Reported by Sharyl Attkisson / @SharylAttkisson / April 11, 2017
In the debate over illegal immigrants, sanctuary cities, and walls, there’s a great deal of existing policy undergoing re-examination. Last month, two young men, one 17 and one 18, who allegedly entered the country illegally and were enrolled in the ninth grade were charged with raping a 14-year-old girl at Rockville High School in Rockville, Maryland.
I spoke with Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, about why he views the case as one of national importance.
Attkisson: What is the basis for your concern about what is really a local case?
Sen. Ron Johnson: Well, it’s a local case caused by federal government policy in terms of not enforcing immigration laws. And immigration laws are creating incentives for children to come in from Central America, but let’s also take a look at the reality of this. Of unaccompanied children, two-thirds are older than 15 years old. Two-thirds are males. Only 18 percent are less than 12 years old, so the unaccompanied children really aren’t children, they’re young males, some of them are young men.
In this case, you had a 17- and 18-year-old … one from El Salvador, one from Honduras, who brutally and repeatedly raped a 14-year-old girl because they were in ninth grade with her. The fact is, that once you get here as an unaccompanied child–and that’s any, I guess unless you’re 18, you’re a child–you get to stay here. You get a notice to appear, you don’t even set a court date, those types of tragedies, that tragedy with that 14-year-old girl could have been prevented if we really enforced our laws and if we end these incentives for illegal immigration.
Attkisson: The rapes at this point are just an allegation, obviously there will be a court process for this.
Sen. Johnson: Yes.
Attkisson: And one of the lawyers, I believe, said that his client had a consensual meeting in the bathroom with the young girl.
Sen. Johnson: A 17-year-old, 18-year-old young man does not have consensual sex with a 14-year-old girl in ninth grade. I’m sorry, that is not a defense.
Attkisson: What are some of the questions that you’ve posed?
Sen. Johnson: Well, I want the alien file … One of them is a majority age, and so we can get more information on that individual. I want to know exactly what ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement], what DHS [the Department of Homeland Security], Customs and Border Protection, anybody who had contact with this individual, what happened? I mean how did this individual end up in ninth grade in Rockville, Maryland, where he could … perpetrate this brutal crime?
Attkisson: In the end, if people look at this case and say, ‘You can’t punish the honest illegal immigrants who come here and need to be in school while their case is being adjudicated just because there are some bad ones.’ What would you say?
Sen. Johnson: I don’t want to punish people who are here innocently, or legally. But the fact of the matter is we have got to take a look at our laws that incentivize– for example, people spend a year’s worth of their salaries in Central America and send their daughters on a very dangerous journey. Some of them don’t get here in time. Some of them get caught up in human trafficking. They get sold as sex slaves. A lot of really bad things happen because the incentives we create in our law.
So, we have to take a look at our law and those incentives, and our goal should be to stop the flow. We’ve just continued to have the surge. Last year was almost as high as the crisis year of 2014, it just wasn’t making headlines and so it just [went] unnoticed, so we’ve become very good at apprehending, processing, and dispersing, and we dispersed two young men, 17- and 18-year-olds into Rockville, Maryland, where they brutally, repeatedly raped a 14-year-old girl. We need to understand that reality, and we have to end that.
I know there are crimes committed by U.S. citizens and people in this country legally, but you know we can prevent some of these other[s]. It’s small comfort to a widow or a 14-year-old girl to say, ‘Well, other people commit crimes, too.’ We should try and address what we can address and we should end this … lax enforcement. And this administration is definitely committed to doing so.