PHILADELPHIA – Despite the extensive backlog of immigration cases, Ranking Member of the House Homeland Security Committee Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said the U.S. should not “close” its borders to illegal immigration.
According to the Washington Examiner, 273 judges in the U.S. are currently handling more than 500,000 immigration cases, many of which involve illegal immigrants. Thompson was asked if the backlog complicates the Democrats’ call for a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants.
“We’ve said to a lot of people all around the world if you are oppressed, if you are abused, you should look at the United States of America as an opportunity to come. And so, what I think we have to do — while we give people a pathway to citizenship — is not close our borders,” he told PJM at the Democratic National Convention.
“We have a system for vetting people and I am going to look forward to working with it – and we need to increase the number of immigration judges and those kinds of things to expedite things, I’ll do that – but I am not for wholesale sending people back. That’s not the American way,” he added.
Thompson was also asked if he agrees with GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump’s plan to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border to combat illegal immigration.
“No, I don’t. Some parts of the border, it’s absolutely impractical. In the urbanized areas, some of the business people, people who live along the border, say it’s bad for the economy and we have to respect the people who live there,” he responded.
“Our ‘border experts’ live hundreds of the miles from the border but they tell people along the border what they need. We have to have a conversation with the people there. In my own estimation, the wall is not what we need,” he added.
During the interview, Thompson reacted to the Border Patrol union endorsement of Trump.
“This is America. People can endorse the candidates that they choose, but at the end of the day whoever gets to be elected president – that’s who we will follow. So I respect the border men and women,” Thompson said. “They do a wonderful job, but they are not the sole experts as to what we need in this country in terms of immigration policy. That’s one step. We’ll work with them, but from my perspective the border is not the answer.”
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) releases illegal immigrants with criminal records into U.S. communities when their home countries refuse to take them back. Some have gone on to commit repeat offenses. Thompson was asked how the U.S. could prevent that from happening in the future.
“At this point we’ve taken the worst cases and we keep those, but for the minor offenses we have to make a decision because we don’t have the ability to hold everybody. And so what we’ve taken is the most egregious crimes and we prioritize and so we take the bad people – moving violations or other kinds of things, I leave it to the discretion of the immigration courts to decide who goes where,” he said.