Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen Testifies on Border Security CSPAN March 6, 2019 10:04am-1:07pm EST
okay. those press folk who are where you are, we're going to ask that you get to the side. the committee is meeting today to receive testimony on the way forward on border security. before i begin, i want to express my condolences to those who lost loved ones in the devastating storms in the southeast on sunday. at least 23 people lost their lives and still more were injured in lee county, alabama, the ranking member's district.
i'd like to speak for the members of the committee and say that our thoughts and prayers are with you and all your constituents at this difficult time. >> thank you. >> in addition i'd like to express our sympathies to congressman in the loss of his father last week. lot a lot of us have been there. it's a difficult time but know we are all in support of you. turning to today's hearing, i note it was -- it's been nearly a year since the secretary of homeland security testified before in committee, as well as a number of of the members of the committee are meeting you for the first time. a great deal has happened in that time. the department of homeland security separated thousands of children from their parents at the border, two small children died in the department's
custody. the president shutdown the federal government over demands for more taxpayer money for a border wall. and most recently, the president declared a non-existent emergency at the border because congress would not capitulate to his funding demands. clearly oversight of the trump administration's border policy is long overdue. excuse me. under my chairmanship, the days of lax oversight of the department by in committee are over. with the hope of informing our hearing discussion on january 4th, 2019, i wrote to secretary neemz asking for documents related to the border wall. the department's interference with the asylum seekers at ports of entry, separation of families at the border, and treatment of children in their custody. more than two months later the committee has only received a
handful of the requested documents. this is unacceptable. the committee needs this information for its oversight and the department's failure to provide it raises further questions about this administration's credibility. let me be clear. i'm prepared to use the tools at the committee's disposal to obtain the information if the secretary fails to comply. today we will look at what the administration has said and done about border security and line it up against the facts. when it comes to border security, what the american people have heard from the trump administration is misleading, at best. the secretary has said that the administration had no policy to separate children from their parents. but internal memoranda makes clear she was aware that the administration's policy would require families to be separated. no amount of verbal gymnastics
will change that she knew the trump administration was implementing a policy to separate families at the border. to make matters worse, the administration bunkled implementation of a cruel plan, losing track of children and even deporting parents to central america without their children. the department also began limiting lawful asylum seekers, presenting themselves at ports of entry, driving desperate families into more remote parts of the border and overwhelming border personnel and resources in those areas. tragically, two young children died when they became ill in custody. shortly there after, the president shut down the government and declared a border emergency. an emergency that does not exist to get more funding for a wall. the president himself admitted that there is no emergency, even
as he was announcing his declaration saying yb i didn't need to do this, i just want to do it faster. the president wants to build a wall so there is something to point to. or have his picture taken in front of to convince the american people he has border security figured out. real border security cannot be achieved by building a wall on the southern border, blocking asylum seekers or separating children from their parents. these things are sim implicitic solutions that may have political appeal for some but offer little security value if any. indeed, focusing on the southern border to the exclusion of threats elsewhere undermines homeland security. today, the secretary can choose whether to be complicit in this administration's misinformation campaign or she can correct the record and start a serious discussion about the way forward on border security.
for the sake of our country, i urge her to choose the latter. the chair now recognizes the ranking member of the full committee, the gentleman from alabama, mr. rogers for an opening statement. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i appreciate you calling this hearing today and thank you secretary nielsen for being here and your service to our country. i do appreciate the chairman and his -- his acknowledgment of what happened inmy district on sunday. it really is breath taking when you go down and see the devastation of a tornado nearly a mile wide and stayed on the ground for 70 miles. as the chairman said we have 23 dead, 90 injured, and more than 100 homes just completely destroyed. in committee should take a lot of pride in the fact that we made a difference in this country over the last 15 years. the first responders were just wonderful. our local first responders, many of whom got training through
federal money were flawless, worked their hearts out. fema did great job. they were ready to go yesterday, nearby, kept us informed. and i know they're doing a great job in the rebuilding. but we make a difference what we have done in preparing first responders around this country. i know the governor has been in touch working with the ema and fema officials and they're doing a great job. but i appreciate your prayers as we try to start the rebuilding now that we've finished the search and recovery. with that, thank you, secretary nielsen for everything your department is doing to assist the citizens of alabama's third congressional district. this hearing comes at an important moment. there is a growing crisis at our southwest border. first changing demographics have created extraordinary challenges for our border patrol. in the most moelt levi border crossersy young mechanicen men and our allows allowed to us swiftly return them to mexico today we see massive rise in the mum of families and uncompanied
children frp central america and beyond. human smugglers exploit the loopholes in laws and take advantage of our broken immigration system. smugglers are telling vur knell rnable families that the child is the visa to stay in the united states if they turn themselves in at the border. the smuggler propaganda is working. already family apprehensions in fiscal year 2019 are more than 800% higher thap 2013. we're also seeing mierpgts arriving at the border in groups of record sizes. these massive groups overwhelming everything from the remote border patrol stations to busy ports of sbroe. 70 groups of more than 100 migrants each have been apprehended by the border patrol since october of last year. just five months. 70 groups. and some of not just a hundred they're thousands. and if you're curious, two years ago we only had due two groups of more than 100 people. that's happened in a short amount of time.
mierpgts arriving in our border had a had long and arduous journey. the smugglingers and traffickers that advertise a ticket in the united states don't care about the victim's well being only care about making money. they lead these migrants into dangerous conditions without a second thought. as a result, border patrol projects -- projecting 158% increase in migrants needing medical treatment for when they cross the border last year from last year. niece changing migrant flows place men and women of cpb and border patrol in perilous situations our officers are in search and rescue teams. paramedics are having service rescue teams a paramedic and family counselors to groups of over 10 oh staerngs at a single time gangs and drug cartels take advantage of our porous border to bring hundreds of thousands of pounds of drugs into our country. in fiscal year 2018 cpb seized 895,000 pounds of drugs at the border. that includes approximately 2,100 pounds of fentanyl.
to put that in perspective, just two milligrams of fentanyl are a fatal dose to a person according to the dea. 2135 pounds of fentanyl represent as receiptingle dose for 484 million people. more than the entire population of our country. that equal -- if that isn't of an emergency i don't know what is. and contrary to what some say, cpb actually seizes more pounds of drugs between ports of entry than at ports of entry. the some -- since fy 2012 cpb leisured more than 11 million pounds of drugs between ports of entry compared to 4 million pounds at ports of entry. mr. chairman, we have to stop the flow of illegal immigrants and community destroying drugs across the border must a end to translation transnational gangs that prophet off the illegal enterprises and bring crime to american streets. the only way to do that is to secure the border.
and we need an all of the above approach. the border security that includes manpower, 12 e21st century technology and barriers. with this approach we will deter human trafficking human smugglers and others from crossing 100s of miles of open desert with innocent children and putting children in grave danger. fewer drugs make it into the united states saving lives and making our communities safer. we know an all of the above approach works. in areas where we built a wall system illegal traffic has plummeted. and san diego illegal traffic dropped 92% after the barrier was erected in el paso it dropped 95% np in tucson illegal traffic dropped 90%. let's build on this success. border security and keeping americans safe used to be priorities for both our parties. i've been on this account since just like the chairman since its inception. we never argued about whether barriers worked until donald trump wanted them. this is not rocket science. now that many of my -- today
many move democrat colleagues will be calling for the abolition of i.c.e. i don't understand that. rather than use this hearing to score political points i encourage my colleagues to take this opportunity to hear from the secretary herself about the challenges at our border. and what the committee can do to address the changing dynamics as i've just described. i welcome the secretary's testimony and the excellent work she has been doing for our committee and i thank the kmarm for the time and yield back. >> thank you very much. other members of the committee are reminded that under the committee rules opening statements may be submitted for the record. the chair also wishes to remind members of the committee and members of the audience that rule 10 a prohibits breaches of committee decor up and allows the chair to respond acringly. with that, let me introduce our witness today. secretary kirstjen nielsen has been the secretary of homeland security since december 2017 and was last before the committee in
april of 2018. i want to thank her for joining us today and look forward to her testimony. i now ask the secretary to rise and be sworn in. please raise your right hand. do you swear or affirm under penalty of perjury that the testimony you are about to give is true and correct to the best of your knowledge a, information appear belief, so help you god? >> i want to thank the secretary without objection. the witness's full statement will be inserpented in the record. i now recognize the secretary to summarize her statement for five minutes. >> thank you. chairman thompson, ranking member rogers and distinguished members of the committee it's my honor to appear before youed to. before i begin, i want to note that our department has many missions. our people work tirelessly every day around the clock to strengthen the safety and security of the american people against terrorists, transnational criminal
organizations, hackers rogue nation states abnatural disasters and more. i want to applaud them always for extraordinary vigilens in protecting us all from persist and emerge threats. but today i want to focus on a core mission, the duty is to secure borders. one of the highest priorities of our president, in administration and my department. indeed it's among the most fundamental responsibilities of any sovereign nation. i want to start by stressing that our country remains a beacon of home, freedom and opportunity to the world. we welcome more immigrants, temporary workers and foreign travelers every year than any other nation on earth. each year more than 1 million people become lawful permanent residents of the united states. legal immigration has been a bedrock of this country. we want to strengthen legal immigration and welcome more individuals through a merit-based system that enhances economic vitality and the vibrancy of our diverse nation.
we also continue to uphold or humanitarian ideals. but illegal immigration is spiraling out of control. and threatening public safety and national security. we face a crisis, a real serious and sustained crisis at our borders. we have tens of thousands of illegal aliens arriving at our doorstep every month. we have drugs criminals and violence spilling into our country every woke. and we have smugglers and traffickers profiting from human misery every day by exploiting people seeking a better life, deceiving them about our laws and fueling everything from sexual slavery to child exploitation to the smuggles of illicit goods. make no mistake this chain of human misery is getting worse. yesterday we announced the numbers of apprehension at our southern border spiked again substantially. since late last year we have been seeing 50 to 60,000 mierpgts ray arrive at our
southern border each month. but in february we saw 30% jump over the previous month with agents apprehending or encountering nearly 75,000 aliens. this is an 80% increase over the same time last year. and i can report today that cpb is forecasting the problem will get worse in spring as the weather warms up. the projections are dire. the agency is now on track to apprehend more migrants crossing illegally in the first six months of this fickle year than the entirety of fc 17. and at the current pace we are on track to encounter close to 1 million illegal aliens at our southern border this year. our capacity is already severely restrained but these increases will overwell the system entirely. this is not a manufactured crisis. this is truly an emergency. what is different about the current migrant flows -- and this is important -- is not just how many people are coming but
who is arriving. historically illegal aliens crossing into the united states were prominently single adult males from mexico with no legal right to stay and who we could detain and remove within 48 hours. with you in recent years we have seen the numbers of vulnerable populations, children and families, sky rocket. over 60% of the current flow are family units and unaccompanied alien children. and 60% are non-mexican. because of outdated laws misguided court decisions and massive backlog of cases we are often forced to release these groups into the united states. and we have virtually no hope of removing them in the future. and importantly, our ability to help those truly in need is severely limited. the vast majority of the hid individuals are from central america. while many of them initiately claim asylum and are let into the united states only one in 10 are ultimately granted asylum by an immigration judge. unfortunately when it comes time to remove the other 90%, they
have often disappeared into the interior of our country. smugglers and traffickers have caught on realizing that the outdated laws, lack of resources and bad court decisions effectively give them a free ticket into america. information about the weaknesses in our system have spread quickly in central america, in fact they are advertised. and our booming economy under president trump has made the dangerous journey even more attractive to migrants. as a result, the flow of families and children has become a flood and the past five years we have seen a 620% increase in families. or those posing as families apprehended at the border. the last fiscal year was the highest on record. of great concern is that the children are used as pawns to get into our country. we have encountered recycling rings where innocent young people are used multiple times to help aliens gain illegal entry. as a nation, we simply cannot
stand for this. we must fix the system. today's migrant flows have created a humanitarian catastrophe. in one study more than 30% of women reported skauflt along the way and 70% of all mierpgts reported experiencing violence. smugglers and traffickers force migrant into inhumane conditions, demanding extraordinary sums of money and putting their lives in danger. and vulnerable populations especially children are coming into dhs sicker than ever before. this is also a public safety and national security crisis. tcos use the situation to line pockets. fueling a rise in other illegal activity and the spread of violent crime into our country. gang members smuggle new recruits into the united states with cpb recording a 50% spike over the last fiscal year of the number of gang members apprehended at the southern border alone. and dhs personnel grapple daily with the movement of drugs,
illicit goods and unknown threat actors coming across the borders. what are we doing about in? at the president's direction we are confronting it head on in many ways let me try to quickly summarize. we have championed a border wall system which includes infrastructure technology and additional personnel. we have implemented virtually every measure within our authority to end catch and release to keep aliens with no legal right to stay from being released into our country. we have worked with the pentagon to deploy troops to the southern border which helped us achieve tens of thousands of apprehensions and turn backs of illegal aliens. we dramatically increased referrals for prosecutions of single adults, illegally crossing the border. from 12% at the start of the administration to nearly 50% today. we have worked tirelessly with the northern triangle countries. i myself can attest to the many trips i've made and the conversations and negotiations i've had to deal with the root causes of migration and to address the challenges at the
source. i talked to my counterparts in central america almost weekly i travel down there regularly and this month i'm happy to report that we expect to sign a historic regional compact, the first ever with those countries to counter irregular pliegs human smuggling trafficking and the formation of caravans. this is something i've pursued for years and it will have a real effect on this crisis. we have stepped up efforts to protect women and children from being abused can be, kidnapped sexually assaulted and exploited on the journey and we do more to dismantle tco included through skerpted interagency action and deeper foreign partnerships. we've intensified operations to seize illicit drugs as they are smuggled into the u.s. including through the deployment of new technology. we put in place important measures to reduce asylum fraud so we can better help those who are truly fleeing persecution. this includes having certain individuals wait in mexico until their claims are processed and
where ner afraided humanitarian protection to ensure that the flow is safe and orderly. but it's simply still not enough. we need congress to act so that we can take operational control of the border as congress directed us in law to do. to protect vulnerable populations, reduce the life ending flow of drugs into america, and to confront the scourge of mum trafficking. without congressional action americans -- america's borders will never be secure. until we deal with the outdated laws that contribute to the problem, the situation will only get worse. simply put, the laws are not keeping up with the migrant flows. the gaps in the system are obvious. just as laws must be revised to address technological advances and emerging threats, so too must the laws be changed to address vastly different circumstances at the border. if migrants arrive with children we can only detain them for days and then we have to release them even with no legal right to
stay. we can't keep them together as a family three. >> please summarize your statement. >> please. what do we need we need congress to change the law permit family unity. ensure the safe and prompt return of uacs back to home countries and close loopholes allow dangerous criminals to get released into our communities. i'm happy to in response to questions talk more about activities with the northern triangle. but i would just like to conclude my remarks by asking for congress to work with me. i'm happy to meet with anyone that has a suggested solution. no rational person would zion an immigration system like we have today. it's dangerous for americans. it's dangerous for migrants. it undermines our nation's values and fails to uphold the fundamental oblss to the american people. although we may disagree on solutions i hope there can be a consensus that the current system isn't working. and that this is an emergency we must address together. i look forward to your questions. thank you, kmarm. >> thank you very much.
