tv Politics Public Policy Today CSPAN May 12, 2015 9:00am-11:01am EDT
captioning performed by vitac >> the answer to your question is yes. they plan to speed it up. >> thank you. >> senator whitehouse. >> thank you. we can welcome, secretary johnson. thank you for your work on immigration enforcement and express my regret we could not pass the bipartisan immigration reform bill through congress entirely that would have i
think, would have made things clearer and simpler and responsibility for the immigration mess we're in now lies with congress not with you, and with congress for failing to pass the senate's bipartisan bill, which i was strong supporter of. i would like to talk about cybersecurity. there is going to be cyberweek on the senate floor. there is work in the house. we have bipartisan bills pending on information sharing between federal agencies and the big communications providers. on agency public reporting on the cyberthreat to increase public awareness of coordinating national notification when companies have data breaches. and updating some of the criminal penalties.
when we first were working on comprehensive cybersecurity legislation, another main piece of this effort was on the critical infrastructure piece. what i hear quite widely is that the dhs led framework process that has pulled together a great number of critical infrastructure industry sectors is going very well. as a result of that there is no immediate pressure for legislation in that area. there may not be an immediate need for legislation in that area, but of all the different areas that i mentioned, where there will be legislation, protecting our privately owned critical infrastructure is probably the most significant
national security element. so i'm interested in getting your assessment of how that framework process is going, and when you think it might be appropriate for congress to begin looking at legislating in that area. i expect that the executive process will yield recommendations as to what should be done next, and i don't know what time frame you feel you are on towards that goal. >> senator, as i'm sure you know, the framework process was in lieu of any effort to legislate i share your assessment and what you're hearing. that the framework process has been going well. it has been well received in the private sector and seems to be working pretty well.
i also want to applaud those in congress who were active in cybersecurity legislation. i am largely very supportive of the bill that passed the house last week, sponsored by chairman mccall and others. i think that frankly some legislation is better than no legislation. and i think that information sharing between the private sector and the government is crucial. any efforts by the congress to promote and endorse that is crucial. i also believe that a form of immunity limitations from civil and criminal liability for those who share cyberthreat indicators with the department is crucial and i believe that a national data breach notification requirement is also very important. and i'm pleased that we are active legislatively in those areas. >> that leaves us with critical
infrastructure. >> in terms of your precise question, i haven't thought about it the way you asked it. i want to -- i think it is a thoughtful question worth -- worthy of a thoughtful answer. let me consult -- i'd like to consult my mppd community. and get to a thoughtful answer to that. >> okay. i do think that there is a bipartisan sense that the framework process has been effective, has achieved significant national security goals, and has enjoyed the support and cooperation of the private sector. all of that is the good news part. the question is is it enough and is there a time when really implementing on it will require action from congress and how far out you see that coming because obviously when it is as important of the protection of critical infrastructure, we want to be able to act pretty rapidly
and so being prepared, if it is going to be next year a lot of conversation that has to take place on this issue again, very strong bipartisan support, but not an easy one. and so a preview of coming attractions would be very good. my second question is in the same area and i'd like to ask you and maybe even urge you to consider what does structure in the executive branch for addressing our cybersecurity concerns looks like. there is an awful lot of division and sequestration in the old sense, not the budget sense of effort during the department of justice. it is divided into two separate sections, criminal and national security, on the investigative
side, it is divided between fbi and secret service with other agencies having even smaller pieces. if you look at the data you have the end kick, which is a well regarded facility, the fbi has the ncihtf, the administration has just announced its -- what are they calling it cyberthreat intelligence integration center. and from the -- from our side of the legislative executive divide, this looks a lot like multiplicity and confusion and when you consider the scope of the cyberthreat, the fact that we have an agency like dea that is dedicated exclusively to narcotics trafficking, and we have an agency like atf that is dedicated exclusively to alcohol, tobacco firearms and bombs and no specific dedication of a single agency to this rapidly emerging and very
persistent and dangerous cyberthreat, i just think we have more work to do to set up the administrative structure that is going to allow us to be most effective at doing this. i urge you to consider that and work with omb and dmj to think five years ahead. every six months, mr. secretary, there is a new wrinkle in the administrative process for doing this. and some new announcement is being made about some new agency or some new feature and i think we need a long-term strategy. i don't think we have it. >> thank you, senator winehouse. i would share that concern. i know as you know the defense department is conducting a major review of their cybersecurity vulnerabilities. we'll have to spend a lot of money on that. it goes throughout the entire government and the more we coordinate our effort to learn how to technologically protect
our systems, i think we save money and make america safer place. so thank you for -- >> to echo your point, on the military side they have cybercommand. and they really have set up with two four stars on top of it a very coherent administrative structure for taking the cyberissue and making sure that it is addressed in a direct and comprehensive way. if you take that clarity of structure in the military side and you move it over, try to apply it to law enforcement, it is very scattered. i know there are lots of turf issues and all kinds of stuff, it doesn't look like we have got it right yet. thank you, chairman. >> thank you. >> chairman, may i comment. >> briefly and we'll go to senator -- >> i understand. i look forward to the senator's questions. as the former lawyer for the united states military i think that first time i've heard of anyone refer to the dod structure as having clarity of structure. that's pretty good news. >> on cyber ift does.
>> i look at it this way the department of homeland security and our end kick is intended to be the interface the primary interface of the federal government with the private sector. now, we have as i think your question implies a number of different law enforcement agencies involved in investigating cybercrime, and a number of different agencies including dod, nsa, cybercommand dealing with cybersecurity generally offensively and defensively. so i came into office, i looked at all of that, much the same way you look at it, and what i have committed to do with my cybersecurity counterparts is -- and i know them well, i've known jim comey for 26 years. i know mike rogers because he used to be my client. i know jack lew, the commerce department wants a piece of this too. i have committed to my workforce and to them that we'll meet regularly, we'll work together,
because we don't want turf wars. turf wars are counterproductive and they don't serve anybody's interest, most of all the american public's. i believe we can and we should and we are working more effectively better and without the turf battles. a lot of it is due to personalities. if you have people at the top of these agencies who know each other and trust each other and work well together we can minimize the confusion and the inconsistency. i do recognize that there are a lot of agencies involved in cybersecurity. >> thank you. senator purdue. >> thank you, mr. chairman. mr. secretary, i just want to say for the record how much i appreciate your forbearance and courtesy earlier and our private meetings. and for your public service. a very difficult mission you've been given. in the spirit of oversight, i just like to ask a couple of questions, your predecessor secretary napolitano, in 13
talked about visa overstays. a big part of the -- large percentage of illegal immigrants in this country came into this country legally and just overstayed their visa. can you give us an update on that report? i think you mentioned something about this a year ago. can you give us an update on that report? >> i saw a preliminary report a while ago, which in my judgment lacked fidelity to be quite honest. and so i told my people i wanted them to go back and look hard at this issue and even if it means consulting people on the outside, let's give our best estimate at visa overstays, the work i've seen so far has not been satisfactory such that i'm prepared to give it to the congress or to give it to the american public as something i'm prepared to stand behind. so unfortunately and i know this has taken some time. it continues to be a work in progress, but i do want to get to the right answer. >> i appreciate that. can you give us a sense of when
we might expect to see that? >> i ask that exact same question to my people routinely, and i'm told that we're getting closer. >> i'll take that to be months and not years, is that reasonable? thank you. without getting into politics and the spirit of oversight, going back to the case in texas on the immigration issue the executive amnesty issue, there is a conflict between the injunction the judge put on that and the acts of the dhs and mainly the comments of the president. can you comment given that the president seemed to indicate he was interested in being prepared and that there were some 100,000 renewals done, i think in first three weeks that upset the judge and made a comment, the president responded can you just give us the clarity about what exactly the dhs is doing now, in relation to that case and being prepared for the
outcome? >> well, in reaction to the injunction which has not been stayed, we have shut down our implementation of the daca program and the expanded daca program. we did that very very soon after the injunction became known to us. we're in compliance with the court order and the things we're trying to put in place that we're putting in place will either be discontinued or they will be diverted to some other use that we have, principally within cis. but we're complying with the court's injunction because we have to. there is no stay. >> there is no -- there is no ongoing preparation for what you were doing originally or what we're planning to do originally under the original guidance? >> no, the implementation of the
program, which had begun after november 20, we have had to suspend. >> i see. >> let me go back to the game member issue. i just want to ask about a recent decision of the 4th circuit that involved removing gang members under the ina. i'm sure that -- well, in that case, individual gang membership may institute a protected characteristic that can entitle an individual to relief from removal or entitle them to asylum, the rational is, like, if you're an ms-13 for example might be in danger in your home country, if you renounce your gang membership, you turn states evidence and can't go back, it is pretty obviously we could be set up for significant fraud there. how do you interpret, you know, that ruling by the fourth circuit and has it changed any procedures ongoing in dhs?
