On Thursday, Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-TX) gave her first speech on the floor of the House of Representatives. The following is a video of what she said, including a transcript of her remarks, as provided by her staff.
I rise today to proudly deliver my first floor speech as the new representative for Texas’ 16th Congressional District.
Born and raised in El Paso, Texas —a resilient and beautiful community along the US-Mexico border— I am a proud fronteriza and know firsthand the realities of the border.
That’s why I have been profoundly disturbed by the rhetoric and policies from this Administration.
I will use my time to tell you truth about the border, the opportunity she presents, and the need for comprehensive immigration reform.
El Paso, like other border communities, is one of the safest cities in the United States, with a rich history made strong by our bicultural, binational character.
Our people are generous, compassionate, and kind.
We share a border with our sister city Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico. This border unites our families and our values, and promotes commerce and trade.
The border has never been safer or more secure.
El Paso already has a wall, but we were safe long before it was constructed. The truth is that additional border barriers will not address the real challenges we face.
Instead, I hope to work with my colleagues this Congress to achieve comprehensive immigration reform, address the root causes of migration, and value immigrants as critical to building our economy and our country.
According to the Pew Research Center, there were an estimated 10.7 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. in 2016.
Some came when they were small children seeking refuge in our country and today have limited protection under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Others have been here for decades under Temporary Protected Status, establishing businesses and cultivating deep roots in communities across the nation. It is unsafe for them to return home because of ongoing strife in their home countries, but this administration decided to terminate protections for them anyway.
The majority of others live in the shadows, afraid to avail themselves to assistance because of our current immigration climate.
Life for immigrants and asylum-seeking families, unfortunately, has gotten increasingly worse since January 20, 2017.
This administration has cruelly separated a reported 2,654 families at the border—and these are only the families that we know of. It has built tent prisons for children, tear-gassed migrants near ports of entry (including many women and children), has criminalized migration and prioritized detention, and attempted to drastically curtail the number of immigrants coming to our country.
Further, this administration’s unlawful asylum ban on migrants who do not enter at ports of entry has strained our border crossings.
Due to metering at ports, a practice that limits the amount of people who may enter the U.S. each day, families are sometimes pushed out to more dangerous and deadly paths.
I hope we will investigate whether metering contributed to the tragic deaths of two young Guatemalan children, Jakelin Caal Maquin and Felipe Alonzo Gómez.
These policies and practices are inhumane and un-American.
Building walls and sowing hate will not solve complex issues, only further divide us as a nation.
Instead, we must focus on reforming our immigration system to ensure safe and humane process.
For example, we must create a pathway to citizenship for DACA and TPS recipients; make investments in additional personnel and infrastructure at our ports of entry where most of the illegal drugs flow; hire more immigration judges and grant them Article I independence in order to address the backlog of cases and ensure due process; overhaul training for CBP and ICE agents that will boost safety; increase oversight, transparency and accountability; and end the criminalization of migration, especially asylum seeking families.
Above all, families belong together and should not be detained, particularly when there are cost-effective, humane alternatives.
Finally, for any of my colleagues who think the border is unsafe, I invite you to my district to see it for yourself.