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Schumer Floor Remarks On Family Separation, The Migrant Crisis In Central America, Trade With China, And This Week’s SCOTUS Decisions

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer today spoke on the Senate floor regarding family separation, the migrant crisis in Central America, having a tough approach to China on trade, and the recent decisions coming out of the Supreme Court . Below are his remarks which can also be viewed here:

Now, yesterday, a federal judge ordered the Trump administration to immediately reunify the families who were separated by the administration’s policy. It certifies what we in the Congress already expect: that the administration will expend all resources at its disposal to immediately reunite the over 2,000 families who have been separated. This should be the president’s first order of business, to undo the harm he’s caused through his chaotic and cruel family separation policy.

In addition to this effort, Democrats believe we should start addressing the root cause of the migrant crisis – attacking the disease as well as the symptoms. We believe that Central American countries should conduct asylum processing within their own countries. We believe the United States should help governments in Central America crack down on the ability of gangs and cartels to operate freely and ruthlessly in their countries. And we believe that we should go after the drug cartels, smugglers, and drug traffickers with increased criminal penalties and sanctions. 

There were robust efforts launched during the last administration to do exactly that, and they were showing progress. President Trump, in short-sighted fashion, proposed significant cuts to aid and resources used to fight the cartels and stop the violence in Central America. This is not only dangerous, but shows a basic lack of understanding.

There is a pretty simple reason people are fleeing Central America. It is the impunity of these gangs and cartels and the brutal violence they spread. Many of the young people who want to escape being killed are then forced to use smugglers and other coyotes, and carry drugs into this country through no fault of their own. We should stop this there, in ways that have been successful in Colombia, and that would greatly reduce the number of people coming to the border. And that would make things easier for our country, but it will also make their lives better and safer if they could file an asylum claim in their own country, and get it adjudicated quickly. So, this is what we Democrats – many of us – are going to propose in about an hour. There are other things we could also do, but we’re addressing this issue today.

President Trump needs to end the inhumanity and chaos at the border, but we have to develop a real strategy to go after the cartels and gangs in Central America, curbing the violence that sends migrants to our borders in the first place. Later today, I will be joining a bunch of my colleagues to lay out how Democrats believe the United States should go about this.

Now second, Mr. President, on China. I have long argued that the best way to make progress in our trade relationship with China is to be consistently tough until real concessions are won. China has flagrantly abused international trade rules and norms for more than a decade: stealing our intellectual property, our know-how, illegally dumping artificially cheap goods into our markets, and denying blue-chip American companies access to their markets, unless those companies sign away their know-how and intellectual property. Previous attempts to force China to change its behavior have been halting and milquetoast at best. Unsurprisingly, these efforts have largely failed.

So while we disagree on a lot of things, I was happy to hear President Trump talk as if he had learned the lessons of the past. President Trump has at times pursued a tough, aggressive course of action against China, and I have applauded him when he has. But President Trump seems unable to consistently keep pressure on China. Every time I think he’s finally going down the right path, he turns around and gives China a pass on something.

Take the Chinese telecom giant, ZTE. Out of the blue, President Trump relaxed penalties on ZTE and loosened restrictions on its sale in the US, despite the fact it’s been labeled a national security threat by our military. Why? It seemed to no end other than to placate President Xi, hardly our friend on economic issues.

Now, this morning, after threatening a tough new approach to limit China’s ability to invest in the United States where national security was concerned, the Trump administration has once again backed off it seems. Instead, the president seems to be endorsing a bill here in Congress to expand the authority of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.

Now, that is a good provision in the NDAA. It passed with filibuster proof majorities An endorsement of the provision hardly means much because it’s going to pass.

Many of us wanted it go further, expanding CFIUS not just to military and national security, but to economic security as well, but it’s not sufficient – not sufficient – Mr. President. You’re backing out again. President Xi is out-foxing, out-playing you again. Once again, we get the tough talk and no action. This happens over, and over, and over again with this president and this administration.

Why are we waiting to impose real pressure on China for its efforts to undermine our nation’s economic wellspring? It’s another example of President Trump starting down a tough path with China, and then just veering off course for reasons unexplained, sometimes for whims.