>> i have to conves, i'mfess i'm not familiar with that fourth circuit decision. let me take that question for the record for you -- >> that will be great. we'll submit is in writing. that would be great. i would appreciate that. >> can you give us an idea of how you go about estimating the number of people that cross our southern border? i know that's a -- there is no accurate number and i know it was asked earlier today but is there an attempt, i know we have this big number calls, illegal immigrants we're monitoring, we have this study we're working on visa overstays, but in terms of the people that come in illegally, what are we doing in dhs to quantify that so you know how to deploy resources and this is, again, just an oversight not a political question. >> we have apprehensions, which in the judgment of the professionals is an indicator of total attempts to cross the border. so the report i issued last week talked about apprehensions. there is an attempt also to measure what the border patrol
calls turnbacks and getaways. and that number is one that i think we can do a better job of trying to quantify so that we get to total attempts to cross the border. i'm interested in getting to that number. and so i've consulted with outside experts. i've consulted with my own people about arriving at a way to measure total attempts. and there are various ideas out there, some of which are published, the council on foreign relations has done good work in this area, which includes surveys of people south of the border, and that their behavior might be, and so i'm interested in more transparency in this and more clarity when it comes to total attempts to cross the border. it is not an easy exercise.
and there is a certain unknown factor when it comes to people who evade capture, who evade apprehension and so i'm interested in getting to a better, clearer measurement of that. i agree with the sentiment of your question. in the absence of that total apprehensions i take as an indicator of total attempts to cross the border. >> i appreciate your approach. i appreciate your quantitative approach. when you get that information, would you share it with us at the appropriate time. we'll put that in a written record question as well. thank you for your service. mr. chairman, that's all i have. >> thank you. senator purdue here is an article on march from the -- i believe the washington time ss, maybe not it said talking about a house hearing on this question, a border patrol agent while testifying before a -- a homeland security panel of
secretary johnson's committee, indicated six out of ten aliens who attempt to infiltrate the united states through the u.s./mexico border are not apprehended. that's his estimate. he went on to say ask any line agent in the field and he or she will tell you at best we apprehend 35 to 40% of the illegal immigrants coming -- attempting to cross. this number is lower for drug smugglers who are much more adept at eluding capture. he said quote, agents who repeatedly report groups larger than 20 face retribution. management will either take them out of the field and assign them to processing detainees at the station or assign them to a fixed position and low volume areas as punishment and told the lawmakers, needless to say agents got the message and now stay below the 20 person threshold no matter the actual size of the group. mr. johnson you're the head
person on this entity, have you investigated this charge about agents being told not to have more than 20 to report more than 20 if they see more than 20? >> i've heard of that allegation. i've heard of that charge. i've looked into it. i don't have a specific answer to the suggestion. i will say this senator, i think that six out of ten is too high an estimate. and i base that on my own conversations with border patrol experts. i will also tell you this, sir. i spend a lot of time myself on the southern border with our men and women in uniform, in the border patrol because i want to hear directly from them what they say is happening on the southern borter. i'm not interested in intermediaries. >> well, have you met with chris crane, the head of the ice association? >> i've met with mr. crane too. >> how many times?
>> at least once in my headquarters office. i invited him to come in and i believe there is probably at least one other time as well. >> what about mr. polinkus? have you met with him? >> i don't recall that name. >> these are the top people. you have the lowest morale in the government in your agency. the reason is because they know you're not serious about supporting them in the mission that they have been given. they filed a lawsuit against secretary napolitano asserting they're being required not to follow the law. so look, we have got a problem. i know -- i'd like to have a nice conversation here. but this administration has been systematically seeking not to see the laws enforced, they're focusing more and more on ameliorating the concerns of people who enter the country illegally than they are on people who -- that come
lawfully. he also said this mr. cabrera did, in his testimony i want to be crystal clear that border is not secure. how can this enormous gap exist between what you, dhs tells you here in washington and what our agents know to be the truth in the field. frankly it is how you manipulate statistics, closed quote. and i think statistics are manipulated. you say we have more removals and big increase in removals, but you started counting, i believe before you took office, mr. napolitano started counting the turn arounds at the border as removals. they were never considered that before. without those you haven't had an increase in removals. you have a significant decline. and i think you acknowledged have you not that those -- that counting is a new system of accounting that accounts the
apprehensions at the border as removals. you admitted that or acknowledged that to mr. culver son in the house committee meeting. >> i'm not sure what you're referring to, sir. >> he asked you this. more than half of those removals i'm quoting representative culverson were attributed to ice are actually the result of border patrol arrests that wouldn't have been counted in prior administration administrations. mr. johnson, correct? >> sir, i have learned from 30 years of cross-examineing witnesses that if i'm to answer such a question, i think i want to see the q & a before and after. >> well, look -- isn't it the truth? haven't you all been entering a new thing under -- in recent years to start counting both? you don't know? >> sir, i do know this -- >> you're the secretary. you should know that you changed
the standards. i've got a chart here somewhere, that show the actual numbers. actual removals on the ice chart show border patrol numbers along with ice. that increases the numbers. it is about 300,000. only 100,000 are what were classically called removals previously. >> may i read you something? this is one of my -- this is one of my directives from november 20th. /you'll just bear with me a second. >> the chart i looked at was on ice chart of 2014 september 20th, 2014 when you were in office. >> i've heard the suggestion of double counting and if there is double counting that obviously should not happen. one of my directives from november 20 is i'm directing the office of immigration statistics to create the capability to
the secretary data reflecting the numbers of those apprehended, removed, returned or otherwise repatriated by any component of dhs and to report that data in accordance with the priorities set forth above. i want our components to cooperate with this effort. i intend for this data to be part of the package of data released by dhs to the public annually. >> i appreciate that. but let me tell you what is happening. you can call this double counting or not. border patrol apprehends people at the border and they're sent back and they count those. ice used to only count what they did from the interior. now they count that plus the border patrol. that's the fact and without those additional numbers, they don't show the improvement that the department has been declaring. with regard to streamline that you were asked about this is really important mr. secretary.
secretary of homeland security janet napolitano said operation streamland line has proven effective. it is a program where people when they're caught at the border are prosecuted for the offense of entering the country. they are convicted of misdemeaners. they aren't kept in jail a long time, but they have a conviction on their record. that was a belief it may deter more people from coming and it was the right thing to do since it violates the law. in the del rio sector after this was done, overall apprehensions declined from 42,000 to 17,000. in 2008, attorney general michael mukasey said, quote, the program has an unbelievable return effect in the secretarier from october through december of 2008 the department of justice prosecuted over 1200 cases as a consequence, apprehension rates dropped nearly 70%.
we see both statistically and anecdotally is that when people who cross the border illegally are brought to face the reality that they are committing a crime, even if it is just a misdemeanor, that has a huge impact on their willingness to try again and on the willingness of others to break the law coming across the borders. in fiscal year 2007 former homeland security secretary chertoff noted that rates dropped 70% after operation streamline. recently the president of the border patrol union for the yuma sector said, quote, operation streamline is one of the last strongholds we have as a deterrent. so have you talked to the department of justice to attempt
to restore this and actually expand it? and if the number of people are coming has reduced, it would be even more effective and more practical to initiate these kind of prosecutions. you have to defend your agents, these are crimes, i think you should demand on the department of justice prosecute them. >> senator, i speak to the department of justice all the time about how we are enforcing our emigration laws. i know our apprehension numbers are down this year in every sector. including arizona, including texas, and in my view that's a good thing. i think it is a good thing as a result of a number of different efforts including our law enforcement efforts and additional resources on the southern border our efforts at public messaging the good help we have received from the central american governments and from the government of mexico. in fact, our apprehension
numbers are down -- >> why don't you continue this program that everybody has bragged on so consistently as having a real impact, as much as 50% reduction in attempts in the sectors where streamline -- why don't you do that? is there some reason you don't want to do that? used to be done? >> i don't know that prosecuting every mom with a young woman with a young child crossing the border for a federal crime is the way to go. i do believe that the more effective way to go is to focus on the smugglers focus on the coyotes, who are bringing these people across. nobody freelances. they're all brought at the hands of a criminal smuggling organization. so i want to get at the source and that's what we're doing. >> well, secretary chertoff said it dropped nearly 70%. others have said high numbers, even secretary napolitano has bragged on the program.
senator flake on the border, his predecessor, senator kyle thought this is one of the most effective things that has ever been done on the border. and you allowed it to stop. i guess you could blame secretary -- attorney general holder, but if you haven't complained about it, i don't see how you can blame him. i'm sorry. senator, you've arrived, thank you. i'll yield to you. and maybe the secretary could respond if he would like to. i don't mean to cut you off. >> my point is this senator we work with the department of justice all the time on the most effective and efficient way to enforce our immigration laws. what we determine to do last summer was to go after the smugglers. everybody who crosses is paying the smugglers thousands of dollars per person to do this. they don't freelance. and so we determined to go after the coyotes, go after the smugglers and i think that made a difference, sir. >> i have no doubt -- i don't know why you waited so long.
