tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN July 10, 2014 11:00pm-1:01am EDT
have -- well, six, i think, is what i noted in my testimony. three detain and three nondetained. >> how many additional courts will this supplemental be able to give you? >> the supplemental will allow us to hire additional immigration judges. those immigration judges, because this situation is going to result in case loads rising throughout the country, will be sent to various courts. some along the border, but many in courts far from the border. >> here's where i'm getting to. how many additional kids will this allow you to process? >> i don't have an answer for that, senator. and this is why. we expect that certainly a large number, perhaps most of the vast majority of the individuals that dhs has apprehended will end up in our courts. until we start seeing those cases, we don't have a good number -- good handle on the actual number of minors that
will be coming to our courts. it will be substantial. >> i want to help you with this, but how can you come to us with a budget request if you don't know how many courts or how it's going to speed this process? i think every one of you talked about speeding up the process to making sure the kids get back to the appropriate that need to go back to the country. i want to be helpful. i want to vote for this. >> senator, may i? >> sure. >> the assumption underlying the request from doj is that we'll be able to add an additional case load of 55,000 to 75,000 cases a year. overall. >> and right now they are handling how many a year? >> right now the pending case load is 275,000. >> 275,000. okay. okay. significant. how many kids are going to come into the border every day?
>> these days, it's up -- the total apprehensions of the kids unaccompanied is about 250. it was higher. it's down to somewhere between 200 and 250 a day. >> so we will be able to make significant inroads into these kids as far as moving them through the process, if in fact, this money gets to the department of justice? correct? >> yes. >> on the tv programs i hear senators and house members talk about this process and how many end up back in court. is that true? and does this money help that not occur? >> and let me just correct the number. 375,000 cases pending in our courts right now, senator. there has been a lot of talk about the -- the numbers thrown about are not accurate. there is a significant number of unaccompanied -- of juveniles that don't end up in immigration court. the current rate is 46%.
however, i should note that there are significant consequences for somebody who gets noticed for a hearing before an immigration judge and doesn't show up. that immigration judge then has to issue an order of removal in absentia order of removal. >> will any of these help with the absentia rate? >> there are some dollars going to the lpc program, the legal orientation program. that's a program that's been very successful in cutting the absentia rate by about 40%. >> i want to thank you all for your testimony. thank you very much, madam chair. >> you are exactly right, senator tester. and i think we've all just said that. how do they know what to ask for unless they can honestly say how many cases are coming. but if you aren't talking to dhs -- but let's go to senator alexander. he's been waiting. >> thank you, madam chairman.
i thank the witnesses for coming. i think we agree this is an extraordinary problem and extraordinary amount of money. but with all respect, it's an incomplete plan for dealing with the problem. and it's not a new problem. we've known about this for a couple of years. all of us have known about it. but in our system of government it's the president's job to lay out a specific plan for what we should do about it and it's our job then to say, no, we don't like that. we're going to change this and respond to that. this is not a complete plan to me. what's miss, three things. number one, first, we need to secure the 320 miles of border in the rio grande valley where a majority at least, maybe most of the children, are coming. this is an extraordinary, you say unprecedented surge, of illegal immigrants, unaccompanied children. we need an extraordinary response. the quickest way to deal with it and to send a message back to those three countries is those
children are coming home. second, we need to make it as clear as we can, as rapidly as we can that what will happen to these children if they come to our country is that they'll be treated with respect and humanely and sent home, taken home as soon as we responsibly and safely can do it. and number three, we need to know from the president what changes he wants to make in the 2008 law that apparently is the source of a good deal of the problem. he said last monday that he had some changes he wants to make. and we need to know what those are if we're being asked to spend this kind of money. number one, to secure the border. if we want an extraordinary response to an extraordinary problem, why don't we consider using the national guard. president obama has done that once. president bush did it in 2006. he was reluctant to do it.
