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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  October 27, 2015 11:00pm-12:01am EDT

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making it better. but at our best, we're in this together. in closing, you may have seen one of the videos of encounters with law enforcement that went viral last year. it was recorded in teran, alabama. you had an officer who was called to apprehend a shoplifter at a dollar general. the officer was white and the woman who admitted to stealing was black. she stole three eggs, she said, because her grand children hadn't eaten in days. officer stacy ordered her to wait in the parking lot, and he went into the store. and the woman was sure she was going to jail. and then officer stacy came out with a dozen eggs. that he bought for her and her family. [ applause ] and that's not just a testament
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to officer stacy. because when the video of the encounter went viral, folks across the country began calling the tarrant police department asking how they could help too. and the woman later said she'd been blessed with manna from heaven, all because of one officer's kindness. he pushed my world in the right direction, the woman said, and i will never forget it. that's america at its best. that's some good police work. [ applause ] that's what so many of you represent. i thank you for the work you do. i thank you for your fellow officers. let's keep pushing our world in the right direction towards fairness and justice and safety. may god protect our cops, may god bless the united states of
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america. thank you. thank you. [ applause ] ♪ on the next washington journal, we'll talk to congressman mike pompeo about the house select benghazi committee and about the recent testimony of former secretary of state hillary clinton. then john larson on the proposed two-year budget and raising the debt ceiling, and michael mooney discusses the story about the inner workings of koch industries. washington journal is live with your phone calls, tweets and facebook comments on c-span. the house passed a short-term highway funding bill today runs through november 20th. and stephanie beasley covers issues for bloomberg b and a.
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why just a short-term bill? >> the house very quickly passed a three-week highway and transit extension today. and the idea behind this short extension is to allow lawmakers enough time to get through a multi-year bill. both the house and senate have six-year bills. the house transportation committee approved a six-year bill, the senate passed a similar six-year bill in july. so lawmakers including bill shuster believe that they can come together, the two chambers, and work out a deal before thanksgiving. >> the bill is called the highway bill, the transportation bill. so broadly, what are some of the programs covered under this highway bill? >> as you mentioned, there are highway and transit covered under this. it would renew the spending authority for those programs, but also included is an extension for positive train control technology. so this is an anti-derailment,
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anti-collision safety technology that railroads currently have a december 31st deadline to implement, but the majority of railroads said they will not be able to meet that deadline. so congress is acting to extend it for them and tacking that provision onto this highway extension. >> the positive train control was a factor in that may amtrak crash in philadelphia. did the delay in implementing the ptc, how long is it? and is likely to be part of a long-term transportation bill? >> right, the extension is a three-year extension. the measure that passed out of the house would include the potential for an additional two years for railroads that are especially challenged. the senate had a similar ptc extension, positive train control extension in their six-year highway bill. so in terms of whether there's a possibility of it being included long-term legislation. senator barbara boxer talked to me today and said that that is
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her goal. so now that this three-week extension is heading over to the senate, what will be important to watch is how senate democrats in particular address the positive train control extension, because they have said they want to include that in a multi-year bill and not a hoiz extension. >> didn't the senate already pass one of their own, their own transportation bill? >> right. so the senate passed the six-year highway and transit extension back in july. and as i mentioned before, the positive train control, three-year positive train control was included in that. so the difference here is that now we have the positive train control measure tacked onto a three-week highway extension. so the senate democrats really want to keep the pressure and many other lawmakers want to keep the pressure on congress to get this deal done. and they feel like if the ptc is added to a long-term bill
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there's more pressure for congress to do something before the end of the year. because that december 31st deadline is very close. >> that house markup in transportation was last week. and a tweet from that committee we showed a moment ago. the frux is an issue that brings us together. the chairman and ranking member share their take on that markup. is it really an issue? has transportation been an issue that's been bipartisan in nature? >> you know, the house transportation committee markup was quite long. it was almost six hours, but there was a lot of bipartisanship there. it seems that people are agreeing that they want to get something done quickly. they need to get a long-term bill completed. some of the issues, you know, representative defazio who's a ranking member of the house transportation committee noted that he would like to increase the funding. so the house transportation bill, the six-year bill does not currently include a six-year
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title, but it does guarantee funding for three years, and that would be baseline, and representative defazio would like to increase that funding level somehow. just right now think haven't figured out exactly how to do that. stephanie beasley is transportation reporter for bloomberg b and a. you can read the reporting at b and a.com. thanks for joining us. >> thank you. c-span has your best access to congress with live coverage from capitol hill. in the closing months of the year, the house and senate have several key items to address. on thursday, it's the vote for the next speaker of the house. >> i've shown my colleagues what i think success looks like. what i think it takes to unify and lead and how my family commitments come first. i have left this decision in their hands. and should they agree with these requests, then i am happy and willing to get to work. the. >> that's also the deadly for a highway funding bill, impacting
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roads, bridges and mass transit projects across the country. in early november, the nation will reach its debt limit. and in december, temporary government funding will expire with a possible government shutdown on the horizon. stay with c-span for live coverage of congress on tv, on the radio and online at c-span.org. the syrian refugee crisis was the subject for obama administration officials before a house foreign affairs sub committee tuesday. they talked about u.s. humanitarian assistance, the refugee screening process and the threat to destabilization in the region. the state department, the u.s. agency for international development and homeland security department were among the agencies represented. this is an hour and a half. the sub committee will come to order. after recognizing myself, will
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read from mr. deutsch's prepared statement, is that okay with you mr. cicilliny or is that good? oh, your own statement, i did not know. in his own words. sorry about that. for our opening statements i will then recognize any other member for one minute. we will then hear from our witnesses. thank you ladies and gentlemen. and without objection, the prepared statements of all of our witnesses will be made a part of the record and members may have five days to insert statements and questions for the record subject to the length and limitation in the rules. the chair now recognizes herself for five minutes. we're in the fifth year of the syrian humanitarian crisis. the united states has contributed over $4.5 billion in both direct assistance and through three u.n. crisis appeals with nearly 75% going through the latter.