>> thank you senator sessions. and thank you, secretary johnson for your service and for your testimony today. and for the chance to continue our conversation on a number of issues. let me first start with cybersecurity as legislation is being considered on the administration, if i understand correctly, has issued a statement of policy supporting the goals of cyberinformation legislation. but warning that more needs to be done to protect the privacy of americans so that the current cybersecurity bill does not become a foreign surveillance and intelligence bill. can you expand on that and talk a little bit about how you view the department of homeland security's proper role in preventing personal user information from being shared with the nsa or cia? >> through the proper -- this is a balance through the proper
screening of pii, of -- >> personally identifying information. >> yes. sorry. i don't normally use acronyms. the proper screening of them but in as near real time as possible because we also need speed, the interagency wants and needs speed. and we're developing systems now that can screen out the personal identifiers while getting the information our interagency partners need. i also know that cyberthreat indicators, which is what we're most interested in rarely have what we would -- what you or i would consider personal identifiers in them. but if they do, they should be screened out. we're working on getting both the speed and limiting the dissemination of personal identifiers from the agencies that should not get them.
and so that's a project that i'm focused on irrespective of whether or not congress acts on legislation, but i really hope that you do. >> does the agency currently have the resources to do both of those? to screen out all the personally identifying information and share appropriately -- >> on a project right now at the end kick to promote exactly that and get us in a better place on exactly that. >> that's encouraging. i appreciate your ongoing focus on privacy as a critical component of our security. when you are last before our committee, june of last year, we discussed three topics specific to immigration and due process where i would like an update on where we are so far. first, you recognize the legitimate law enforcement concerns around enforcement actions happening near courthouses, immigration enforcement at or near a courthouse undermines public safety and impedes access to justice by sending the message that going to court is dangerous for those who might be here in
an undocumented status because it can lead to deportation. has the department clarified its procedures on courthouse enforcement yes, we have a policy. i confess i haven't looked at it in a while. i know that ice considers a courthouse to be -- i won't get the words exactly right, protected space or special place. there are -- and i believe there should be exceptions for genuine public safety threats, but we do have a policy. >> we also discussed -- >> we do have a policy. >> i would appreciate some follow-up on that if we could, mr. secretary. we also discussed nighttime and lateral repatriation. you said you were working with the mexican government on this and acknowledged the dhs policy since 2004 has been against the needless separation of families. and i wondered if dhs had ceased the practices of lateral and nighttime
nighttime deportations. >> as a result of discussions that i had with the mexican government last year, we now have a steering committee in place between the u.s. and the mexican governments to better coordinate repatriations to designated places, that designated hours. we do not have a policy of separating families. i don't think that's a good idea. i want to discourage that. that is not part of our policy. can i envision an exception or two for logistics reasons, yes. but since last year, we have moved away from night repatriations and we're working now with the mexican government, much more effectively at identifying for them when we return people, working with them, to do so in a more controlled way. >> thank you. and third area in this general topic, we discussed previously providing what are called the a-files to immigrants facing deportations so they don't have to spend time going through the
foia process. you said you would look into that and i didn't know whether dhs had begun to routinely provide a files to aliens and deportation proceedings, something that we had agreed in that previous exchange about it would be frankly in the interest of justice, reduce the time and cost of deportation proceedings. >> i do know -- i do know we now have a -- i do know we have a policy on that. we also have a policy concerning congressional requests for a-files. sitting here maybe this is because it is -- it's been a while, but sitting here -- >> i recognize i'm the last question. >> i can't remember exactly what the policy is. let me get you that for the record. >> please do. i would appreciate both follow-up and some clarity about what the department needs to get us to a place where you're following what i think is the appropriate process here. let me move to u.s. versus
texas, executive agencyctions. >> that one i haven't forgotten about. >> i suspect you haven't. you may have had vigorous exchanges on that. i want your response to the factual findings and legal conclusions, the texas judge made in blocking temporarily your efforts to use prosecutorial discretion to enforce our law, more sensibly, efficiently and justly. the court ruled your directives would have foreclosed dhs discretion to adjudicate each case on its merits. did your directives actually foreclose your discretion and what about that of dhs employees? >> as i noted earlier, in at least two places judge hainan said in his opinion that the discretion of the secretary to decide how to devote his resources, where to focus his resources should be unquestioned. he did say that.
as part of -- and the district judge seems to feel that the -- seems to believe that the policy is an across the board hands off for a whole class of people. way the new policy is set up and the way it is written and i wrote it, it is to be a case by case assessment whether somebody represents a threat to public safety border security, national security, and, in fact there is written into the policy something that did not exist in the old policy the daca policy. among the criteria for consideration by an examining officer is, in addition to having this person being in the country, does the applicant present any other factors that in the exercise of discretion makes the grant of deferred
action inappropriate. that's an additional factor. so i want to encourage a case by case assessment of each applicant to see whether or not they are appropriate for prosecutorial discretion. i know that there is a lot of disagreement in congress on this committee, about the appropriateness of deferred action. i think back to when i was a prosecutor, we used to enter into deferred prosecution agreements with individuals based on a case by case assessment. and so i think this is an extension of that. is it a large extension? yes. is it a potentially large pool of people? yes. but it is intended to be a case by case judgment. and i think that's part of the inherent authority of the secretary of the executive branch and the enforcement of our immigration laws. >> the court also ruled that the government would not suffer any
significant harm through delay through the impact of a temporary delay in your efforts. i just -- if i might mr. chairman, i would be interested in your answer to what impact this delay is having on the government, on individuals who would otherwise be qualified for deferred action, on our economy, any observations you care to make about the impact of delay. >> well, i know that there is a tremendous level of disappointment in the community. there was a lot of enthusiasm for the new program in the community. i saw it myself personally in places like chicago, los angeles, and so the injunction requires us to turn on a dime and shut down all of our implementation efforts which we have done. and i believe that this period while the program is enjoined, could have a lasting impact on the overall success of the
program because the community is confused there is uncertainty there is probably anxiety about going forward with something that is an item in litigation. so i think it -- i think it has created significant setback to the overall success of the program, and it is a -- as long as the injunction is in place, a huge uncertainty overhanging cis' operations and ability to function. the stay application is, i believe, last time i looked, still pending with the 5th circuit and we'll see how they -- >> would the chairman suffer through one more quick question? as we have discussed before, dhs' assistance to state and local law enforcement is critical to our work together to combat terrorism and extremism, to keep our community safe. i just wondered if you thought there were any areas where you believed dhs assistance and support to state and local law enforcement was deserving of our
particular attention. i want to thank the chairman for his indulgence in my last question. >> i think that cooperation, information sharing with state and local law enforcement given how the global terrorist threat is evolving is becoming more and more important. i think it is key that because. the threat of the independent actor, the so-called lone wolf, who is not somebody that our intelligence community will necessarily detect overseas, it is crucial that cops on the ground and local law enforcement see what we see in terms of potential terrorist threats to our country. we issued -- we issue almost on a weekly basis now joint intelligence bulletins to local law enforcement. we issued a pretty significant one last week. i was just with the commissioner of police of the city of boston yesterday, talking about the exact issue and i think it has to be the wave of the future in
terms of working with partnering with state and local police and law enforcement. >> i appreciate your attention to that. i thank you for your answer and i thank the chairman's forbearance for that question. thank you, mr. secretary. >> senator coons, the 9/11 commission issued a list of recommendations after that terrible day when they did their report. one of them is we have a biometric exit/entry system. we had that since 2002. it is not in effect today. if you do an ipad, iphone you put your fingerprint on it it reads it. it is very practical. a person coming in an airport to put their finger on, they have a visa for a certain number of days, and when they exit they should go out and put their hand on it and clocked out. so the exit visa has never been done. just last -- 9/11 commission says there is no way you can have control over visas if you
don't do that which is plainly true. and so we discussed it for years. it is a requirement of law. and it can be done. when can we expect it to be done mr. secretary? >> well, as i'm sure you know, senator, we have biometric entry now for large classes of travelers. i'd like to see us have biometric exit because i agree with you i think it promotes security. i think it is a good thing to have. i know it is a 9/11 commission recommendation. and it also involves a huge commitment in terms of resources to have this -- >> let me ask you. so the 9/11 follow-up commission follow-up report criticized the government, one of the most severe criticism was not implementing what they recommended a decade ago have you asked the congress for any
money? have you laid out a plan on what it would take to have an exit system that asks for the resources to get it done? >> i believe that we have at some point. and it is something that i would like to see get done. >> well i would hope you would send that. we'll review the record and i definitely think so, that we should do that and i'm glad you would agree. with regard to the sanctuary city problem we have got major cities los angeles chicago refusing to honor federal detainers on people who are in the country unlawfully just saying we don't apparently have any desire whatsoever to support the government in having an effective immigration system, and, in fact we're going to sabotage it. do you think that -- would you support legislation that would clarify ice detainers and make them mandatory. >> i don't believe that a
federal requirement that the local sheriff or police chief respond affirmatively to a detainer from the federal government is the appropriate way to go. i do agree with the spirit of your question. and that is why we are going to take a very aggressive effort to work with los angeles, chicago, philadelphia, new york san francisco, where i was last week, state of california, where i was last week, on this exact issue, because one of the reasons i think that we are having difficulty getting at the criminals is because of a lot of jurisdictions who are putting barriers on their ability to cooperate with us. >> i think it is an unbelievable affront to law. it is an actual assertion that they're going to sabotage the law enforcement in their cities. and not only do they have a different view about immigration that they're going to sabotage the enforcement of plain law,
now your ice director formal prosecutor, sarah saldana, when asked about the same question i asked you, if they shouldn't be made mandatory on the cities and she replied, thank you, amen, yes. so i understand after that she was apparently counseled and she issued a retraction of that. so was that your discussion with her? did you direct that she should back off that position? >> no, i wouldn't characterize it that way. she did issue a written statement the next day correcting her statement which i believe accurately and honestly reflects her own views. i don't know miss saldana well enough to know that i'm going to be able to get her to say something she doesn't believe. >> well, she works for you.
