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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  September 23, 2016 12:00am-2:01am EDT

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we knew that. we said all along we're going to make sure we keep an eye on what they do in terms of nefarious activities and use their authority to stop that. >> i wish i had more time. >> the other half of my answer is very important. >> you say you cut a good deal. can you guarantee the american people that that $1.7 billion in american cash will not be used to fund terror? >> congressman -- >> yes or no. >> these are not yes or no questions. >> congressman, let's be serious. >> one more question for you.
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financial system and a $1.7 billion payment to iran. the head of u.s. immigration and customs enforcement testified at a house hearing about how immigration laws are enforced. topics included the treatment of immigrants convicted of felonies. the deportation of undocumented immigrants and sanctuary cities. congressman bob goodlatte chairs the house judiciary committee.
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good morning. the judiciary committee will come to order. the chair is authorized to declare a recess of the committee at any time. we welcome everyone to this morning's hearing on oversight of u.s. immigration and customs enforcement, and i'll begin by recognizing myself for an opening statement. u.s. immigration and customs enforcement, i.c.e., is the federal agency charged with enforcing the immigration laws of this nation. its mission statement is to protect america from the cross-border crime and illegal immigration that threaten national security and public safety. its website boasts enforcement of over 400 statutes and touts
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the agency's focus on, quote, smart immigration enforcement and combating the illegal movement of people and goods. this sounds like an agency that is committed to devoting every available resource to vigilantly protect the american public. yet, under the policies of this president, safety and security for americans appear to be far less important than the so-called immigration enforcement priorities which result in hundreds of thousands of unlawfully present and criminal aliens remaining in our communities. smart enforcement does not include -- excuse me -- allowing nearly 370,000 known convicted criminal aliens to walk the streets and it defies common sense to designate removal aliens arrested for serious crimes as low priorities because they have not yet been convicted. they remain threats to the public, despite the lack of a conviction. any policy that noteifies violators in advance that they
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will not be prosecuted is simp lie unacceptable. how is that smart enforcement when the offenders know there are no consequences for their unlawful actions? it only encourages similar conduct by others. i.c.e. cannot refuse to arrest those who have knowingly violated our immigration laws or by releasing over 86,000 convicted criminal aliens over the last three years. these are not policies that protect americans and help secure our borders. during the last oversight hearing on april 14th, 2015, director soldana testifies that i.c.e. released 30,558 criminal aliens in fiscal year 2014, and those aliens had a combined title of 79,059 criminal convictions associated with them. the committee recently learned from a source that the number of convictions associated with those aliens increased
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substantially to more than 92,000. and i.c.e. has now admitted it knew of the additional 13,000 convictions at the time director soldana appeared before the committee. i look forward to hearing the director's explanation for the difference between what she told us then and what was known to the agency since the data demonstrates that these criminal aliens pose an even greater threat to public safety than was represented to the committee. specifically, there were 17% more convictions for homicide related offenses. 22% more for robbery. 27% more for sexual assaults. 17% more for aggravated assaults. and 11% more convictions for domestic violence assaults. the failure to report this critical information raises serious questions about whether i.c.e. intentionally distorted the true nature of these threats to congress and to the american public. for the families of those killed by criminal aliens, those like
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kate steinle, marilyn farris, casey chadwick, sarah root and josh wilkerson, assureances of smart enforcement ring hollow. and sadly the number of victims continues to increase. also troubling is the fact that despite clear indications that's i.c.e.'s enforcement priorities are placing americans at greater risk, the president's budget rekwoft for fiscal 2017 asked for $138 million less to detain and remove aliens next year. and, worse, last year i.c.e. gave back $113 million in funds that had been specifically appropriated for detention and removal purposes. consistent with his policy of nonenforcement, the president also requested $23 million less for the fugitive operations program in fiscal year 2017. fugitive operations officers must locate and arrest criminal aliens, often in a high threat environment after they have been released back into the community
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by sanctuary jurisdictions. with more than 300 sanctuary jurisdictions nationwide, there are more than enough removable criminal aliens to warrant the additional $23 million in funding for this important enforcement program. this administration's failure to allocate resources to critical program areas that directly impact i.c.e.'s ability to keep criminal aliens off the street belies any assertion that public safety is a primary concern. i want to thank director saldana for appearing here today. i look forward to your testimony and to your responses to the questions i have outlined, as well as the concerns and questions of other members of this committee. thank you very much. it's now my pleasure to recognize the gentleman from michigan, mr. conyers, for his opening statement. >> thank you chairman goodlatte. and i begin by thanking director sarah saldana for her service