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the crisis appeals. yet, there seems to be no end in sight in this tunnel. russia's recent intervention is causing serious security concerns for not only the people of syria, but the ngos and the aid workers on the ground trying to bring assistance to those in desperate need. the front lines are shifting, and the battle lines are fluid, causing uncertainty and making it increasingly dangerous to deliver aid to certain areas and making it an increasingly dangerous for syrians who remain in their homeland. the situation has gotten so bad that we're now seeing europe struggle to deal with its greatest migration and refugee crisis since world war ii as many fleeing the syrian conflict are trying to make their way into europe. but while the european crisis may be grabbing the headlines at the moment, let's remember that this crisis was not created yesterday. for years, the people of syria have been impacted, and the
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syrian refugee crisis has also impacted countries like jordan, like lebanon, turkey and egypt, and yet many in the international community ignored these countries' pleas for assistance. these countries are more vulnerable because they have less capacity and less resources to deal with the crisis. let's take jordan for example. about 630 syrians have been registered by a unhcr plus hundreds of thousands more that have already assimilated in skror dan, all of which plays an incredible burden on the kingdom to provide basic services to over 1 million new people. but with more and more refugees seeking to reach europe from syria and its neighbors there will, of course, be those seeking to take advantage. we're now seeing smuggling networks popping up in turkey, lebanon, libya and else w turning trafficking and syrian refugees into a billion dollar
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industry and also creating security concerns as we have no way of knowing who is being smuggled into europe and elsewhere. and with president obama's announcement that the u.s. will take in 10,000 syrians this also raises concerns for many in the u.s. especially in light of the fbi director's testimony to congress last week that the u.s. may not be able to properly vet all of those seeking to come to our nation. as a legislative body, this is something that we must take seriously. if we cannot guarantee the proper vetting of these refugees, it would be irresponsible for us to promote it. we must protect our country first and ensure that all security measures are in place to properly screen these individuals before they come into the united states. we cannot compromise the well-being of the american people or our national security. unfortunately, it has taken europe's worst migration crisis to awaken the europeans now that the syrian conflict is knocking on their borders. the united states has bnts largest single contributor to
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the syrian humanitarian crisis response. dwarfing the contributions made by any other nation and by the european nations and a whole. there's no way of knowing how things could have turned out differently had other nations stepped up to the call like the united states did. earlier this month, committee staffers traveled to geneva to meet with many of the organizations that receive our assistance for the syrian humanitarian crisis and from their trip one thing was clear. the response to the crisis has been dreadfully underfunded with a nearly two-thirds funding gap. of course the problems we need to address are many, and they are difficult. and it's true that they can never be a solution to the refugee crisis until the underlying root causes are addressed. and that means finding an end to the fighting. an end to the terror. and the removal of assad power. but we need to be less reactive and more proactive.