>> yes. >> and agents are saying what and doing what you tell them to do, even if it is in violation of law. so what about this problem of countries that won't accept repatriation or return of people who came illegally? senator specter had legislation on that. his basic view was, and which i think you have the power to do now, but would be mandatory, was if a country does not take back people who enter the united states unlawfully that they don't get -- to have any more admissions. that will send a message and that will end it. we have been dealing with china, i think as our number one problem, the biggest problem -- >> that was my exact conversation with the chinese three weeks ago. >> i know that. and i know you perhaps made a little progress.
but the memoranda of understanding, even with china seems to do little to actually fix this problem. it essentially only provides two individuals from the chinese government to assist with repatriation efforts that involve tens of thousands of chinese nationals. congress has provided a mechanism already, in law section 243-d, the immigration nationality act that permits you to notify the secretary of state of china or other countries, and there are others, and in return requires the secretary of state of the united states to stop granting visas to nationals of such countries. have you made any notification to any country that you intend to execute such a plan if they don't accept back the individuals who are to be deported? >> well i do believe that we in
the state department need to get with these countries and point out to them that they're slow in taking back the people we need to repatriate to them and them. and we have undertaken a campaign to do exactly that. i don't necessarily believe that we ought to suspend immigration travel from any of these countries because of this particular issue. i think that that is probably not the best way to go. >> why would they take them back? >> senator i have had some very blunt conversations with my chinese counterparts about this exact issue in beijing when i was there three weeks ago, for example. >> forgive me if i don't think you're going to have a big progress with china. i hope i'm wrong. it's happening and it's been going on for a decade or more, and people sitting in your chair have failed to execute and use the powers they have. all you have to do is tell china if you want further immigration to america, you're going to have
to take back these individuals. because it costs us a lot of money to either keep them in detention, keep them taken care of medical needs or we release them on bail and they disappear into the country and nobody's able to find them or deport them. it's just an unacceptable thing. it's just a part of international immigration policy, that if an individual from a country comes to the united states unlawfully, they should be able to be deported. with regard to the 287 g program, it trains local law enforcement to determine whether an individual they come up against, maybe within the prison system is what alabama did to find out if they're here unlawfully. to do it in a legal and constitutional way to be cooperative with the federal government. it was a good program. it was expanded and executed.
i touted it as a big success. but they removed this language from their website. since january 2006, a 287 g program is credited with identifying more than 304,000 potentially removable aliens, mostly at local jails, isis trained and certified more than 1,300 state local law officers to help enforce immigration law. an isis spokesman said this. expand isis's ability to initiate immigration enforceth actions against criminal aliens and those who fall within the ice civil immigration enforcement priorities. as such, the program act says a forced multiplier for the agency and enhances public safety in participating jurisdictions by identifying potentially dangerous criminal aliens and ensuring they are removed from the united states and not
released back into their communities. by the way, there was just a news report from the madison county huntsville area, saw prosecutor brassard an illegal alien had been convicted of murdering a police officer he was on the ground helpless pleading for his life, and he murdered him he committed suicide in prison. but i just would say if we really want to reduce those kind of incidents from happening then we've got to use the tools that we have. this administration systematically dismantled the program, cancelling agreements for law enforcement and slashing funding for the program largely because the amnesty advocates opposed it. they don't like it.
far too much action on behalf of this president and the secretary of homeland security responding to advocates for illegal immigration, then serving the lawful interest of the people of the united states. it just is. so today only 35 programs are existing. should have been expanded. so tell me that you believe it's a good program. should it be expanded? or do you want to helicopter to see -- to continue to see it wither on the vine? >> i believe the 287-g program is a good program in many respects. the biggest problem we have, senator, in terms of our ability to work with local law enforcement in removing criminal immigrants was the secure communities program.
239 jurisdictions i think i got that number right, were refusing to work with us or were imposing limitations on the ability to work with us. that's a big problem. so we ended the secure communities program and we replaced it with a new program that i believe resolves the political and legal controversy and it takes two to dance, so i'm now out there meeting with a lot of sheriffs a lot of police chiefs, a lot of governors and a lot of mayors to introduce them to the new program so that they will work with us again on immigration enforcement. >> well i just talked to some sheriffs and they're very willing to help. they're very critical of homeland security and the federal government for not protecting their communities. and even though some cities may refuse, others no doubt, would be willing to participate. and sheriff's departments would.
mr. secretary the whole tenor of this -- if anybody understands what's happening indicates that you're not demonstrating a will to see the law be enforced. >> i disagree. >> and if you'll send a clear message and utilize the tools that you have instead of undermining the tools that you have, i believe we could have a dramatic improvement in the amount of number of people who attempt to enter unlawfully. we could reduce dramatically visa overstays. at very little cost. and once the message gets out that you're not beginning to be able to come to the united states unlawfully, fewer and fewer people will attempt to come. >> that's, in fact, what's happening, sir. >> well, you are having a reduction, it appears at the border. we don't know how much. this agent says for everyone
apprehended, more than that gets by. particularly the drug smugglers. but so be it. we're going to have another surge according to your own agents this summer from central america, it appears. so i would like to see -- i don't think i'm being unfair about this. i've watched this for a long time. and i don't think i'm being unfair. this president has been focused on reducing the activities and lawful jurisdictions of your agents. the morale is in the tank. they are not happy with what's going on. and american people shouldn't either. and i think we should be stronger on secure communities. i believe, mr. secretary, you're right. that's a good program. and i don't understand -- it's almost to me like they don't understand it, or they just refuse to participate in it. to take fingerprints from somebody who's in the country unlawfully and send it to homeland security, maybe you would identify someone who has a
particularly violent history, or maybe you'll identify where they are in the future if they're arrested again at the border. you have information in that data. we do it for normal criminals. so i support you on that. i think you should not back down on it. and it's a very reasonable thing. i'll let you wrap up in any way you would like and the record will remain open for one week for additional questions. >> thank you, senator. and i do want to say something in conclusion. i have discovered that as the leader of an organization of 225,000 people, one of the ways to ensure that we continue low morale is to continually say to my work force you have low morale. and so the other week, there was a subcommittee on the house side
that wanted to have another hearing on low morale within dhs. and they called one of my people as a witness and they got a visit from me. and i said please stop telling my work force you have low morale. i don't believe that. i think that there are a lot of good people in dhs that are very dedicated to their mission, at the airports at the ports, at the border. i've seen it myself. they work overtime for public safety, for border security. for aviation security. i visited with a woman in new orleans who was almost killed by a deranged man who was shot in the arm and came to work the next day. that's the level of her dedication in our department. we are on an aggressive campaign to improve the experience of people in my work force. more transparency in hiring promotions mentoring experiences. i'm thanking people for their
work. we brought back our secretaries of words ceremony. but those who keep telling my work force that you have low morale are not helping frankly. and i want to improve things within the department. i want to make it a better, more efficient, effective place. i know you share that view, senator. and so i'm on an aggressive campaign to improve how our work force thinks about their very very important mission. and i'm hoping i get the support of congress in that. one of the things we're doing is pay reform. for immigration enforcement personnel. that's something i need congress's help on. because one of the things i hear from them is we're capped at gs-9. we need a pay raise. i want to get them a pay raise. we reformed pay for overtime for our border patrol agents and we want to do more of that, so i'm looking for the support of
congress on that. >> look, it was before your time. i raised the question with secretary napolitano over a series of years. i asked her for example had she even met with chris crane the head of the immigration customs enforcement offices association. she'd never met with him. i ask her every time she came before the committee, and she refused to meet with him. and the problem has not been pay, although i'm sure they'd like to have more pay. the fundamental problem is they're not being supported, if they actually enforce the law and do what the law says. they're told by their supervisors not to do so. you've got this officer under oath before committee recently in the senate saying that they're told not to report groups of 20 or more people. that's the kind of thing i've been hearing for years before you came.