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and appearing before the committee today. as head of the united states immigration and customs enforcement, director saldana has one of the most challenging jobs in government with limited resources, she must ensure that our immigration statutes are enforced as well as ensure that this is done in a fair, just and balanced way. for that reason, the 2k679 homeland security's enforcement priorities recognize that millions of unauthorized immigrants have been living and working in the united states for five or ten years or longer. these men and women are parents of united states citizen children, pray at our churches, synagogues, mosques and other houses of worship and make significant contributions to our
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economy. their removal is not and should not be an enforcement priority. we're here today to first examine how our immigration laws are enforced, and how this enforcement affects our communities. as we conduct this examination, however, we must keep in mind that many of the challenges faced by i.c.e. and immigrant communities are a result of congress' failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform. yet we are now in the waning days of the current congress which will soon adjourn without having a justice failure, even though every day families continue to be separated and hardworking members of our society are forced to live in
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the shadows. despite all the challenges, the majority continues to focus exclusively on immigration enforcement that would criminalize entire communities. the republican presidential nominee advocates policies based on the abhorrent 1950s program "operation wet back." if enacted and carried out, the ensuing chaos would be a tragedy rivaling the darkest episodes in america's history. comprehensive immigration reform is the only real option to repair our broken immigration system in my opinion. another issue we should consider at this hearing is the fact that there is a significant increase
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in the time noncriminal asylum seekers are being detained. the united nations high commissioner for refugees states that the detention of an asylum seeker is an exceptional circumstance and should only be used for a limited period of time. i agree. and i also encourage i.c.e. to use its parole authority to release asylum seekers who have passed credible fair screenings or in the alternative to consider noncustodial forms of alternatives to detention. i am pleased to see that the department of homeland security will be conducting a review of private prison policies. i have long been deeply concerned about the use of private prison companies, particularly in light of reports
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of serious medical neglect, physical abuse, preventable deaths and other forms of mistreatment. the department of justice recently decided to end its relationship with private prison companies. in part, because of abusive treatment of inmates. i encourage i.c.e. to follow suit and end its reliance on private prisons. finally, yesterday dhs announced a change in policy for haitian nationals arriving at our ports of entry. i know this is a complex area of the law with no easy answers, but deporting haitians back to a country still reeling from both a devastating earthquake and a
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cholera epidemic caused by the united nations, their own admission, is concerning and warrants close oversight. i thank the chairman for this time, and yield back the balance, if there's any left. >> thank you, mr. conyers. all other members opening statements will be made a part of the record. if you would please rise, i'll begin by swearing you in. director saldana, do you solemnly swear the testimony you are about to give shall be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you god? thank you very much. let the record show the witness answered in the affirmative. director saldana was sworn in as the director of the u.s. immigration and customs enforcement on december 23, 2014. prior to her appointment, she was the united states attorney for the northern district of texas. previously, she served as an
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assistant district attorney for the northern district of texas, also serving as the deputy criminal chief in charge of the district's major fraud and public corruption section. director saldana graduated soumah cum laude from texas a & i university and received a jd from southern methodist university. your entire written statement will be made a part of the record. we ask you summarize your testimony in five minutes. and welcome. >> thank you, mr. chairman, ranking member conyers. if i could have that little bit of time, ranking member conyers had any left, i would ask that you indulge me just a little bit over the five minutes, if possible. distinguished members of this committee. i appreciate the opportunity to discuss with you all the important work of i.c.e. by providing you an overview of our progress over the past year since the last time that i appeared before this distinguished committee. as as well as some challenges
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which we continue to address. there are many americans who are not familiar with the full gam ot of what i.c.e. does to promote i'm land security and protect our communities. an average day, and i've got a banner with this information to remind me, just exactly what our agency does, in the life of the average day in the life of an i.c.e. special agent or officer or attorney results in the arrest of four human or sex traffickers. this is every day. seven child predators, 279 criminal immigrants, and the removal of 645 individuals. each day personnel from i.c.e. initiate eight new sensitive technology investigations. block 3,055 malware attacks and forensically process more than 17 terabytes -- i have no idea what that is, but i think it's a lot of data.
