Sen. Rob Portman
Sen. Rob Portman
WASHINGTON, DC – At a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee roundtable, Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) discussed the ongoing humanitarian crisis at our southern border and stressed the importance of finding solutions that reduce incentives for migrants to make the dangerous journey to the southern border, often with traffickers and human smugglers.

Portman recently visited the southern border where he saw the humanitarian crisis firsthand.

His observations follow.

“I got back from the border on Friday and, I know that you are looking for practical solutions, but I think what we’re missing is why these children are coming in the first place. And under [the Flores agreement], which is their recommendation, that Flores – I think you think that Flores should still apply to actually unaccompanied children but not to the families with children – it is definitely an incentive to come to America. And so if you are focused on having a solution to the long-term detention, you should be focused on keeping these children from coming in the first place.

“There is no good solution here unless you deal with the incentives because you are encouraging these children to leave their homes in Central America and to join traffickers to come to our border. Or you are encouraging children – I mean this report has said 4,000 to 5,000 kids have been recycled already. When I was down at the border, they had numbers that were higher than that. But they know who these kids are because they process them and then process them again.

“So, I couldn’t agree with you more, we don’t want kids to be detained at all! That’s not good for kids, but what’s really bad for kids is the United States Congress refusing to do the things that we all know should be done and you know should be done to discourage them from making this long and dangerous journey in the first place.

“And that’s what this report is getting at is as long as you have this notion that, under Flores, a 20-day limit is in place, and as long as you have a situation now where because – partly because they’re overwhelmed – there’s no way you can process these children, or families, within those 20 days, they’re simply permitted to go into the United States. They go to a nonprofit. That nonprofit gets them on a bus or an airplane and they are in New Hampshire, they’re in Ohio

“And again, 15 percent at the end of the day – according to this report and according to all of the data that we have – are getting their asylum claims granted. If they do claim asylum. It’s on average over two years but really as the report indicates, it’s four to five years. And the report also indicates that very few people are ever removed. That’s what you said in your report. So if you’re a trafficker, this provides you with every opportunity to say to these kids and families, ‘If you pay me $5,000 or $10,000, somewhere in-between there, we’ll take you up to the border and frankly just dump you at the border.’ And as we know, 30 percent of the women and girls, based on the best data that we have, are sexually assaulted during that journey.

“I mean, this is the problem. We can talk about detention, and I couldn’t agree with you more, we don’t want to detain anybody. But the real issue is how do we keep these kids from making this dangerous journey in the first place? Look at the numbers!”