Rep. Underwood’s comments show lack of understanding about border crisis, AVIAC says
An advocate for victims of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants, and a constituent in freshman U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood’s (D-Naperville) 14th Congressional District, said he was shocked by the lawmaker’s “vile remarks” during a recent House Homeland Security Committee budget hearing in Washington D.C.
Brian McCann of Geneva is a retired 34-year Chicago Public Schools employee and the director of Advocates for Victims of Illegal Alien Crime (AVIAC). His brother, Denny, was killed in 2011 by illegal immigrant Saul Chavez, reportedly now on the run in Mexico. McCann authored the book, “Death in Chicago: A Sanctuary City,” which describes his brother’s killing by Chavez, who was released from Cook County Jail before fleeing back across the U.S. border.
McCann said he was shocked when he heard about the comments made by Underwood while she was questioning acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan on May 22. McAleenan was appearing as part of a Trump administration request for more border security funding.
Rep. Underwood referred to recent photos of migrants sleeping on the ground outside in overcrowded Border Patrol facilities, despite increased funding from Congress to provide humanitarian assistance at the southern border.
“This is more than a question of resources,” the lawmaker said. “Congress has been more than willing to provide resources and to work with you, Mr. Secretary, to address the security and humanitarian concerns and, at this point, with five children dead and 5,000 separated from their families, this is intentional. It’s a policy choice being made on purpose by this administration, and it’s cruel and inhumane.”
“For her to suggest intentional allowance of children to die was mean-spirited and an outright lie, and then she goes on to defend these vile remarks,” McCann said in an email interview with the Will County Gazette. “Thankfully she was rebuked.”
When Rep. Underwood declined to walk back her comments, McAleenan responded, “That’s an appalling accusation. Our men and women fight hard to protect people in our custody every single day.”
The committee’s ranking member, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), asked Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) to strike Rep. Underwood’s objectionable comments from the record, saying she had impugned McAleenan’s character and that “is completely inappropriate.” Underwood responded by saying she believed the Trump administration’s line policies have caused preventable deaths but “I did not say it was murder.”
The Democratic-majority committee voted 9-to-7 to strike Rep. Underwood’s comments. The nine votes in favor were cast by Republicans. Ten Democratic committee members were not present for the vote.
“My former congressman is [Dan] Lipinski [D-Western Springs], who is a Blue Dog Democrat and would never have made those remarks and would likely support the secretary’s requests,” said McCann, who lived for many years in Illinois’ 3rd Congressional District. “There is no question that Ms. Underwood was coached by the Democratic leadership to engage in this ignorant strategy of insisting on yes or no answers. Secretary McAleenan’s ‘appalling’ response was appropriate, and the ranking members’ insistence of comments struck from the record also was appropriate.”
AVIAC is a national organization of family members of those killed by illegal alien felons and represents thousands of grieving families across the nation. The organization’s goal is to obtain justice by advocating for secure borders and end sanctuary cities, e-verify, chain migration and other pro-illegal immigration practices.
“We at AVIAC support Secretary McAleenan’s budget requests simply because Border Patrol needs more resources to protect lives and to secure the homeland,” McCann, who monitors congressional hearings for AVIAC, said. The hearing was over the Trump administration’s request on DHS’s behalf for more funding.
Six migrant children, most from Guatemala, have died in federal custody since last fall in the midst of a record-setting surge of migrants pouring across the border, straining border security forces and resources. Homeland Security has ordered children who end up in federal custody be given medical exams and additional screenings at the border but the White House reported last month that the surge in illegal immigration is worsening the crisis at the border.
The heated exchange between Rep. Underwood and the acting DHS secretary underscores the need for better leadership at the national level, particularly in the Democrat-controlled U.S. House, McCann said.
“One very obvious solution to this crisis is to send Ms. Underwood back home, along with 20 or more open-border Democrats, and elect men and women who clearly understand the seriousness of this crisis, think for themselves and know a thing or two about economics,” he said.