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oouf spent time to increase engagement with stakeholders of our community. it's important for those of white house serve the federal government to -- that serve in the federal government, the american public, we've got to have collective partnerships with local law enforcement agencies, elected officials, professional groups and nongovernmental organizations, as well as the citizens of those communities. another one of my goals is to ensure that each one of our employees has a voice, is mentored, feels empowered and is recognized for his or or contributions to the agency and our mission. i believe this year's initial federal employee survey results which were just announced by the office of personnel management on monday demonstrate our employee engagement is working. this is one of the commitments i made when i was nominated and questioned about how are we going to get i.c.e. out of the cellar in terms of employee engagement. we had an 11% increase. an 11% increase in global
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employee satisfaction. i.c.e. wide results exceeded last year's on each and every -- i repeat -- each and every question in the survey. and we had a 6% overall increase in participation in the survey. i'm very proud of this. perhaps the lesser known work of i.c.e. is how we strive to protect our nation's homeland security. under the visa security program, which i've testified about before, i.c.e. agents assigned to diplomatic posts all over the word. i.c.e. is the second largest contributor of federal agents to the joint terrorism task forces across the country led by the fbi. we support and complement counterterrorism investigations with i.c.e.'s unique immigration and trade-based authorities. and we are instrumental in the investigations of events such as we saw this past weekend. we also perform critical work combating human smuggling, trafficking, child exploitation and we have a tremendous program
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in the hero program which involves wounded warriors who assist us in our child exploitation cases. to address the challenges of jurisdictions which have lessened their cooperation with i. criticism e. over the years, we implemented last year the priority enforcement program. we got the forms out and started this program last summer. we've had about a year under our belt and we conducted a nationwide effort to bring jurisdictions which were not previously cooperate with our detainers to do so. over the past year, we've also increased our engagement with recalcitant countries. and i will tell you, i personally have sent 125 letters to foreign leaders. i've met with the ambassadors of guinea and china to work on resolution of some of these blocking points that we have in repatriating others to their country. our people face, as you said, chairman, a very tremendous
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challenge. we have people who enter the country and choose to do harm to others. we have ever evolving every day our law from our immigration and federal courts, changes one after the other. local law sometimes conflict with ours. recalcitrant countries nr then this tremendous influx of families and children who are fleeing violent conditions in their own countries. a lesser workforce would bend, maybe even break but not at i.c.e. we continue to focus on these issues to try to get some resolution. with respect to the private detention issue, ranking member conyers, i -- if you should have questions for me, i'm certainly happy to go into detail about that. you know that secretary johnson has asked his advisory committee to look at this issue with respect to our detention centers. i will say, and i think i've visited with many people, i think i may have a date coming up for you, sir, that -- about the specifics of this.
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but we have apples and oranges in the bureau of prisons, a punitive system as opposed to our administrate of civil system we have at i.c.e. finally, just -- i'd like to say there are two legislative priorities that i will continue to push until the day they turn the lights off on me in january. one of them is an equitable pay reform system for our officers. they need to be paid in terms of premium pay equitably as compared to other federal employees. this is a legislative priority for our agency. it's a legislative priority for me. same with respect to authorization, mr. chairman. i think i've mentioned this to you personally. i.c.e. needs to be authorized. thank you so much, and i look forward to your questions. >> thank you, director. we'll now proceed under the five-minute rule with questions. i'll begin by recognizing
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myself. a report by the gao last year found immigration judges have granted asylum to 3,709 aliens whose ark silum claims were prepared by others convicted of immigration fraud. many of the aliens were involved in the fraud and investigators stated that most of the aliens had not suffered prosecution -- had not suffered persecution. none of these cases had been reopened according to the department of justice. what action have you taken to investigate these cases? >> [ inaudible ]. >> no, i'm talking about a report by the general accounting office of aliens who made asylum claims and were assisted in making those claims by individuals convicted of fraud. immigration fraud. >> obviously, fraud is an area that we are focused on. both our office of general counsel and homeland security and [ inaudible ] --
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>> pull your mike up a little closer, please. >> thank you, sir. have had -- have focused their efforts on detection of fraud. and we will, obviously, focus on these 3,000 in particular. we believe that that -- >> my question was, what action have you taken to investigate those cases? >> in those cases that we've reviewed, we have opened matters in order to take a look at them and see the facts and circumstances of each case. we will look at each one of those. >> have you instructed our i.c.e. attorneys to review those cases and file motions to reopen those where fraud is suspected? >> those, sir, and every other because there are more than those in which we believe there may be a fraud aspect that were parts of ongoing investigations. >> if your answer is y then in how hane many of those cases we motions filed. in how many of those have your i.c.e. attorneys filed motions
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to revoke or bring into question whether those grants of asylum were legitimate. >> i don't have that number directly in front of me, but i can get it to you promptly. >> how quickly? >> tomorrow. >> have any of the asylum grants been rescinded by a judge? add that to your list of questions. on august 29th, secretary johnson directed the homeland security advisory counsel to determine whether i.c.e.'s private detention operations should continue. wouldn't ending the use of such facilities adversely impact i.c.e.'s ability to detain removable aliens, including criminals? >> it would pretty much turn our system upside down, sir, because we're almost completely contractor run with respect to our detention facilities. we'd have to build detention centers, hire staff. >> or conversely, wouldn't you be forced to release criminal aliens that would otherwise be detained?
