By Luis V. Gutiérrez
Editor’s Note: After a June 13th demonstration at the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) headquarters in Washington, DC, Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-IL) was back on the floor of the House of Representatives speaking about the Trump Administration’s policy to separate children from their parents at the border. He described last week’s action and went on to denounce Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ new policy of denying claims of asylum related to domestic violence or being targeted by organized crime. The following are his remarks on June 14th:
Yesterday, a group of about 30 of us, including 10 Members of Congress, decided we have had enough of this Administration’s policy to scar children for life by taking them away from their parents when they turn themselves in to American authorities and ask for asylum.
We went down to the Ronald Reagan federal building on 14th Street because we had not heard from the three cabinet officials we had written last week to give us answers about where the children at the border have been taken and how our government plans to reunite them with their parents.
So, John Lewis, Joe Crowley, Jan Schakowsky, Pramila Jayapal, Judy Chu, Jimmy Gomez, Al Greene, Raul Grijalva and Adriano Espaillat and I, joined by hundreds of allies, went down to CBP headquarters to protest their actions and their secrecy.
And when we blocked the entrance to the building – ironically a building named for the man who gave the famous “Shining City on a Hill” speech, who spoke so eloquently about immigrants and was no fan of walls – yes, we blocked the entrance to the Ronald Reagan Building, but the Border Patrol did not arrest us.
No, they feel comfortable arresting 10-year-olds and taking 10-month old babies from their moms and dads, but when 10 Members of Congress show up to demand answers, then they get camera shy.
But we will be back, and we will do it again and again if we have to.
Right now – today – there are people who lawfully enter the United States and ask for asylum under our laws and international law, and then are taken straight to jail to await federal prosecution.
And if they have children, the officers think of some pretext – maybe telling the parents that they are taking the child for food or for a bath – and then the kids are not returned.
And many are taken to facilities that are hundreds or thousands of miles away.
They feel comfortable arresting 10-year-olds and taking 10-month old babies from their moms and dads, but when 10 Members of Congress show up to demand answers, then they get camera shy.
And the parent is given a mass trial – so their individual case may never be heard or evaluated – and most are deported back to the country they fled to face violence and rape again.
And are their children given back to them? We don’t know and can’t get answers, which is why we went to CBP.
Then, on Monday, Attorney General Sessions had one of the most stunning “new-speak” 1984, mind-control moments we have ever heard. He said that if a man beats a woman or if a family is systematically extorted, threatened or targeted by a gang, that is a private matter and can’t be the basis of an asylum claim.
Rape and abuse, that’s just a private matter between a man and a woman according to the chief law enforcement officer of our country.
That’s just a private matter between a man and a woman; between the family and the gang of terrorists they are facing.
Only in a Trump Administration could someone say something so thoroughly and utterly wrong, dangerous and ridiculous.
My friend, Trey Gowdy, is a Republican who is known around here and on the Oversight and Judiciary Committees as a pretty no-nonsense prosecutor.
Go to his website and look at his biography. You can Google it right now. It says: “As 7th Circuit Solicitor, Trey led an office of 25 attorneys and 65 total employees. During his tenure, he started a Violence Against Women Task Force.”
Right there in his official bio. So, wife-beating isn’t a private matter in South Carolina. If you are being beaten, raped or tortured by your domestic partner, the police, the prosecutors and the judges will get involved because it isn’t a private matter.
Go listen to his speeches on his YouTube channel and his Facebook. Watch the video of his speech on the House floor in support of the Violence Against Women Act, it will move you to tears, no matter what your political party is.
But according to the Attorney General, it is a private matter between a man and a woman. He expects every domestic violence victim to hire a lawyer and sue their spouse, just get a court order.
We have a prosecutor for domestic violence in Cook County and probably in every county. This is a matter of public health, law enforcement and — come on!! – this is a matter of good men and women living by a moral code that says we should help those in danger when the weak are being preyed upon by the strong.
But apparently not to our Attorney General or our President. To them, those are private matters.
That is just wrong.
Sleeping with an adult film star and then paying thousands of dollars to keep it quiet, that is a ‘private matter’ to be worked out between attorneys.
Fleeing death and violence, rape and torture, that’s a public matter. And our leaders should know better.
Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez is the Dean of the Illinois delegation and a thirteen-term Member of Congress from Chicago, IL. He is a Member of the Judiciary Committee and the Chair of the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.