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we need to start thinking of ways no the just to address the refugees' most immediate needs but the needs that they face in the years to come. and we can't do it alone. we need to press our european friends and partners in the middle east and africa to step up and do more. we need to do a lot more to ensure that the needs of the host communities in syria's neighbors are being met as well. because this has taken a very big toll on their resources, and it is leading to increased tension between the communities. there's a pervasive feeling of hopelessness and despair that will have long-term impact on the region and beyond. syrians, for the most part, want to eventually return home. according to some ngo implementing partners on the ground that have conducted surveys on this, some 90% of syrian refugees reportedly state that they do have a desire to return home. but that desire may fade if the international community does not step up and do more to ensure
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that there is a safe home for them to return to and to demonstrate that we are working toward a better future for those who have been impacted so severely by the syrian conflict. and with that, i'm pleased to yield to the ranking member of our subcommittee. >> thank you, madam chairman. i was anticipating having a conflict with today's hearing. mr. cicilline had agreed to step in. and i'm proud to yield my time to mr. cicilline. he's been a leader on the issue of refugees, organized the first member letter asking that the cap be lifted in the wake of the crisis in europe. and i'm proud to yield to him. >> thank you, madam chairman and ranking member deutsch for your leadership on these issues, and thank you ranking member deutsch for yielding to me. the crisis inside syria and in the region is escalating. and has led to the largest movement of refugees through europe and the middle east since
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world war ii. as an of september, 12.2 million people in syria, more than half the population are in need of humanitarian assistance. of these, more than 7.6 million are displaced inside the country. in addition, more than 4.1 million syrians have registered as refugees abroad with most fleeing to countries in the immediate surrounding region, including turkey, iran, egypt, and other parts of north africa. as we've seen in recent months, as those reach maximum capacity, more are risking dangerous journeys over land and sea into europe. the situation has been declared a level three emergency to help facilitate resources for the humanitarian response. but the distribution of relief supplies within the country remains dependent on the parties to the conflict of safe and unhindered access of the humanitarian staff. 5 million people within syria
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are located in places categorized as difficult to arrive. tens of thousands of people have gst been displaced in the past few weeks. syrian human rights organizations have documented assaults on hospitals and russian strikes killed 59 sie civilians on october 15th. as the weather turns colder, the situation for refugees on the move will only get more perilous. many host communities are overwhelmed. overcrowded schools and inadequate hospital services. impacts on services such as water all contribute to the burden of neighboring countries. the united states is the largest donor of humanitarian assistance to syria and the region. from fiscal year 2012 through september 21, 2015, the united states has allocated more than $4.5 billion to meet syrian humanitarian needs. this nony includes over $1.5
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billion to ngos, international federation of red cross and red kressant and other organizations to respond to the needs of affected populations in syria and the region. yet according to u.n. hcr, aid programs are limited. since 2011, the u.n. appeals have remained significantly underfunded and recently resulted in food cuts and lack of assistance. >> lack of assistance is leading to negative coping strategiystr such as begging and sex. with we talk to our allies it's important that we emphasize the need of meeting the needs of these refugees. the united states has been a leader in terms of financial response to this crisis. we have fallen short in absorbing refugees. jordan has absorbed 500,000, tur
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kh key, 2 million. last month, as ranking member deutsch mentioned, i wrote a letter signed by 70 of my colleagues, asking the administration to raise that to 100,000 refugees by the end of 2017. there's precedent to this. the united states welcomed 700,000 refugees from cuba and 700,000 from vietnam. while i was pleased that the administration raised the quota for 2016 to accommodate 10,000 from syria, i fear that isn't nearlily enough to make an impact. of course the ultimate accountability for the violence and chaos on syria and iraq falls on bashar al assad. the use of chemical weapons is at the heart of this civil war as upon isis.
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the only way to bring an end to this is to bring an end to the civil war in syria. there is no easy fix. but i hope our witnesses can ten us what steps the administration is taking to bring about a solution to this terrible tragedy and what more we can do. i thank the witnesses again for being here and thank you for the testimony you're about to give, i yield back. >> would you like to add anything, mr. deutsch? or you're waiving? >> mr. trout is recognized. >> i would like to start by thanking you for holding this important hearing. as the situation in syria becomes progressively worse, the need to deliver aid to people in a timely and efficient manner becomes more important. we've learned throughout history that unfortunately, religious minorities are disproportionately affected. one of the most common complaints i hear is that aid is not getting to them quickly enough. in april i wrote a bipartisan letter to usaid with my
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colleagues in the michigan delegation asking usaid to consider removing bureaucratic red tape to help these communities. six months later my letter remains unanswered. while i understand usaid is under pressure to make sure every vulnerable citizen is taking care of, if our aid is not getting there at the right time our efforts are futile and the crisis becomes worse. to better coordinate the efforts i introduced legislation that would require the interested parties to better coordinate with one another to ensure timely relief to these endangered citizens. after spending po ye30 years in business, i know communication is important. i yield back my time. >> mr. boyle is recognized. >> thank you, and i would just briefly say that we face the real turning point in late
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august, ever since the shocking and horrific sight of a small boy's body being washed ashore on a beach in turkey. that really, i think, awoken the consciences of many people. i was in europe at that time as part of an international conference. and it clearly changed the dynamic in many western european countries that had not been stepping up to the plate to do their part. i would say that the size of the humanitarian assistance, and i pre-read some of the testimony, and i know we've had a three-prong approach. clearly our humanitarian assistance has led the world. we're number one in that regard and should be quite proud of it. i think the question that i'm searching for an answer, i really want answered and cannot at this point is are we going to continue to do a series of one ofs or will there actually be a worldwide collaborative effort to solve this problem?
