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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  October 28, 2015 4:00am-6:01am EDT

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at the start of september we're back on the east coast. in the middle of the month it's the louisiana book festival in baton rouge. at the end of november we're live for the 18th year in a row in florida for the miami book fair international book awards from new york city. just some of the fairs and festivals this fall on c-span 2's book tv. president obama was in chicago tuesday where he spoke at the international association of chiefs of police annual conference. he talked about stricter gun control measures, criminal justice reform and federal spending. this is just under an hour. ♪ >> thank you. good afternoon, everybody. please have a seat. welcome to chicago, my hometown. [ cheers & applause ]
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chief berry, thank you for that introduction, because it was brief, and that's what i like. at this point one way or another people know who i am. and let me also thank our outstanding mayor of the city of chicago, rahm emanuel for hosting us. i know that thousands of you from federal, state, county, local and tribal agencies have been working hard to share strategies and solutions to better serve and protect all of us. and we are profoundly grateful for you work. i do hope that you've gotten a little time to enjoy my hometown as well. because there is fun to be had here. somebody clapped. even as we meet here today,
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though, another gathering of police is taking place in new york. randolph holder was born in guyana to a family of police officers. his dad was a police officer, his grandfather was a police officer, and after his family came to america, randolph followed in their footsteps and joined new york's finest. a week ago today a shots fired call came over the radio. and as officer holder chased down a suspect, he was shot and killed in the line of duty. officer holder didn't run toward danger because he thought of himself as a hero. he ran toward danger because he was a cop. it was part of his job description. part of his calling.
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it's why so many of you wear the badge. every day you risk your lives so that the rest of us don't have to. you serve and protect to provide the security so many americans take for granted. and by the way, your families serve alongside you. and as you serve, america places very high expectations on you. expectations that cops across america work every day to meet. so i want to start by saying on behalf of the american people, thank you. [ applause ] thank you.
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[ applause ] thank you. [ applause ] this country is safer because of your efforts. look at the statistics. over the last 20 years police have helped cut the violent crime rate and the homicide rate in america by almost half. it's an astonishing statistic. today americans are nearly half as likely to be the victim of an aggravated assault and less than half as likely to be the victim of a robbery. and even lesser known are the countless acts of kindness and support, helpfulness that your officers perform in your respective communities each and every day. so i want to be as clear as i
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can be. i reject any narrative that seek to divide police in communities that they serve. [ applause ] i reject a story line that says, when it comes to public safety, there's an us and a them. a narrative that two often gets served up to us by news stations seeking ratings or tweets seeking retweets or political candidates seeking some attention. i know that's shocking that political candidates do that. because your work and your service really has helped make america shaffer than it has been in decades. and that's something for which every american should be proud. now that doesn't mean that
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things are perfect. it doesn't mean that we shouldn't have a serious and robust debate over fairness in law enforcement. over our broader criminal justice system when it comes, particularly, to communities of color. i was just talking to chief berry before i came out and i know there was an outstanding discussion with the naacp. i've talked to enough chiefs and beat cops around the country to know that you care about these issues. you want to do the right thing. and i know there are a few people -- there are few people who more invested in declining crime rates than minority communities that have historically been underpoliced. they want more police presence in these communities, not less. that's why i'm confident in this
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debate people of good will can and should find common ground. and many of you have shown that there are actions, specific actions that we can take that will make a difference in moving us in that direction. now first, we do need to get some facts established. so far the data shows that overall violent crime rates across the nation appear to be nearly as low as they were last year. and significantly lower than they were in previous decades. it is true that in some cities, including here in my hometown of chicago, gun violence and
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homicide have spiked. and in some cases they've spiked significantly. but the fact is, is that so far at least across the nation, the data shows that we are still enjoying historically low rates of violent crime. moreover, over the past few years, the number of police officers shot and killed in the line of duty has fallen to their lowest levels in decades. in fact, 2013 saw the fewest cops shot and killed in the line of duty since 1887. of course, each victim of crime is someone too many. each fallen police officer is one too many. [ applause ]