so i suggest that you need to be listening to their agents and get on their side and try to help them fulfill their legal obligation and your obligation. instead, we're being led by a president who's unlawfully giving amnesty to people who entered the country by the millions, entered it illegally. that's where we are. so thank you for -- i'll let you reply again. >> i met with chris crane. but more importantly, i've met with hundreds of people that he represents. who are on the border. who work for me. and i consider that to be a fundamental part of my job as the leader of this organization. >> well, you know, i indicated to you when you came it was going to be a difficult job. i believe what i shared with you was you're not going to be allowed to do what you're supposed to do. if you take this job.
this president does not want to see the immigration laws enforced. that's what's happened. the officers know it. everybody that studies it realizes that you're not moving aggressively to help them end illegal immigration. and as a result, we've got this difficult problem out there. you're a good man. you've got good abilities. i do believe you care about your officers. and you are right, we have a lot of fine talented people. it's just a level of frustration out there that i hope you'll spend some time listening to and see if you can't respond to. thank you very much. >> thank you. >> take care. we'll dismiss.
here are a few of the book festivals we'll be covering this spring on c-span 2's book tv. this weekend we'll visit maryland for live coverage of the gaithersburg book festival with mark davis and martin frost, as well as david axelrod, and we'll close out may at book expo america in new york city, where the publishing industry showcases their upcoming books. on the first week in june we're live for the "chicago tribune" printer row lit fest, can lawrence wright and your phone
calls. that's this spring on c-span2's book tv. president obama will be at georgetown university at part of a summit on overcoming poverty. he'll discuss the issue with harvard public policy professor robert putnam and arthur brooks president of the american enterprise institute. that's part of a three-day meeting of civic religious, and political leaders and will be live here on c-span3 at 11:25 a.m. eastern. later in the day we're coffering the senate veterans affairs committee, which is holding another hearing on implementing changes in the way the v.a. handles veterans' health care and oversight of the department. that's on c-span3 at 2:30. now the economic effect of regulations on the seafood industry. during this hour and 20-minute hearing, we'll hear from fda and labor department officials as well as the owner of a seafood restaurant.
good afternoon. we're going to start our hearing today on the impact of federal labor and safety laws on the u.s. seafood industry. thanks for joining us today. we're going to be hearing from two panels of expert witnesses and stakeholders, a federal panel who i'll introduce in a minute, and a stakeholder panel. i want to thank all our witnesses who are here to testify on these important issues. as anyone who's visited louisiana knows, we enjoy great quality seafood and that plays a major role in our culture and our economy. and this is true for other states in the united states. it's an important part of our economy. in louisiana that seafood
industry supports 20,000 jobs in the state with an annual economic impact of over $1.7 billion. more regionally, the gulf states produce 70% of the nation's oysters, 69% of domestic shrimp, and are a leading producer of domestic hard and soft shell blue crabs. more broadly, the seafood 's industry is responsible for creating jobs and revenue that support so many families along the gulf, in alaska and elsewhere, including the east coast and the west coast. seafood processors in louisiana and across the gulf coast rely on seasonal foreign workers to fill the most labor-intensive positions throughout the sector. these workers come to the united states legally under the h2b visa program. this program is vital to many in the seafood business as many of these operations take place in small rural communities where access to a stable, reliable labor force can be extremely difficult. recently we've seen the
difficulty of compliance with this program increase, most notably the department of labor's decision to stop accepting private wage rate surveys which has often forced businesses to reallocate their financial resources. and that has been a big, big cost increase for these businesses. another area that requires attention is ensuring the safety of seafood that's being imported into the country. it is imperative that we ensure that foreign imports are playing by the same rules and regulations that our domestic producers operate under. that's one of the reasons i introduced the imported seafood safety standards act. this legislation increases inspection rates, quality standards, and penalties in order to protect american families. in closing, we need to make sure
that federal regulations of all types, like the two areas i've highlighted, do not unfairly and negatively impact our small domestic seafood providers. what washington bureaucrats often fail to realize is that their rule making can literally put some small businesses like domestic seafood producers out of business, so we need to focus on these and other regulatory areas. again, i thank everyone for being here today and i look forward to our discussion. with that i'll turn it over to our ranking member. senator shaheen. >> thank you, mr. chairman, and thank you to all of our panelists this afternoon for being here. as the chairman said, seafood is a big issue in my home state of new hampshire. just as it is in louisiana. even though we only have 18 miles of coastline, it is an industry that is important to
the state, both because of our tourism industry and the fishing -- the pleasure boat fishing that goes on off the coast of new hampshire, but also because we have not only a small fishing industry, but we also have a fish processing industry in new hampshire. and mr. chairman, in the interest of brevity and because i have to leave early, i'm going to submit my full statement for the record but i just wanted to raise a couple of concerns. one is not directly related to this hearing, but since we're talking about seafood, i feel compelled to talk about the concerns that we have in new hampshire and the northeast relative to the fishing quotas that have been set by the department of commerce, and specifically by noaa. over the past few years, the federal government has found that the declining levels of cod in the gulf of maine have been dramatic. there is some disagreement about
that among scientists and among the fishing industry, but they have set very dramatic, very low quotas that have almost totally decimated the fishing industry in new hampshire and, again, i appreciate that that's not the subject of today's hearing, but it is an issue that we are very concerned about and that i think it is something that we need to deal with because of its impact on our small business fishing fleet in new hampshire. the other issue that is relevant to today's discussion is one that is having an impact in new hampshire as well. and that is the impact of creating a separate federal program to remove catfish inspection authority from the fda. as some of you probably already know, the 2008 farm bill transferred the inspection of catfish alone from fda to the
department of agriculture, and it left the fda with the jurisdiction of all other seafood products. that means that all of our seafood processors that handle catfish will now be subject to two separate sets of regulations. this is a costly and unnecessary burden on these businesses. it will kill jobs and hurt economic development. and in fact, just the prospect of this regulation has put a freeze on job creation in some of those companies in new hampshire. one seafood company, highliner foods, which i have had the opportunity to tour, has put on hold the job expansion that they would like to do because of the uncertainty around these regulations. mr. chairman, i'd like to enter this letter from highliner foods, for the record. >> without objection. >> if i can. this duplicative regulation doesn't just affect the seafood industry. and it's not really about food safety, i believe.
i think it's an effort to set up trade barriers against foreign catfish that will dramatically affect not only the seafood processing business in new hampshire and this country but it also could put us open to challenge at the wto and trade retaliation against other agricultural industries. so, mr. chairman, i have been working with other members of the senate to try and repeal this duplicative program. i hope we can do that. i think it's unnecessary and i hope that we will have the opportunity to do that and to further discuss this, not just in this committee but when we get to the floor of the senate. so thank you, again, to our panelists for being here and i look forward to the discussion today. >> thank you, senator shaheen. >> we'll now go to our first panel of witnesses, our federal
panel. i'll introduce both, then we'll hear their testimony and have discussion following their testimony. dr. steven solomon is deputy associate commissioner for regulatory affairs at the fda. he was appointed to that in april 2014. prior to his appointment, he served in several capacities at the fda since 1990. dr. solomon holds a dvm degree from ohio state university and a masters of public health from johns hopkins university. and prior to joining the fda, he owned and operated a private veterinary practice. and he will be followed by miss portia wu, assistant secretary of the employment and training administration within the u.s. department of labor. she was appointed to that in april 2004 and she now leads
that employment and training administration with its mission to address our nation's workforce needs through high-quality training and employment programs. prior to that, she held a number of positions in public, non-profit and private sector situations, including serving at the white house on the domestic policy council, a special assistant to the president for labor and workforce policy. ms. wu holds a yale law school degree and a degree from yale college and a masters degree from cornell and is originally from albany, new york. welcome to both of you. and we'll start with dr. solomon. >> good afternoon. chairman vitter, ranking member shaheen, and members of the committee, i am dr. steve solomon, deputy associate director for regulatory affairs at the food and drug administration.