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so in the hearing today, and many of the questions that are asked and answered, i hope we could spend a moment, take a look at the united states, not in isolation but ourselves as part of a larger global solution. thank you. >> very good, sir. do any other members wish to be recognized? if not, i'd like to introduce our witnesses who are three very good friends of our subcommittee. first, we're pleased to welcome back the honorable anne c richard to serves as assistant secretary of the bureau of population, refugees and migration. she has served at vice president of government relations and advocacy and was a non-resident fellow for trans-atlantic relations at john hopkins university's school of advanced international studies. welcome back, ma'am. and second, we are pleased to say hello to the honorable leon rodriguez who is the director of the united states citizenship
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and immigration service. previously, mr. rodriguez served as the director for the office of civil rights at the department of health and human services and before that served in the united states attorney's office for the western district of pennsylvania and was a trial attorney in the civil division of the department of justice. welcome, mr. rodriguez. and now, we also welcome back a good friend, senior deputy assistant of administrator, thomas staal. he has served in usaid since the late '80s and served at director of the iraq reconstruction office. mr. staal also served as the mission director in lebanon, ethiopia and iraq. and you don't have to be a good friend of the subcommittee to be a witness. but we just have good witnesses, and we welcome you back. so thank you. ms. richard, we'll start with you. >> thank you. >> madam chairman. >> closer to your mouth?
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>> oh, i can bring this to me. thank you, madam chairman and ranking member deutsch, distinguished members of the committee. thank you for the opportunity to appear before the house committee on foreign affairs to discuss the syrian humanitarian crisis. i returned recently from a series of meetings overseas including my fifth visit to turkey and eighth to jordan. i greatly appreciate the interest of this committee on this very challenging situation. i would like to briefly outline the steps taken by the population refugees and migration bureau and others in the obama administration to provide humanitarian assistance to innocent civilians and to assist the governments of other countries to deal with the crisis in syria. as you know, in early september and as congressman boyle just mentioned, the track eck photo of a little boy's body on a beach in turkey awakened people to the plight of syrian refugees in ways that statistics could not.
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what started as unrest in syria in 2011 has developed into a multi-front war and spilled over to become a regional crisis. recently, the crisis reached europe as hundreds of thousands of young men, women and sometimes entire families seek to reach that continent by boat, bus, train and foot. they are joined by refugees and migrants from other countries. chiefly, afghanistan, eritrea and iraq. it is important for us to remember and acknowledge that the vast majority of syrian families remain in the middle east. and you just heard the figures in the opening statements of the chair and ranking member that there are more than 4 million refugees in the surrounding countries and roughly 7 million syrians are displaced been their own country. for more than four years, the obama administration has helped these countries neighboring syria and the innocent people caught up in the syrian crisis even as we continue to play a leading role in providing
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humanitarian aid to people affected by conflicts in many other places. we have a three-pronged approach to the humanitarian aspect of the crisis in syria and the region. strong levels of humanitarian assistance, active diplomacy and expanded refugee resettlement. first the u.s. is the leading donor to people in need in syria, in the sur ournding countries and to others caught up in crises throughout the world. through organizations, the international committee of the red cross. the world food program and leading other nongovernmental organizations u.s. funds are being used to save millions of lives. u.s. humanitarian assistance and response to the syrian conflict totals more than $4.5 billion since the start of the crisis and is made possible, thanks to strong bipartisan support from congress. without u.s. support, more people would be making the dangerous voyage further north.
