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Ranking Member Cole Hearing Remarks on H.R. 51, H.R. 1333 and H.R. 1573

As delivered during today’s House Rules Committee hearing on H.R. 51, H.R. 1333 and H.R. 1573:

Today’s hearing covers three different items. The first two I’ll discuss are coming up from the Judiciary Committee – H.R. 1333 and H.R. 1573. Both bills will be familiar to our committee since we considered versions of these during the 116th Congress.

H.R. 1333, which the majority is calling the NO BAN Act, would completely gut the president’s longstanding powers under the Immigration and Nationality Act to make determinations about who can enter the country and under what circumstances. If enacted, H.R. 1333 would curtail the president’s ability to suspend entry to a class of foreign aliens if national security or public safety requires. It would also bury the president under extensive and superfluous notification and consultation requirements that would eliminate the president’s ability to move quickly to confront threats to our nation.

H.R. 1573, the Access to Counsel Act, would provide a right of counsel to individuals being held in detention at border crossings or in secondary inspection proceedings. Guaranteeing access to a lawyer in non-criminal proceedings raises a number of questions, including who would pay for such a lawyer. The bill goes even further to guarantee access to an “interested party,” which could even be a co-conspirator in potentially criminal activity, such as illicit drug trafficking, which is unfortunately all too common in border crossings. 

If enacted, the Access to Counsel Act would constitute an astonishingly broad expansion of the right to counsel for non-citizens and would make quick secondary screening procedures a thing of the past. Indeed, the likely end result would be a much slower process for anyone undergoing secondary screening while attempting to enter the United States. I do believe many reforms are needed to our nation’s immigration policy. Unfortunately, and evidenced by the party-line vote both in committee and on the floor of the House last Congress, this legislation is unworkable as written. 

The legislation before us today brings us one step closer to the progressive dream of open borders. But make no mistake: if this dream were to become a reality, the United States would become a more dangerous place.  

The simple fact of the matter is there is a crisis on our border. After denying the gravity of the situation for far too long, even President Biden finally admitted over the weekend that the border is in crisis. Now it is time for my Democratic colleagues to do the same, change course and work with Republicans to secure the border. 

Border agents took more than 172,000 people into custody in March alone. Border Patrol is making arrests at a pace not seen in two decades and nothing is being done to stop it. And the problem is not limited to just people completely overwhelming our border agents. The open border is allowing illegal and dangerous drugs to come into our country to then be distributed into all of our communities. Fentanyl, a deadly drug more potent than morphine, is mainly trafficked through our southern border and seizures are up over 200 percent from this same time last year. 

If the majority succeeds in limiting any president’s authority in the ways they are attempting to today, it will become that much harder to secure the border and that much harder to ensure that those seeking to enter the United States have been appropriately screened.  The loser, in the end, will be the American people, who will rightly lose confidence that the government is doing all it can to protect them. 

The third item today is H.R. 51, the D.C. Admission Act. Like the other two measures, this one was also previously considered by the committee last Congress. Unfortunately, it too is deeply misguided. 

While I understand the majority’s intention of attempting to ensure that residents of the District of Columbia receive full representation in their national government, the bill is flawed and – even more concerning – unconstitutional. It ignores the Constitution, ignores the practical and legal problems associated with turning the seat of the federal government into its own state and ignores the reality on the ground. It runs contrary to the intentions of the Founders and to our constitutional structure. And it ignores other plausible solutions that do not conflict with the Constitution. 

I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today, particularly regarding alternative proposals to address these issues put forward by Republicans. I’m disappointed that each of these pieces of legislation is just as partisan as in the last Congress. I believe that we had substantive debate and discussion on the flaws of these bills – some of which could have been fixed through more precise drafting.

Unfortunately, all our articulated and shared concerns were ignored, and we are faced once again with legislation that had no Republican input, no incorporated Republican amendments and once again will receive little, if any, Republican support on the House floor. Once again, the majority is choosing to legislate, rather than govern. As such, I oppose all of these measures. 

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