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California's 40th District

Nov 8, 2021 | Immigration, In The News

As immigrants, Republican Reps. Victoria Spartz, Carlos Gimenez, and Young Kim understand why so many people want to build a new life in the United States. Their experiences give them a unique authority to criticize how President Joe Biden and his administration are handling a flood of immigrants at the southern border.

The three immigrant House Republicans, all freshman members elected in 2020, said in interviews with the Washington Examiner that the Biden administration’s handling of the southern border is an “atrocity” and a “crisis of humanity” that undermines the country’s legal immigration system, which, they added, is also broken.

“It’s a human crisis,” said Spartz, of Indiana, who immigrated from Ukraine. She added that “instead of protecting the country and helping our citizens,” the current policies “incentivize illegal activity, incentivize drug trafficking and human trafficking.”

Spartz came to the U.S. with her American husband in 2000 when she was in her early 20s, but she did not get U.S. citizenship for years afterward.

“It took me six years to get my citizenship, my documents were lost, and it was very difficult to even deal with government agencies,” Spartz said. In contrast, those crossing the border illegally “can cross the border within a few hours and be in the country.”

Gimenez, of Florida, fled Cuba with his parents when he was a young child. His parents went first, waiting in Canada while their visas were sorted out. He still has the ticket from Nov. 3, 1960, National Airlines flight that he took to come to the U.S.

“As an American and an American that wasn’t born here, I am outraged about what’s happening on the southern border and that we’re actually causing people to come here and have to suffer,” Gimenez said. “I believe in the rule of law. It’s why we come here, right? So most of the immigrants that come here want the rule of law, they want freedom, etc. And so what’s happening at the southern border is just utter chaos. It’s not the rule of law.”

Kim, a Korean immigrant who represents a Southern California district, stressed that the point of securing the border is not to be anti-immigrant — it’s to make life better for immigrants once they are here.

“We don’t want to make you undocumented. We don’t want to call you illegals — because there’s nothing illegal about wanting the American dream,” Kim said. “There is nothing illegal about wanting to achieve the American dream. There’s nothing illegal about wanting the best for their children and for their future. We want you to do this legally and to not undermine our legal immigration system.”

Kim was about 12 when she left South Korea with her parents and siblings. She finished junior high school in Guam and recalls picking up cans and bottles on the beach with her mother to recycle, giving the money raised back to their church.

“If you’re an immigrant with a hyphenated American like me who goes through the immigration process to come here legally and wait my turn to apply for U.S. citizenship — I mean, we have a very unique perspective in terms of how that U.S. citizenship is earned, how it is definitely appreciated,” Kim said. “It’s not something that is just given to us just because I flew over here or crossed the Pacific Ocean by boat or crossed the border by, you know, foot.”

The most recent Customs and Border Protection data found law enforcement encountered nearly 2 million people over the last year, the third-highest annual number in nearly a century. More than 283,000 migrants who illegally crossed the border from Mexico this past year were let into the U.S. Of those, 95,000 were noncitizens released with instructions to check in with their local Immigration and Customs Enforcement office once in the city they wished to stay — effectively relying on them to hold themselves accountable for illegally entering the country.

A common policy solution cited by the congresswomen was reinstating the “Remain in Mexico” policy started under the Trump administration, which requires migrants seeking asylum to wait for a court date in Mexico rather than in the U.S.

“We’ve got to have a system in place where we can control the number of people that are crossing the border,” Kim said. “We need to go back to the system that worked, and that is ‘Remain in Mexico.’ … If you’re applying for asylum, do so in the country where you’re familiar.”

Spartz lashed out at Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas for trying to end the “Remain in Mexico” policy in defiance of a court order.

“Secretary Mayorkas, you know, he acknowledged that ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy had likely contributed to reduced migratory flows,” Spartz said. “But he created now perverse systems where people, desperate people, put themselves to become pawns to Mexican cartels. They control the border and make a lot of money in human trafficking and drug trafficking.”

An August court order told the Biden administration to re-implement the “Remain in Mexico” policy. But Mayorkas wrote a recent memo supporting permanently ending the program due to “substantial and unjustifiable human costs on the individuals who were exposed to harm while waiting in Mexico,” even though he acknowledged that it “likely contributed to reduced migratory flows.”

“We have [an] executive branch that now feels that they can supersede judicial branch and supersede legislative branch by interpreting things,” Spartz said. “They acknowledge the crisis, they acknowledge that this mechanism works, and they continue to have anarchy at the border.”

The Washington Examiner

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