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even with our sizable contribution, however, u.n. appeals for humanitarian aid to address the crisis in syria remain underfunded with only 45% of the needs covered as of october 2015. these shortfalls have had real consequences. cuts to food and other assistance was one of the triggers of the current migration of people to europe. syrian refugees in jordan, turkey and lebanon are losing hope of ever returning to their homes. they are unable to work regularly to sustain their families. rents are high, and their children are missing out on school. roughly 85% of refugees now live outside of camps. and that's something that's not well understood or known. we need to help refugees become self-sufficient while we also support the communities that host them. we're looking at ways to better link our relief and development assistance and we're work being to get more refugee children in school throughout the region. the second prong of our response is diplomacy on humanitarian
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issues. for several years we've engaged government officials in the region to encourage them to keep border open and allow refugees to enter their countries. authorize the work of heeding humanitarian organizations and allow refugees to pursue normal lives or as norm atal a life as possible. it means working with other nations to find solutions. the issue was taken up again and again in recent international fora. and i've talked about the meetings i've had pursuing our so-called humanitarian diplomacy. diplomacy also includes pushing when needed those who can and should be doing more. we are engaged on encouraging countries that provide assistance outside the u.n. system to contribute to the u.n. appeals for syria. contributions to u.n. appeals can help prevent duplication and make sure assistance is provided to those who need it the most. and we're also encouraging
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countries to promote refugees to pursue jobs and livelihoods. as you know, for the past three years, we've brought 70,000 refugees from all around the world to the united states. and for this year, the president has determined we should bring 85,000, including at least 10,000 syrians. we recognize that admitting more syrian refugees to the united states is only part of the solution. but it is in keeping with our american tradition. it shows the world that we seek to provide refuge for those most in need. it sets an example for others to follow and adds the diversity and strengs of american society. i have been up on the hill a couple times recently, and have been getting a lot of questions about the process that we use to bring refugees here. they're referred by the u.n. hcr. we work very carefully to have them tell their stories. no one comes who hasn't been
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approved by department of homeland security. and leon rodriguez and i are here to answer any questions you have about the process, but it generally lasts 18 to 24 months, and we take very seriously the need to secure our borders as part of that program. in conclusion, the vast majority of refugees of the 3 million who have been admitted to the united states, including from some of the most troubled regions in the world have proven to be hard-working and pruktive residents. they pay taxes, send their children to school and after five years may take the test to become citizens. so i'm happy to answer any questions you may have about this three-pronged approach and to provide details about our program. >> thank you very much secretary richard. mr. rodriguez? >> madam chair woman, ranking member deutsch, distinguished members of the committee, thank you all for convening this very important hearing.
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when i first became director of uscis and a factor in the confirmation procesprocess, i k that the work of operating the refugee admission process, particularly with respect to refugees from various parts of the middle east, but chief among them syria was going to be one of my priorities and one of the most important parts of the work we do at uscis. the statistics recited by congressman cicilline tell a very grim story of what's going on in syria today. more than half of the population of syria is displaced. 4 million people are now essentially in exile somewhere in the middle east, be it jordan, be it turkey, be it lebanon, be it egypt. but the individual stories that we hear are probably the most compelling of all. recently, one of my refugee officers shared with me a story
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of an individual who was screened. and during the screening process we learned that he was with his elderly mother during a time when his town was being bombed by the syrian air force. his mother, because of the stress of the bombing, had a heart attack. she ultimately died in his arms, but not after hours, actually, of this young man attempting to resuscitate his mother, through cpr, and having no access to medical care because of the horrendous conditions in that town. and this is one of legions of stories that we've heard at uscis from the individuals that we've screened. i took the opportunity this past june to travel to turkey where in istanbul we have a resettlement support center where my officers work with a state department contractor to screen refugees, and i opbserve
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both the screenings and observed them with the particular eye that i bring as a former criminal prosecutor who has myself conducted thousands of interviews. many of them confrontational interviews. many of them interviews with individuals i knew who were lying to me. so i observed those screenings as they took place, but i also had the opportunity to sit down with the families that were in that resettlement support center, and what was amazing to me was how recognizable those individualing were to me. how familiar they were. they were individuals from all walks of life. but they were individuals who really want the same thing that any of us here want, is to get out of harm's way and to find a better life for their family. and had the opportunity to spend a few minutes with the children at the resettlement center. to witness their excitement about their potential new life in america, to hear what they had already learned about our country and their excitement about coming here.