i was one of the former governors who was in the senate who urged him to do it. we've been commander in chiefs of our local guard. he did it. and in both cases it had the desired effect of the government accountability office said it worked. if the president were to use the national guard for this 300-plus miles of the border, that would send a clear signal in those countries to those parents or those smugglers or whoever is responsible for this that the children are coming home and that the border is closed to them. that would be the 1st thifirst one thing we could do to make the extraordinary response meet the extraordinary problem. the second would to be make it clear that the children are coming home safely but quickly as we possibly can. and then the third thing to do would be this law in 2008. none of us are for human trafficking, but the amendments in 2008 seem to have created an
unintended consequence that contributed in a dramatic way to the problem. and the president said that he wanted to make changes in the law but now we haven't heard exactly what those changes are. we've heard from mr. johnson that one of those changes might be to give him more discretion so that a child from one of those three countries could voluntarily be sent home which apparently they can't today. so let me start with this question. secretary johnson if in the past president bush and president obama used the national guard in a specific instance and used it effectively, why wouldn't that be a good tool, both to get the job done on that border and to send a clear message to those countries and the people in those countries that those children, if they come here, will be sent home as quickly and safely as we possibly can? >> senator alexander, i know from my days as general counsel of the defense department, any time you deploy an armed force, you should do so with a clear plan and a clear objective. and clear rules of engagement.
unlike the situation we faced in 2006, 2007, this migration is all surging into one very specific area of the rio grande valley. we know exactly where they are going. and unlike the previous rise in migration we faced in 2006, 2007, this population for the most part wants to be apprehended. they aren't seeking to evade law enforcement or the national guard. so simply building an added presence on the southwest border on the rio grande itself will not necessarily stem this tide. >> are you suggesting that we -- by that logic, we should just open the border. >> no, not at all, senator. what i do believe we should do is consider all lawful options. all lawful and humanitarian
options. and so i have continually asked my staff, for example, i want to hear every conceivable option. and so as this thing evolves, i think we, you know, is the national guard a possibility? the national guard in title 32 status is hugely expensive by the department of defense. we've surged a lot of resources already, but i want to consider all lawful options. i would not take some use of the national guard off the table for consideration as this situation evolves. but, senator, i do agree with you that we need to turn this population around. and we're taking a number of steps to do that. we've dramatically reduced the repatriation removal time for the adults who are part of this population, rebuilding detention capability for the family units who are part of this population and returning that around. i am going to new mexico tomorrow to make a point of that so that people see that they are coming back and with regard to
the unaccompanied children, you've heard from the department of justice, that process can take as long as over a year. and we need to dramatically reduce that because we have to show that if you do not qualify for some form of humanitarian relief under our laws, you must be sent home. >> madam chairman, my time is up, but i hope somewhere in the discussion that mr. johnson or one of the witnesses will tell us exactly what the president wants us to do about changing the 2008 law so that the children can be sent home more quickly in a safely as possible. thank you. >> the national guard or, we heard this also in other quarters. i would just point out the state department, and this goes after, where do you need to be muscular and the deterrence, i believe it's got to come more out of the state department. and the fact they only asked for $100 million to go after the
traffickers and we also need jeh johnson using the authorities of the department of homeland security working with our fbi to be going after the cartels, the drug smugglers and so on that are actually doing massive ad campaigning to recruit them. having guys with gunss at the border, i'm not so sure to do it as going right to these host countries and having the deterrence -- >> what the guard did under president bush was not substitute for the guards at the border. it took over some of the responsibilities that permitted the customs people and other people to spend their time doing the things they were trained to do. >> what i do want to say, senator alexander, a lot of us feel there has to be real deterrence and going after the really bad despicable guys. so, senator udall and then senator moran, murray and collins. >> thank you, very much, madam chair and appreciate very much
appreciate the testimony of all of the witnesses. secretary johnson, thank you for visiting artesia as you've noted in our testimony. it's the first facility you've stood up independent for women with children. and when you visited, i would like you to think in terms of what are going to be the additional burdens on this small community. i mean, you will see a facility that's running a law enforcement facility on the same campus. it's a very small facility. they are now expecting and predicting 670 women and children in a very short period of time. i included in the dhs appropriations mark-up last week added language directing dhs to consult transparently with state and local governments and avoid imposing costs on local
