WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, today delivered remarks on Senator Graham’s asylum proposal, which was forced through the Senate Judiciary Committee in violation of committee rules. 

“Clearly this bill, that's been forced out of this committee in an inappropriate way, will not see the light of day, will not see the President's desk. And I'm left asking, why are we here? Why are we doing this today?” said Senator Coons.

“As both of you held up the picture of Óscar Martinez-Ramirez and his daughter Valeria, we have to be reminded that there is a humanitarian tragedy at our border. And we all should be willing to work together to demonstrate that we support border security, that we support our customs and border patrol, and that we support a humane system that allows for asylum and allows for refugees, and does not detain kids and put them in cages for longer periods as a path towards solving this,” Senator Coons said.

Video and audio available here

Senator Coons’ full remarks are below:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am deeply disappointed and upset that we have reached this point today.

As some of you know, this is not my first time working for this committee. I was actually a summer law clerk for then-Chairman Biden back in the early 1990s. And I remember watching the ways in which this committee then and over the decades since and now, as I've served on it, has been a place even in deeply divided and bitter partisan times where folks have been able to work together.

Our rules exist for a reason. We adopted them unanimously six months ago. They are difficult. They create a framework. They force us to work together. And I'm struck by why we're here, given a point that's been raised several times: Clearly this bill, that's been forced out of this committee in an inappropriate way, will not see the light of day, will not see the President's desk. And I'm left asking, why are we here? Why are we doing this today?

I think it is sadly just the latest step down a destructive path of partisan escalation that we have found ourselves on by actions taken by both parties over several Congresses. But I think as both of you held up the picture of Óscar Martinez-Ramirez and his daughter Valeria, we have to be reminded that there is a humanitarian tragedy at our border. And we all should be willing to work together to demonstrate that we support border security, that we support our customs and border patrol, and that we support a humane system that allows for asylum and allows for refugees, and does not detain kids and put them in cages for longer periods as a path towards solving this. 

I don't see how today's actions will move us any further down the field. The 2013 process we followed in this committee was literally my proudest moment and experience in this Senate and, I think I quote you in saying, Mr. Chairman, on the floor after the final markup, after the final vote, that it was a day that made you proud to serve in the Senate.

My concern is that we didn't take up or debate a number of points of order raised by members of the minority. We didn't take up and debate amendments. It's not for lack of ideas. We've got amendments that could strengthen this bill. We've got ways that we can deal with these issues.

My core concern is that our problem is a counter-party with whom you are eagerly and earnestly trying to negotiate who is utterly unreliable on this. I'll just mention a previous strong bipartisan negotiating effort where on a Tuesday a proposal was accepted and, on a Thursday, rejected.

Without being too pointed, we all went to the floor to take four different votes on immigration policy. And an important, bipartisan effort that I was blessed to be able to take to the floor with our friend, Senator McCain, got only fifty-two votes, despite having sixty bipartisan co-sponsors in the House – a responsible bill that would invest in border security, strengthen immigration judges, deal with the Northern Triangle, a bill that should have passed. 

We are in a very difficult place. This committee should be the bipartisan place where we hammer out solutions and then help the House and help the Executive branch find their way forward. Not the place where we further tear into each other and tear each other apart. I hope that we will find our way back towards each other after this break. But frankly, after this breaking of the rules, I think it will be harder, not easier.

I will commit to working with any member of this committee, Mr. Chairman, who is willing to reach across the aisle and keep trying to find solutions to what is a genuine crisis at our border.