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so mix that challenge, the men and women who work in our refugee admissions program do their job. and that, essentially, involves their doing two things. one, making sure that the individuals who ask for refuge in the united states satisfy the legal requirements in order to obtain that refuge, but two, an importantly as the chair woman noted, ensuring that none of those individuals who are seeking refuge in the united states are people who mean us harm. now how do we do that? part of that is done through a suite of bog rafic and biometric checks. and i hope to explain how those work. but the key is that we actually have screened out individuals who we identified through that process as being potential threats. so the process has actually worked. but two, as importantly,9yy? t
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refugee officers in our agency are among the most highly-trained professionals. they're specifically strained to conduct interviews to screen out individuals who may do us harm. that process has also resulted in a number of people being placed quote, on hold. not permitted to travel to the united states until security concerns can be resolved. i'd like to conclude by dedicating my testimony here today to my maternal grandfather who never had the opportunity to meet. my grandfather was one of the leaders of the jewish community in cuba in the late 1930s and 1940s. and among his activities as a leader of that community was to attempt to assist refugees from nazi europe who, some of them had sought refuge in the united states and were denied that refuge. many of us have heard the story
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of the st. louis and then traveled to cuba, some of whom were able to find refuge there but some were not. i as intend as director of uscis to honor his legacy. first and foremost by making sure that we don't admit people who do us harm to the united states, but secondly, by making sure that we honor our tradition of offering refuge to those who so desperately need it. thank you madam chair woman, and i look forward to answer the committee's questions. >> thank you vetch, mr. rodriguez. excellent testimony. mr. staal? >> madam chairman, ranking member deutsch and members of the sub committee. thank you for your support and your attention today to this syrian crisis which grows, as we've heard, more complex every day. for almost five years, the assad regime has waged an unrelenting campaign of bloodshed that has decimated communities and allowed extremis to thrive. and while the world's attention is centered appropriately on the perilous journey of syrians
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forced to flee their homeland shall the refugees, as we've heard are part of a much larger community that suffers under the weight of this crisis. over 17 million syrian, 70% of the country's pre-war population are affected by this conflict, with the majority facing daily attacks inside syria. indeed, half of all syrians are either dead or displaced from their homes. while more than 4 million of them gone to neighboring countries, another 6.5 million to 7 million are displaced inside syria. and behind these massive numbers, the children, just like our own, and parents, just like our parents would do and risk everything to keep their families safe. families inside syria face the painful ultimatum. if you stay, your child could be killed on the way to get bread. if you life, you risk their safety on a dangerous journey across borders. and we're doing everything possible in the usa to alleviate
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suffering for families inside syria as well as those fleeing to neighboring countries. u.s. government has been, as we've heard, the single largest donor to the syrian crisis. and our partners fearlessly cross conflict lines, amidst daily barrel bombs and shifting conflict lines, to reach people in the regime, in opposition and even in isis-held arias. today they face an added threat, russian aggression on syrian soil. some support that russian airstrikes are skpli kating access. one partner told us every time he goes to the hospital he manages, it's only a matter of time until it will explode. his hospital has been bombed, by the way, over 18 times by the syrian regime, and recently by the russians. despite ongoing access and security challenges, we are reaching approximately 5 million people in inside syria and
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another 1.5 million in the region every month with our humanitarian assistance. and this aid is saving lives and reducing suffering every day. u.s. aid supports inside syria, 140 health facilities. and in fy 15 alone we reached over 2.4 million people with health assistance. and we've provided access to clean water for 1.3 million people. we are the largest donor of food assistance, providing 1.5 billion to date. we provide flour to bake ris inside syria and support vouchers for retch gees that have injected $1.2 billion into the economies of the syrian neighbors. and separate from our humanitarian efforts we help to moderate, we help moderate civilian organizations in syria to provide essential services, providing a lifeline to communities under siege. and then also our development
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assistance helps syria's neighbors, who are strained more than ever, to build more resilient public services to cope with the influx of the refugees. with 2 million syrian children out of school, we're working to ensure that this entire generation is not lost to this crisis. in jordan and lebanon, we're expanding public schools, supporting remedial programs, training teachers so that syrian refugees can thrive alongside their host community pieers. we've upgraded hospitals and water facilities. in lebanon, we're working with young people to reduce tension between host communities and help them find solutions. and these are possible thanks to the generous support from congress. nevertheless, we struggle to meet the escalating needs with stretched dollars. we're working closely with other
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donors to mobile identiize reso because we can't meet the needs alone. certainly no amount of humanitarian assistance will stop the suffering or stem the tide of refugees, which is why a negotiated political solution is urgently needed. in the meantime, we are committed to saving lives, alleviating suffering and helping syria's neighbors to cope with the largest humanitarian crisis we've ever faced. thank you for your support, and i look forward to your questions. >> thank you very much to our government agencies for the great work that you are doing under difficult circumstances. i'd like to yield my time to mr. chabot. >> during a recent hearing before the house committee on homeland security, fbi director james comey stated that government background checks on refugees is limited to only that information which has been previously collected and stored in its database, given that isis has threatened to exploit the
