For today’s full House Natural Resources Committee hearing, titled “Destroying America’s Best Idea: Examining the Biden Administration’s Use of National Park Service Lands for Migrant Camps,” Ranking Member Grijalva’s partial opening statement as delivered, is provided below.
Ranking Member Grijalva’s Opening Statement (partial, as delivered)
- Thank you. Mr. Chairman, when you assumed leadership of this Committee, I was cautiously optimistic.
- It’s no secret that the gap between our policy views is wide, but I have come to think of you as a reasonable and principled colleague. I hoped that those qualities would be reflected in the Committee’s work.
- But today’s hearing is neither reasonable nor principled. It is a dehumanizing political stunt.
- The current influx of migrants is a humanitarian crisis, no doubt, that deserves meaningful, comprehensive solutions.
- Solutions that are rooted in upholding our basic values and human rights. And solutions that would provide resources to respond to the crisis and to the humanitarian needs that we are confronting. Solutions that are based on facts – not rhetoric from MAGA talking heads.
- Solutions that accept the reality that we’re dealing with. Solutions that deal, yes, with security. Nobody is denying that. No one on our side is saying let’s open up the borders and see what happens. It has to deal with security.
- But we also have to understand that we’re dealing with a global crisis—a crisis of major proportions, affecting the third world primarily across this globe. A crisis built on poverty, repression, and oppression, political and otherwise. Undemocratic governments in all parts of the world, the violence, the collapse of civil society, organized criminal groups that infect and affect every decision for these countries and these communities. Climate that is impacting our world in a very direct way.
- This impact of a global crisis in creating the challenges that we confront, not only on the southern border, but across this nation, are driven by root causes. And we’re not dealing with those—that would be part of the solution as well.
- But we won’t hear about any of that today. Because it’s not about solutions, this hearing.
- Today’s hearing is not meant for solutions. Today’s hearing is an excuse for Republicans to double down on failed policies from the Trump administration.
- It’s an excuse to distract the American people from the fact that Republicans are pushing us into a government shutdown that doesn’t need to happen. A government shutdown that will actually slow down the processing of asylum applications, I might add.
- And finally, this hearing is an excuse to use national parks and public lands as a political foil to fuel anti-immigrant rhetoric that creates the division in our country and that the Republican party sees as the only political advantage heading into the 2024 election.
- So, of course, we’re gonna hear about it, and we’re gonna continue to hear about it. No solutions, we’re just gonna hear about it.
- For anyone who believes that this hearing is a sincere attempt to protect public lands, let me quickly relieve you of any misguidance you might have on that.
- If my GOP colleagues actually cared about the parks, they would increase funding for the Park Service.
- Instead, they’ve done the opposite and passed an appropriations bill that cuts the Park Services’ already underfunded budget by half a billion.
- If my GOP colleagues actually cared about our public lands, they would make a real effort to hold oil, gas, and mining companies accountable for the messes that they leave on our public lands.
- Instead, they do the opposite and continue pushing bill after bill to gut environmental laws like NEPA and give industry a cheap — or even free — pass to wreck our landscapes and stick taxpayers with the cleanup bill.
- And if my colleagues actually cared about the American people, they wouldn’t be pulling this stunt and would instead get to work to keep our government funded and open – our most basic responsibility in Congress.
- But if my Republican colleagues are about migrant scapegoating, ginning up the political rhetoric on this issue, MAGA drumbeats, Fox News shoutouts, Speaker McCarthy retweets, and dramatic distractions, then I’d say they’re on the right track.
[End of transcribed remarks]
Prior to Hearing, Ranking Member Grijalva Condemns Committee Republicans for Fueling Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric
Washington, D.C. – In advance of the full Committee hearing titled, “Destroying America’s Best Idea: Examining the Biden Administration’s Use of National Park Service Lands for Migrant Camps,” House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) issued the following statement condemning Committee Republicans’ use of extreme anti-immigrant rhetoric in recent political stunts and media appearances:
“House Republicans’ infighting is barreling us towards a government shutdown, causing millions of American workers to go unpaid, tribal communities to go without essential services, and disaster relief to be stalled. Rather than working on a solution to fund the government, my Republican counterparts are trying to distract their way out of accountability with hateful MAGA-mongering charades.
“Worse than just being an obnoxious decoy for their inability to govern, Republicans’ anti-immigrant rhetoric and antics are dangerous. Reducing families and children to a public lands problem is dehumanizing and out of line. We’ve seen how dehumanization and other extreme anti-immigrant language like this can lead to violence. I condemn this kind of rhetoric on the Committee and hope tomorrow’s hearing will not continue this disturbing pattern.”
On Sept. 15, 2023, Chair Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) led a letter to the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) and the National Park Service (NPS) decrying a proposed lease for migrant housing at Floyd Bennett Field, a former airfield in Gateway National Recreation Area. Of note, Chair Westerman’s first district office in Hot Springs, Ark. was reportedly leased from the National Park Service. Days after sending the letter, Chair Westerman appeared on Fox News citing xenophobic claims, including those falsely linking migrants to the fentanyl crisis. In fact, 73.1% of fentanyl smuggling encounters at the border are U.S. citizens.
The next week, as House Republicans were struggling—and ultimately failed—to build consensus for their continuing resolution to fund the government, Chair Westerman and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chair Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) traveled to New York City to visit a migrant processing center at the Roosevelt Hotel, where city officials denied them entry. After the visit, Subcommittee Chair Gosar issued a statement using extreme anti-immigrant rhetoric:
“Every city in America has become a border city. Drugs and criminals, including hundreds of terrorists, are pouring into our backyards. Our schools and hospitals are overrun with illegals. Police forces are overwhelmed as progressive mayors slash their budgets. Our streets are not safe. Fentanyl is rampant. Police officers are being assaulted. Cartels are thriving.”
As recently highlighted in an analysis by immigration reform organization, America’s Voice, this anti-immigrant language echoes previous incidents of Committee Republicans using dangerous “invasion” and “replacement” conspiracy rhetoric in statements and social media posts. Dehumanizing language and invasion and replacement conspiracies are directly linked to acts of political violence and domestic terrorism.
Tomorrow’s Full Committee Hearing
Committee Republicans will likely use tomorrow’s full Committee hearing as an opportunity to continue perpetuating anti-immigrant rhetoric. The majority’s claims that tomorrow’s hearing is being held out of concern for protecting national parks and public lands are not credible for the following reasons:
- House Republicans’ FY24 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies appropriations bill proposes to cut NPS’s budget by nearly a half billion dollars, resulting in the loss of more than 1,000 park staff and reducing the agency’s maintenance and historic preservation funding. The bill would also dictate annual oil and gas lease sales on public lands, remove Endangered Species Act protections for the gray wolf and other species, and prohibit various mineral withdrawals.
- House Republicans’ continuing resolution cuts wildfire suppression funding by a staggering $1.8 billion (-44%), in part to offset the more than $2 billion for continued construction of Trump’s border wall, which has irreparably destroyed public lands and sacred sites.
Banner Image: “Common Chiffchaff” bird. Image Credit – TheOtherKev