we allowed you to go over because some people need to hear you for the first time. >> i greatly appreciate that sir. >> and thank you. as i said in my opening statements, madam secretary, we have sent requests for a number of information to you. and we have not gotten the information back. can you commit to this committee to get the information back? >> yes, sir. >> and it's in detail -- it's -- it's not where it needs to be. so i want to encourage you there. asylum seekers. a lot of us have had an opportunity to talk to a number of people involved. can you tell the committee why asylum seekers are being turned
around contrary -- in -- contrary to law? >> sir, all asylum seekers have the opportunity to present their case. we're not turning anybody around. what we are doing is exercising statutory authority that enables us to in conjunction with mexico to return to mexico. migrants who have arrived from that country to await their processing. this is to assure a safe and orderly flow and to ensure that their humanitarian rights are protected. >> so your testimony is that to your knowledge no one presents themselves for asylum and is not prevented -- presented their rights as to what they have to do? >> our policy and processes when we encounter is as you know an alien is we do provide them with information on their legal
rights, their ability to access counsel. i'm not sure if you're referring to credible fear. if you do not pass the initial credible fear screening obviously then you do not -- you can appeal that but generally speaking you do not go on to meet before an immigration judge for the asylum claim. >> is that something do you in writing? or you do it orally? >> both. both ner prevented with information in writing and then we also of course advise them orally. >> can you present in committee with the written direction that asylum seekers receive from your department when they present themselves. >> yes. yes. >> the other situation is the president made a comment that he really didn't need to do the emergency declaration. he just wanted to do it faster. do you have any information for the committee as to what he was talking about? >> my conversations, of course,
with the president generally speaking are protected under privilege. but what i would say his explanation in general in public has been that he hoped congress would act, that it didn't have to come to issuing the emergency declaration if congress had met his requests to fund the resources that cpb has requested. >> to your knowledge, are you aware family members who have been separated from their children and deported back to a country without their children? >> yes, sir. >> can you provide this committee with a list of knows individuals? >> i'm happy to do that with the one caveat that as you know that's part of ongoing litigation. and miss allen as long there is no privacy concerns from the court of course we are happy to provide that. a lot of the information is in
the the court with expect to migration. i would note with longstanding practice and the law before we deport any alien after they have gone through the process and receive a final order of removal we do ask them if they would like to take their children with them. at the same time the consulate or embassy for purposes of issuing travel papers asks them would you like to be removed with your children as you are removed. as part of misl the judges asks us to ask in conjunction with the aclu which we did. there was no parent who has been deported to my knowledge without multiple opportunities to take their children with them. >> so is this with counsel present? >> i'm sorry? >> is this -- their attorney present? >> i can't speak to every case with that, sir. they have the right to a counsel as you know. but the united states government does not pay for that pursuant to law. >> explain how one would acquire
counsel if they don't know it. >> we give them lists of available resources, legal resources in the area. we work closely with the ngos to ensure that they understand the options for that and then certainly when any work with consequence lites and embassies as part of the removal process to receive the travel authorization, the embassies and consulates provide them with information and ability to access counsel. >> some of us have been -- had an opportunity to see some of the enhanced barriers being placed on ports of entry. we tried to find a policy directive that said we should close lanes and put barriers on those -- concrete barriers and barbed wire. are you familiar with any such
policy? >> the general direction for the safety of the migrants and the officers working at the ports of entry is to ensure a controlled environment, particularly after we saw the violence from one of the caravans in the fall. many of the local border chiefs, border sector -- excuse me, the o.p.f.o. officers at the ports determined what was needed to ensure that there was safety and security at the ports. that's for the migrants, that's for the officers. generally speaking that was done on a case by case situation with the overall direction to ensure the integrity and safety of that area. >> there is no written policy? >> it's not a policy, sir, per se. but the direction is clear, to protect officers and migrants and ensure a safe and orderly flow. to do that we have to make sure that the migrants go through the designated area. so the enhancements to the port of sbrae was to disable them from at their own risk, which we have seen many times run across
lanes of traffic or try to go around a port of entry. >> thank you. the chair now recognizes the ranking member. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i want to follow up on something you referenced in your opening statement and then the kmarm probed you on. to more fully understand this asylum seeker circumstance. you made reference in your statement that 90% of the asylum seekers are denied denied when they fieply have the hearing. the other -- and those 90% generally have already blended into the society we can't get rid of them. if we know only 10% are going to be approved based on history, i just don't understand why we let people in while we wait on the hearing. you made reference in your statement that many of them are allowed to stay in mexico until their hearing date. my question is, why aren't all of them required to stay in mexico until the hearing date so that way we can monitor thimm them while they are here for the hearing and if approved they can stay if they can't they go back
to mexico. is that because of some statutory reason or why? >> it's actually more based around we're trying to do in a very reasoned way. we are expanding that program across the border. we work and notify the mexicans as we do that. you have seen statements made by their secretary qb equivalent to secretary pompeo and my equivalent that they are determined to protect the humanitarian rights. so we do it in conjunction with them as we respond the program we do it in a systematic way. but the goal is to expand that across the border. >> you are trying to get to the point where. >> yes. >> only people can get in for the hearing at the time of the hearing. >> yes. >> excellent. what can we help you with to make that happen more rapidly. >> we have all of the authority we need from the underlying ina statute. what we are looking for is additional requests if any we need to come back to you with
this requires some new things. for example transportation from the ports to the courts. so when we have the court date we will go back to the port to pick up the migrant, take he or she to the court that is not a transportation need we have had in the past. that's just one example. but we are looking through to see if we can fund those as we expand the program with our current rourpss. if not we would come back with a request. >> my understanding is that the mexican government has made available asylum to all asylum seekers who have been come from south of mexico into the country trying to get to the united states. that accurate? >> my understanding is they have offered both asylum to the vast majority if not all of the migrants but nef also offered work permits. >> so if somebody is fleeing venezuela or honduras because of their concerns over safety, and they get into mexico, by the time they get to mexico's northern border to come in our
country there is no danger to them and their safety. >> my plea to anybody that chooses to take this journey is to please seek protection as soon in the journey as possible. it's an extraordinarily dangerous journey. my advice to migrants throughout the region is please accept protection as soon as possible. >> okay. i'd like to give you some time. you made reference to the northern triangle that you and in your opening statement you'd like to talk more about it would you tell us what you had in mind. >> sure. beginning about nine months ago i traveled to the region many times between the border and the northern triangle in mexico. i've been there about 25 times. and have had multiple discussions with my partners in the northern triangle. what we're working on together are ways to dismantle transnational criminal organizations, to identify the criminals who are preying on the vulnerable populations to work with international organizations
such as unhcr to increase asylum capacity in the region, to make sure we share information so we understand who is in the flow, that latter relates to the increases in special interest aliens that are in the flow. and to make sure that we can keep families together. so how can we design a system that begins at the start to make smur that migrants are protected and they don't need to take the dangerous journey. >> great. do you know how much the smugglers charge people to get across the border generally. >> so it varies. our estimates and then most recently is last week what we heard from mexican counterparts is about $6,000 a migrant. it's more for families. >> to your knowledge do they coach the migrants as to what to say when they get to the border to be able to get? >> we have seen instances absolutely throughout the region where they are provided information on pieces of paper. there is also advertisements through social media. there is a whatsapp conversation
particularly to this. to give them if you will specific words to claim credible fear once they reach the border. >> great. thank you my time is exexpired i appreciate your service. >> thank you, chair now recognizes the gentle lady from texas, ms. jackson lee. >> let me change the and ranking member for holding the hearing and the chairman's leadership on the issues. madam secretary let me thank you for your service. over of the past couple of months i'm proud of the members of in committee, particularly my colleagues on the democratic side who almost to every one have been to the border because of in re desire to be proficient and efficient on making the right decisions. and so my knowledge of in committee has been that every single secretary of homeland security i've had a terrific working relationship with regardless of the presidential politics or party because our commitment here is to secure the
nation. i believe if a horrific tragedy happens again, it's this committee and that in the senate that will be looked to by the american people who have devised the right approach. do you believe that you as secretary of homeland security have the independence of the white house to make the right decisions? >> can you independently make a decision and krer contrary to the president of the united states on behalf of of american people for what is best for them. >> ma'am, what i can tell you is i take my oath with utmost extreme importance. i always do my best. >> is your oath to the american people the oath to the president of the united states. >> no, ma'am, the oath as you know is the constitution and the people. >> all right in that vein do you have the ability to make independent determinations. >> i do what i believe is best for the men and women of dhs and this country. >> have you adviced the president on his emergency declaration? have you the the given him the
grounds for this emergency declaration in the context of what emergency means? >> what the i have done is i've given him all the facts from the men and women working at the border, many of whom i know you have met with thp pawning thank you for that i give him the operational reality. here is what we are facing, what with we see the facts. by my read of it it's an emergency, dual crisis. that's the information i provided. >> if there is any daft are data you have given in particular i'm requesting it be made available to this committee whether in classified session or not in writing. if there have been any memos you directed to the president that would have given him the basis of calling for in my opinion a false emergency declaration i will not judge your data as you are giving facts then i would like that to be submitted to this committee. let me. >> ma'am if i could i just -- i would be remiss if i didn't say much of the information that i give in private to the president of course is covered under a
confidentiallety privileges. we're happy to give you any information that we work on from the operators we're very transparent most of that information as you know is published at our website. happy to give that you. but i would not be able to speak to any particular conversation i had with the president. >> i will not dwell on that i will leave it to the chairman of the full committee on the question of confidentiallety. i think members of congress are due classified information and there is a question of confidentiallety orless privilege i'm not sure which you exert here. >> it's not mine to exert or waive. >> i would say i would want the material you had provided to the president of the united states to make his decision. let me ask you, do you have a census of all of the children that are being detained in the various facilities, both the ones at the border and others that are in partnership with hhs? do you know how many young people are detained? >> yes, ma'am. i don't have the number in front of me. we have all of the numbers. >> would you provide that for me. >> yes.
>> the next question is, what is the pathway of reuniting those children detained -- my number is about 12,000 plus -- what is the pathway for reuniting those children presently existing in detention centers who have been there for one year, two year, three years plus? >> so the best data that we have is the data that's been approved from the miss l. case. i believe you have access to that. i don't want to take up time unless you'd like me to in reading it but it walks through how many children remain in the custody. >> can you give me a number for the record. >> there is -- sure. it breaks down of the original 2816 that the court identified, 2735 have been dharnld. >> i'm asking for those that in the partnership between homeland security and hhs you have centers around the nation, some run by southwest keys upwards of 12,000 children. have you tried to reunite them with some guardian or family
member? >> yes. so hhs as you know under tvpra is required to find a sponsor for the child. that's what they do. that's part of. >> that's a program that i designed and i believe that it should be in cooperation and i'm asking to ask you on the record to not to give the answer now but i need to to know the numbers and how many are reunited i.c.e. has represented they are stopping the families from being reunited. >> i.c.e. is not stopping families from being represented. there. >> reunited. >> reunited. there are three instances in longstanding practice which cpb, not i.c.e. encounters a family unit presenting as a family unit where separation may be necessary. the first one is if the adult accompanying that child is not a parent por legal guardian. the second, if there is a risk to the child. and the third is if the parent otherwise needs to go to a custodial prosecutial setting. longstanding process. the numbers are not high. happy to provide them with you.
but that's what cpb does at the berd for the protection of the child. >> mr. kmarm thank you i'll have questions for the record and the answers have not been given. thank you very much. >> thank you very much. the chair recognizes the gentleman from new york, mr. king. >> dhaung thank you chairman. second thank you for your service and appreciate you being here today. i'd like to focus on unaccompanied myren. involving ms 13 my district is propping the epicenter of ms 13. we had a series of 25 murders within 18 months in the fall of 2015 to the spring of 2017. i think almost all of the victims were immigrants, documented and undocumented. so it was a slaut are within the immigrant community. what we found was that many of those murders were carried out by unaccompanied minors. i think the most recent series of indictments of the 11 indicted for murder 7 had come across as unaccompanied minors.
