Schumer Floor Remarks On President Trump’s Attempts To Add A Citizenship Question To The 2020 Census, Reported Mass Deportation Raids, Senate Democrats’ New Legislation Amid Continued Family Separations And Reports Of Inhumane Conditions, Neglect At Border Facilities, And The Need For The President To Stay Tough Against China

July 11, 2019

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding President Trump’s attempts to create an executive order to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, a new report that the president is ordering ICE to resume plans to carry out mass deportation raids over the weekend,  Senate Democrats to introduce the Stop Cruelty to Migrant Children Act amid continued family separations and reports of inhumane conditions and treatment of families and children at border facilities, and the need for the Trump Administration to stay strong against China during trade talks. Below are his remarks, which can also be found here.

First let me thank my friend from Missouri for what he and Senator Stabenow are trying to do on mental health. I know that some states were included, other states were not. And I hope we can get that done. So I support that aspect of what he was talking about.

Now Madam President, later today, President Trump will give a news conference in the Rose Garden about his attempts to create an executive order to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. 

That is outrageous. It’s outrageous substantively. And it’s outrageous because this president has so little respect for rule of law, he thinks he can just issue executive orders and go around the Congress, go around established law, and try to bully the courts. I believe he will be thwarted by the courts. This will be a real test of Chief Justice Roberts and the Supreme Court, whether they stand for rule of law, or always looking for an excuse to move the country rightward. We’ll see.

To date, the Trump Administration has provided no legitimate legal rationale for adding this question to the census. Just yesterday, the New York Times reported that Justice Department lawyers “resigned from the lawsuit out of ethical concerns and a belief that the suit was unwinnable.”

Well, we all know what’s going on here. The Trump Administration doesn’t have a legitimate legal rationale. Their true motivation was even clear before the papers of that deceased designer of this question came to light. The true rationale is blatantly political and self-serving. President Trump wants to include the citizenship question to intimidate minorities, particularly Latinos, from answering the census so that it undercounts those communities, and Republicans can redraw congressional districts to their advantage. The Census Bureau itself determined weeks ago that including such a question would result in a significant undercount. That alone is enough for disqualification. That’s not what the Constitution says, manipulate the Census so you don’t get an accurate count.

The president knows this, and yet he continues to pursue this cynical idea. Typical of the president: cynical, against minorities, and with no respect for rules, rule of law, the mores, the morals, the values that made this country great. Day by day he destroys them. Day by day.

It is nothing more—the president’s action—than a naked political power grab, which is one of the few things he’s good at as president. And it shows once again just how little respect the president has for our democracy. It’s also one prong in the Trump Administration’s multi-faceted attack on communities of color—they’re doing another one again today, in addition to this—which I’ll speak about in a minute.

Now let’s not forget: the census is a constitutional mandate. It has been conducted impartially by Democratic and Republican administrations alike since 1790. It should be beyond the reach of partisan politics. But this president has such disdain for constitutional norms and rule of law, that he will try anything to rewrite the rules to his advantage—even if it means circumventing Congress and circumventing the courts. This is what dictators do in banana republics: they try to change the rules to consolidate political power no matter what their Constitutions, rule of law, say. The president is moving us in that direction and our Republican colleagues are supine. They say nothing. Many of them know what he’s doing is wrong. Their knees clatter because they’re too afraid to tell the president he’s wrong.

The American people should be outraged about this. Republican Senators should be outraged about this. But like so many other instances in which the president subverts our democratic norms, the silence from Republicans in Congress has been deafening and degrading to the very fabric of this wonderful democracy that the president day by day tries—usually unsuccessfully, thank God—to undo.

Now, on the ICE raids, last night, the New York Times reported another thing that President Trump trying to do: is ordering ICE to resume plans to carry out mass deportation raids over the weekend. His plan will tear families apart, disrupt immigrant communities across America, including immigrants here legally and those in the process for legally applying for asylum.

Cruelty—cruelty—seems to be the point of these raids. This is not an effort to root out dangerous individuals—this is an act of brutish force designed to spread fear in the immigrant community.

Stephen Miller whispers in the president’s ear, ‘Treat them cruelly, make them afraid and maybe they won’t come.’ They’re going to come. The dangers in their home countries are much worse. What would any citizen do, American or any other place in the world if a gang came to you and said, ‘I’m going to rape your daughter, I’m going to kill your son, I’m going to burn your house?’ They’d flee. These are not criminals. They’re people trying to preserve their families, their children, their lives.

And yet the president, egged on by some of the right wing news media, tries to make Americans believe they’re all criminals. Sure, if one of these folks is a bank robber, a burglar, or hurts somebody, they should be out. But if they’re simply trying to escape brutality, we still should have rule of law but they should be treated with some decency and some honor and some humaneness. That’s been the American tradition for two hundred-some-odd years.

The president’s policy is not only cruel—that’s the worst of it—but it’s brainless. When it comes to intelligently using our immigration resources, the administration should focus on the very small minority who are actual criminals. Not families. And not ten-year-olds. These raids will not make Americans safer. They will not solve our immigration challenges for the reasons I mentioned. They will, instead, terrorize innocent families and rip children away from their parents.