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i've spoken to too many families of the fallen, including right before i came out here, to not fully appreciate the pain and the hardship, the fear that so many families go through because police officers are putting themselves in the line of fire. more over, because of the spike of crime in the minority communities is real and deeply troubling -- i want to make clear, this is not something i think of as being academic. i live on the southside of chicago. so my house is pretty close to some places where shootings take
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place. because that's real, we've got to get on top of it before it becomes a trend. that's why i've asked loretta lynch to work with law enforcement and leaders in these communities to find out why this is happening and target resources where they will have an impact. so for the remainder of the time that i am in this office and then as a private citizen, i'll do everything that i can to encourage cooperation and work hard to make sure that the work that's being done by law enforcement is appreciated and supported and that we maintain this incredible progress that we've made in terms of reducing
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crime. but in order for us to do that, we do have to stick with the facts. what we can't do is cherry pick data or use an neck total evidence to drive policy or to feed political agendas. if we stick with the facts and maintain effective coordination across federal, state and local agencies, then we're going to continue the hard fought progress that you and so many law enforcement officers have made over the past two decades that saves lives and keeps families intact. now it's to maintain this progress. i've spent a lot of time this year with people of all backgrounds working to reform our criminal justice system, to think about how can we make it work better. i visited a prison in oklahoma, met with inmates and corrections officers. i just last week visited a community in west virginia and met with recovering substance
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abusers and those working on new solutions for treatment and rehabilitation. i've met with rank and file officers in the oval office, met with police chiefs in the white house, met with cheechs and rank and file officers in camden, new jersey, paid tribute to those who have fallen in the line of duty and listened to families talk about what they're looking for in terms of support. and as i said in my state of the union address this year, i am convinced that progress comes together when we work together. and we work together best when we're willing to understand one another. when instead of having debates over talk radio, we stop and listen to each other so that we can imp these with the father
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who fierce his son can't walk home because of being mistaken as a criminal. and when we sympathize with the wife who can't rest until her husband walks through the front door at the end of his shift. those of us in positions of power have an obligation to give you what you need to do your jobs even better and to facilitate the conversations and reforms required to move us all forward. so today -- [ applause ] so today i'd like to focus on three things. obviously i don't have time to touch on every aspect of these issues. i'm sure you've already heard a lot of speeches today and yesterday. but u want to focus on three things that i think are really important. first, making sure you've got
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the resources you need to get the job done. [ applause ] second, criminal justice we forms that will make the system smarter and fairer. and third -- [ applause ] and third, reducing the risk that your officers face in the field with common sense gun safety reforms. [ applause [ applause ] we need to support by supporting you, the men and women who walk that thin blue line. over the past six and a half years, my administration has invested more than $2 billion to retain or hire 10,000 police officers. when state and city bungts were
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paralyzed during the economic crisis, we stepped in to save the jobs of thousands of cops. right now we're helping to make sure that the departments across the country have the equipment they need, and the training they need to use the equipment. we've opened up data to police departments can use new technology to stop patterns and stop crimes. we've setting aside radio spectrum for the first responders so that the first time in history responders will share a single network. [ applause [ applause ] we're launching anti-ambush training programs to help keep officers safe. vice president joe biden, a lifelong friend of law enforcement, has an expression he likes to offer. he's got an expression for everything. show me your budget and i'll tell you what you value.
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well, i tell you what, in my budget proposal i've asked congress to increase funding for the cops program so that we can hire more police officers and make sure you the training and equipment you need. that's what i value. [ applause ] it's in my budget. [ applause ] and i'll be honest with you. in the past, some republicans in congress have tried to cut funding for the cops program to zero. and i've argued that's wrong, it won't make us safer. it's time more folks in washington started valuing our cops, not just giving lip service to it. now -- [ applause ] -- the good news is, the cops program and other programs that your departments rely on to do your jobs may get some relief from the harmful spending cuts that congress imposed a few years ago because last night