It appears there is a tug-of-war in the administration over just how strong the president should be with China. One week he’s pulled one direction, the next, the opposite. But if we’re going to convince China’s government we’re serious, the United States must but strong, tough, and consistent. Otherwise the president’s approach will not succeed in changing China’s behavior, or convincing President Xi he means business to the detriment of American workers, American businesses, and the economy for generations to come.

One final topic: the Supreme Court, and what they did yesterday and today. Yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled that California was violating the First Amendment by requiring that “crisis pregnancy centers” provide information to their patients about abortions.

It comes alongside a ruling to affirm the president’s travel ban, in which the majority also bent over backward to accept President Trump’s position. You’d have to be living with your head in the sand over the past two years not to see a racial/religious animus behind the president’s decision to ban travel into the United States from Muslim-majority countries.

Now unfortunately, both cases were decided 5-4. Five conservative judges ruling against the California law and for the travel ban. Anyone watching the bench at the moment ought to be shaking their heads at the political polarization of the court, and the abortion case makes it even worse.

As Justice Breyer pointed out in his dissent on the California case, in 1992, the Supreme Court upheld a Pennsylvania law requiring a doctor to provide information about adoption services. In other words, doctors performing abortions, helping women, had to provide information, but now the shoe is on the other foot. California passed a law that said clinics that try to dissuade women from abortions, which is their right, also had to provide them information about abortion, and the majority ruled one way in the one case, and another in the other case. If free speech works in the one, why doesn’t it work in the other? And if allowing the anti-abortion clinics the right to not talk about abortions, why are abortion clinics forced to provide information about adoption? There is a total contradiction, a total contradiction. The majority somehow argued that there’s a glaring difference between the two cases, but it is plainly sophistry. In fact, there is little to no difference between those two cases. Again – and let me just state it exactly – if, if an abortion clinic should not be required to present alternatives, why should an anti-abortion clinic be required to? Why does free speech apply to one, and not the other? Why does lack of free speech fit one, and not the other? And you know, many of us sees this court – many Americans see this court – in a much more negative light than we used to.

Chief Justice John Roberts famously claimed in his confirmation that he would “call the balls and strikes,” as he sees them. Here we have the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court leading a majority departing from a clear precedent to affirm a conservative ideology, an anti-choice ideology. No one, no one can see Chief Justice Roberts’ decision in the California case as “calling balls and strikes.” Instead, it was a wild, political pitch, and I would say to the Chief Justice that you are demeaning the Court you seek to uphold with this type of contradiction, and the dissenting opinion showed its outrage at it.

And just a moment ago, the court ruled on the Janus decision. In the Janus decision, the court said people had a First Amendment right not to join a union. That’s a crazy idea, cooked up by the conservative, anti-labor movement, and pursued relentlessly until a favorable collection of judges would accept such a hair-brained theory. The First Amendment and the right to organize? They’re two totally separate things, but somehow the hard-right first pays for these think thanks, which come up with these ideas, and then they assemble enough people on the court who see things politically, not constitutionally, not legally, not ideologically, to affirm this decision. Unions are only six percent of private-sector America. They’re declining in membership, and it’s a reason the middle class doesn’t make more money, even in this prosperous economy. This is an awful decision. It’s going to increase polarization, economic polarization in this country. It’s going to make it harder for middle-class people to earn a decent living, and sooner or later – sooner or later – people are going to get so angry that Lord know what will happen.

The American people are now seeing the results of a coordinated political campaign by deep-pocketed conservative interests to influence the bench, all the way up to the Supreme Court. Justice Gorsuch, of course, and the current conservative majority on the court, is the capstone of those efforts – the result of an appalling decision by Senate Republicans to refuse President Obama a Supreme Court pick.

Alongside the California ruling, the Roberts Court has affirmed a plainly discriminatory travel ban, unleashed a flood of dark, unlimited money in our politics, and has scrapped a key pillar of the Voting Rights Act, all goals of the hard-right, all that have little to do with the Constitution, or reading the law; all making America a more polarized, economically divided country.

Opponents of these decisions and the president’s policies should focus on the Supreme Court, whose thin majority will once again hang in the balance this November.