Pelosi Remarks at Shadow Hearing on Family Separation at the U.S.-Mexico Border

Washington, D.C. – House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi joined Women’s Working Group on Immigration Reform for a shadow hearing to discuss the impact and human cost of President Trump’s cruel family separation policy that has led to the separation of thousands of children from their parents.  Below are the Leader’s remarks:

Leader Pelosi.  Thank you very much Congresswoman Roybal-Allard, to you, and to Congresswoman Jayapal.  Thank you for bringing us together.

For years, I have seen Congresswoman Roybal-Allard worry about newcomers to our country, the condition of detention centers and just, over the years, it has just grown and grown and grown.  And, of course, she is the godmother of the DREAM Act, starting in 2001.  So, her commitment is a longstanding one to young people and to the conditions in which we treat people.

Congresswoman Jayapal was speaking for our side on the Floor during the rule for the motion to recommit.  Thank you so much for that.  Just another manifestation of your tremendous leadership on this subject.

So, I’ve been listening very intently to the questions that our colleagues have posed and they’ve covered a lot of bases.  So, it affords me the luxury of being emotional.  But, before I do, I just want to say something about intention.

What is the intention of this Administration?  Way back in the fall, they told me that the mothers who were bringing their children across the desert were unfit because they were endangering their child.  It didn’t matter to them, it seemed, when I said no they have no alternative.

Just as you described, and I thank Ms. Bakst, Ms. Podkul and Dr. Dooley for their brilliant testimony, realizing how silly it was, silly it was, for the Administration of the United States of America to say that these mothers are unfit.  We know what is right for these children.  We are going to take these children from these unfit mothers who jeopardize the lives of their children.  Regardless of the fact that they had no alternative, death, rape, harassment, gang violence and all the rest at home.  They had no option.

They knew better, they said.  We will put them in foster care, or whatever.  Now, they have repeated that, foster care or whatever, but this was months ago.  Calling these mothers unfit, they should be saluting them for their courage.

Secondly, we were told the other day when we were together on the border, Congresswoman Chu mentioned that.  That the HHS said that, at the rate they were going, it was their plan, their intention, to have thirty thousand children, separated children by the end of August.  Thirty thousand children by the end of August.  That was their intention.

So, then today, the President, because they know what’s good for children.  So, at the end of the day, the President, not at the end of the day, earlier yesterday, the President made his attempt at some kind of cosmetic, but not real executive order.

Today, the President said that his executive order leads to separation ultimately.  It leads to separation ultimately.  He said that.  He said that at a cabinet meeting when he was also saying that Democrats don’t care about the border.

No, we do care about the border.  We care about protecting our country, but we don’t think we need to protect the border by putting children in cages.  We want to be smart and strong not reckless, rash and ruthless in this case.

I do want to say that Mr. [Senator Chuck] Schumer and I this morning sent a letter to the President asking for his plan to be presented to Congress and to the country for how he is going to unify these families, [calling for him] to end zero tolerance and what are the alternatives to detention that would be made available.  It will be less costly to the taxpayer, by the way.  Most humane, first and foremost, to those kids.

Alternatives to detention that would be made available.  It would be less costly to the taxpayer, by the way, more humane most importantly to those kids.  Senator Reed, Ranking Member of Armed Services in the Senate, and [Congressman] Adam Smith, our Ranking Member also have sent a letter to the Administration about the military bases, wanting a report on the circumstances are as to whether these children are going there and how they would be kept.

Now to the emotional part, I don’t need to say the American Academy of Pediatrics, organizations pages long from A-Z, Evangelical Immigration Table, Orthodox Union, Union for Reformed Judaism, Islamic Society of North America, Conference of Catholic Bishops they said, ‘Families are the foundational element of our society and they must be able to stay together.  Separating babies from their mothers is immoral.’

Okay, so we all know the validations of people of faith and others and the medical community and the rest.  But, as a mom, a mother of five children, I said to a representative of the Administration in the fall when he told these mothers weren’t fit for trying to save these children’s lives, ‘I know that you are a parent but you have probably never been a lioness.  You come near our cubs, you’ve got a problem.’  Right?  And we consider these children our children.

You cannot do harm to these children and you are doing it in the name of the United States of America.  Any mom will tell you – or dad – that we put our children to sleep at night – well, now my grandchildren – but when I had my five children at home, you [wake up] at any sound in the night, they might need our attention, our comfort or whatever it is.  Same with the children, running to mommy and daddy’s room and they are separating these children from the company of their parents or the one the one parent they’re separated from, from that bond.  It’s outside the circle of civilized human behavior.  Words cannot define.

And then, and then, to do it massively as a policy because they know better than having children with their parents, they can send them some place or wherever.  So I just don’t think, when they don’t understand a mother’s protection of her child, taking them from one dangerous place, through another dangerous place, and then to encounter this.  They just don’t understand.  And when they think there’s no harm done to a child, removing them from the arms of their parent and all physical, emotional and psychological scaring that they do to the those children.

We demand immediately to know what they intend to do unite these families, end the zero tolerance.  I won’t even go into the policy about amnesty – I mean not amnesty, they’d love for us to say that – asylum and all the rest.  You all know that very well and you’ve testified to it.

I’ll close by saying, the American Evangelic Association, they have said that the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program is the crown jewel of American humanitarianism.  They testified at a hearing such as this about a year ago – I think you were there David – some of their members were there.

The crown jewel of U.S. American Humanitarianism down the drain with this Administration.

So thank you, for the knowledge you bring to this subject, for the commitment that you have to it and for enlightening us with the specifics of testimony today.

And again, I thank Congresswoman [Pramila] Jayapal, Congresswoman [Lucille] Royball-Allard for their ongoing commitment to solving this issue.

Thank you.  I yield back.

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