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democrats and republicans came together over a long term budget agreement. i'm pretty happy about that because it reflects our values. growing the economy and the middle class by investing in the things like education and job training that are needed and it keeps us safe by investing in our national security. it's paid for responsibly, in part with a measure to make sure hedge funds and private equity firms pay what they need in taxes like everybody else. it's the right thing to do. [ applause ] and it's a bipartisan compromise which hasn't been happening in washington a lot. two years of funding for bungts that free us from the cycle of shutdown threats and last-minute patch work fixes. it allows us to plan for the future and as a consequence allows your department to plan for the future. it's a step guard and i hope that both parties come together to pass this agreement without delay. and then i hope congress gets to work on spending bills to invest
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in america's priorities. and that they don't get sidetracked by i'd logical provisions that have no place in america's budget process. n now, i believe that valuing law enforcement starts with making sure that it provides you with the resources that you need. i also think it means more than funding our priorities. money helps, more police officers help. but we've got to do more. so the second thing i want to focus on is fundamentally reforming our criminal justice system to make it smarter and fairer and easier for your officers to do their job safely and effectively. this is not an easy conversation to have. first of all, we all care about keeping crime rates low and things have been working, and so a lot of folks say, what's the
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problem. but for generations, we've had african american, latino communities who pointed to racial disparities in the application of criminal justice from arrest rates to sentencing to incarceration rates. and all too often, those concerns, no matter how well-documented have been brushed aside. we can't have a situation in which a big chunk of the population feels as though the system isn't working as well for them. at the same time, too often law enforcement gets scapegoated for the broader failures of our society and the criminal justice system. [ applause ] and i know you do your jobs with distinction no matter the challenges you face. that's part of wearing a badge. but we can't expect you to
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contain and control problems that the rest of us aren't willing to face or do anything about. problems ranging from sub standard education to a shortage of jobs and opportunity, an absence of drug treatment programs and laws that result in it being easier in too many neighborhoods for a young person to purchase a gun than a book. so if we're serious about protecting our communities and supporting our police departments, then let's invest in more opportunity and let's try to stop more crime before it starts. let's go after the racial disparities at the root. one study found that every dollar we invest in pre-k and universal pre-k, early childhood education, we save at least twice that down the road in reduced crime. getting a teenager a job for the
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summer may cost some money, but it costs a fraction of what it will cost to lock him up for 15 years. [ applause ] it's not enough to tell our young people that crime didn't pay if they have no prospects at all. we've got to make sure they grow up nowing that hard work and responsibility pay off and that they've got other paths available to them. for those who do break the law, we do have to take a hard look at whether, in all circumstances, punishment fits the crime. i want to be clear about this. right now america is home to less than 5% of the wrld's population, but about 25% of its prisoners. now plenty of them belong there.
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i don't have sympathy for dangerous violent offenders. i don't have sympathy for folks who are preying on children. i've got two daughters. i care about making sure these streets are safe. [ applause ] so you know, this is not some bleeding heart attitude here. violence is real, in this city and around the country. and i've seen first hand the devastation the drug trade brought on entire communities. and i believe those who pedal drugs need to be punished. down in west virginia you'd hear stories of families where these are good folks whose children were getting caught up in drugs. and young people suddenly overdosing three on four times,
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getting caught up in the criminal justice system themselves because they were hooked. but it's also important for us to acknowledge that our prisons are crowded with not only hard core violent offenders but also some nonviolent offender serving very long sentences for drug crimes at taxpayer expense. and it's important to acknowledge that having millions of black and latino men in the criminal justice system without any ability for most of them to find a job after release, and most of them will eventually be released, that's not a sustainable situation. it is possible for us to come up with strategies that effectively reduce the damage of the drug trade without relying solely on incarcerati
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incarceration. and the reason i say that is because we've seen states and local police departments and law enforcement do it. states from texas to south carolina to california and connecticut have already reduced their prison populations over the last five years and seen their crime rates fall. let's take some of the $80 billion we spend each year to keep people locked up -- not all of it. like i said, some of those folks you want behind bars. but let's look at the system and see areas where we can use some of that money to help law enforcement go after drug kingpins and violent gangs and terrorists. and if we can get some with a drug addiction or mental health issue into treatment, that may save us some money that allows us to put a murderer in that jail cell ininstead.