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>> we will not be releasing any criminal aliens. we've been directed specifically by the secretary that we can't do that. >> congress has mandated i.c.e. maintain 34,000 detention beds. could you meet that statutory mandate without private detention facilities? >> no. >> and last year, you told the committee that i.c.e. released over 30,000 in fiscal 2014 who had a total of 79,059 criminal convictions. later we learned we now have more than 92,000 convictions, 13,000 more than originally reported. i.c.e. was aware of this larger number before your testimony last april. april 2015. why was it not reported to the committee that the number was higher? >> in april, sir? >> yes. >> when i appeared last, or first and last time, chairman, i saw your letter regarding this inquiry, and i take very seri s seriously these concerns you
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have. let me urge you to consider when we press -- we cannot press a button for data to be spewed out particularly with respect to these -- this criminal release data you wanted that says as of march 23rd, 2015 or 2014, these are the number of criminal convictions that apply to releases that we've had. it's not a pressing of a but op. the information we provided you was as of march 23rd, 2015. and that number is going to -- could very well and does, as you know now, increase when you run the data again because in the interim, there may be additional convictions. what we -- >> let me ask you this then. i.c.e. data shows -- has i.c.e. rearrested any of these aliens? >> i have to believe so, yes, but i cannot give you a number
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right now, chairman. >> how soon could you give us a number? >> that i'll have to go back and see. these are essentially manual searches when we do something like that on a special inquiry like this. >> i.c.e. data shows one or more aliens with terrorism convictions were released from i.c.e. custody in fiscal year 2015 under the supreme court's zabidas decision. what action did you take to recommend that secretary johnson send notice to the state department of -- to invoke visa sanctions against those recalcitrant countries under ina section 243d. in other words, you released people because of that supreme court decision on to our streets. it is almost always because other countries have refused to take back people that we have attempted to deport. but we have a process whereby sanctions can be imposed. visa sanctions can be imposed on those countries.
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did secretary johnson send notice to the department of state to invoke visa sanctions against any of the recalcitrant countries that refused to take back individuals, particularly individuals who released who have terrorism convictions, of all things. what is being done to make sure that we know we have terrorists in our custody that should be deported but they are indeed deported to their home country and make these countries take back thyseese individuals. >> even when we're required to release, chairman, people with criminal records, including concerns about terrorism under the zabitas decision, we don't just put them on the street. we do release them, because we're required to, under conditions. reporting conditions, perhaps even monitor. with respect to the visa sanctions issue, i am not aware of that having been exercised once to date, although i know that the secretary has under
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consideration doing so. with respect to one or more of these -- >> i've seen no evidence that's he's done that. there pror visions that authorize mandatory detention for terrorist aliens in the immigration and nationality act, section 236a and code of federal regulations 241.14. what actions did you take or the secretary take to invoke those previsions to maintain custody of those terrorists? >> we have at least done so in one case. we do not release someone who we have the ability to detain with mandatory detention provisions. i will assure you that. >> but to your knowledge, secretary johnson has never sent a notice to the department of state to invoke visa sanctions against any country that refuses to take back their own citizens who are required by our laws to be sent out of this country? >> sir, i have -- he has done so once that i'm aware of. i don't know that we've heard from the department of state.

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