let me commend your department and others since april of 2017 there have been no murders. 25 in the previous 18 months np none in sufficient okay county since then and i commend you for that. hsi has done an outstanding job. fbi. justice department. and police i thank you for that. what was found at the time was that these minors coming across, a number of you will were sent by ms 13 or the families volunteered to take them in from hhs were either supporters of ms 13 or had relatives back in central america whose lives are threatened if any didn't take them in. and then they went in the zools and in certain schools there are areas of the school that were taken over by ms 13 young people. again, as i said a series -- a large number of the murders were carried out by ms 13. what the police said at the time was that they were concerned there was no vetting when the one unaccompanied i know they
are turned over hhs maybe it's more an hhs issue. but as to whether they had any ms 13 connections flaur was vetting of the families volunteering to take them. nor vetting office families. the school district had no choice but to take them. i ask you now, is there increased vetting to knowing whether or not these unaccompanied minors have any ms-13 connections, the families volunteering to take them have ms-13 connections and are local law enforcement notified when these unaccompanied minors come into their districts? >> thank you. let me take them bite sizes. we do now do background checks. one of the things i was very concerned about when i came in as secretary is that we were not doing enough to protect children that adult coming to pick them up did not pose a threat. one of the threats is if the
adult was part of ms-13. we do background checks. hhs uses the information to determine the suitability of the sponsor before they release the child. i'm not aware and i'm happy to get back to you for the record, i'm not aware of hhs consistently tells communities where uacs are placed and if there is a concern that the uac might have gang ties. i'm not aware of that but i'm happy to get you that information from hhs. on the front end, when we encounter uacs if we believe they are a risk in any way, the brief time that we have them before we transfer them to hhs, we will separate them out from the other population of children for the safety of the other children. but other than that, we do not have a systemic way to ask uacs or look into their background while they're in our custody. >> do you feel it's enough cooperation between dhs and hhs? >> we do work very closely together day to day. we share the modeling, the
projections, what children are coming in, what children they're releasing. it does in my opinion need to be a bit stronger with respect to ensure that the sponsors do not pose a threat. >> okay. thank you, secretary. i yield back. thank you for your efforts. again, that drop-off in murders from 25 to 0. thank you very much. >> the chair recognizes the gentleman from rhode island. >> thank you, mr. chairman. madam secretary, thank you for being here today. we all want stronger border security. the question is what is the best way of getting us there. not creating a solution that is a political promise but doesn't really achieve strong border security. i want to follow up on an issue brought up by the chairman regarding border crossings. i've long held that and i have
an interest in ensure we're making policy based on sound data and credible threats. it is my understanding and you've testified to some of this morning your department keeps accurate statistics of the number of apprehensions at the border, is that correct? >> apologies, yes. >> and these statistics are compiled annually by u.s. customs and border protection and published publicly on its website? that's correct? >> yes. we compile them monthly and publish them, but yes. >> according to this report, so the number of apprehensions at the border in 2000 was 1.6 million, does that sound right? >> it was over a million, yes, sir. >> okay. and these statistics show that in 2018, the number of apprehensions had fallen to just under 400,000. that's a drop of 75%, is that
right? >> yes. sounds about right. >> i have a chart that i would like to display that shows the change in apprehensions. so i want to ask you about what the president has said about border apprehensions. while touring the south texas border on january 10th the president stated of the border patrol, there are never so many apprehensions ever in our history. so secretary nielsen, what the president said is not accurate, was it? >> what i can tell you is we have encountered more family units per month than in history. >> what the president said is accurate or not? >> i don't know the context of his statement. if he was talking about family units in a sector.
>> i'm talking about the number we went from 1.6 million in 2000 apprehensions and 400,000 in 2018. the president said that there were never so many apprehensions at the border in our history up until now, is that accurate? was the president accurate? >> again, it depends on the context because it depends on the type of migrant, sir. >> it's either -- the 400,000 figure is accurate or not? if it's accurate the president was not accurate, that is correct? >> again, we've had -- we've had monumental high numbers in some areas of the border -- >> mr. chairman, i'm trying to get a yes or no. >> sir, i don't know the context -- >> seems self-evident to me. >> i don't know the context of his statement. i'm trying to give you my most accurate testimony. what i can tell you in some places we have had record months of families in some areas we have had record numbers of apprehensions. >> okay. >> well -- >> the gentleman, i think he's
asking for the total number. not a selected category. >> the total number we are on track for this year for 900,000 apprehensions at the border. >> that wasn't the question. >> okay. >> is the president misleading the american people? is he accurate in what he's saying? the largest amount of detentions or is it not, at the border? >> in some is categories we have had record-breaking apprehensions. >> well, the president's claim in the way i read it misled the american people, gave the public flawed information on a key border question. did you take any steps to correct the information when the president stated what he did? >> we provide information that we gather from cbp and all of our components for that matter, we provide them as a matter of
course to the white house and we with try to put those numbers in context. >> madam secretary, the reason i ask these questions, is they go directly to the heart of the rationale for the president's emergency declaration. the president has been telling the public that there's an emergency at the border because crossings and apprehensions are at record high levels, but as you really have conceded yourself, in the testimony, the facts are exactly the opposite when you're looking at the actual number, apprehensions today are constitutionally smaller than 20 years ago. my time is expired, but it is inaccurate, it's decreateful to be inflating numbers or making statements that aren't accurate and the president is wrong. >> chairman, would you mind if i
just responded briefly? what i would say, sir, the larger question about the emergency, unfortunately what we're seeing is very different situations. it's not just the number. it's the abuse of the migrants along the way, it's the sexual abuse, it's the violence, it's the new phenomena that we see of large groups coming which the system was not prepared to care for. many of our facilities were made for maybe 100 people a day. we're seeing 1500 family units in a given sector on a given day. so when you put all of the facts together, the problem is not just the vastly increasing numbers, and again we jumped another 30% from last month, but it's the type of migrant that our system is not set up to protect. originally it was single adults from mexico, now it's mostly central americans and the vast majority are vulnerable populations, family and children. all of that is a crisis because the system is not built for that
type of flow. >> we'll follow up with some more direct information on that. i would ask the secretary if yes or no would be very helpful in some of the questions that you ask and i think that's what he was really trying to get to. not anything else. the chair recognizes the gentleman from texas. >> thank you, mr. chairman. madam secretary, welcome to this committee. i've been following the border probably longer than i care to. back when i was a u.s. attorney western district of texas to 15 years on this committee, chairman of this committee, hard to get a good solution, but i can tell you, at least as i see it, i just want to get your understanding, that the threat
has changed? it used to be in the old days, we had predominantly males crossing for work. now we have more family units than ever crossing because the coyotes understand the legal loopholes we talked about and they now know how to exploit them and they are. they're making a heck of a lot of money off of it in the process and putting children in harm's way up that dangerous journey as we go northbound. in fact, in february, i think the apprehensions were 76,000 immigrants apprehended at the border. then you throw on the fentanyl, the meth labs, the dangerous drugs coming into this country, the human sex trafficking, i think it is a crisis. i think the president is correct in saying it's an emergency and that we need dire action now.
i'm disappointed we didn't pass a good bill last november that would have solved a lot of these problems. about every democrat voted against it and 20 republicans voted against it. that was a historic opportunity and here we are talking about this problem when we know that the laws of the magnet that draw them into the united states of america and until congress acts -- i look at you and i feel not sorry, but it's not your fault. it's congress that's failed to act to solve this problem. until congress acts to solve the problem, we're going to continue to have this constant problem on our border. the president is doing everything he can in a creative way as well to get security down there that i think is very important. but i want to also talk about root causes. you talk about the northern triangle and spent a lot of time
down there and i'm going down with -- putting my foreign affairs hat on, the chairman of foreign affairs committee going to colombia and venezuela, 3 million migrants coming out of venezuela into colombia and probably going to start heading north. this is a humanitarian crisis. we're going down there and we're going to the northern triangle. can you tell us the latest on the central american security initiative and how we can stop these families from making -- paying $6,000 -- you must be desperate to say here, coyote, we'll give you $6,000 to take my child up north. very desperate situation. what can we do to stop ta desperation? >> i would just in the time that i have let me just give you a couple examples and i can also
refer back to a question that congresswoman jackson lee asked me. the number of unaccompanied children is part of the humanitarian crisis. these are children whose parents decided to send them alone on a very, very dangerous journey at the hands of most often smugglers and coyotes or traffickers into the united states. what we hear from the northern triage governments they have said this publicly and i am sure they will tell you when they visit them they want their children back. our laws uniquely allow us to send mexican children back home after they have gone through a process do not have a legal right to stay, but under the law, we cannot send children from other countries back except mexico and canada. the northern triangle governments will say to you, please send us our children back. we want them reunited with their families and communities here. we don't want the smugglers to be able to convince parents to
send their children on this perilous journey where they are absolutely victims of violence and abused. as you know, sir, very unfortunately because of the inincrease in violence at i.c.e., when we have families with children, we have to give every girl a pregnancy test over 10. this is not a safe journey. i ask again we change the law and treat all children the same and forward them the opportunity to go back home if they have no legal right to be in the united states. the other part of this that i think we need to do is we need to find a way to keep families together. families need to be able to be kept together, go through the process, if they have a legal right to stay we will welcome them here. if they don't have a legal right to stay, the most humanitarian thing to do is to remove them efficiently and effectively. both of those changes we need from congress. >> thank you, madam secretary. i see my time has expired. >> thank you very much. the chair recognizes the gentle lady from new york, miss rice.
>> thank you, mr. chairman. madam secretary, want to ask you to quality the question asked before, can you confirm that there has never been a parent deported under your tenure without finding out if they want their children to go with them? simply yes or no? can you confirm that? >> to the best of my knowledge every parent was afforded that option. >> secretary nielsen, on june 17th, 2018, you tweeted we do not have a policy of separating families at the border. period. then attorney general jeff sessions announced the justice department's zero tolerance policy to prosecute all individuals who cross the border outside of ports of entry and he made that announcement april 6th of 2018. in a memo to you dated april 23rd, regarding the justice department's zero tolerance policy cbp commissioner kevin mcalienen, director francis sisna and then i.c.e. acting
director thomas hohman, stated dhs could also per miserably direct the separation of parents or legal guardians and minors held in immigration detention so that the parent or legal guardian can be prosecuted pursuant to these authorities. did you read that memo yes or no? >> yes. >> did you concur with this assessment made by your component agency leaders, yes or no? >> many assessments in there, i conquered with their recommendation on what to do to increase consequences for those crossing the border illegally. >> the piece i just read, do you concur with that? >> i'm sorry. could you read that particular -- >> dhs could direct the separation of parents or legal guardians and minors held in immigration detention so that the parent or legal guardian can be prosecuted pursuant to these authorities? that statement. >> as i understand it we have the legal authority to do that. >> did you agree with that? >> what i agreed to do -- >> did you agree with that
assessment they made. >> that wasn't a recommendation. it's a legal statement. we have the legal authority to do it as i understand it. >> were you aware that zero tolerance policy would lead to minors being separated from their parents? yes or no? >> as we increased consequences for those who break the law just as everywhere -- >> yes or -- >> i have such limited time. i'm sure you can appreciate that. >> as a consequence for the parent going to jail we in this country do not take the children to jail. >> so i take that is a yes, that you understood the zero tolerance policy was going to lead to minors separated from their parents. >> as it has in the last three administrations. >> okay. >> so the answer is yes. at the end of february buzzfeed reported that you did not issue guidance on how to implement the zero tolerance policy until may 4th which was about a month after the attorney general sessions announced the policy. did you discuss this policy with attorney general sessions before he announced it on april 6th? yes or no? >> this was an ongoing
discussion. >> yes or no, did you discuss zero tolerance policy with the then attorney general sessions? before he made the announcement on april 6th, yes or no? >> at some time before the announcement we had the conversation i did not know he was making that announcement that day. >> but you had a conversation with him about the zero tolerance policy, yes or no. >> zero tolerance means prosecuting those who break the law. >> yes, thank you. >> we talked about prosecuting those who break the law. >> why did you wait until may 4th to issue implementation guidelines? >> because we wanted to work within the department to ensure we could do it in an appropriately safe way with compassion as you mentioned, the memo from my heads came april 23rd and issued after many consultations with them, the direction to increase prosecution between ports of entry which is the only place where that's against the law for all adults coming across the border illegally. >> we all know the results of the policy and the compassionate or lack of compassion --
>> it's not a policy. it's the law. we enforce the law. >> the policy is a policy. you just talked about discussing that policy with the then attorney general. one minute three quick questions. during your tenure as secretary, how many times have you waived environmental regulations required under the endangered species act for border barrier construction? >> there are multiple laws we look at. >> i'm trying to answer it. i believe four or five but i will get you the exact answer. >> during your tenure as secretary, how many times have you waived environmental regulations under the clean water act for border barrier -- >> it would be the same number. i'm happy to get you the exact number. >> during your tenure as secretary how many times have you waived environmental regulations under the clean air act for border barrier construction? >> it should be the same. i'll get you the number. >> thank you. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you very much. the chair recognizes the
gentleman from new york. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you for the kind words about my father. i very much appreciate it. welcome, miss nielsen. nice to see you again. i have a rather unique perspective on the border and a lot of people will be talking about the immigration component but the crisis is not just with respect to immigration. it's with respect to the drugs that are pouring across this border and killing our kids at a rate of five an hour of heroin alone which is frightening. one of the components is fentanyl. just a tiny amount of fentanyl is what's proving fatal in most of the overdoses because fentanyl mixed with the heroin. can you tell us if there's been significant seizures of fentanyl at the border? >> yes, and in the interior as well. i.c.e., you know, overall interdicted enough fentanyl last year to kill every american twice over. substantial amounts of fentanyl. >> that's enough to kill every single american? >> twice. yes, sir. >> amazing.
now, when i was on the border, i was a federal prosecutor in el paso, texas, and i was charged going after cartel level drug traffickers and we could literally get on the roof of the u.s. attorney's office in el paso, with binoculars and see one of the cartel members' houses across the border. i'm familiar based on the prosecutions i did there about their patterns and practices. and i know that they use often times the same smuggling routes for drugs that they use those for human traffickers as well. i also know that when you beef up security and you beef up scrutiny at the ports of entry, at least back when i was there in the mid '90s, they often simply went around and avoided the ports of entry. can you tell me, is that still holding true today, if you put a pressure point in one place they find the other holes in the border and go across there? >> yes, sir that is still true. >> with respect to that, is it important, is it fair to say it's important that if you have and increase the scrutiny at the
ports of entry, which is absolutely critical, that you also need to beef up the other parts of the border with barriers where necessary and sensors and all the other things? >> it's not an either or. >> that's exactly right. >> that's my point. >> yes. >> so i think it's incumbent when we have this discussion to understand that we all agree, on both sides of the aisle, that beefing up the ports of entry and the security and using the highest technology we can is critically important. i was always amazed at the ingenuity of the drug traffickers in secreting the drugs and humans in vehicles coming into the ports of entry. we got to do that. as soon as you do that, they're going to go out to the areas where the weak points are. can you tell me where the weak points are now that need barriers? >> sure. particularly in the rio grande valley which is one of the areas that we will focus on with the new border funding. el paso is a particular area where we see increased flow,
particularly with the number of families. it's well over 1,000% increase in families traveling through that area. when i say el paso, the sector. >> el paso sector. >> yes, sir through the ports of entry. so those are the two main areas as you know we have a border security improvement plan we provide that we update each year and go on a risk based way. >> the barrier that's being contemplated subject of much consternation over the last several months it's not for the entire southern border? >> no, sir. >> how much are we talking about? how many more additional miles of barrier? >> about 700. little more than 700. >> is it fair to say that up until this administration, it's been a pretty bipartisan agreement that barriers are needed at certain points along the border? >> yes, sir. >> i want to switch gears if i may for a moment, with respect to cyber security which i'm the ranking member of that subcommittee now, there's a bill we will be submitting next week
that suggests and asks that a cyber security infrastructure advisory committee be created similar to what we did with tsa and the committee. are you familiar at all with that bill and are you -- do you think that adviser committee is necessary? >> so we're happy to work with you on that. we have a critical infrastructure advisory council already, but we have been looking into something if we can focus on cyber because it is a unique expertise as you well now know. we're happy to continue to have our staff work with you on that. >> it's fair to say cyber security is probably one of the biggest threats for our country right now overall and so the more we can have information flowing going back and forth between the stakeholders and homeland security the better it's going to be. >> i know it's not the particular topic today but i will say as i have said before, the threat to cyber security is blinking red. it is absolutely one of if not the highest threat we face in the homeland.