And I warned President Trump, the pictures of these raids are not going to be pretty. And average Americans who may agree with him on many issues will be appalled. President Trump you’re going to have to back off from this cruel policy, because the American people are a lot better than you. And they will see the pictures. What are they going to do? The father’s driving his child to school, they stop the car, pull the father out. They’ve done that. Left an eight-year-old to sit in the car, traumatized. They’ve done that. President Trump, mark my words: there will be a huge backlash against this, the American people are not cruel like you in this regard.

So, I would plead with the president to call off these raids. We Democrats have proposed real solutions to the same migration problems that will stop the influx—or greatly reduce the influx—at the border. We would simply say, let these immigrants apply for asylum—these would be immigrants—in Guatemala, and El Salvador, and Honduras. Beef up the number of judges so they can get an adjudication quickly. If they’re turned down they can’t come, tough luck. If they get asylum they should be welcome here as America has welcomed people, as that great lady in the harbor in city in which I come from has done for centuries. That’s the solution.

And we should also help these countries go after the gangs that are making the people flee. Go after MS-13 down there, go after the drug dealers, go after the coyotes. It was working in the last few months of the Obama Administration, and even the first few months of the Trump Administration until the president rescinded the policy because he got mad at somebody, that’s typical of how he operates.

So, that’s what we should do. But until then, when these folks get to the border, I call on the president to work with us to put an end to the cruelty that migrants are being shown when they come into US custody. They’re a small percentage of the people in this country, it’s not a large number, in terms of our total population.

Now, another round of reports this week describes the horrid conditions endured by migrant children at our border. Facilities built for no more than 100 people are now housing up to 700 children. Many of them have nothing to sleep on, have no change of clothes, sometimes not enough food. These are reports of the president’s own executive agencies, not of someone outside.  In Arizona, these kids are reportedly being abused—CBP agents use racist slurs, deprive them of sleeping mats and, in one case, at least according to the report, potentially sexually assaulting a fifteen-year-old girl. It’s barbaric. It’s not American.

We need to put an end to this behavior now. We have just passed a supplemental appropriations bill to provide more resources to improve conditions and speed the asylum process, but it didn’t go far enough.

So that is why later today, I will join with my colleagues, Senators Merkley and Feinstein, to introduce the Stop Cruelty to Migrant Children Act. This new legislation would establish mandatory standards for the appropriate and humane treatment of children. It would make it easier for children to be connected with sponsors and legal counsel. And it would once and for all end the inhumane practice of separating families—pulling children, even little children, away from their parents.

Democrats have been fighting for these provisions for months. We were able to secure some of them in the last Border Supplemental but unfortunately, our Republican colleagues blocked many additional provisions from going in the bill. This new legislation marks a clear bright line of what is left to be done. Now the only question is, and it looms: will Leader McConnell finally stand up for the children and work with us to pass these new standards into law?

I want to thank Senators Merkley and Feinstein for working on this very important bill. It’s a necessary step to restoring America’s moral credibility. A nation as powerful as ours has no need or right to treat the weak and suffering this way. We can deal with our immigration issues with dignity, common sense, and rule of law. This bill is how we get that done.

Finally, on China. Yesterday, it was reported that President Trump told President Xi of China that the United States would tone down its criticism of Beijing’s approach to Hong Kong in order to revive our trade negotiations.

If these reports are true, once again President Trump has made another error when it comes to China, for two reasons.

First, it is crucial always for the United States to stand up for democracy, human rights, and civil liberties from everywhere. To be the shining city on a hill that John Winthrop talked about three hundred and seventy-five years ago. From Tiananmen Square to Tibet, from the brutal suppression of the Muslim minority Uighurs to the recent protests in Hong Kong, China’s human rights record has been an abomination. They want to join the family of nations and be treated equally, but in some ways they are like a third-world dictatorship. America used to champion religious rights, minority rights, democratic values abroad. It helped us in immeasurable ways, not just morally but economically and politically. It gave us strength, it gave us the moral high ground that the scriptures have always said is important in human dealings. Unfortunately, under this president that doesn’t happen.

But second, the idea that going easy on China’s human rights record will ease trade talks is exactly backward. I know China. They respond to strength, not flattery, not capitulation. Every time the president gives in to President Xi, President Xi smells weakness and says ‘I can get even more out of the Americans.’ I generally am supportive of the president in a tough policy on China towards trade—China has ripped us off over and over and over again. But the way to win is to show strength. And on some days the president does, and then a week later he backs off. There’s no consistency.

The Chinese smell that they can outfox the president. Backing off from fully telling Huawei they can’t operate was a huge mistake, because Huawei with these exceptions, if they are given broadly, will gain economic strength. Huawei’s a national security problem, but it is also a trade problem. Why, when China steals our intellectual property, as Huawei has done, do we then allow them to come into this country, when they don’t allow our best tech companies to go into theirs? It’s ridiculous! The president’s instincts are right, but he never is consistent about them.

The way to speed up trade talks—successful trade talks, where America secures real and enduring concessions—is to keep the full court press on Beijing. On human rights, on foreign policy, and certainly on trade.

President Trump must not be weak on China, for the sake of America’s role as a champion for democracy and for the sake of driving China to accept meaningful reforms to its predatory trade policies.