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we're not making it more likely that a nonviolent offender can be reintegrated. we're making the community safer. fit helps a prisoner become a skilled worker than a hardened criminal, you're less likely to have to arrest that person again and again and again and again. i can't thank the chiefs enough here. alots of you are out front on this issue and i've talked with you about it. i know because i've met with you on it. in a hopeful sign, good people in both political parties are actually ready to do something about this. just last week the senate, which basically kbets very little done, as you may have noticed, the senate voted to move forward on a bipartisan criminal justice reform bill. and that bill would cut back on the mandatory minimum for drug
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offenders and give them time off if they complete programs that make it less likely for them to complete another offense. you've got more resources that you need and there's a similar bill in the house of representatives. this is not something i get to say very often. i am encouraged by what congress is doing. i hope they get a bill to my desk so that i can sign it and together we can work to keep reducing america's crime rate and its incarceration rate at the same time. [ applause ] now even if we pass bipartisan reform, we are still going to have communities that experience a disproportionate amount of crime. in every big city in america, and some small one, folks know
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the neighborhoods where the crimes are taking place disproportionately. and in some of those communities we've still got work to do to restore trust between law enforcement and the citizens they protect and serve. this is also a hard conversation. but i hope you don't mind. i'm going to go ahead and have it. it's one of the benefits of not having to run for office again. i'm sure if you polled this room people would have different takes on what happened in places like ferguson and new york. and let's face it, the media tends to focus on the sensational and the controversial and folks on both sides who say stuff that's not
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designed to brick folks together but oftentimes makes the situation more polarized. as a society we tend to lurch from shocked to complacency on these issues. we have to resist that impulse. with today's technology, if one of your officers does something irresponsible were the whole world knows about it moments later. and the countless incidents of effective police work rarely make it on the evening news. so -- [ applause ] so it's important for us not to just pounce and jump on anything that happens and immediately just draw conclusions. we've got to resist the false
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trap that says either there should be no accountability for police or that every police officer is suspect no matter what they do. neither of those things can be right. it's on all of us to let investigations uncover facts, to make sure that stories of misconduct aren't spread before we know the facts, and that they're not the only stories that we share. because as i said before, every day your officers aren't just stopping crimes. they're responding to emergencies, protecting victims of domestic violence, refereeing pickup games, those stories need to go viral as well. but you know as well as i do that the tensions in some communities, the feeling that law enforcement isn't always
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applied fairly, those sentiments don't just come out of nowhere. i mean, there's a long history here in this country. it's not something that any individual person here is responsible for. but we all have a responsibility to do something about it. because it's part of our legacy. i was apt an event last week with l.a.'s police chief, charlie beck. when we ar asked about this issue of tensions and the feeling in minority communities that sometimes law enforcement isn't applied fairly. i repeated what i've said before, which is that there were times when i was younger, and maybe even as i got a little older, but before i had a motorcade where i got pulled over and i confessed.
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i told chief beck. most of the time i got a ticket, i deserved it. i knew why i was pulled over. but there were times where i didn't. and as a report that came out just this week reminded us, there are a lot of after dan americans, not just me who have that same kind of story of being pulled over or frisked or something, and the data shows that this is not an aberration. it doesn't mean each case is a problem. it means that when you aggregate all of the cases and look at it, you've got to say there's some racial bias in the system. now problems of racial justice or injustice has been running themes throughout this country's history in every institution, in
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every institution. and by the way, base and stereotypes oftentimes go both ways. so eliminating bias is something that not falls on the police alone. the good news is our divides are not as deep as some would like to suggest. i will tell you, i don't know anybody in the minority community that do not want strong effective law enforcement. i don't know anybody that doesn't want their kids to be staf when they're walking to school or playing in a playground. everybody should understand that police officers do a dangerous job. nobody wants to see police officers hurt. the question then is how do we bridge these issues. concern about fairness and a concern about effectiveness, making sure that the police officers get the support they need. that's why i set up a task force
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on 20th century policing last year that came up with detailed recommendations, the departments and officers can implement to keep building trust. and i appreciate owl of the members of the iacp who joined fellow officers and community activists and young people as part of that task force. i would urge all of the chiefs here and all of you who are interested in this to look at the task force recommendations. it was really interesting. you had people who were protesting at ferguson sitting with police officers and police chiefs and they came up with some shared recommendations. it talked about having open data and independent investigations to make sure that the system was fair. it talked about helping law enforcement to work with schools and youth groups so that the kids that want to make a difference in their communities say, when i grow up i want to be a cop.
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right here in shil mayor emanuel and the chicago pd have spent the past few years working on building this philosophy, putting more officers on bikes and foot so they can talk to residents. earlier this year i went to camden, new jersey where they used to have complete mistrust between the department and local residents and where the crime rate was sky high. and they're now using community policing and data to drive down crime. they've got a war room with cameras trained on hot spots around the city. and they've got software that allows community residents to direct those cameras on where drug dealers or gangs are congregati congregating. that way the local residents feel that they're partners with the local police. the police chief trained their officers from the very first day, the officers would be dropped off in the neighborhoods they would be serving and say
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you're spending all day here without a car. figure it out. which meant if they wanted to go to the rest room, they would have to get to know the local business, and they started meeting parents and communities. and that way they were -- because they knew the communities they were serving, they were able to distinguish between the drug dealer and the good kid even if both of them were wearing a hoodie. the police even bought two ice cream trucks with drug forfeiture money and in the summer drove them in to some neighborhoods where gangs had taken over and drug dealers were ped peddling on the streets. they had police officers giving out free ice cream. and suddenly the community started coming out own the drug dealers started fading away.