>> thank you. i yield back. >> the chair recognizes the gentleman from california. >> thank you, mr. chairman. secretary nielsen thank you for being here. i wanted to quickly follow up with some of the comments from my colleagues from new york. ma'am, would you say, continue to squeeze the southern border are we going to look, there's so much money in drugs now. >> yes, sir. >> you just came back from the northern triangle that's causing all kinds of problem, our u.s. dollars corrupting those systems in central america. so as you continue to squeeze the southern border would you say our seaports are also going to be susceptible to being areas of smuggling and possibly the northern border, canadian border? would you say that is also a place that could be used if not now but in the future by smugglers to bring in drugs? >> we do it all based on risks. but criminals will find a way unfortunately to do whatever
their criminal act -- >> as long as we keep paying for those unfortunately those illicit drugs people will find a way. >> a drug demand is a large problem. >> thank you. i'm going to shift quickly, ma'am, last year secretary nielsen, i sent you a letter regarding family separation dated june 20th, 2018, i have not got an response from your office that's satisfactory. these are black and white questions. i re-submitted this letter to your border patrol chief last week and i'm going to submit the same letter to you today. i'm hoping that we can work together to find some answers to these questions. family separations. one of my new assignments i'm going to be chair of a subcommittee on tsa security, and like everybody else on this committee we're concerned about safety especially terrorists, anti-terrorist activities and you stated recently that to
congress in fiscal 2017, dhs prevented 3700 known or suspected terrorists from coming into the u.s. i think most of these were being stopped at our airports, is that correct? >> yes, sir. >> something like 3700 were actually stopped by our tsa agents at airports. maybe less than 100 southern border excuse me, less than 10 at the southern border and more like 100 at our northern border does that sound right? >> the majority were through the air environment that only thing i would add is many of them are identified by cbp as part of the vetting before they travel. so they're either stopped from traveling or as you say stopped by tsa or cbp once they arrive. >> this is the work that you do in coordination with other nations around the world, brazil? i know brazil is very popular. jump out point to the u.s. in terms of possible suspected terrorists? >> brazil has a much more open
visa enterprise and so because of that, yes, sir, we do see it being exploited unfortunately. >> the reason i ask this because i want to do a deeper dive into some of these numbers to really put a resources where we need to focus on stopping terrorists. fiscal year 2018, cbp data, only six suspects caught at the southern border? >> i presume you continue to have the vast number being stopped at our airports. >> so i can't speak to as you can understand i can't speaks to the particular number of terrorists stopped at the southern border because that is classified, at least not in this setting. >> correct. i will look forward to working with you in a classified setting to address these issues. >> i would be happy to. real quickly for perspective what i would say as you know there's another category called special interest aliens those who have been identified as individuals who travel or have other aspects that are similar
to a terrorist. we do see increasing numbers of those coming throughout the system. >> let me say i'm running out of time and want to work with you on these issues. our tsa officers i'm concerned because tsa was put together after 9/11 and they were actually being paid by the airports at that time. now we find out tsa officers have to be professionals. they have to be well trained because we see where the challenge is when it comes to stopping terrorists coming into the u.s. i look forward to working with you and coming up with package to make sure they're the best of the best. i want to say i was in the northern triangle the day or so before you were there. >> yes. >> and i want to -- hats off to the countries trying to work with us. i know honduras, for example, the jump out point to the caravan, the president of honduras told us 90% of the
first caravan, those folks had been returned to honduras. second caravan, about 5,000, 60% had been returned, and the rest is actually stayed in mexico. what i'm trying to say if i make my factual point if i had more time this is not a border issue. this is a regional refugee challenge. my colleague talked about all the refugees from venezuela to colombia. but this is a refugee issue. mexico i understand is holding a lot of those refugees and offering them in your words permits to stay, work permits. i'm hoping we can turn the discussion from building a wall and border security to addressing a refugee crisis in this continent. the one if i may, mr. chairman, the one word people in central america kept repeating to me was, folks in central america want hope. hope for better life, better
job, some security. i hope we can sit down and put the political rhetoric aside and focus on giving these human beings a little bit of hope of staying and building lives. >> mr. chair, i yield. >> thank you very much. the chair recognizes the gentleman from north carolina, mr. walker. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you, secretary nielsen for being here today. secretary nielsen, what is the volume of drugs coming through the southern border illegally? >> i don't have the exact figure at my fingertips, but it's going up particularly cocaine, methamphetamine and unfortunately fentanyl. >> our numbers show us fiscal year, about 15 million pounds seized. does that sound like that's in the ballpark? >> it does but sounds like it might not include the coast guard. >> would you say that's a crisis? 15 million pounds? >> yes, sir. >> we talked about fentanyl earlier. drug so powerful that less than five pounds can kill over a million people.
our numbers show that almost 1700 pounds in fiscal year 2018, does that sound in the ballpark? >> yes. >> would that be a crisis to the dhs? >> it is because it's an extraordinary danger to our communities but also a danger to those inspecting packages. we've spent a lot of time on training and had to do a lot of things differently even for the dogs who were dying just by virtue of breathing the fumes from the fentanyl. >> we talked about the amount of individuals people coming across the southern border, do you have any estimates per year what that looks like? >> we are on track right now to be at 900,000 this year. >> okay. our apprehensions of family units and aliens of a accompanied alien children increasing or decreasing? >> they are increasing rapidly. family units went up around 30% from last month and the same for uacs. this is the -- those are the two vulnerable populations dramatically increasing. >> fiscal year 2018, the number
was 107,000 already the first four months of fiscal year 2019 that starts in october is 99,000. have you had a chance to meet former dhs secretary jeh johnson? >> yes. >> okay. i wonder if he would also consider this a crisis because since the previous administration, that number has increased 572%. my question at what point does it become a crisis? >> sir, if you ask the men and women of dhs they would tell you when one migrant dies, when one person is not afforded the opportunity to efficiently claim asylum, they would tell you for a community that has been the victim of violence due to criminals that come in that flow, they would tell you any -- it just takes one. it takes one terrorist, it takes one criminal to ruin a family's life and one overdose to kill an american. >> did you have any idea of the
level of how difficult and dangerous the issue was just a few years ago before you took the position or has this been something that's been sort of a knowledge you've ascertained since you've been in the position as secretary? >> before becoming secretary, i did not have the opportunity to speak in detail to the men and women on the front lines and no, i was not aware of how dangerous the situation is. >> do you think most americans truly understand how dangerous this situation is? >> i do not. no. >> if most americans had a chance to go if the border, would they consider this a crisis? >> yes, sir by the pure numbers coming in and our inability of the system to properly take care of them. >> what kind of job do you say the men and women that work for immigrations and custom and enforcement job i.c.e. what kind of job are they doing? >> extraordinary. they work every day, many times at risk of their own lives, assault on border patrol agents continue or excuse me on border patrol officials continue to
rise. they do it with compassion. they live in these communities. they enforce the law. but they want to make sure and continue to ask me to ask congress to change the law so that the system can be more humane. >> we talk about as far as people having input who actually are on the front lines doing the work, according to our numbers in 2017, we talk a lot about children and we should. we should make sure that we restore as many children as we can. i did hear the three reasons of why that may be a problem sometimes prosecutorial. the guarden poses a risk or another issue that you had to take a look at. but according to our numbers there were 906 children that were rescued from exploitation in 2017. does that number match your numbers as well? >> yes, sir. human trafficking child exploitation are something we're working on and about to release the first ever dhs strategy to combat that. the numbers are going up.
>> all of these numbers continue to go up whether it's the human trafficking or it's the drug smuggling, the former colleague just talked about the more we squeeze the border. evidently the numbers continue to rise. as we look at all these numbers, in summary, do you, can you tell the american people this is not a manufactured crisis, this is a legitimate national emergency? >> this is a legitimate national emergency. this is a twin crisis. we can do better as a country. we have to have a system we can protect vulnerable population, secure our border, which is our sovereign responsibility. protect communities while facilitating legal trade and travel. >> the chair recognizes the gentle lady from new mexico. >> thank you, mr. chair. secretary nielsen, i am the only member on this committee that represents a southern border district. in fact, i include -- it includes 180 miles, almost, of
that southern border and a lot of it is remote, rugged terrain. we've seen in recent months by district has experienced more migrant families showing up between ports of entry and such as the boot hill of new mexico. as we learned through the tragedy of two migrant children deaths under cbp custody most of the cbp facilities near these rural areas aren't equipped to process large groups of migrants. we have to ensure our agents on the ground have the adequate resources and technology to effectively patrol these areas, keep our communities safe, and provide quality care to the migrants voluntarily presenting at our border. what changes in policies and procedures have you implemented to ensure that cbp can adequately adapt to the rise in people voluntarily presenting at the border? and who are showing up at -- between ports of entry in these remote areas? >> so what we've done, i would
take ate couple different ways. on the health screening as you know, unfortunately, particularly because of those remote areas, many of the migrants when they reach our border are sick. i have worked with cdc, hhs, we worked with the local communities, i've spoken to your previous governor and current governor about this issue. i've asked my bipartisan advisory council to look at this particular issue on families and children and what we can do better. we've increased our medical screening and screen every child that comes into cbp care. i.c.e. as you know, if the migrants proceed on to i.c.e. detention do receive within seven days a full medical checkup so we focussed a lot on the medical part. in terms of the ability to understand what migrants are coming through remote areas we're working closely with mexico to identify the flows so that we can have cbp there to rescue them as soon as possible. as you know we rescued 4,300 in distress last year alone, many
coming through remote areas where they're dehydrated, they're cold, otherwise sick. they haven't had adequate resources and food for some time. we continue to look at all of the processes, but this is something that we are trying to do the best we can with in the limited resources we have. >> one of the issues that i didn't quite hear addressed there is transportation. >> yes. >> you know one of the children who died part of the challenge was the transportation to a medical facility. sometimes the hardest but most learned lessons come from past failures. when -- what is the status of the investigation into the deaths of those two children and when will you release the results of those? >> as i understand the status of the investigation right now it's with the medical examiner until the medical examiner in both cases releases their final findings our office of professional responsibility and investigator general cannot complete their report. i did ask this question recently. i have not been able to
ascertain from the m.e. when that will be done. as soon as that will be done, the other parts of the oversight will wrap up their investigations and i'm sure they will provide as appropriate their findings. >> do you have any sense of a timeline? >> i don't. i've asked that we do it as quickly as possible. there's some extenuating starngss there. the m.e. is trying to look at information about the health of the child as they traveled along the journey. i really don't. i wouldn't want to speak for them. >> what can you do to make sure it comes -- happens as quickly as possible? >> i can just keep bugging them and ask that we do it very speedily so that we can incorporate any lessons learned into our processes and procedures. >> thank you. are you looking into the policy of metering at the ports and how that might increase the role of human traffickers to take migrants between ports of entry and also drive them to these rural areas? >> it does as i mentioned earlier, it does have to be an and approach, it can't be an
either or approach. the port is simply to ensure that cbp can perform all its statutory missions but to protect the migrants coming in. as you know, when you've seen the facilities, they were built for maybe 100 people a day. they're just not adequate to process and hold large numbers of people. >> one of the challenges, though, is if you're controlling at the ports of entry, they can still go to place between the ports of entry where there's the same lack of facilities and sometimes worse, are you looking at that impact? >> yes, ma'am. that's why our operators have asked for impedens and denial in the form of obstacles. >> what is done cbp done to minimize attrition and hard to fill locations such as lordsburg it make sure we have agents in our remote stations? >> we continue to look at this. we're running short on time. we work closely with the unions on this issue everything from retention bonuses to ability to add additional salary when we
transfer, additional benefits on the back end. this is a problem that we take seriously and we're working with all parties on. >> thank you very much. the chair recognizes the gentleman from louisiana mr. higgins. >> thank you, mr. chairman. madam secretary, thank you for your time and dedication to our country and your devotion to restore sovereignty along our southern border. my colleague earlier put up a graph and i ask it be put up. that request had been declined. i referred to it because it shows that all of the above strategy to secure our border works. since 2000, our colleague's graph showed a decrease in illegal apprehensions, since 2000, 19 years ago, we built more than 650 miles of physical barriers along the border to help control illegal crossings, we've deployed sensor technology
and increased border patrol staffing. this is exactly why a bipartisan solution exists before us, pie friends, and it does not make sense to me why this has become a partisan issue since president trump's election. physical barriers, technology, and enhanced capacity to respond, they work. this does not mean the current crisis does not exist. let me just put this in context for the american people. perhaps the most famous invasion in the history of the world d-day, 73,000 american troops landed in the d-day invasion. we have 76,103 according to my numbers apprehensions along our southern border last month. we have d-day every month on our southern border. just to put this in context for
america, yes, physical barriers work and technology works. the ability to respond and arrest, to process works. of course none of us want to separate families. we as congress we have to fix the laws and allow these law enforcement professionals to do their job. i know the men and women of border patrol, highly professional and patriotic in their mission to secure our border. i know firsthand from my experience as a cop, my service on this committee and from standing alongside front line defenders. our border agents deserve respect. they have mine. i would like to highlight two cases, mr. chairman, which exemplify the professional manner which border agents conduct themselves. morning of january 22nd a honduran gentleman with his elderly wife illegally cross into the united states. they were apprehended and taken intoes custody by border patrol. a few days later, while still in u.s. custody, the honduran
gentleman complained he didn't feel well. he received medical care, he was immediately brought to a hospital, medical center in el paso within hours the honduran gentleman was treated by a team of american doctors, less than 12 hours after reporting his discomfort, he had a brand new pacemaker surgically implanted. the next day he was given medical clearance and his follow-up prescriptions. american taxpayers gave this man a pacemaker that crossed into our country illegally. we're certainly a compassionate and generous nation. another such example involves a forced separation of a mother and a child by coyotes which, by the way, human coyotes give our animal friends a bad name. the smugglers convinced a mother it was easier to move the pair separately. they separated the child from
their parents. they let the 3-year-old child on the banks of the rio grand. border patrol agents rescued that child. it's border patrol agents who rescue thousands of people from smuggling and trafficking routes every year. the southwest border arduous terrain, difficult, inhospitable terrain. those who choose to come here illegally do so at great risk to themselves, their family and children if they bring them. madam secretary, please share with america how many rescues did border patrol successfully perform last year? >> over 4,000, sir. >> over 4,000 rescues. madam secretary, if you were given more funding, and additional qualified agents would you be better to able secure our border and more compassionately enforce the laws that you have sworn to uphold? >> yes, sir.