and i appreciate the opportunity to appear before you today, discuss the agency's ongoing efforts to oversee the safety of the u.s. seafood supply. fda has a strong regulatory program in place to ensure the safety of both domestic and imported seafood. in fact, the hazard analysis and risk preventive control framework of fda seafood safety program is a basis for the preventive controls requirements for other fda-regulated foods called for in the fda food safety moderation act, or fsma. the agency has a variety of tools to ensure compliance with seafood safety requirements including inspections of both domestic and foreign processing facilities, 100% electronic screening of all imported products, examination and sampling of domestic seafood, and seafood offered for import in the united states. domestic surveillance sampling of imported products. inspection of seafood importers and foreign country program assessments. in today's testimony, i want to discuss the fda's regulatory framework for overseeing the safety of the u.s. seafood supply, emphasizing the agency's risk-based efforts with regard to imported seafood. processors of fish and fishery products are subject to fda's
hazard analysis critical control point regulation. the regulation requires domestic and foreign processors of fish and fishery products to understand the food safety hazards associated with their process and product and require a preventive system to control for those hazards. every processor is required to have and implement a written haccp plan whenever a hazard analysis reveals one or more food safety hazards that are reasonably likely to occur. foreign processors who export seafood to the united states also have to have -- apply to the haccp regulation. in addition, haccp regulations require importers to understand the hazards associated with the products they are importing, and to take positive steps to verify that the obtained shipments from foreign processors who comply
with these requirements. in recent years, there have been reports of seafood in the united states being labeled with incorrect market names. fda's aware that there may be economic incentives for some seafood producers and retailers to misrepresent the identity of the seafood species that they sell to buyers and consumers. while seafood fraud is often an economic issue, we have heightened concerns when species substitution poses a public health risk. the agency has invested in significant scientific advancements to enhance its ability to identify seafood species using state-of-the-art dna sequencing. fda is actively working to transfer this technology which will enable the seafood industry and others to monitor and test their products to confirm the species purchased is correct. turning now to imports specifically, it is the
importer's responsibility to offer for entry into the united states a product that is fully compliant with all applicable u.s. laws. fda has numerous tools and authorities that enable the agency to take appropriate action regarding imported product. in recent years, the agency has significantly increased its number of foreign food inspections. furthermore, if fda requests to inspect a foreign facility, and is refused, fsma gave the agency the authority to not allow that facility's food submission into the united states. besides haccp inspection of foreign facilities, the agency also conducts surveillance of food offered for import at the border to check for compliance with u.s. requirements. fda reviews all import entries electronically prior to the product being allowed into the country. the agency has implemented an automated screening tool, the predict system, which
significantly improves fda screening of imported food. predict utilizes the admissibility history of the firm and/or a specific product and incorporates the inherent risk associated with the product. for example, a predict review includes the facility inspection history, data quality concerns, sample analytical findings. and type of product that the firm offers for entry into u.s. commerce. based on this electronic screening, the agency will direct resources to the most critical entries that have the greatest impact on public health. a subset of the import entry's flag may be physically inspected and/or sampled at varying rates depending on the type of the seafood product and risk factors described. another key regulatory tool for controlling imported goods is the import alert. import alert informed fda field personnel that the agency has sufficient evidence or other information about a particular product producer, shipper or
importer, to believe that future shipments of an imported product may be violative. on the basis of that evidence, fda field personnel may detain the article that is being offered for import in the united states without physically examining the product. the agency has over 45 active seafood import alerts that focus on imports from certain firms, products, and/or countries based upon past violations or public health concerns. an import alert shifts the burden to the importer to demonstrate that the product meets fda regulatory requirements. for example, fda imposed a countrywide import alert on five aquaculture species from china in june 2007 due to the presence of unapproved animal drugs. these entries are currently subject to private laboratory testing before they're allowed into domestic commerce.
finally, i'd like to note that the fda's working globally to better accomplish its mission to promote and protect the public health of the united states. as one example, the agency has conducted foreign country assessments to evaluate the country's laws for and implementation of good agriculture practices. fda uses the information from country assessments to target better surveillance sampling of imported aquaculture products, informed the planning of foreign seafood haccp inspections, provide additional evidence for potential regulatory actions, and approve collaboration with foreign government and industry to achieve better compliance with fda's regulatory requirements. in closing, oversight of the safety of the u.s. food supply continues to be a top priority for fda. the agency has a strong regulatory program in place for seafood products. we'll continue to work with our domestic and international partners to ensure the safety of both domestic and imported seafood. thank you, again, for the
opportunity to appear before you today, and i'd be happy to answer any questions. >> thank you very much, doctor. now we'll hear from ms. wu. welcome. >> thank you. chairman visitor, ranking member shaheen, members of the committee, thank you for having me here today to discuss the h2b program and the seafood industry. my name is portia wu, and i'm the assistant secretary at the employment and training administration at the department of labor. together with the department of homeland security we administer the h2b program. the h2b program allows employers to meet legitimate needs for temporary foreign workers and the department takes very seriously its statutory responsibility to administer
this program and to ensure that u.s. workers have meaningful access to these job opportunities, that their wages and working conditions are not adversely affected. these efforts also help protect foreign-born workers from exploitation. the department recognizes the vital role the h2b program plays for the seafood industries. many seafood employers are multigenerational family-owned businesses and they're a source of cultural pride in coastal areas. the jobs these businesses provide are critical to local communities and create additional jobs in other related industries. and, mr. chairman, as you referenced, these businesses are often a remote or rural areas and they can struggle to attract and retain a sufficient workforce necessary to provide seafood products for the united states and for the world. thus, many do depend on temporary workers, including temporary foreign workers. over the last five years, employers in some of the largest seafood producing states, like louisiana and maryland were
among the top ten users of the h2b program. last year, approximately 55% of the seafood jobs certified by the department of labor were located in the gulf coast states, ranging from shrimp boat deck hands in texas to seafood and crawfish processors and packagers in louisiana. we understand that seafood employers and others are impacted by the current annual 66,000 number cap on h2 b workers. that cap is set by congress. and we are, again, seeing demand nationwide that exceeds that cap. the department is committed to maintaining a fair and reliable application process for those who use the program. last week, in order to quickly reinstate the h2b program and to bring continuity to that program, the department of labor and homeland security jointly issued two new regulations. one is an interim final rule establishing the overall framework for the h2b program. i should note it's open for public comment until june 29th. the other is a final updated wage rule that allows the use of private wage surveys in certain circumstances in keeping with the recent court decision. these rules immediately restore
the other is a final updated wage rule that allows the use of private wage surveys in certain circumstances in keeping with the recent court decision. these rules immediately restore processes for approving prevailing wage requests and labor certification applications so the program can continue to operate. they expand employer requirements for recruitment and consideration of u.s. workers. so united states workers have a fair shot at finding and applying for these jobs. it also permits employers in the seafood industry to continue to stagger the entry of their h2b workers into the united states. the regulations strengthen worker protections by clarifying employer obligations with respect to wages, working conditions and benefits that must be offered to h2b and u.s. workers alike. and finally, as i noted, the rules explicitly include the use of private wage surveys, which
were restricted by a recent court decision. and so we set guidelines for how these employers, these surveys can now be used. and that includes state surveys which are often used in the seafood industry. both the department of labor and dhs are trying to ensure a smooth transition between the former regulations and the new rules. first and foremost, anyone who had already applied under the old rules or who were in line does not have to change anything. they will continue to operate under the prior regulations. second, the new regulations allow an expedited process for employers who have a start date of need before october 1st, 2015. so people will have time to quickly transition. in conclusion, the department of labor strives to maintain an h2b program that's both responsive to legitimate employer needs where qualified u.s. workers are
not available. and to provide adequate protections for u.s. and foreign temporary workers. doing so is not only good for law-abiding employers, including employers in the seafood industry, but also for the many u.s. workers seeking jobs in fields that rely heavily on the program. thank you, again, for this opportunity and i look forward to answering your questions. >> okay. thank you. and we'll start with our questions. and let me begin with you on one of the topics you discussed directly. and that's private wage surveys. isn't it correct that the new rule you're describing greatly limits compared to past practice, greatly narrows and limits the use of private wage surveys? >> senator, it is true that in december last year, we had our previous rule allowed significant use of private wage surveys. that use was injoined by a court in december of last year. and the court's opinion lays out
a great deal of reasoning including concerns about how private wage surveys might undercut wages and some other reasons that, for example, surveys that use only entry-level wages are not permissible under the law. they found that to be a violation of the law. at that time, we had to immediately suspend the use of surveys because of the court's order. however, with our new rule, we allow surveys in limited circumstances. there are some, and again, it's in keeping with the court's order, we believe, where, for example, an occupation isn't well represented in the statistics. we also allow for state conducted surveys. many states do this. there are basic criteria in keeping with the court's order. for example, as i mentioned, you have to look at average wages in an industry not simply entry-level wages. but we believe this may be an opportunity for many in the seafood industry to take advantage of this provision. we actually, i was talking with some of your folks from louisiana today, and we were putting out some assistance next
week to explain to people how they can use these surveys. in the transition provisions, we also said that, for example, if you already got your certification but haven't brought your workers in and wondering can i go back and get a new survey wage as long as it complies with our basic criteria, we put in a provision to allow people to go back and adjust that wage. >> well, ms. wu, as you know, there's a lot of concern that the new system is too narrow and narrows the use of these surveys way beyond anything that would be absolutely required or demanded by the court. what's your reaction to that critique, which i think is a fair one? >> thank you, senator. i think we believe that the new provisions are in keeping with the court's order. i should note that the state provided surveys, frankly may be getting criticism from the other side going beyond what the court allowed. i do think it may be an avenue that industries, particularly the seafood industry could take advantage of and have taken