communities for these types of temporary facilities. and my first question is, prior to dhs making a decision to use the training center for family detention, did you consult with state and local officials? >> i believe we did. that's a standing instruction of mine to my staff, before we make a decision to go to some place for increased detention for processing, we should consult with state and local -- the state and local government. >> and is there a process to have an ongoing briefing with state and local officials in place for things that occur, changes in mission and what happens at this facility? >> yes, i have personally spoken, for example, to the mayor of mcallen, texas, about the situation in the surrounding community and mcallen. i have met with the governor of
arizona when i went to nogales, and i suspect i'll be meeting with officials in new mexico tomorrow when i go there. if it's not on my agenda, i'll build it into my ajnda. >> i'm sure the mayor of artesia would very much like to meet with you and talk with you. his description was that he was -- he heard on one day that there was a rumor and two days later, the facility was open. and he had very little information, concrete information he could tell his constituents in the community about. the communities with detention centers for very concerned about incurring costs and strains on their infrastructure and other resources. and artesia, the mayor told my office that increased bus and vehicle traffic is creating traffic problems near the entrance of this law enforcement training center. but the city does not have the funds to install necessary traffic signals. his police have had to respond
to incidents at the detention center. i don't believe local communities should bear the cost of the crisis at our border. is there any funding in the supplemental request to help offset any cost the new detention centers impose on state and local governments? >> not directly. i don't believe that there is. but i do agree that we should endeavor to minimize the burden on the surrounding communityies. and that we should be mindful of the burden that is being imposed in places like texas, new mexico, arizona, southern california. and so i want to work with local mayors, sheriffs to better enable us to do that. >> and i would just add with regard to the question of funds in the supplemental to prevent and/or help with burden in local communities, as mr. shelby
reflected, the cost is large and the cost is large because we the federal government, when the children are with hhs take on the majority, the vast majority of anything that the children have so that we are not burdening the xhocommunity when there are. in that sense we understand the number is very large. part of it, the reason is large is because we take care of the children from beginning to end. >> but secretary burwell, i think you used in our testimony the statement, no additional burdens on the community. and that's what i am asking for, secretary johnson, because i believe that if you don't have it in this supplemental, it's not going to happen. and so i think you're in a position of really having an incomplete plan before us because you're going to rush to set these facilities. you're not going to anticipate the needs, and there's going to be a real problem there. what is the cost of operating
the family detention center for a year and in the absence of a supplemental, where is that funding going to come from? >> the cost of running the detention facility we've set up in artesia, i don't have off hand. i can get you that. i would be glad to do so. >> that would be great. >> not doing anything, frankly is not an option because it will require us to simply run out of money, as i mentioned, in mid-august and make some dramatic reprogramming steps -- >> no, i understand that. you've said that already. but where is the funding coming from right now to set up the facility that will house 607 women and children? >> it's coming from our existing i.c.e. budget. >> so it's being taken away from what? >> it is being taken away from other aspects of the immigration and customs enforcement. >> thank you. i'm sorry i went a little over, madam chair.
>> thank you, madam chairman. secretary johnson, i think all of us can agree that we are facing a humanitarian crisis of the first magnitude. more money may well be needed to deal with the consequences of this crisis. but it does not address the causes of the problem. and that's what's troubling to me. it's contrary to the evidence to think that some 57,000 children would undertake an extremely dangerous journey to reach our borders if their parents did not think that they would be allowed to stay here once they arrive.
the administration has pointed to changes made in our immigration laws in 2008 as a partial explanation for the surge in the number of unaccompanied children. and i think many of us would agree that that law does, indeed, need to be revised. but it doesn't explain the surge. if you will look at the chart that i've distributed, the surge in unaccompanied children did not begin following the passage of the 2008 law. in fact, the numbers actually declined between fiscal year 2010 and fiscal year 2011. the wave of children arriving here clearly began in 2012. so we need to look at what happened that year.