again, what's important to understand, this is a national security concern to protect our border and congress has directed dhs to take operational control of the border. i cannot do that with these laws and with these resources. >> thank you. it's our responsibility to change the laws where they need to be changed. i'm committed to work with my colleagues in a bipartisan manner. mr. chairman, to change the laws as necessary. it's the law enforcement professional's job to uphold those laws and they are doing so now. i yield. >> thank you very much. the gentleman from louisiana complimented our men and women who are doing this job. for the record, madam secretary, how many vacancies do you have in cbp as of this hearing? >> i would be happy to get back to you. what i can tell you the good news last year the first year we were able to hire more than who left. we're reversing the trend there. >> give me a guesstimate.
>> sir, i don't want to guess under oath. i'm happy to go get you the number. >> over 2,000 vacancies what would you say? >> i would say i would be happy -- respectfully sir. >> does that sound about right? >> i will get you the number. >> a thousand, sir, i'll get you the number. >> please get me the number. >> yes, sir. >> the chair recognizes the gentle lady from illinois. >> thank you, mr. chairman. a lot of lawyers in this room and i'm not a lawyer, i'm a nurse. madam secretary, i want to be very clear about what the family separation policy is doing to children's mental and physical health. i want to know if dhs even considered their health when developing these policies? i only have five minutes. for these questions i'm looking for a yes or no answer if you could. when you officially began family separation in spring 2018, were you aware of research showing it
causes trauma that can do immediate and long-term damage to children's health? >> the information that i was aware of at the time was that the trauma is part of the journey to come up to the border illegally. >> so again, we're looking for yes or no answers, ma'am. >> that was a -- what i do know within the context of the question. >> were you aware that the trauma of family separation is connected to something called toxic stress? >> i am not familiar with that term, no. >> were you aware that toxic stress can actually change a child's brain because it's still developing? >> i wasn't familiar with the term. >> okay. were you aware that the effects of these trauma are cumulative and get worse the longer the trauma goes on? >> can i -- yes. i'll -- sorry i would like to clarify because we're missing a bigger point but i'm sorry. let me answer your questions. >> were you aware that traumatic effects don't go away even if a child is reunited with their family?
>> i understand that they are -- no. >> okay. >> were you aware that family separation can lead to behavioral changes and learning delays for children? >> just to be clear, family separation includes the 60,000 uacs separated by their parents before they ever got to the border. >> i understand. my question is, about the traumatic effects. >> and so let me say this maybe it will help you with your questions. families need to be put together, children should never be put in this situation. we need to fix the system so that they're not. >> thank you. were you aware that family separation can lead to behavioral changes in learning delays for children? >> again, kids should be with their families. >> okay. i will take that as a no. were you aware it increases the child's risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer? >> i would ask all firntsz go to ports of entry, not to separate their children and send them on the journey alone and not to break u.s. law. >> thank you. were you aware that it increases a child's risk of anxiety, depression and substance abuse.
these are yes or no questions. >> ma'am, if i could cut to the chase. we're agreeing, children need to be with their families, fix the system so that we can enable them to do that. >> ma'am, i'm trying to ascertain your knowledge, your prior knowledge of the health impacts of these children when separated at the border. the american psychological association reports that family separation is on par with beating and torture in terms of its relationship to mental health. were you aware of that research prior to instituting the policy of family separation. >> there is no policy of family separation. what we did was increase the number of parents that we referred for prosecution. that is what we have done for the last three administrations. >> thank you. i'll take that as a no. >> let's go back further to the el paso pilot program for family separation that reportedly began in 2017. yes or no, did dhs consult with any pediatric health experts before beginning the pilot? >> i was not at dhs at that time. i was there in july. i was not aware of the pilot at that time and then i was working
in a different department. >> okay. so that would be a no -- >> no, ma'am. i can't speak to it. i wasn't there. i can't speak to what i don't know. >> yes or no, did dhs collect or analyze any medical data from the pilot program to evaluate how family separation effects a child's physical and mental health. >> i have an advisory council looking at it who includes a well-known doctor looking at these issues. >> can you provide a copy of that data and dhs's analysis to our committee? >> of course. the report is not finished but everything is public. >> great. did you consult with any pediatric experts before the policy officially began in the spring of 2018? >> we generally and regularly work with them. as you know the children are cared for by health and human services. >> right. >> but to the extent that we have children in dhs detention centers we follow all guidelines by the ama. >> right. >> we work closely with the medical community. >> would you provide a copy of that communication from dhs with
those experts to the committee? >> sure. anything that's available. >> thank you. so the american academy of pediatric wrote to dhs six times to explain how family separation hurts children and made a number of public statements. yes or no are you aware of the warnings? >> i am. i continue to ask this committee to work with me so parents do not separate their children. there are 60,000 last year separated by their parents. you're talking about 2,000 children that resulted from their parents choosing to break the law which is why i've continually asked parents to go to a port of entry. >> thank you from what i've heard today i'm not sure if dhs was so negligent they didn't know how traumatic it was for separation or did it anyways in my opinion both are unbe acceptable. tearing kids and their parents apart like this is immoral un-american and plain wrong. thank you for holding this hearing. secretary nielsen i will be following up. >> i would like to respond. >> take children from u.s.
citizens -- as well. putting them with domestic -- >> the chair recognizes the gentle lady from arizona. >> sir if, i could quickly because it's important to put this in a brief context. okay. >> the gentle lady's time has expired. >> i didn't have any time just to be clear to respond. but okay. thank you respect i appreciate that. >> madam secretary. >> oh, thank you. >> editorializing is not part of the rules. i just remind you of that. the gentle lady from arizona. congresswoman lesko. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you secretary for being here. you have a very difficult job and i believe your degree a good job. i have five minutes. i have a question, but i do want you to follow up on what you just wanted to say.
>> i just want to clarify quickly there's so much misunderstanding. there was the only instances at which children have ever been separated in the last two years is three instances that i went over which is long-standing practice, and when the parents chose to break the law. just like when parents break the law in the united states of america, we do not put the children in jail with parents. so the parents came illegally. if they had come to a port of entry there's no family separation. if we pick up a family on the interior, there's no family separation. which is why there has never been a comprehensive policy of family separation. i'm sorry, ma'am, please. >> thank you. madam secretary, would you categorize or believe that the men and women that are with the border patrol and i.c.e. are experts on illegal immigration and what's happening at the border since they're there each and every ta in dealing with these items?
would you believe they're experts on this? >> i do, yes, ma'am. >> and madam secretary, mr. chairman, madam secretary, do you believe, would you say that these men and women who work for department of homeland security who have the boots on the ground, each and every day, and are dealing with this do they believe that there is a crisis on our southern border and a national humanitarian and security crisis? >> yes, ma'am. >> and thank you. and madam secretary, as you as someone who is the head of this agency, who i assume has gone to the border numerous times, has talked to border patrol agents and i.c.e. agents and other dhs employees on numerous occasions, do you consider yourself well versed in what is happening at our southern border and what is happening about illegal immigration in our country? >> i do, yes. i've taken substantial opportunities to meet with the experts and to understand the problem and the complexity of the laws.
>> thank you. and so therefore, madam secretary, i would ask you, do you believe that we are in a -- that there is a crisis on our southern border that there is a national security and humanitarian crisis at our southern border, and do you believe that the president of the united states was justified in declaring a national emergency? >> ma'am, it is an emergency. as the secretary of homeland security, i can no longer assure you of who is coming into this country, that is a direct national security threat. we're on par to have over 900,000 this year. first of all. second of all i have seen the vulnerable populations and i have been to mexico and talked to the northern triangle countries. this is a true humanitarian crisis that the system is enabling. we have to change the laws. >> thank you, madam secretary. you know, i was here when we tried to pass immigration law last year, which would have
combined common sense immigration reforms that would have helped solve some of these problems, especially the cartels abusing our loose immigration laws on asylum claims. and it would have helped decrease the number of people that are coming thousands of miles to get into the united states that you have said 30% of the women are being sexually assaulted. i believe you said the children, the girls, at 10 years old, have to be tested for pregnancy because of these sexual assaults that are going on. this is just -- please, my colleagues, please, let's work in a bipartisan fashion. we were trying to be bipartisan last year when we tried to pass immigration reform combined with border security funding. unfortunately, not one of my
democratic colleagues voted for that. the bill did not pass. would we please stop being so partisan on this issue and against president trump and please, let's try to solve this problem for the sake of our entire nation. thank you. i yield back. >> thank you very much. to the gentle lady from arizona, there's no question about bipartisan. but if it's just one side, you know, democrats do have opinions and when our opinions are not valued, then we vote against it. a genuine bipartisan effort in this area and other areas would be more than appreciated. madam secretary, according to your records, at the end of fy '18, there were 3,740 vacancies in cbp, there was 1,815 vacancies in border
patrol. so i await your numbers. but that's a lot of vacancies. and if we have have some proble some of us would say, let's fill the vacancies that congress has been so graciously supportive of accommodating you. but almost 5,000 vacancies is a lot of vacancies. >> sir, if i could, really quickly. we would be happy to work with you on that. as you know, we have new hiring strategies. i will just note that it's a very difficult environment right now. it's a very dangerous job. we have an increase of 40% assaults on border patrol. we are working to hire. we're doing more fairs, more ways, happy to work with you on that. >> madam secretary, i look forward to working with you. if you bring it to our attention that it's a problem, we'll work
with you. but to my knowledge, it has not been brought to my attention as chair, nor have we ever had a hearing talking about the problems with filling vacancies within that department. if there is an issue to go with it, we would be more than happy to work with you. the chair now recognizes the gentle lady from michigan. congresswoman slopkin. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you, secretary nielsen, for coming before us. i represent michigan, so the northern border. i know we're talking a lot about the southern border. let's remember that we have significant border locations to our north, and they shouldn't be ignored. i'm also a former cia officer and dod official. so i'm a big believer in border security and have spent my life preventing homeland attacks. but i also believe we have to be a country of morals and values. and the separation of children, it didn't matter who you were, where you got your news, the vision of a small child in a
cage separated and crying, i think just hits everyone's heart. and we cannot be a country that perpetuates that. so i just want to understand, separate out from the situation the unaccompanied minors, a large group of people. there are parents, you're right, send them up here on their own coming across the border. leave that aside, because that was a big problem under the obama administration, many administrations before. the separation of families, the purposeful separation of families once they arrived as a family unit. did you initiate the separation of families for the express purpose of deterring families from coming to the united states? >> no. i did not. again, the whole purpose of that was to increase consequences for those who choose to break the law. that's a bedrock of our criminal, as you know -- the way that our criminal system works. if there is no consequences, we do not see the instances of the crime decreasing. so what we did was we increased
the number of prosecutions. we didn't make up the law. the law was already there. former administrations also referred adult parents for prosecution. we took the prosecution numbers from about 20 to about 55%. >> so what did you do? i understand it's complicated. we have a big bureaucratic system. when you saw those pictures of babies in cages, what did you do? what did you do to just scream bloody murder up the chain to the president, to say, i cannot represent an agency that is forcing its border patrol to do this? what did you do? >> so i went to the border. i spoke to the men and women there. i looked at the facilities myself. i talked to hhs, to understand and visited their facilities, as well, to understand the care they provide to the children once they're in their custody. and then i spent a tremendous amount of time working with the northern triangle in mexico to stop the phenomena closer to the
source to help stabilize those areas so that the children and families are not traveling here. >> okay. it just feels like it potentially wasn't enough if we're still dealing with those separations. >> just to be clear, we do not. we do not refer parents currently for prosecution, even when they break the law even when entering our country between ports of entry. >> so switching gears to the northern border. i'm also very concerned -- our border agents do amazing things every day. we have a much higher volume of traffic of trade coming through our northern border than through our southern border. and i'm concerned about the vacancies. have any border personnel from the northern border been moved and detailed to the southern border to fill staffing gaps? and can you give me a couple of details on that, if so? >> sure. we did have -- we have surge models throughout the department, whether it's fema, tsa. we do everything based on risk. so when we saw risk in gaps, we move around the personnel in a temporary fashion to address
that gap. >> i just feel like the attention has all been focused on the southern border when in reality the volume of trade and then also the people watch-listed, the volume is much higher coming through the northern border. i think you made some misleading statements, and i think it's important to be very, very specific when we're talking about a terrorist threat or watch-listed individuals. some misleading information about the number of watch-listed individuals coming through our southern border. can you state for the record, are more watch-listed individuals coming through our northern border or southern border? >> so i don't remember actually answering that question. i think the question was about ten known or suspected terrorists that we stop a day on the southern border what i was saying is there were about 3,000 special interest aliens we stopped at that border compared to the northern border. again, as you know, the number of terrorists actually crossing the border is classified. happy to do that in a different setting. >> okay. i'll look forward to doing that and i yield the rest of my time to congresswoman rice. >> i would say really quickly, we do take the northern border
seriously. i met with your colleagues on the senate side from michigan. we have the border strategy implementation plan coming out soon. we have a northern border strategy, which you know focuses on security, critical infrastructure and all of the ent interdependences. >> thank you for not forgetting about us. i appreciate that. >> the gentle lady from new york. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i think it's really important, taking -- continuing what congresswoman slotkin was talking about, about making the record very clear and not allowing any misleading statements. it was a policy announced by the attorney general of this country that families were going to be separated. that was a policy. he did not say we're going to start enforcing a law. it was a policy by this administration that only ended when there were pictures of little kids in cages that had been ripped away from their parents. so i think it's really important, madam secretary, that you talk about it and you use the right language.