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current syrian humanitarian crisis, what's being done to increase scrutiny and the thoroughness of security checks on those seeking refugee status in the united states? >> thank you, congressman for that very critical question. we working together with the state department conduct a suite of buy graiographic and biometr checks. the bibiographic checks happen before my officers. among the sources of the biographic checks are hosted by the national counter terrorism center. that database is populated from information from all kinds of law enforcement and intelligence sources, and there is a constant and ongoing effort to feed that database. it is true, as it has often been
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true in other places that we do not currently have any meaningful united states presence inside syria. nevertheless, we do have, as we always have had, ability to gather intelligence information, gather law enforcement information, using a number of techniques and doing so in a number of places. and, as a result of that process, our officers in 30 cases were able to identify individuals who in fact based on their showing up in the databases that i just described deny those individuals admission. once we interview individuals, we also take fingerprints. we run those fingerprints against department of defense databases, united states law enforcement databases, including both the fbi and also our own customs and border patrol. in those events where some individuals have encountered,
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really united states, either military or law enforcement authorities at some point along the way. but very critically, congressman is the interview process. i started my career as a street the the prosecutor in new york city. and we had all the technology in the world. we could run fingerprints. we could conduct chemical analysis, but at the end of the day, criminal cases were made by new york city police detectives. the work that we do, congressman, i would suggest, is similar. at the end of the day, the judgments that we make are judgments of the men and women, highly trained and highly prepared men and women that work in our refugee add milmission process. they are trained and briefed at a great level of depth in country conditions within syria. in fact, the interviews that we conduct further populate our understanding about those country conditions, and they use that knowledge, that information, to then test the information that's being given
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to them by the individuals applying for admission. as a result of that training, hundreds of individuals have either been placed on hold or denied at admission all together because that process has identified problems with the individuals. so we're going to continue to polish that process. we're going to be continuing to work to further access different sources of intelligence so we can test individual stories against that. >> i have another question. either ms. richard or mr. staal, whichever wants to handle it. why has the administration opted to channel aid for the humanitarian crisis through the united nations rather than through direct aid or ngos? would it not be more efficient and cost-effective to work directly with partners on the ground? so either one of you that would like to take that.
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>> i can start. we do both. we channel aid through the best u.n. operational agencies, humanitarian agencies, and we also work with the top nongovernmental organizations, and we try to use all channels to get aid inside syria, which tom is the expert on. and our sense is that because the u.n. plays a coordinating role and reviews the requests from the whole span of agencies and puts together these appeals, it manages dumly cation and makes sure that professionals who know what they're doing are responding with the aid. now at the same time, most aid workers are from the countries in which they're working. so inside syria, it's mostly syria. in jordan, it's jordanians, et cetera. but at the top, there are people who are quite seasoned who are involved in this. tom, do you want to add anything? >> yes, it's an excellent
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question, and what we try to do is make sure we are using the most effective means and the organizations that can do the job the best. in a given area. and sometimes it can vary between different parts of the country. frankly, in the regime-held areas within syria, the u.n. agencies are able to operate most effectively and most broadly into, you know, the far reaches of the areas. in the non-regime areas, we do work also somewhat with the u.n., but there we work more with international ngos. there they work with organizations. it's difficult for us to work directly with local organizations just through the financial systems and oversight, but through our international ngo partners, they are able to work with local organizations. indeed, that's how they get there. including with local councils
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and civil society organizations that really know the situation on the ground, have the best access. we actually have better reporting and oversight of our programs and our assistance than in many other countries so even the gao and our i. grgets shows that our aid is getting to the right people. and then the nice thing about working with local councils is that you're building some local capacity so that hopefully when the regime, excuse me, when the crisis is over, you've got some local capacity to build up again. >> thank you very much. my time's expired. thank you very much, madam chair. >> thank you very much mr. chabot. >> i'm going to yield to mr. cicilline. >> thank the gentleman for yielding. undersecretary richard, can you explain, and i recognize this is a complicated process. can you explain to us sort of beginning to end how a refugee from syria might navigate the process to be admitted to the united states, how long that typically takes, where's the
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first contact, how many agencies are involved and have jurisdiction over this determination, and kind of just explain sort of the process, because i think people have sort of a mistaken impression that they just show up and they're admitted. a better understand of what that process is. >> thank you, congressman. the process lasts 18 to 24 months. the refugees are identified as people who are technically vulnerable in the places where they've fled. so i guess the process starts when they decide to leave their country. which is a very challenging thing. they cross the borders. they try to live as well as they can for a time. but they may come to the attention of the uncr or other aid workers who will then look at their case and see if there are certain characteristics about them that would make them match what we're looking for. what we're looking for is that they have to fit the definition of a refugee, which is someone
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fleeing persecution for one of, they have a well-founded fear of persecution, for one of five reasons, which is race, religion, nationality, political belief or membership in a social group. and we also, though, seek to bring those who are the most vulnerable people. so that might be someone who has been tortured or has a specific medical condition that makes it very hard to survive where they are. or, people for whom there is never going to be a chance to go home again. the first contact then is really with the u.n. high commissioner for refugees. they refer them to us. they do not choose who become, who gets admission to the united states. but they refer the cases they think are likely to fit what we're looking for. and then the process continues where we have a relationship
