whole lot more than just that.