this was not the law. okay? this was a policy that the attorney general announced was a new policy they were going to rip kids away from their parents. so i think it's very important that the record reflect that. and i thank my colleague, miss sl slotkin, and i yield back. >> respectfully, sir, i would like to respond to that. >> let me just say, do it in writing. >> i would like to respond quickly, because i can tell you -- >> no, no, no, gentle lady. we have been back and forth. >> we have. but it's appropriate for me to clarify for the record, because i think you're trying to get to the truth. i think that's what you were, too. so i just want to just quickly say that the ag memo that was issued directed all u.s. attorney offices along the southwest border to prosecute all adults who were referred for prosecution. that's what it did. >> that's a policy. that is a policy. >> not as you described it. >> madam secretary, that is a policy. when you knew that that policy
was going to result in children having to be taken away from their parents. that's a policy. you should admit it. >> the consequence of any adult going to jail in this country is being separated from their child. that wasn't the point of it. the point was to increase prosecutions for those breaking the law and not exempt any class of aliens. >> it was very clear what the attorney general meant. >> well, we'll follow up. for the record, madam secretary, are we still using cages for children? >> sir, we don't use cages for children. in the border facilities that you've been to, they were not made to detain children. as the children are processed through, they are in sub parts of those facilities. >> madam secretary -- >> yes. i'm being as clear as i can, sir. respectfully, i'm trying to answer your question. >> just yes or no. are we still putting children in cages? >> to my knowledge, cvp never
purposely put a child in a cage, if you mean a cage like this. >> purposely or whatever. are we putting children in cages? as of today? >> children are processed at the border facility stations that you've been at, some of the -- >> and i've seen the cages. i just want you to admit that the cages exist. >> sir, they're not cages. >> what are they? >> areas of the border facility that are carved out for the safety and protection of those who remain there while they're being processed. if we have two gangs, we separate them into separate areas of that facility. >> no, no, no. madam -- >> a father and daughter, we separate that from another son. >> we're not going to go through the semantics. i saw the cyclone fences that were made as cages. and you did too. all you have to do is admit it. if it's a bad policy, then change it. but don't mislead the committee. do not mislead the committee. the chair recognizes the gentleman from tennessee, mr.
green. >> thank you, mr. chairman, and ranking member and secretary, thank you for the hard work that you do leading probably one of the most diverse departments in all of our government. as an emergency medicine physician, i trained in my emergency medicine residency down in texas, did some rotations in austin, texas. i have pronounced opiate overdoses. i have pronounced those people dead, and it is a horrific thing to have to do. as i understand it, 300 deaths a week in this country are happening due to heroin overdose, and 90% of that heroin is coming across the southern border. it's been suggested by the folks on the other side of the aisle that that's only at points of entry. and i'd like to ask you, if you could tell us about what happening between the points of entry, the drugs that you guys are seizing and what you're expecting is going through. >> sure. so first of all, this is another example of it's not an
either/or. we thank this committee and others who supported our request for additional nonintrusive inspection equipment which will help at the ports. we do see criminals continuing to take advantage of gaps between the ports of entry where there is no barrier and smuggle drugs in. we also, unfortunately, see them using families and children as pawns. so often they will send a group of migrants across the border in one area where there is no barrier, while cvp is responding to that location. they then will smuggle drugs nearby through another vulnerable part of the border. >> there's -- changing the subject a little bit. there is a "new york times" article this -- i believe it was saturday. and the title of the article is, "you have to pay with your body." and it's about a woman who hired a coyote to bring her over the border. of course, she was assaulted
many times during that process. the "new york times" article then said that she was held once she got to the united states and repeatedly raped by the coyotes. and i just ask the question -- i guess it's 31% of women that are coming across the border this way are having to face similar experiences. how many women does it take being raped before this really is a crisis? >> sir, if you're asking my opinion, it's one. it's one child who dies, it's one woman who is raped, because the system doesn't need to work that way. we can fix the system to protect vulnerable populations. >> thank you. i would agree 100% with you. in regard to the child separation, we talked about the cages here. as i recall the images that circulated around the internet were actually from the obama administration. they later found out that the picture that circulated the
internet of a child in a cage came from the time frame when it was the obama administration. my question, doesn't it seem reasonable that if all of the investigations that are going on, and you've just recently been subpoenaed to provide information about the names of children that have been separated. unfortunately, they only ask you to go back to the trump administration -- the window of the trump administration in those subpoenas. it seems to me that if it were -- because we're concerned about the children, if the images are really from back in the obama administration, why wouldn't we ask for that data going back further than just the trump administration? it's really about protecting and caring for and making sure the safety of the children. why wouldn't we go back to when the separations really started? and let me just stop you.
you don't have to answer that question. i'll answer for you. it's because this isn't about just the safety of children. it's about slamming the president. let me ask you this question. it's a hypothetical. i only have a little bit of time left. how many lives could we actually save -- guess. how many lives could we save if we really secured our border? >> you know, again, i would be hazarding a guess here, sir. but we have 4,300 that we have saved, if you extrapolate out those unfortunately that we find who have died along the journey. hundreds of thousands. >> yeah. i would think it would be that number, too. how many women -- and if we were going to multiply the 31% times just this year, how many women in the first three months of this year have come across the border illegally that way that you've processed? >> i don't have the breakdown of women from family units. but the family units have continued to go up. >> it would be great to know that number. and then we could multiply it times doctors without borders is
31% and come up with that many women probably got raped this year, because of our failed policies. thank you. i yield. >> thank you. the chair now recognizes the gentle lady from nevada, miss titus. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i've been sitting here listening to this for quite a while. and just want to make a couple of observations. one is the choreography is just amazing. when the democrats ask a question, madam secretary, you never have the answer. you don't have any of the numbers, and you're going to get back to us. but when the republicans ask a question, boy, you're right on top of that with the statistics, and numbers, you've got to right there in front of you. i wonder if this has been orchestrated. second, there is a great deal of obfuscation. we talk about the zero tolerance or family separation. you say it's not a policy, it's the law, euro baying the law. no, it is a policy, you're not doing it now. if you're not doing it, you're breaking the law. which is it? then you said that cyber
security is a red light that's blinking, that's the most dangerous thing that's facing this country. yet you requested $8 billion for a wall and only 1. 35 for cyber security. it seems like misplaced priorities there. and going back to the chairman's point about the number of vacancies in the border and our personnel, i would ask you, and i know this is a topic for tomorrow, but it's kind of interesting that you paid $1.9 million to accenture to help with that problem and they have hired 35 agents. so, yeah, i would say there is a pretty big management problem. but my question is a broader one. we know that we need comprehensive immigration reform. we would like to see it be bipartisan. we have reached across the aisle since i was first elected here and got nothing in return. but it's more than just border control. we need to deal with the dreamers, the daca recipients,
tps, they're all living in a situation of uncertainty. you testified that you had never met a dreamer last year. i wonder, is that still true? >> no, ma'am. as you know, they have under the court case right now, they are legally present, and we continue to renew those who are part of the original application process. >> so have you talked to this dreamer? do you know anything about their story? i mean, i've got about -- oh, thousands of dream -- 13,000, actually, dreamers in my district. i know their life stories, i know about their families. i'm not just sitting across the courtroom from them. have you met with any of them? >> i think that's why we agree that they deserve a legal status, which is what i've said every time i've testified. i support a legal status for the daca population. >> so you don't think the dreamers are a security threat to this country? >> when they commit a crime or they otherwise fail a background check, as you know, they no longer are covered under the daca program. >> do you feel they are a security threat to this country? >> some of them have committed
crimes. they're no longer part of daca. so by definition, if you are a daca recipient, you have not committed a crime. >> do you feel like they're a threat to our economy? >> ma'am, i support their legal status. >> so that means you would support a clean bill to give daca recipients a pathway to citizenship? >> no, i would not. and the reason for that is because we can't handle that situation without handling the situation that brought them here to begin with. i don't want to inadvertently create a new poll factor. i want to be sure we secure the border and we are able to give legal status to the daca population. >> so you don't think they're a security threat. you don't think they're an economic threat, but you wouldn't support any kind of pathway to citizenship. >> i won't support things that will continue the crisis that we have at the border by serving as a pull factor alone. no, ma'am. >> what about the people who are tps, who are here now? they're not being -- they live here now.
they have been here 20 years. you have many families that are mixed status. do you see them as a security threat or an economic threat? would you support some kind of protection for them as a pathway to citizenship? >> yes, ma'am. and in a letter to senator shelby from the white house during the appropriations negotiations, the administration also supports that. >> and if we brought a clean bill to give tps pathway to citizenship, you and the administration and your colleagues across the aisle would support that? because there is a bill that's on the table right now. the promise bill, i believe is the acronym for it. >> ma'am, as the secretary of homeland security, i can't support something that will -- every time we have done a program that provides additional paths to citizenship for those who are illegally present, it does serve as a pull factor. so -- >> tps is not illegally present. >> their status -- we have a court case, as you know. but the program itself was temporary. and so they do not have the temporary protected status. but we, of course, are not
deporting them as we work through the court case. but i agree with you that, yes, we need to provide a legal status. what i am concerned about is i want to make sure that we secure the border at the same time, and reduce the pull factor, so that people aren't under the impression they can come here without any legal right to stay to then be subject to protections later. >> in your opening statement, you said you want to encourage and support legal immigration. it's the illegal immigration you're worried about. is not tps and are not the dreamers, are not they under the category of legal immigration? >> the tps was a protected temporary status, as you know. >> legal or illegal? >> it's neither. they -- >> it's not legal? >> they're legally present. >> yes. >> but they're not immigrants. >> i yield back, mr. chairman. thank you very much for your patience. >> thank you. the chair now recognizes the gentleman from texas, mr. taylor. the chair now recognizes the gentleman from pennsylvania, mr.
joyce. >> thank you, mr. chairman, for yielding. i would like to thank you, secretary nielsen, for appearing before this committee to speak on the vital issue of border security, particularly on the southern border. the consistent inability of congress to comprehensively address this matter has left you and the president with the inability to take the actions that are necessary to provide what we need for protection. lack of border security has downstream consequences in our country. one of these i would like to refocus on, and that is the opioid crisis. and the devastation and the heartbreak it has created, particularly in my home state of pennsylvania. i too have met with coroners as a doctor, as a legislator, the
opioid-related deaths in my home state are on the up swing. and are consistently above the national average. some reports, as we have discussed, indicate that almost 90% of heroin is illegally smuggled into our country through our southern border. secretary nielsen, do you believe that a physical barrier is necessary in places of high risk along our southern border to stem the flood of narcotics into our country? >> yes, sir, i do. >> thank you. as a doctor, as a legislator facing this incredible opioid crisis, watching families separated, watching children and young adults die, do you and other experts believe that the construction of additional barriers and walls will help combat the opioid flow into our
country? >> absolutely. >> thank you. i yield back my time. >> thank you. the chair now recognizes the gentle lady from new jersey, miss watson coleman. [ inaudible ] >> in a bipartisan fashion. thank you very much, mr. chairman. thank you, madam secretary, for being here. i've got a whole bunch of questions, and i'm going to ask that where you can you just tell me yes or no. question, what is a chain link fence enclosed into a chamber on a concrete floor represent to you? is that a cage? >> it's a detention space, ma'am, that you know has existed for decades. >> does it differ from the cages you put your dogs in when you let them stay outside?
is it different? >> yes. >> in what sense? >> it's larger. it has facilities. it provides room to sit, stand, lie down. >> so did my dog's cage. are the jails different than the cages that you have allowed the children to be put in? >> i'm sorry. which jails? >> are the jails that you put their parents in? or the adults that come here with children that you say are coming here illegally. >> the detention centers, most of them, no, ma'am. they have a border around the outside. but they essentially sleep in dorm-like conditions. >> so they live in better conditions than the children. >> no, ma'am. i just want to be very clear on this. as migrants are processed through the border patrol station, which were not built, again, for vulnerable populations, they're there for up to 72 hours. >> i just want to know if the children are in cages, what do you consider the detention facilities to be. because i'm suspecting that you're putting children in
places that seem to be less liveable than these adults. i want to have -- i have a number of questions. i want to start by discussing buddy juarez, a toddler, who died in my home state of new jersey, after being detained by dhs, after fleeing violence in guatemala. she and her mother were detained by cvp and held in i.c.e. custody at a private facility in texas. within a week, marie began to exhibit upper respiratory symptoms, including congestion, a cough and severe fever of 104 degrees. marie and her mother were released after three weeks in custody and cleared for travel to new jersey by personnel in texas who did not have the requisite credentials doctors to provide medical clearance. after arriving, her mother took marie to an emergency room almost immediately. she remained hospitalized for the rest of her life, six weeks, dying on mother's day last year. outside doctors made it clear that marie did not receive the medical care she deserved while in custody of dhs.
secretary, after learning of marie's death, did you immediately take any action to improve access through the quality of health care at dhs facilities, yes or no? >> yes, we continue to do all we can to improve within our resources. >> is there an outside investigation every time someone dies in dhs custody so we can understand what happened? >> opr investigates every one under either in addition to or under direction of the ig. >> on a different topic, we all should know, border security isn't just about the southern border. and this has been raised a couple of times. so i want to ask about a concerning program i recently learned about, where tsa is working with the saudi government to create a saudi arabian federal air marshal program that would have saudi government agents fly armed on flights to the united states. the saudis are actually paying the salaries of several full-time tsa employees working on this program. as a section of the 9/11 commission report stated, while
in the united states, some of the 9/11 hijackers were in contact with and received support or assistance from individuals who may be connected with the saudi government. madam secretary, is this really happening, number one? and will you commit to provide this committee any and all documentation of this program, including training materials being shared with the saudis and who is being trained? >> we're happy to provide you materials, ma'am, and come brief you. i'm happy to have the tsa administrator -- >> how long would i have to wait to get this information? >> that i can't answer, but what i can do is get you an answer today as to when we could be able to provide that to you. >> thank you. i don't know if i asked this -- i was talking so fast. do we -- do you continue to separate parents from children as they're coming across the border? >> in three instances when the child is at risk, the adult accompanying them is not a parent or guardian, and the third instance is when the
parent needs to go to a custodial environment. >> so are any of these coming at the port of entry, seeking asylum? >> some of -- sure. some of them might be claiming asylum, yes, ma'am. >> okay. thank you very much. i yield back. >> thank you very much. the chair now recognizes the gentleman from mississippi, mr. guest. >> thank you, mr. chairman. madam secretary, i first want to thank you and the men and women that serve under you for the important role you provide in protecting our country. i want to ask you a couple of questions as it relates to the current situation at our southwest border. do you believe that we are currently seeing an immigration crisis on our southwest border? >> yes, i do. and the numbers are increasing so quickly that our system, which i've testified to before, was at the breaking point. it's clearly breaking. >> and do you believe we are also facing a human trafficking crisis on our southwest border?
