Schumer Floor Remarks On The Trump Administration’s Plan To Send Additional Troops To The Middle East, Senate Democrats’ Commonsense Border Policies, And The Need For Leader McConnell To Bring Bipartisan Election Security Legislation To The Floor

June 18, 2019

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the Trump administration’s plan to send 1,000 additional troops to the Middle East, Senate Democrats’ common sense policies to handle the humanitarian crisis at our southern border, and the need for Leader McConnell to bring bipartisan election security legislation to the floor for a vote. Below are his remarks which can also be found here.

Thank you Mr. President. Now, last night, the Defense Department announced that a thousand additional troops would be deployed to the Middle East. This is the second deployment of a thousand or more troops in the past thirty days, ostensibly to deal with Iran’s increased activity in the region.

Despite these two announcements, the president has yet to address the nation about these developments; the president has yet to articulate a strategy about American involvement in the region; he has yet to send a single military commander to testify before the Armed Services Committee; and he has yet to explain what his policy of “maximum pressure” on Iran is supposed to achieve. All we’ve heard is the Secretary of State—our chief diplomat—rattling the sabers of war.

As U.S. troops again prepare to deploy to the Middle East, this administration has an obligation to explain to the American people exactly what is happening and why. If they have a case, they must make it public. Americans are rightly skeptical and tired of endless wars in the Middle East, a reticence that many on the Republican side do not seem to share. Americans know that smaller actions have a tendency to escalate into larger actions, even where there is no congressional authority and no check.

The administration has offered to send various officials to give classified briefings, but frankly, that is not nearly good enough. We have learned a hard truth from our experience in Iraq that the drums of war start beating behind closed doors.

The President must make his pitch to the nation instead of another closed-door meeting with Senators. As the commander-in-chief, he owes that to every American, but especially to the American service members and their families that he’s sending into the Middle East.

On the border.

Leader McConnell has indicated that he plans to have the Senate consider legislation next week on the administration’s request for supplemental appropriations to handle migration at our southern border. As I have said many times, Democrats want to provide the necessary resources to secure our borders and ensure that everyone who arrives there is treated humanely. However, the sheer chaos of this administration’s policy, the sheer mismanagement, the erratic nature where the president says one thing one day and another the next, means that we must be precise and careful about how we do it.

The fact of the matter is very simple, President Trump’s immigration policies are inhumane, erratic, fleeting, and impossible to carry out at the same time.

Right now, on the Homestead Air Force Base in Florida, the Trump administration has authorized a for-profit company to build a temporary shelter for migrants that is little better than an internment camp. We’ve heard routinely about the separation of children from parents, about the horrible conditions at DHS facilities, about children—children—in cages. That is as un-American as anything.

This past week, I read in the New York Times a story of a four-month-old boy—it wrenched my heart— he was separated from his parents; a cleavage so severe at an age so young that the boy has suffered a great trauma. He’s now more than a year and a half old, he’s back in his home country, Romania, with his parents. He still can’t walk on his own. He still hasn’t spoken. What are we doing to these innocent children? What are we doing?

Stories like this are heart-wrenching; the policies that create them, unconscionable. And so often, the policies are announced just according to president’s whim. Every day, the president seems to have a different, crazy idea, often contradicting his previous thought. A national emergency declaration to build a wall. Tariffs for Mexico. Shutting down the border entirely. Last night, the president tweeted that ICE was planning mass immigration arrests and removal.

So the president seems to just invent a new policy in the morning by tweet with the sole purpose of rallying his base. Ideas like deporting millions of immigrants inside our border have been dismissed by government officials in charge of immigration as unrealistic. The very people the president puts in charge says this policy can’t happen.

It doesn’t bother him. Maybe he was doing this to talk about it at his rally tonight—his election rally in Florida. But I’ll tell you something, he tried this before the 2018 election—big crisis at the border—it didn’t seem to work. What appeals to a base, a rather narrow base, of the president’s supporters does not appeal to the American people, when it comes to being erratic, inhumane, harsh, and ineffective on immigration.

So members from both parties should be wary—wary—about giving the administration additional funding if it’s not going to be used to secure our border or provide better conditions for migrants and asylum seekers, especially children.

Again, just remember what the president has called for in the last few months, none of which have happened and none of which have curbed the flow at the border. So many different things, none of which make sense. Remember the national emergency declaration to build a wall? Remember the tariffs with Mexico? Remember the shutting down the border entirely? And now, mass immigration arrests and removal. A policy erratic, unsuccessful, ineffective, and maybe worst of all, inhumane. Even taking a four-month-old from his parents, leaving that child with trauma probably for the rest of his life.

We Democrats have a proposal that’s commonsense that would actually do things. At one point the president seemed to support it, but that was fleeting like every one of his other policies on immigration. Here’s what we propose, and I hope the president is listening, I hope at least our Republican colleagues are listening, because we can actually get something done.

We propose to provide more immigration judges at the border to reduce the backlog in cases;  we propose allowing asylum seekers to apply for asylum within their home countries. Why are these people fleeing? The president would have Americans believe that they’re all drug dealers and MS13 members. There are few of those, they shouldn’t be let in and they shouldn’t be given any mercy.

But the vast majority of these people, you’ve seen the pictures, are parents and children. Sometimes their daughter has been threatened by a gang with rape, or their son with murder, or they’re going to burn down their house or burn down their business, unless they go along with the gang. Who wouldn’t flee? Who wouldn’t?

So let them apply for asylum, not have to pay the coyotes, not have this dangerous trek one-thousand miles, in their own countries. It’s a good proposal, the president at one point entertained it. Let’s do it!

And finally, we provide security assistance to Central American countries to crack down on the drug cartels, the violent gangs, the corruption, the lawlessness.

These are the things we should be doing. More immigration judges to reduce the backlog, allowing asylum seekers to apply for asylum within their home countries, and providing security assistance to crack down on the drug cartels, violent gangs, the coyotes.

Yesterday, unfortunately, the State Department did the opposite. They announced they would cut off all further security assistance, including over $400 million of already obligated assistance, to Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador until the countries reduce the number of migrants coming to the U.S.

Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face. What an insane, insane new policy idea from the president, even crazier than some of the others. The Trump administration is actually doing the one thing that will make the migration problem drastically worse! He’ll then blame somebody else, but everyone can see what’s going on.

It’s almost as if the administration wants the problems at our borders to continue so the president can demagogue the issue for political purposes. This policy is complete nonsense.

So as Leader McConnell moves to the administration’s supplemental border request in the near future, I would urge my Republican colleagues to study our legislation. Unlike what the administration is doing and proposing, our policies are reasonable, measured, and actually suited to the problems at hand.

Now I’ve been talking a lot to this day on election security and I’ll just make a final pitch.

We hope that Leader McConnell will stop stonewalling the need to improve the security of our elections and prevent Russian or Chinese or Iranian or North Korean interference in 2020, which would gnaw at the roots of our democracy. There are lots of ways we can do it. We have unanimous consent statements on the floor and legislation we could bring to the floor that’s bipartisan. We have a defense authorization bill where we would request some election security measures. And we have the appropriations process where we can give money, badly needed, to the states. We hope our Republican colleagues will join us in this.

Preventing foreign countries from interfering in our elections is not a Democratic or Republican issue, it’s an American issue. It’s the very thing George Washington and so many of the other Founding Fathers warned us against over 200 years ago. There’s no need for this to be partisan. We hope we can come together on the issue.

###