By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Wednesday, July 6, US Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) and US Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) sent a joint letter to the Secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security, the Secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services, and the Attorney General expressing their strong objection to a plan using two outlying airfields at Naval Air Station Whiting Field, located in Baldwin County, Alabama, as a potential location for housing illegal alien juveniles. The two Alabama Senators also expressed their opposition to the Administration’s handling of the crisis at the southern border.
The two conservative Senators wrote to Secretary Johnson, Secretary Burwell, and Attorney General Lynch: “We write to express our opposition to the evaluation by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) of two outlying airfields at Naval Air Station Whiting Field as a potential location to house purportedly unaccompanied illegal alien juveniles, and to express our concerns about this Administration’s handling of the increasing number crossing our southern border.”
Senators Sessions and Shelby warned that, “According to US Customs and Border Protection, 38,566 illegal alien juveniles have been apprehended through May – a 69 percent increase over last year, and a number surpassed only by the record number apprehended in FY 2014. Since the beginning of FY 2014, 147,077 have been apprehended, yet only a small fraction have been removed from the United States.”
Senators Sessions and Shelby said, “Transporting some of these juveniles more than 900 miles away from our southern border to the State of Alabama, instead of expeditiously and humanely sending them back to their homes, will only make the situation worse. It rewards illegal conduct, and arguably renders the United States complicit in criminal conspiracies to violate our immigration laws. According to the Government Accountability Office, between January 7, 2014, and April 17, 2015, ORR released illegal alien juveniles from its custody to a parent in 60 percent of all cases, an aunt or uncle in 13 percent, a sibling in 12 percent, an ‘other relative’ in 3 percent, a first cousin in 2 percent, and a grandparent in 1 percent of all cases. Thus, in roughly 91 percent of all cases, these juveniles are eventually released to the custody of a family member located in the United States.”
Senators Shelby and Sessions continued, “However, this Administration has failed to take any enforcement action against these family members – most of whom had some role to play in the juveniles’ illegal entry into the United States. And many of those family members are present in the United States unlawfully. The Administration continues to prevent the use of any of a number of commonsense tools to protect the integrity of our immigration system and the sovereignty of this nation.”
The letter continued: “Moreover, the need for additional housing facilities is far from clear. Indeed, there seems to be some confusion on the part of the Administration as to whom the special processing procedures in the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (TVPRA) apply. Indeed, under a plain reading of the Act, many of the illegal alien juveniles apprehended could be expeditiously and humanely sent back to their homes – because they do not meet the definition of an “unaccompanied alien child.” Pursuant to the TVPRA, an “unaccompanied alien child” who is apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security must be transferred to the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services, which is then responsible for their care and custody.”
The Senators wrote, “While it is unclear how many non-parent family members are legal guardians, in at least 60 percent of these cases there is a parent in the United States who can provide care and physical custody of the juveniles – meaning that arguably, they should have never been placed into ORR custody, never should have been released to the custody of their parents, and could have been expeditiously and humanely sent back home.” “Strong leadership and a commitment to the faithful execution of the laws on the books would convey a clear message to the world that if you come to the United States illegally, you will be removed. Rather than improve the current situation, Administration policies have only made the situation worse.”
Alabama Governor Robert Bentley has made it clear that the state of Alabama also does not want more illegal aliens dumped in the State by the federal government.
Both Alabama Senators have been highly critical of President Obama’s immigration policies. Since the President has been unable to pass his plans to dramatically increase legal immigration levels, he has largely stopped enforcing many of the existing immigration laws.
Senator Richard Shelby was first elected to the Senate in 1986 and Senator Jeff Sessions in 1996. Shelby is seeking a sixth term this fall. The very popular Jeff Sessions was elected to his fourth term in 2014 without opposition.