>> yes, sir. >> and finally, do you also believe that we are facing a drug trafficking crisis on our southwest border? >> yes. >> and particularly i want to turn my attention through the remainder of my questioning toward the drug trafficking. as i look at the figures that have been provided, it appears that we are on track to seize a record number of illegal narcotics that are being attempted to be introduced into our country. does that seem correct? >> yes. >> and what can we do as a country? what is the single-most effective thing that you believe that we can do to prevent illegal drugs from entering america? >> we need to take operational control of the southern border. so that's increasing our ability to detect at the ports of entry. and it's also having situational awareness, impedence and denial and responsibilities between the ports of entry. >> and do you believe that a physical barrier is an important part of our strategy to decrease the flow of illegal drugs from
entering america? >> i believe that. but more importantly, the men and women and professionals of cvp believe that. >> and i think there was a question earlier about what we are doing along our northern border. do we have the same type of crisis at our northern border that we're currently seeing on our southern border? >> we do not have a humanitarian crisis, and we certainly do not have the numbers of those trying to enter illegally without a legal right to stay. >> and i believe you talked in your official testimony about the transnational criminal organizations or what we commonly refer to as drug cartels. >> yes, sir. >> what can we do as a congress to provide you additional support as we seek to fight drug cartels from bringing you their controlled substances into our country? >> congress has been extraordinarily helpful. with the interdict act and stop act, have been helpful in giving us additional authorities to comprehensively look at the drug issue. at this time, we believe we have all the authorities we need.
we work throughout the department to combat this. this is part of that regional compact that i mentioned that we hope to sign soon with the northern triangle. but we also work very closely with international partners throughout the world to dismantle all of the illicit marketplaces. i.c.e. alone has over 200 investigations into the illicit marketplaces to take them down where they are selling the drugs. >> and just in general, would you agree that we as a congress have not given you the tools that you and your officers need to prevent drugs from illegally entering the country across our southwest border? >> sir, we need a barrier. we cannot take operational control of the border without it. >> and so -- and i would agree. it's your opinion and the opinion of experts that you have spoken with, without a physical barrier, it would be all but impossible for us to secure our border from those people seeking to introduce the poison that we know, whether it be cocaine,
methamphetamine, heroin, fentanyl, from entering our country through our southwest border >> yes, sir. the professionals speak in terms -- on a risk-based way of vanishing time. in other words, there are parts of the border where the cities in mexico and the united states are so close together that a drug smuggler or mule can disappear in a matter of seconds into the united states without a physical barrier. >> and ma'am -- madam secretary, wouldn't it be advantageous if we were able to funnel all traffic, whether it be commercial, passenger traffic through our ports of entry where we can then concentrate our technology and our manpower on screening individuals and vehicles entering the country there instead of having to spend man-hours and manpower securing the unsecured portion of our border that do not currently have a physical barrier? >> yes, sir. and it would reduce the humanitarian crisis. >> and one final question, madam secretary. some members of congress have advocated abolishing i.c.e., the
immigration's customs enforcement, which is an agency that is under your control. and my question is, would this make our community safer? or would the american public be placed at greater risk if we as a congress took the unprecedented move to abolish this needed law enforcement agency? >> i can say with absolutely certainty that the united states would be unsafe. part of their mission is anti trafficking. this he do counter child exploitation. counter weapons of mass destruction, proliferation. they also help with antiquities and returning illicit goods, because they also have customs enforcement. they are a top-notch investigative unit of the united states' government. they are mimicked as a best practice throughout the world. without them, we would not be able to protect children and victims of trafficking. >> thank you. i yield back, mr. chairman. >> thank you. the chair now recognizes the gentle lady from california, miss barragon.
>> thank you. i serve as the second vice chair for the hispanic caucus and it's been some time since you've met with us. will you commit today to come back to meet with the congressional hispanic caucus? >> yes. >> okay. will you do that soon? >> yes. >> great, thank you. madam secretary, we know that ex fbi corrector james comey took contemporaneous memos on his meetings with trump and his interactions. we also know that your former boss, secretary john kelly, also wrote contemporaneous internal memos about his interactions with the president. in particular how he was ordered to give mr. kushner the top security clearance. my question is very simple, and i remind you, miss secretary, that you are under oath. have you taken any contemporaneous memos about your interactions with president trump? >> no, i have not. >> madam secretary, do you know
how many children have died in cvp custody under your tenure as secretary? >> yes. so we have the numbers for cvp and i.c.e. >> can you give me the numbers of how many children have died? >> yes, i can. if you will give me one second. i just don't want to misspeak. but this last year, we had -- or so far this year, we have had three, as you know, in cvp custody. >> so far, madam secretary? are you expecting more children to die? >> no, ma'am. i just want to be accurate with time. >> okay. >> to be clear, any death is a tragedy. any death should be prevented. and part of what i've asked this body to do is change the laws so that we have a better chance. >> do you know the names of the children that have died? >> one was a stillborn death, but the other two were phillipe and jakelynn. >> have you spoken to their families at all? >> i have not spoken with their families, no ma'am. >> okay. i want to turn to a slide that i have, if we can put it up. there it is.
you testified that asylum-seekers are not being turned away at the ports of entry. was that your testimony here today? >> they are not turned away. they are brought in. i'm not sure if you're talking about the migrant protection protocol. but in that case -- >> any asylum-seeker who comes to a port of entry. >> they are allowed to make their claim. >> okay. let me tell you, madam secretary, either you're lying to this committee or you don't know what's happening at the border. and i have been there firsthand, and i have seen it twice. more recently, it -- it just happened on saturday when i happened to be crossing the border with my mother. and i heard a gentleman say, i'm from honduras, i want to apply for asylum. he was already at the turnstile at the ped west entry. and the agent said, "sir, unless you have a visa, you need to leave. you need to go away." they didn't say what you just said people do. they didn't say, "here is where you go get on a list." they didn't say, "here is the
information where you go get access to counsel." as a matter of fact, i pulled out my phone and started to record. and you know what, i was asked to stop recording. why? because they don't want the american people knowing what is happening at that southern border. and madam secretary, i don't know if you know what's happening or if this is happening without you knowing. but it's totally unacceptable. and as a member of this committee, you're darn right i'm going to hold this -- you accountable for knowing what's happening at the bottom. do you know -- do you know that two members of congress had to sleep overnight and spend 14 hours in the cold on the concrete at the owe ttay mesa p of entry so a woman would be allowed to present herself because she was on u.s. soil and legally that's what asylum allows? did you know that? >> ma'am, what i know is i would ask you -- >> yes or no? did you know that two members of congress had to do that? >> i know that we have a process. >> okay. you obviously don't know. but see, this is what i'm saying. you don't know these things. two members of congress.
does it take two members of congress to be there to witness somebody presenting themselves for asylum at the port of entry? that's not what the law says. are you familiar with the asylum laws, madam secretary? >> yes. >> where in the asylum law does it say that when you present yourself at a port of entry -- and weiby the way, when you're u.s. soil, that you can be sent by an agent to another port of entry? is it anywhere in the asylum law? >> what we're trying to do is process -- >> it's not in there. i know -- it's a yes or no. it's not in there. because what you all are doing is not within the confines of the law. you talk about a list. under what authority is there in u.s. law that a list could be started to have people wait in mexico? do you have that authority? >> yes, ma'am. >> what is -- under what authority? >> the authority is to do all we can to protect the migrants coming here. so as -- >> okay, well, that's not what the asylum law says. >> asylum law says --
>> and i would ask, can you produce every single list at the port of entry that's under u.s. -- >> we do not have the list, to be clear. the list is in mexico. >> so you have the toward to do a list, but you don't have access to a list and you don't control that list? >> what i mean by the list, ma'am, is that we -- >> so you're basically farming this out -- >> would you like me to answer any of your questions? >> well, you don't have answers. >> how do you know? because you're not giving me the opportunity. >> because these are simple yes or no questions. it's authority -- there's this law and this is what it's under and you haven't done that. the last thing i want to say because my time is up. you said you waited to give direction -- i had to implement the zero tolerance policy, because you wanted to do it with compassion. do you know how outrageous that sounds? you wanted to separate children and families and you wanted to do it with compassion? so in the meantime, you didn't do anything at all, and you let kids be separated without tracking them. do you know how outrageous that is, madam secretary?
you have no feeling, no compassion, no empathy here. >> the gentle lady's time has expired. >> i yield back. >> thank you. the chair now recognizes the gentleman from texas, mr. crenshaw. >> thank you. thank you, mr. chairman. thank you, madam secretary, for being here. and helping us answer the fundamental question of whether we care about our sovereignty and the rule of law in our country. and unfortunately, the now cynical view that i'm not so sure we all agree on that. that we all value the rule of law and value the ability to manage our border effectively. a lot of questions have come up about the humanity of our policies. as they should. there's some rightful anger about family separation. but unfortunately, it's myopic, because nobody ever talks about the other issues that we might have when it comes to our humanity. there's a young woman in my office yesterday, she's from mexico. she's about 18 years old. she was taken across the border,
kidnapped about five years ago. on the third attempt, because they were turned back twice by border patrol. on the third attempt, they made it through. and she was brought to new york city where she was raped approximately 30 times a day for five years. i don't know why nobody talks about that kind of stuff. when i was at the border in mcallen in one day in one location, 16 kids came across with adults that were not their parents. further questioning and follow-through led to a stash house of 54 people kidnapped inside in houston. nobody talks about that humanity. those are direct results of the fact that our asylum laws are taken advantage of. those are a direct result of the fact that that woman in my office was allowed to walk straight across the border, nobody stopped her. there is no wall, nothing. would have been turned back otherwise and not been in new york city to suffer the absolute nightmare that she did. and then we get to the question of whether walls work. and this has been a really fun
conversation over the last couple of months. do walls work? madam secretary, would you agree that there's three parts to security. personnel, technology and barriers. >> absolutely. >> can you just take one of those away? >> no, sir. >> when i was down in mcallen and brownsville, what we see is brownsville has about 35 miles worth of barriers. and as a result, only 6% of the crossings in that sector take place because walls work. would you agree with that? >> walls work, yes, sir. as evidence. >> mcallen, about 1,000 people were crossing on some days, because they don't have the infrastructure. would you agree that the biggest difference between the mcallen corridor and the brownsville corridor would be the physical barriers? >> the wall system, yes, sir. >> been a lot of red herrings that have been thrown out to argue these points. drugs like fentanyl come through points of entry. yes, we know. you would agree with that, right? >> yes. >> does that have anything to do with the conversation about whether we need barriers between points of entry? >> it does not. because it's not an either/or.
>> there is a -- there is always the conversation about we just need more technology. because then the border agents can just chase people around, as we see -- because we can sense them coming through. is that the only solution? or do you need that plus barriers, plus personnel? >> we need all three. we also need the ability to detain and remove when there's no legal right to stay. >> there's a point often made the border crossings are the lowest in years. 400,000 last year, although quickly on the rise. 76,000 just this last month. the point is often made that because it's lower than in the year 2000, there is no crisis. is that accurate? is 400,000 a year a low number? >> sir, it's not. but, again, if i could, respectfully, it's because of the flow. it's because these are families. it's because these are children. that is why it's a crisis. it's a terrible, horrific journey that they undertake. >> and let's get to that.
as these arguments are made against points that, frankly, we're not even making, you mention the children and why that's the nexus of this crisis. why does that happen? is it because of our asylum laws? is it because of the fact that if you bring a child across the border -- well, and i think you mentioned this before. if you bring a child with you, it's your ticket into the united states. all you have to do is claim asylum. would you agree our asylum process is completely taken advantage of? >> yes, sir. >> would you agree that if we were to put more resources at points of entry, so that we could humanely bring people in and hear their asylum case but not let them loose into the country, would that dramatically reduce these illegal crossings, as well? would that be part of the solution, as well, to reform the actual asylum process? >> yes. >> are there any other issues in the last 20 seconds i have that you want to mention or follow up on? >> i appreciate that.
i would just say that my heart breaks for the system that we have. it does not allow us to help vulnerable populations as soon in their journey as we need to help them. there is nothing humane about a system that contemplates what we see today, that contemplates 60,000 children coming across the border unaccompanied. that contemplates the rape and abuse, the trafficking, the child exploitation. the 70,000 americans who died last year from drugs. i am extraordinarily compassionate in my job, which is why i'm asking congress to work with me to change the law so we can have a safe and orderly flow, so we can take care of those who need asylum. so we can take care of the vulnerable populations who believe they have no options in their country. that is why i spend so much time in the northern triangle, to help them build resilience and stability. apologies, but thank you for the time. i just wanted to clarify. >> thank you. i yield. >> thank you.