advantage of it in the past. >> does use of these surveys allow for recognizing differences which exist from one local area to others within the state? >> yes, senator, it could. it's up to the state as to what level of detail is conducted in the surveys. they certainly could provide a survey where there are differences in locality. obviously with different sorts of tasks in the industry. they would have different level of wages. and the department is not in the business of dictating how employers should pay their wage, or not. i know some employers, for example, use peace rate. they'll be able to continue doing so. >> okay. and dr. solomon, my understanding that in 2014, only about 2.77% of all seafood imports were inspected. do you think that percentage is
adequate? and if not, what does the fda plan to do differently? >> so the seafood safety system i described during my testimony is multi-facetted. so there's many components of it. first, it's putting the hazard analysis critical control point regulations in place which puts the burden on the processor to produce safe product. then we have oversight by doing foreign inspections of them. then we also conduct inspections of regulations by the importers. so the testing that takes place at the border is a verification activity or a surveillance activity to try and find, if there's any flaws in this system and how it's working and to identify them and verification activities. we test at different rates a sampling. so taking generic rates for seafood, we test higher rates for certain products, certain commodities, higher risk areas, and much higher rates than that
because we want to have additional verification for those particular aspects, which pose the greatest safety concerns. >> i understand all of that. i didn't mean to suggest by my question that you just do one thing. you just stop 2.77% at the border tested. so as part of that overall effort, do you think the net inspection rate of 2.77% is adequate? >> examination at the border at the verification activity at the rates we do, we think is a viable control measure in light of all of the other measures that we have in place. >> so you have no plans to increase it? >> with the resources we currently have, we would not just increase sampling testing. if the agency had additional resources, we would focus on all
the aspects of the framework -- >> why would you increase it if you have more resources? >> greater oversight in how the system's working, we would do more foreign inspections, importer examinations. but, again, not on a universal basis, on a risk basis. >> the level you do now is not optimal. >> we think we actually have very few food-borne illnesses associated with seafood products. but with more resources, the agency could do more. >> okay. i -- i'm just trying to understand you're suggesting it's adequate, but in the next sentence, you say you'd certainly do more with more money. >> so it's a risk basis in terms of looking at the products that are coming in. with additional resources, we could look at lower levels of risk. we're looking at the highest levels of risk now. >> a batch of actually tested
and rejected seafood imports has been simply shopped to another port of entry. what in your overall system today categorically prevents that? >> so we have a notification system. when we refuse an entry that electronic notification system not only notifies customs and border protection, but all the other fda district offices imports. >> and so how is that batch tagged indelibly so that that notification is meaningful so that those other ports can identify the same batch we're talking about. >> so as you may be aware, we've been looking -- working for many years to try to get a marking rule that would provide that marking of the product. that is not in place yet. but right now, we do notifications based off the data that we have on who the importer, is what the commodity line is, and make sure everyone
is aware about that shipment was refused. >> so if they -- there isn't a set marking rule. so if they change the packaging or any of the markings, they could very possibly get away with what i'm describing? >> the system is not foolproof. i agree with you. but we do do notifications. >> okay. well, i would suggest that's a bigger hole than simply saying it's not absolutely foolproof. but we'll pursue that. senator shaheen? >> thank you, mr. chairman. dr. solomon, as i said in my opening statement, i'm very concerned that we are in the process of setting up a new program under the department of agriculture to separate catfish out from all other seafood and
inspect them separately. i think it's duplicative, and i wondered if you could talk about the program that has been operating under fda, which up until now had the responsibility for inspecting catfish. can you tell us how it's functioned? and whether or not catfish consumption has posed a risk to public health? is there a reason to set up a separate program? >> so the last part of the question, catfish is not one of the species that we particularly target. controls in place that have been adequately controlling issues associated with catfish. >> so, and just to be clear, it's not the fda or the department of labor or -- usda
that has set up this program separately. it was congress that did this. and the farm bill. but there wasn't a safety risk to human health from catfish that triggered this effort. is that how you would analyze the situation? >> i'm not aware of any specific safety hazards unique to cat fish. >> thank you. and i know it may be hard for you to put a cost figure on the inspection of catfish under the fda jurisdiction that it may take you some time to come up with that. it's my understanding that right now the usda's catfish inspection program, it's estimated that it will cost about $14 million a year to operate. so i'm going to ask you to take for the record and try to get
for this committee the cost of the inspection of catfish under fda jurisdiction if you would. >> we'd be happy to provide that back to you. >> okay. thank you. miss wu? >> i appreciate the fact that the department is in a challenging position relative to how to make the visa program work given that we have not yet taken up comprehensive immigration reform, which would go a long way towards addressing this challenge. but in the meantime, we do have small businesses in my state, we heard from the chairman in louisiana who are using the h2b program, and are confused about how the new rules will affect their business. so can you talk a little bit about how you're addressing outreach to the small businesses
affected? >> absolutely, senator. as i noted, we have a bunch of fact sheets on our website. we're also doing some sort of webinars and outreach next week to talk with people. we always -- we have frequent listening sessions. we recognize the use of this program by small business. we're happy to answer any questions. we have very detailed questions about, you know, if i already submit in my application what happens to me now. and i think as i've noted, for people who have already admitted their application for this whole court case in april, they can just keep going along. they got approved, they can keep going along, running the program the way they were going to do it this summer. there will be changes in the future. for those who want workers before october 1st, we put in sort of expedited protsz. as you may know, dhs administers the cap, but the cap was hit fairly early this year. but we continue to process requests for labor certification because there are some
exceptions. we're happy to answer any questions. we are doing outreach to small businesses. >> and so when you advise those webinars that you're doing, do you notify small business administration so they can get out, get it out to the small business development centers to share that with other businesses around the country? how do you get the word out that you're doing those kinds of webinars? >> well, first and foremost, we use the contacts list we have of the users of the program. we focus on the contacts we have. but if you have other suggestions or if you're concerned about the employers in your state. we'd be happy to conduct. who follow these regulations closely. we make sure to get the word out to them. and we have regular listening sessions with them to hear about their concerns. i will note that the new comprehensive rule is an interim rule.
we took comments on a similar rule in 2011, 2012, made some changes in part, in recognition of the concerns of small business. we are taking comments, again, and we very much welcome people's comments on how we can improve the program and make it usable for them. >> if anybody has applied for h2b visas in the past, will they get a notification of proposed rule changes? of various outreach efforts that you're doing automatically because they're on your list? >> they should. they should. i will check with my operations. >> behind you, they're nodding. so hopefully that means that any new hampshire company that's applied in the past will get those notifications. >> yes, that's our hope. >> thank you very much. >> thank you. next is senator ayotte. >> thank you, chairman.
i wanted to follow up on the question that senator shaheen had asked dr. solomon about the catfish program. as far as i can tell, the u.s. fda handles seafood inspections for all other forms of seafood, correct? >> that is correct. >> and so there's no reason why you couldn't continue to handle independently the inspection as you did before congress on its own, created this duplicative inspection regime, which is actually a low-risk species, correct? >> we are currently, since that rule's not in effect yet, we are currently handling all of the catfish inspections. >> and in the end, as i understand it, it's been interesting to me, we have nine gao reports on this topic. and those nine reports consistently recommend eliminating the newly created by congress usda program that as i understand, you wouldn't know
the numbers, but as i understand has already spent $20 million, not one fish has been inspected. obviously the fda has handled the inspection of seafood for a long time. and here we are in the congress going to already spend another usda trying to stand up, duplicative inspection. already spent $20 million on it. it's going to cost usda, the estimate is $14 million a year. to continue doing what you already do quite well. so i don't know if you've had a chance to look at these gao reports, have you? >> i've not nine of them, but i have read some. >> and do you agree that you can handle the inspection of cat fish? we don't really need another office to inspect catfish? >> the programs worked effectively as far from fda's perspective. >> right. so this is a great example of government run amuck truthfully. the notion that we already have the fda doing its job,
inspecting seafood, and to carve out just catfish so that we can spend millions of dollars more to have the usda have another office inspecting catfish, which you're already doing quite well for one species of fish. you know, these are the kinds of things i think people look at washington and they say, what are y'all doing down there? so i really hope, you know, that we will have some common sense on this and allow you to continue to do what you've been doing historically rather than creating another continuing to plunk millions of dollars into a duplicative program. i also want to follow up on the h2b issue. i share, obviously, i serve in new hampshire with senator shaheen. and what i have heard in new hampshire, many of our seasonal businesses depend on these workers.
as we look to the application process next year, you know, given that this is, people have to plan on what their workforce needs are. >> thank you, senator. it has been frustrating. i know. it's been frustrating for us trying to run a program. i'm sure it's been frustrating and frightening for a lot of small businesses when these court decisions come along and halt us from doing something we have been doing. and the program, they could suspend this. it has really been very difficult. that is why we asked for a stave of the court sword so we could keep running the program this spring. and now we've issued comprehensive rules even though
the department of labor believes we have the authority to do this on our own. because of the legal challenges, we jointly issue these regulations with dhs. so i think we feel like we're at least insulating ourselves from that level of legal attack. unfortunately, we do continue to see attacks from all sides on this program. but we hope that brings some certainty and stability. and we also are trying to include some provisions that will make things easier over the long run for businesses using this program. >> well, i really appreciate that. because just the feedback i've gotten from businesses in new hampshire on the program is that under the administration, it's become more complicated, more difficult, more paperwork. and as i look at the new h2b interim rules on april 29th, more than 100 pages. and i see the burden on employers increasing. so i hope when you look at this that we need to decrease the burden on employers, not create more paperwork. especially when many of them, as you know, this is something that they do every year, and they've been in the program already. so thank you for being here today.
