Nadler Opening Statement for Hearing on "The Biden Border Crisis: Exploitation of Unaccompanied Alien Children"
Washington, April 26, 2023
Washington, D.C. - Today, House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following opening statement, as prepared, during a Subcommittee on Immigration, Integrity, Security and Enforcement hearing on ““The Biden Border Crisis: Exploitation of Unaccompanied Alien Children:”
"Mr. Chairman, today’s hearing would have been more appropriate to conduct last week, before the Republican Majority marked up its extreme enforcement-only immigration legislation.
"And the Majority’s supposed concern for the exploited children that are the subject of today’s hearing is hard to reconcile with a bill that would render unaccompanied children more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. That legislation would eliminate the right of many unaccompanied children at the border to seek protection in immigration court from human trafficking and other dangers, and to receive robust screenings by child welfare experts for evidence of mistreatment.
"That legislation would leave these unaccompanied children with a right merely to cursory screenings by law enforcement personnel lacking child welfare expertise—screenings that would largely fail to identify signs of trafficking and exploitation. This would lead to the summary return of too many children with valid protection claims to the same dangers they fled.
"Even more alarmingly, the Republicans’ bill would subject unaccompanied children to detention in jail-like Customs and Border Protection facilities for up to 30 days—ten times longer than what is permitted under current law.
"Unaccompanied children would undergo their first immigration court hearing within 14 days of their border screening. This would leave them with almost no time to obtain counsel, to understand their legal options, or in many cases to comprehend what a court hearing even is, much less to demonstrate their eligibility for legal protection from trafficking and other mistreatment.
"And as if that’s not bad enough, their bill would prohibit Health and Human Services from funding counsel for unaccompanied children, stripping thousands of children of the lawyers they depend on to protect them from exploitation and other harm.
"As we pointed out last week, many of the components of the bill were not discussed in a hearing this Congress. That makes sense, given that we are four months in, and this is the first hearing the immigration subcommittee has held.
"It’s too bad, because if this subcommittee had met earlier, we could have also discussed the flaws of the E-Verify system. Some of the companies that employed and exploited the children who are the subject of recent reporting use the E-Verify system to ensure that their employees are eligible to work. It clearly did not work correctly, or it was abused. It would have been helpful, before we marked up legislation that mandated nationwide E-Verify, to learn about those issues.
"We could have discussed how H.R. 2640 contains modest protections for authorized workers, but it assigns no penalties to employers who violate those protections under E-Verify, rendering these provisions practically meaningless.
"Yes, I think the Committee would have learned a lot if it had actually held a hearing on this issue before marking up that cruel and extreme piece of legislation.
At last week’s markup, we heard a lot from our Republican colleagues about the so-called “missing 85,000 kids” as reported by the New York Times.
"Let’s be clear: that headline was misleading when such allegations were made against the Office of Refugee Resettlement under the previous administration, and it is misleading today. We will discuss that issue in greater detail during the hearing.
"However, the New York Times reporting of children unlawfully working in factories, slaughterhouses, and other dangerous jobs is very concerning. ORR and the Department of Labor have taken some positives steps forward to address these issues, but make no mistake, more must be done.
"That will take significant resources devoted to both agencies—agencies that would likely see draconian cuts if the Republicans are successful in their effort to hold our economy hostage to their extreme debt-reduction demands while they threaten a catastrophic default on our nation’s credit.
"As we consider federal efforts to address the exploitation of children, it is not helpful that in multiple Republican legislatures across the country, states are loosening their child labor laws to allow children to lawfully work in some of these dangerous occupations.
"The fact that Republicans are actively making it easier for young teenagers to work in assembly line plants, slaughterhouses, and night shifts in states like Iowa and Arkansas is appalling. And it only encourages the exploitation of these vulnerable children.
"It is hard to take seriously a party that boasts of its concern for exploited children while simultaneously stripping vital protections from unaccompanied children, promoting policies that would create the conditions for these children to be exploited, and then starving agencies of the resources necessary to protect them from exploitation. If Republicans want to engage in a serious effort to protect children, Democrats stand ready to work with you.
"I look forward to hearing from the witnesses today, and I yield back the balance of my time."