Republican Rep. Doug Collins tore into Democratic colleagues Thursday at a House Judiciary Committee hearing on family separation at the border -- panning it as a political show as he abandoned his prepared statement and urged lawmakers to “put a bill up” instead.
Collins, the top Republican on the panel, spoke at a forum titled, “Oversight of Family Separation and U.S. Customs and Border Protection,” where Democrats sought to bring attention to what they say is the continued practice of separating children from adult migrants at the border.
But a few lines into his prepared remarks, in which he complained about having another hearing on the issue without action being proposed, the Georgia lawmaker threw down his pen.
“Look, I’m going to stop, I’m not going to read this,” he said. “You know what is dehumanizing? It's continuing to bring the same witnesses and the same people from the same agencies to talk about this over and over and over again. What’s dehumanizing is doing that and not doing anything about it.”
Democrats have assailed the Trump administration’s handling of the humanitarian crisis, as hundreds of thousands of migrants have flooded across the border. They have particularly objected to the “zero tolerance” policy instituted last year that led to children and accompanying adults being separated so as to follow a court settlement that only allows children to be detained for 20 days. Under pressure, the administration mostly ended the separation of families last year.
"Instead of addressing the root causes of migration and competently managing the challenges at our border, the Trump administration has chosen to dehumanize immigrants and exploit this crisis for political gain,” House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., said in his opening statement.
“In doing so, it has violated American laws and values, and caused permanent damage to children and families,” he said.
He went on to say that family separation “is just one component of this crisis, as it is clear that conditions at border facilities have deteriorated to an unconscionable level.”
The administration and Republicans in Congress have called for the end to “loopholes” that limit how long minors can be kept in custody -- and they say have exacerbated the crisis by encouraging migrants to cross the border with children in tow. This month, Congress sent a humanitarian aid bill to the desk of the president, but critics say the underlying legal magnets are still in place and must be addressed.
The administration last week announced a policy by which asylum seekers would have to apply first with a country they passed through before applying in the U.S. -- a move that faces an uncertain fate in the courts.
“My Democratic colleagues have ideas, I may disagree with those ideas but put a bill up,” Collins yelled. “I have a bill, put mine up, make amendments to it, do whatever you want to do -- that’s what Congress is supposed to do. Dehumanizing is this.”
He went on to say that the majority was not "competent" as it doesn’t put legislation forward.
“We’re having bash the president time, bash the administration time, that’s all this is,” he said, before saying the panel is becoming a “committee of press releases.”
The quick-talking congressman then slowed down considerably to emphasize his message to his colleagues: “I’ll be very slow -- Pass. Bills. That. Matter. Don’t. Have. Hearings. That. Are Simply. Stunts.”
Collins finished his statement calling the hearing a “show.”
“So here we go, popcorn machine’s ready, anybody wants some, send the office over here -- the show begins.”