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all of the sudden the street corners who drug dealers were dealing drugs had police officers dishing out free chocolate chip. but in all of the efforts the goal was to get the community involved before a crime takes place, to build trust before a crisis erupts. and officers then feel more welcomed to their communities, citizens are more likely to cooperate with the police and that makes us all safer. now, look, i'm not naive. i'm not suggesting that any of this is easy. a lot of times it means more resources for police departments because it's more labor intensive. if you want that kind of community policing, then you've got to have enough police to the that because it takes time more than just to respond to a call. and i don't want to suggest that we're ever going to eliminate
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all misunderstanding os stereotypes between police officers and minority communities. it's certainly not going to happen overnight and it's especially tough because there's more crime in these communities, which means that the police are interacting with them more than they are in some fancy neighborhoods. good community policing has to be a two-way street. the communities that desperately need effective policing have to give police officers the benefit of the doubt. and -- [ applause ] and have to work with the police department to make sure you've got the resource and support to effectively implement strategies that we know work. and the flip side of it is when an individual officer does display bias or excessive force, which is going to happen, just like there are going to be politicians who do stupid things
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or business leaders who -- there's no profession that doesn't have somebody who sometimes screws up. then we've got to have department to honestly and fairly address it and not just simply close ranks or stand down. [ applause ] so none of this is easy. but it can be done. and it has to be done. because i refuse to believe that the only choice we have is to either ignore circumstances of racial bias or make it impossible for police officers to do their job. that can't be the choice that we've got. we've got to reject that false choice. [ applause ] third point. to make our communities safer
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and to make our officers safer, we've got to make it harder for criminals to cause chaos by getting their hands on deadly firearms. [ applause ] police officers see the toll that gun violence takes on our communities. not just when there's a mass shooting, but every single day. if you go to the southside of chicago or the westside of chicago and you walk around neighborhoods that now have big problems with violence crime and homicide, and you talk to the folks who have lived there for a long time and they ask you what's changed, some of it they'll talk about in terms of, well, there used to be more jobs here. people could go over to the factory even if they didn't have an education, could make a
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decent living. but a lot of what they'll say is it used to be if a kid or a group of kids was misbelieving, adults could say things to them. and now, folk don't because you don't know if they're armed. you don't know if they're armed. [ applause ] so police officers don't have the luxury of seeing this issue in black and white terms. you know exactly why if someone all too often should want to own a gun, it's a powerful instrument. it helps you do a dangerous job. it's something that has to be used with care. many of you, like millions of law abiding americans are
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sportsmen or hunters or you've got a firearm in your home for protection. but you also know the fact is that it's too easy for criminals to buy guns and that makes your already dangerous job far more dangerous than it should be. and -- [ applause ] and it makes the communities so fearful that it's harder for them to be a good partner with you. because the streets become abandoned. and parents start not being as involved. in taking place. you have a risk of being shot. it's risky enough responding to a domestic violence call or a burglary in progress without having to wonder if the suspect is armed to the teeth. maybe has better weapons than you do. and the fact is, that in states
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with high gun ownership, police officers are three times more likely to be murdered than in states with low gun ownership. that is a fact. so you know that more guns on the streets do not make you or your community safer. [ applause ] and one of the benefits of being president is you travel all around the country, and i do know that there is a difference in what firearms mean and how they are handled in rural communities and in urban settings. and we've got to take into account some of the regional differences that are involved. but i do want to emphasize, this is not just an issue for cities. yeah, there are those who criticize any gun safety reforms by pointing at my own town as an example. they, well, look, chicago had a
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spike in homicides this year. they've got gun safety laws, so this must be proof that suffer gun safety laws don't help. maybe make things worse. the problem with that argument, as the chicago police department will tell you, is that 60% of guns recovered in crimes come from out of state. you just got to hop across the border. as i said before, it is easier for a lot of young people in this city and in some of your communities to buy a gun than buy a book. it is easier in some communities to find a gun than it is to find some fresh vegetables. and a super market. that's just a fact. [ applause ] and that's why the iacp and the
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overwhelming of the american people, democrat and republican believe we should require national background checks for anyone who wants to purchase a gun. [ applause ] that's why the iacp believes we shouldn't sell military-style assault winds to civilians. they don't need them. they don't need them to hunt a deer. here, it's just a simple proposition. cops should not be outarmed by the criminals that they're pursuing. [ applause ] as i said earlier this afternoon, i met with families of police officers who gave their lives in the line of duty, and i met with families of children here in chicago, who were taken from us by gun violence. and i do this too often.