>> thank you. next, we'll go to senator cantwell. >> thank you, mr. chair. and dr. solomon, i wanted to ask you about russian pollock. last fall i sent a letter to the fda commission requesting to fix this labeling problem. the product from pollock and not just alaska pollock. the change would prevent russian pollock from being labored as united states alaskan pollock. we requested the change in 2011, now it's may 2015. do you agree the term would give consumers the impression that the product is from alaska? >> so the determination about the species naming is handled by our center for food safety and applied nutrition. they have what's called a seafood list.
i know your submission, that issue is before that group. they look at both the species name. they work with -- they look at the dna sequencing that talks about these different species. and i know they have that issue under review. >> and so when will we hear about that decision? >> i know they're actively working on it. i don't have that. we'll be happy to try and get back with you. >> okay. do you think in your view as the russian pollock industry, a sustainable fishing, you know, industry specifically, scientifically, i guess i would say. >> so i don't think i'm qualified to speak on that. we look at fish from a food safety perspective. and we're not, you know, related to the trade issues or other issues associated with it. >> well, i think, you know, we see things, obviously, about it.
they're known for labor issues, just last month, the russian pollock catcher process sank in the bering sea. only 63 crew members survived, pollock catcher processor tanker sank in the bering sea. only 63 crew members survived, 69 were lost. 40% of the crew were there illegally from countries like ukraine, latvia, and so these lives are being lost because of lack of training and survival skills. and then, consumers are seeing a product that's labeled alaska. and not really alaskan pollock. we hope you'll get a decision about this and look at the way the industry is operating in the right consumers have to understand this product. thank you. thank you, mr. chairman. >> okay. thank you, both, very much. we'll excuse you and call up our
second panel of witnesses. as they get situated i'm going to go ahead and be introducing all three of them. we're really pleased to be joined by dr. mike strain, the commissioner of the louisiana department of agriculture and forestry who was elected to that position in 2007. sworn to office in january 2008. dr. strain holds a doctorate in medicine from lsu and opened the claiborne hill veterinary hospital in covington soon after he received that degree. we're also joined by mr. john p. connolly, president of the national fisheries institute, america's leading trade oh association, advocating for the full seafood supply chain. john was chairman of the international coalition of fisheries associations and board trustee of the marine stewardship council and currently a board member of the international seafood sustainability organization. and we're also joined by mr.
frank randall, president of randall incorporated. frank is a seafood processor from lafayette, louisiana. over 40 years of experience in the industry. and also owns randall's restaurant in lafayette, louisiana. welcome to all of you, and we'll start with dr. strain. >> thank you. good afternoon, chairman. thank you very much for allowing us to discuss this. >> again, mr. chairman, thank you very much for the opportunity to come here and speak today. my name is dr. mike strain. i'm the louisiana commissioner of the department of agriculture of forestry and aqua culture. i'm testifying on behalf of the louisiana department of agriculture. state department's are responsible for a wide variety of programs, including food safety, combatting the introduction and spread of plant and animal diseases and fostering the economic vitality of our rural communities. our department oversees all agriculture activities within the state, including the markets
for products produced for our farmers and, especially, when we here to talk about today in the seafood industry which falls under my purview. first of all, i would like to thank miss wu and other members of the department of labor who allowed us to come to visit with them on march 23rd about this issue and have a very open and frank discussion. also with me today is the director of the national association of state departments of agriculture, which i'm a vice president. my statement is also consistent with the position of the national -- the national association of the state departments of agriculture, representing the commissioner, secretaries and directors across all 50 states and four territories. the communication of sound, public policy and programs. while promoting and protecting the environment and our consumers. in order to feed our increased
u.s. population, we must have a stable agricultural labor supply. the ability of seasonal businesses to keep the doors open and retain their full-time u.s. employees relies upon having successful peak seasons. during the busy seasons, companies must supplement the permanent staff with temporary seasonal employees. employers spend thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours in their efforts to fill these positions. even in today's tough economic climates, there are not enough local workers available to fill all the temporary seasonal positions. and efforts to obtain u.s. workers to relocate for temporary seasonal employment have not been successful. as a result, businesses must utilize the h2b guest worker program to find seasonal workers and workers for their peak workforce needs. the program is vitally important for many industries, including forestry, nursery, landscaping outdoor amusement, restaurant and hospitality, tourism,
livestock, horse training, and many others. it's in a critical situation because seafood processors traditionally cannot fill the temporary or seasonal vacancies with u.s. workers. many businesses are located in rural areas that do not have sufficient populations to supply their extra workforce needs. many that are willing to work want full time year-round jobs. they depend on processors operating for their own jobs and business operations. in 2014, louisiana hired 5,546 h2b workers. for each worker, it is estimated that 4.64 american jobs are created and sustained. hurricanes katrina and rita, floods on the mississippi river, spilling water through the spillways and the basin and drought. the h2b regulations released on april 29th, 2015, by the u.s. department of labor and the u.s. department of homeland security could impact an already fragile industry's economic competitiveness. the seasonal industries had to weather several years of regulatory instability.
the h2b wage rule at the department of labor adopted in january 19, 2011 and imposed new untested methodology that would significantly increase cost for small and seasonal small businesses. after being blocked by congress in april 2013, the dol issued an interim final rule that issued the same methodology for setting wages but recognized the importance of staged wage surveys. unfortunately, the new rule released two weeks ago is virtually identical to the rule blocked by congress causing additional obstacles from employers in the program.
in december 2014, the department of labor announced it would no longer allow the private wage rate surveys, including louisiana. my staff has spent countless hours gathering information to depict the wages that the industry is paying in our geographic location. this action forced employers into accepting higher prevailing wages, and many seafood processor haves not received the workers they need. seafood processing has begun early in the spring and with with the crawfish industry, especially, it is time sensitive. these actions have a negative impact on the seafood industry and related commerce sectors such as restaurants, et cetera. two months ago, the lsu ago center -- ag center conducted
analysis of the recent h2b policy changes from the u.s. department of labor from the louisiana seafood industry. the assessment was conducted in response to potential changes in the cost and availability of labor stemming from a mid-year cap on h2 b permits and the announcement that it would no longer accept the private wage rate surveys. results indicate that for every $1 of employee compensation created by the seafood preparation and packaging industry in louisiana, employee compensation increased by $2.06 across all sectors of louisiana economy. this includes the original $1 of employee compensation created by the seafood preparation and packaging industry, plus $1.06 of induced multiplier effects across all sectors of the economy. total income generated by h2b visa workers in the louisiana seafood industry is estimated between $36 million and $43 million. based on the assumption of $35
million in revenue, the loss of this revenue for any given number of firms would lead to a reduction in labor income across the entire louisiana economy. eventually leading to a number of companies closing. the economic impact of two processing facilities closing is $5.3 million. and with five firms shutting down, 13.3. louisiana has already faced a number of processing facilities closing due to hurricanes and oil spills. and the industry simply cannot sustain -- be sustained without a stable workers. i'm certain not only seafood industry in louisiana impacted, but the entire industry will be affected by these actions. our markets are subject to particularly fierce competition from abroad. for example, the chinese have been extremely aggressive in trying to corner the u.s. crawfish market. this predatory practice and
behavior began in 1993 and has continued. the chinese presently control over 15% of the market and capture even a larger market share if our producers are put a further competitive price and labor disadvantage. without temporary h2b guest seasonal workers, the processors would shut down, eliminating the primary market for our fishermen and our farmers to sell their catch. as a result, foreign seafood would gain a stronger foot hold in the u.s. market and our fishermen and farmers who produce and harvest crawfish, oysters and catfish would be devastated and a key segment of the louisiana economy crippled. once we lose the processors, we would not be able to depend on them coming back in future years. therefore the losses because of the processors scale back and do not have the ability to operate during the season will have irreparable and bad repercussions now in the future. the short-term consequence of an immediate expulsion of this vital segment of the workforce would cause a production crisis and a wide variety of seafood