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with several resettlement support centers, rscs in different places around the world where they will work with the rev jeerks the individual or the family and put the case together of how they became a refugee and mead make the case that they do actually qualify for refugee status. as part of that, they have a series of background checks and this picks up where leon rodriguez was describing the types of checks, the fingerprints, the medical background, the biographics. and they interview people through the course of a day, for syrians, it's try per day, and really double-checking. and they're trying to screen out people who are lying to us, people with a krinl nal past or people who are, of course, would be terrorists. so once that all has happened,
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and the final checks work out, they are scheduled, then to be brought to the united states. they are brought to the u.s., escorted by the international association for migration. so that's two u.n. agencies involved. >> if i could interrupt you. after they get to the united states, i understand the process, but that process you just described, is that any different than the process that was in place when the united states accepted 200,000 refugees from the balkans or 700,000 r refugre refugees from cuba or vietnam? >> after t9/11, the security aspects were tightened quite a bit, and they've spent a lot of time to scrub the program to make it as efficient as possible without cutting corners in security. and right now we're under
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direction from the white house to keep doing that, and keep seeing if we can speed up the length of the process without doing anything to undermine security. >> and this has been described by some as the most intensive vetting process in the federal government, inner agency -- >> well, for any traveler to the united states. i mean no traveler to the united states gets this kind of intense vetting. >> and are there any limitations, assuming you've had additional resources, director rodriguez or undersecretary richard, any limitations on your ability to do this for more refugees if you were provided the assets to do this? are there any more obstacles? >> i think this is, it's always a resource question. and so right now i, we have about 100 refugee officers. we have an asylum corps of 400
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plus that we can draw from to supplement, they're trained idly to the refugee officers. but these situations always require us to adapt to build to whatever the task is that's in front of us. and we've actually, my agency's become very good, and i know prm has become very good at adapting when these challenges are presented to us. but does it put further stress on our resources? no question. >> in just talking about it, we knew that we can't change the numbers like a dial on a, i don't know, do people make things with dial anymore? a dial on an old-fashioned stereo, because even if you were to get more funding to get more interviewers, they have to be recruited and trained before they're sent out. and then the conditions overseas kick in, which is some places where we had wanted to carry out
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interviews in the past are, there are security concerns, and so we have to make sure we're not sending the officer somewhere where they themselves would get into trouble. but then also sometimes there's acts of god. we had to slow down bringing people from nepal last year after the earthquake happened this past year. so they have to be able to travel out to the places where the refugees are ready to be interviewed. and in the middle east, there have been security issues, same with kenya, and there are parts of africa that are just hard to get to. you can't just fly in and flight out without careful planning. >> thank you. i see my time's out, i yield back. >> thank you mr. cicilline. mr. boyle? ms. frankle? >> thank you very much. thank you to the witnesses. and i agree with my colleagues here who have said that they consider this one of the great
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humanitarian, probably the greatest humanitarian crisis of our time right now. so i just want to, i want to get a couple things clarified. i got a little confused. on the rev jies, it sounds to me, you say there are millions displaced within syria and 4 million displaced out of syria. what, what would you, how would you kwanfy the number of refugees that would like to come to the united states? what figure would that be? >> well, they don't get to come if they'd like to come to the united states. i think it's probably a very large number, but not 100%. because most refugees usually want to go home. >> no, i'm not saying that, i just want to know what do you think is the number. >> the uancr does is they believe that of 15 million
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refugees that they're concerned about that about 1 million are people who are suitable for resettlement in other countries. >> so how does this come about? does someone leave syria in order to be considered by us? they have to, and is there any type of prioritization, if you're a family member or first in line or first to sign up? >> first you have to qualify to be a refugee, and. >> what is the -- >> based on the legal definition which were those five factors. well-founded fear of persecution. and then we seek to resettle the people who are the most vulnerable, who, who -- >> which would be who? >> so it's widows with children or orphaned children or people who have medical conditions that make it very difficult for them to get the treatment they need in a refugee camp.
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people who are burn victims and can, you know, benefit from maybe, you know, the type of medical services we can provide here. you know, torture victims, people who, you know, feel that they'll never be able to go home again. they've seen terrible things happen. >> so if you're able to process someone, do most of these folks have somebody in the united states that they're coming to settle with? or they just coming here on their own and -- >> if they have a family, if they have a relative in the united states, we seek to reunite the families. >> and if they don't, what, if there are services that -- >> what happens is when they arrive in the u.s., they're met at the airport by a representative, one of nine national networks we have. six are faith-based. three are not. but they work in 170 cities across the united states. and they use a lot of volunteers. they'll take the refugee from the airport to their new home, probably an apartment that's been set up for them, and it may
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have been furnished with donated furniture. and then they will make sure that there's a meal in the refrigerator. >> mm-hm. >> and show them how to turn on and off the lights. depending on where they're from some of the modern conveniences are new.

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