miss houston, before i move to mr. rhodes, just very quickly, any thoughts on a matrix to measure the efficiency of all these taxpayer-invested dollars. does a wall work out? how efficient is that versus, you know, investing, for example, in a fusion center in the northern triangle? any thoughts? are we putting one together, these matrix and how these investments work? >> yes, sir. a lot of that is covered in the border security improvement plan. but we're happy to come brief you in detail on anything you would like us to cover. >> would love to have a detailed, deep dive on these matrixes. mr. rhodes, if i can, please. >> thank you, chairman. madam secretary, good to see you again. and i want to start off -- first of all, i don't doubt your love of this country. and i understand that you're serving it. that's not what this is about. what this is about here is
solving problems and saving lives and upholding our values. my district, staten island and south brooklyn, has lost an ungodly number of people to the opioid epidemic. my district has lost an ungodly number of people to terrorist attacks. so as we look at the facts, i want to make sure that we are operating on the same plane here. first of all, is it true that your own department's data shows that the vast majority of drugs coming through the border, heroin, methamphetamine, fentanyl, are found at ports of entry? >> where we can detect it, yes, sir. >> in most cases, it's over 80%. >> right. but i just want to clarify, we don't know what's coming -- >> so that's what i wanted to get into next. so now, you could easily say in response to that, that's true, but that's just what we're measuring. do you have any sense then of across the entire border -- across -- the entire country.
hypothetically, theoretically, based off your simulations, what percentage of our drugs is coming in from ports of entry or any other sources? what is the breakdown? >> the breakdown -- and i'm happy to show you the modeling. we would love to come in and chat more. what i can tell you is the instances of interdiction of illicit drugs has gone up across the board. so it's gone up at the ports of entry, thanks to new technology. but it's also, unfortunately, gone up between ports of entry. when you try to compare the two, the majority of the drugs continues to come through the ports of entry. but we're seeing the amount increase between the ports of entry. >> so the vast majority of are still coming in through the ports of entry based off these models. >> yes. and thank you for the nii equipment. >> so then what my question is, is what are your priorities, based off that model? and please, for the respect of all of our intelligence, because i'm doing my best to respect yours and your service. what are your priorities, based
off that model, to address fentanyl streaming into our country and killing our kids? >> so what we do, we look at it from a risk-based perspective, today's threats, but we also have to anticipate where the flows go tomorrow, which is why between the ports is concerning. as you know, we also look at the mail so we use the authorities we have to work to identify the fentanyl coming from china. we're working with china on -- they have agreed to make illegal some of the precursors so fentanyl. so we're working there. we have border enforcement security teams throughout the nation where we work with state and locals on investigations to really get at the cartels and trafficking within the country. and then we work at the source through the national targeting center with our international partners to ensure as much as we can -- >> what i did ask, and, again, i'm trying not to be adversarial here. in terms of based off this model and the fact you're dealing with limited -- zero sum amount of funds, your priorities, my understanding are mail, ports of entry.
i did not hear you say, though, that my priority to prevent the children in staten island from doing from overdoses is the border. is the border wall. so i -- >> i -- >> i want to understand here, because that's what we have declared a state of emergency around. >> yeah. >> that's what we declared it around. so i want to understand how many less children will be dying. because of this border wall. and i do not understand the math or the science or the planning behind this. that's my issue. i do not understand how this leads to any positive effect on the opioid epidemic. to any positive effect in terms of our efforts, counterterrorism. what models are these based off of? >> we're happy to come share with you in detail, sir. but in general, the impedence and denial prevents that smuggling through that part of the border, where we have physical barrier. so the criminal then has a choice. they can try to smuggle through the ports of entry, where we're
also increasing technology or go and find another part of the border that is unsecured. >> so you think that our current stance with this additional investment at ports of entry is satisfactory at this point. >> no, sir. i think it helps us at the ports of entry, but what we see is the increase of interdiction of drugs between ports of entry. >> how much more money do you need in our ports of entry? >> right now we have this wonderful influx to get nii machines, so i would love to get back to you. we're going to see how much more that improves our ability to interdict. >> thank you. >> thank you, mr. rhodes. if i can call on mr. green, the state of texas. >> thank you. madam secretary, what happened to "give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming
shore. send these, the homeless, the tempest tossed to me. i lift my lamp beside the golden door." what happened? madam secretary, asylees are not illegals. madam secretary, do you know the number of people who came through ellis island? >> no, sir. >> i do. 12 million. do you know where they came from? >> all over the world. >> i do. germany, ireland, britain, scandinavian countries, southern and eastern europe. they were not ill legals. there was no flotilla in new york harbor to prevent them from
coming to ellis island. there was no family separation at ellis island. past administrations have -- when asylees were trying to get to this country, found ways to accommodate asylees. they didn't build walls. when the cubans were fleeing castro, we created wet foot/dry foot. one foot on dry land, and you would walk on in to a pathway to citizenship. madam secretary, do you know who scarface is? >> i'm sorry. >> i'll tell you. al capone. the son of italian immigrants. not all of those people who came
through ellis island were saints. scarface was a bootlegger. dealt in prostitution. gambling. one of the greatest criminals this country has ever suffered. the son of immigrants. it's unfortunate. i would never want a scarface in our country. i don't want him ms-13 in our country. but i also don't want to see a wall as a solution to a humanitarian crisis. madam secretary, these border patrol agents are also victims. the children are the agents of victims, too. because they are required to enforce a corrupt policy. a policy that separates babies from their mothers. places them in cages.
i was at the border, i saw those babies locked up on top of each other. we would not treat animals. the humane society wouldn't allow it, the way those babies were treated. madam secretary, they are victims. you have all of these vacancies, in part because a good many people don't want to be a part of that kind of circumstance. they are victims too. the children are victims and the people who are forced to do what they are doing to these babies are victims too. madam secretary, here is the problem. we have surpassed our color quota. there are those who believe that
we already have too many people of color in this country. and these, one of whom happens to be the president of the united states of america, would institute policies that will prevent people of color from coming to this country. white babies would not be treated the way these babies of color are being treated, madam secretary. this is about color. we have opened our doors. your tired, your poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free. except we now have our quota of people of color. i yield back the balance of my time. >> sir, if i could just respond to a couple things. >> mr. chairman, if she responds, i would like to have the opportunity to respond to her response. >> well, the gentleman made
statements. he really didn't ask any questions, so, in the interest of time -- >> okay. >> we will go to -- the gentleman from kansas city, mr. cleveland. >> thanks, mr. chairman. thank you, madam secretary, for being here today. i'm conflicted. we were required to study robert frost and dr. john swanly, legendary author and theologian, forced us to study all of the writings of robert frost. one of them is called "mending wall," which you may be familiar with. one of his most famous, wrote it in 1914, just outside of boston. and when you have to dissect
that, what did robert frost mean in the opening line, which says, and i quote, something there is that does not love a wall, unquote. something there is that does not love a wall. robert frost. 1914. so you dissect it. frost is saying, nature -- shorten this. nature or god does not love a wall. and we can speak euphemistically, metaphorically. that walls don't make good neighbors. walls make long-term enemies. and i may be wrong about everything. you know, i studied similar -- through college and spent
three-and-a-half years in seminary. and so we studied this whole issue. and if you look at the great wall of china, do you have any idea how many times china has been invaded since they built the wall? >> no, sir. >> you wouldn't know that. i'm not -- so it's not -- most historians would say a lot. because there's no -- i mean, we can't even figure out -- historians can't figure out how many times they have been invaded. started building on it in 200 b.c., primarily to keep the huns out, the aliens, i guess we would call them today. and as you know, that didn't help. went all the way through the ming dynasty. what i'm trying to come to the conclusion for of my question, is do you see anything wrong
with the united states of america, the most powerful nation that god has allowed to exist, building a wall? >> sir, the idea in >> sir, the idea in part of the wall is to ensure a safe and orderly flow which actually protects those traveling. when they come through the desert or more remote areas. so the idea of the barrier is a safe and orderly flow so migrants who choose to come here, come through a legal port of entry, that's where we can provide them the best medical care and that's where we can most quickly process their claim. >> thank you. the busiest and the longest land border in the world is, what? >> i would say it's ours.
>> the busiest and the largest land border in the world is between the united states and canada. >> but that's not the busiest, sir, but it is the longer border, yes. >> we might have to have an argument about the busiest based on -- i don't want to get into the amounts coming across the border from canada. but 552,500 miles. and we have a lot of illegal people coming across the border, particularly between vermont and québec. and the going fee is about $4,000 to bring people across the border. and it just -- and the numbers comming kros, i'm sure you know this, are increasing. and so i -- my final question, i
have 12 seconds, would you be okay with building a wall to separate the united states and canada? >> we do everything by risk. the risk is not such that it would necessitate physical barriers. but we do very closely work with the canadians to ensure a safe and orderly flow. we continue to analyze that daily to ensure that we do have mechanisms to provide security to both countries and to those traveling populations. >> my time is up, thank you. >> thank you very much. the chair recognizes the gentle lady from florida. >> thank you so much mr. chairman. and secretary nielsen, thank you for being with us today, it's good to see you again. i apologize for being a little late so you may have already answered this question. but let me ask you, do you agree with the president declaring a
state of emergency at the border. >> i do believe it's an emergency. >> do you believe that same resource can be implemented with mass shootings? >> i would have to refer you to the -- >> in your personal opinions, since you do deal with the security of our nation, what do you feel about declaring a state of emergency as it pertains to mass shootings in this country since countless numbers of people die right before our very eyes on a regular basis? >> we need to do a lot more, that's a particular authority that the president has, but in general, is it an emergency that we need to address, yes. >> do you think that declaring a state of emergency would be a process that the president should consider. >> i can't speak to his particular authority, but what we're doing at dhs. >> how many customs and border
patrol agents have died in the line of duty during your tenure. >> we have the numbers here. i can look them up. but it's about 15 to 20. i'm sorry -- not in the line of duty. we've had -- >> how many in the line of duty at this border where there is a crisis. >> zero. >> zero have died -- >> in this last year. >> how many customs and border patrol officers or agents would you say have been seriously injured in the line of duty at the border, the southwest border, in particular, during your tenure? >> we could get you those figurings. we have at least 60 instants of rockings. >> i remember a city near orlando where there was one murder in january and one murder in december. so you're not -- you don't know in terms of serious injury, how many officers or agents have
been seriously injured during your tenure? >> happy to get you that information. >> at this crisis of the border. okay. change of direction for just a moment. you know that private property owners must receive just compensation for property seized under eminent domain, is that correct. >> yes. >> in some cases the federal government can assume ownership for private property before compensation has been adjudicated and before a land owner has received payment for their land. we can certainly debate whether season of land from private property owners is the right thing to do or not. we know that some property owners in texas who's land may be seized, they had deeds predating statehood in texas. but i would like to focus on just compensation. it seems to be a challenge for the department. there have been reports about the discrepancies between those who are represented by -- have
legal representation versus those who don't and what the department feels the land value is versus other sources. how douz the federal government determine just compensation for labd land seized at the southwest border. >> it's based on the acreage, including the terrain of the land. >> usa today has reported that some landowners were offered less than $100 while the market valley was up to 120 times greater. and you said that they used fair market value to determine that? >> the general market value. >> do you have any explanation as all for the discrepancies. >> i'm happy to look further into it. >> what federal resources exist to help landowners who are at the mercy of the federal government negotiate just compensation for their land?
>> to my knowledge, the united states does not have the ability to pay for counsel for them. but of course it usually takes 12 to 16 months for this process to complete. and so during that time we work very closely both with the area, the courts, if they're involved and the landowner. >> looking at the area in the border where the president seems determined to build a wall regardless of the necessity to do that, how many landowners would be affected? >> i don't have a particular number, ma'am. as you know and as you described, some of the parcels, it's difficult to determine who owns them. we have actually people looking through microfish to make sure we do our best. >> i am out of time, but we certainly have a lot more to discuss on this issue. i'll yield back and thank you mr. chairman. >> i thank the witness for her testimony and the members for
their questions. i ask unanimous consent to enter statements into the record from organizations regarding asylum seekers, families, and children in dhs custody and other border security issues. without objection. the members of the committee may have additional questions for the witness and we ask that you respond expeditiously in writing to those questions. pursuant to the committee rules, the hearing record will be held open for ten days hearing no further business, the committee stands adjourned.
>> secretary nielsen spent nearly three hours answering questions from the house homeland security security committee today for the first time. benny thompson asked secretary nielsen about detention of children. >> for the record, are we still using cages for children? >> in the border facilities that you've been to, they were not made to detain children. as the children are processed through, they are in sub parts of those facilities -- >> madam secretary -- >> yes. i'm being as clear as i can. i'm trying to answer your question -- >> are we still putting children
in cages? >> not to my knowledge they never put a child in a cage like -- >> purposely or whatever, are we putting children in cages as of today? >> children are processed at the border facility stations that you've been at, some of them -- >> i've seen the cages. i just want you to admit that the cages exist. >> sir, they're not cages. >> what are they? >> areas of the border facility that are carved out for the safety and protection of those who remain there while they're being processed. if we have two gangs, we separate them into separate areas -- >> we're not going to go through the semantics. i saw the fences that were made as cages. and you did too. all you have to do is admit it if it's a bad policy then change it. but don't mislead the committee. do not mislead the committee.
>> i do appreciate the chairman and his acknowledgement of what happened in my district on sunday. it really is breathtaking when you go down and see the devastation of a tornado that was nearly a mile wide and stayed on the ground for 70 miles. we have 23 dead, 90 injured and more than a hundred homes completely destroyed. this committee should take a lot of pride in the fact that we've made a difference in this country over the last 15 years. the first responders were just wonderful. our local first responders, many of whom who had gotten training with federal money, worked their hearts out. fee ma did a great job. they were ready to do yesterday. kept us informed and i know they're going to do a great job in the rebuilding. but we make a difference in what we've done. i know the governor's been in
touch working with the fema officials and they're going to do a great job. i appreciate your prayers as we try to start the rebuilding now that we've finished the search and recovery. >> last month there were more than 76,000 migrants apprehended at the u.s. border. it was more than double the same period last year. this hearing is one of three at the capitol on border issues today. you can see all of this hearing online at c-sp email@example.com. our live coverage will continue this afternoon at 2:30 eastern when the senate arms services committee holds a hearing on military services response to sexual assault. you can watch on your mobile device or you can listen with the free c-span radio app. tomorrow the senate foreign relations committee holds a hearing to examine the u.s.
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