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meeting with grieving families. i'm proud to be able to express to them that the entire country cares about it. and -- [ applause ] that they're in our thoughts and prayers and that we're sorry for their loss. but i have to tell you, and i know some of you have heard my frustration in the past, here, when i meet with these families, i can't honestly tell them that our country has done everything we could to keep this from happening again. from seeing another officer shot down. from seeing another innocent bystander, you know, suffer from a gunshot wound. and that's a travesty.
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32 cops have been shot and killed this year. at least a dozen children have been shot and killed this month. about 400,000 americans have been shot and killed by guns since 9/11. 400,000. just to give you a sense of perspective, since 9/11, fewer than 100 americans have been murdered by terrorists on american soil. the 400,000 have been killed by gun violence. that's like losing then tire population of cleveland or minneapolis over the past 14 year, and i refuse to accept the notion that we couldn't have prevented some of those murders, some of those suicides, kept more families whole, protected more officers if we had passed some common sense laws. [ applause ] so, look, i understand we won't all agree on this issue.
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but it's time to be honest. fewer gun safety laws don't mean more freedom. they mean more danger. certainly, more danger to police. more fallen officers. more grieving families. more americans terrified that they or their loved ones could be next. so i'm going to keep calling on the folks in congress to change the way that they think about gun safety. and if they don't, i'm going to keep on calling on americans to change the folks in congress until they get it right. [ applause ] and, and please, please do not -- you know, some of you, you know, are watching certain television stations or listen to certain radio programs. please do not believe this notion that somehow i'm out to take everybody's guns away, and
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every time a mass shooting happens, one of the saddest ironies is suddenly the purchase of firearm and ammunition jumps up, because folks are scared into thinking that obama's going to use this as an excuse to take away our second amendment rights. nobody's doing that. we're talking about common sense measures to make sure criminals don't get them, to make sure background checks work. [ applause ] to make sure that, to make sure that we're protecting ourselves. so supporting law enforcement and having a budget that backs it up and not just -- because talk is cheap. but actually following through to make sure you have the resources you need, reforming our criminal justice system so it is smarter and we can reduce crime while still reducing the incarceration rate, restoring
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trust between communities, refusing to give up on gun safety. we can take those steps. that's within our reach. we can't stop every crime. we can't prevent every tragedy. there is evil in the world. there are just some bad people. you don't know why, sometimes, it just happens. you can't always make excuses for it. sometimes you can't even understand it. that's why we need laws. that's why we need law enforcement. that's why your job is dangerous. we can't eliminate all of that. but if we take some of the actions i just talked about, then we will be able to help you do what you do every day, which
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is save people's lives. we'll be able to make sure that the society is a partner with law enforcement. that we're not just sending you out there to do dirty work and then hanging you up to dry if it doesn't work out well. but that instead we're all working together, tackling these hard problems. because after all, the goal that we share is not just a country with falling crime rates or a country where most of us is safe and all the crime is just in a few neighborhoods that we can avoid. our goal as a country with rising opportunity and rising hopes and chances for everybody who's willing to make the effort. and i know that police officers so often see america at its worse. that's an unfortunate part of the job. i want you to know that in you
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we often see america at its best. you don't just protect us from each other. you build a foundation so that we can trust each other and rely on each other, and that's what america's about, the idea that we're all in this together. that's the idea. we don't always achieve it. i understand. there's partisanship, and racial division and we got a long history of stuff and politicians often make it worse instead of 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
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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 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
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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 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
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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. 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
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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, 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?
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>> 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 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
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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 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
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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 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
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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 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.
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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 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
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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. 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.
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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 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
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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 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
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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 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
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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. 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
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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 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
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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 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
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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 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
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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 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
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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 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
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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. 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
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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 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
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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 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
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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? 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
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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 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
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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? >> 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
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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. 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
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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 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
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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. 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
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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 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
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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 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
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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 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
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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. 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
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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 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
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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 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.
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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. 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
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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 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
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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 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.
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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 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
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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 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
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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 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
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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 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
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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 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
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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 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
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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 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
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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, 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
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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 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
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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. >> 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
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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 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
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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 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.
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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 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
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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 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
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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 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
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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, 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
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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 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
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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 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.
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>> 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 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
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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 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?
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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 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.
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>> 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. 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.
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>> 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 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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