well, on june 15th of 2012, president obama took unilateral action and announced his deferred action for childhood arrivals policy. now let me make clear that i think the president's action was motivated by compassion, but it seems clear to me that it sent the wrong message to those parents in central america. and it demonstrates what happens when the president unilaterally decides to issue an executive order affecting immigration without securing the border. the number of children more than doubled between fiscal year 2011 and fiscal year 2013. yet until just recently, the president did not even speak out to warn their parents and to
tell them that the bjojourney wd be horrendous for their children and they would be sent home. we know many of these children have been abused or harmed on their way here. and when the wave became evident two years ago, the president took no action at that time to try to stem the tide. we know that it will take a long time before all of these children have hearings that could lead to their being support home, if they show up at all for the adjudications. so my question is what specifically is the administration doing to propose changes in the laws or regulations right now so that these children can be safely and
immediately put on planes and returned to their parents? and wouldn't such an action send the strongest possible message to the people of central america that they should not allow their children to go with these smugglers and come here? >> senator, first of all, i know this from personal conversations with these kids. i've spoken to dozens of these kids. and i know from talking to border patrol officers who have spoken to these kids, first thing they say when you ask them why did you come here, it has to do with the conditions in the three central american countries. my mother told me that the gang was going to kill me, or my brother was killed. it's always initially that. second, clearly they know that
if they come to the united states, our laws require certain things. that we transfer them to the department of health and human services. but it's also the case that the criminal smuggling organizations are creating considerable misinformation about the state of our laws and so forth. they are telling, in order to induce the family member to pay $3,000, $5,000, whatever it is, they tell them things like, you'll get a free pass. and it will expire at the end of june or the end of may. the fact is, and i've been saying this publicly now for weeks, and it's being repeated in central america and the spanish press that the deferred action program that was established two years ago, is for children who have been in this country for seven years. since june 2007. so it is simply wrong to seven june 2007.
so, it's simply wrong to say you're going to benefit from that program. we continue to repeat that. and they're saying that and repeating it in those countries. but we're dealing with criminal smuggling organizations. they put out considerable disinformation about this. you asked about changes in law. i believe, and i agree that people in central america need to see illegal migrants coming back. the children accompanied by their parents, and the unaccompanied adults. we're doing it, and lessening the time it takes to happen. so, we're asking for additional resources to turn those people around quicker. including the children.
so, in terms of changing the law, we're asking for the ability to treat unaccompanied kids from a central american country in the same way as from a contiguous country. >> senator murray? >> thank you, senator, for holding this hearing today. i think everybody in this room is at least in agreement that what we're seeing at the border is unacceptable. the numbers of young people and children crossing our border, often by themselves is staggering. and as everyone knows, we're not just talking about a few individual cases, we're talking
about tens of thousands of cases of young minors entering the united states. and the circumstances that they're facing, these aren't people coming to take jobs or get a free ride. these are children. many of them 7 or 8 years old. fleeing some terrible violence in their home countries. they're being sent oftentimes by desperate mothers and fathers, telling them to run for their lives. i can't imagine what that would feel like as a parent. but this is a refugee crisis. and as americans, we think of refugee crises as something
happening far away, but it's happening in our country, and it's happening right now. this affects every single american community. we've heard in my home state, in washington, some of these children may be sent to facilities in mccord, just a few miles from downtown seattle. so, all of us need to take the situation very seriously. i'm particularly concerned about the condition and care of the young women and girls being detained on our border. some of them have faced unbelievable abuse, violence, human trafficking, and are trying to avoid some of those fates. so, we need to talk about some of the resources the
administration has to fight organized crime on the border. but we also need the resources to protect these children and treat them humanely. and we need to protect the young women and girls from the violence and abuse they're running away from in their home countries. we can't ignore the legitimate cries for help from refugees. it's our turn, and we need to accept that. we're focused on fighting organized crime on our border,
but we can't leave these children behind, and make sure they have valid claims for asylum. -- i know that's not the focus of this hearing, but we've seen too many tragedies on our borders. that's one of the ways we can fix this long term comprehensive strategy. my question is, why is the administration pursuing costly detaining of families? >> senator, i believe that, excuse me, i believe that in or the der to deal with the current
situation, we have to return people, and we have to show others in central america that we are returning people. that is how to deal with the existing situation. in order to do that and do it qui quickly, we're building detention capability for adults that bring their children here. we didn't have that capability until recently. we're turning the adults around faster, and the ones with children around faster in order to send people home. >> is the administration making sure that each of the children who are detained can pursue asylum, and have representation from a qualified attorney? >> it is part of our standard procedure to make sure that
people are informed of their rights in this type of situation. >> and with regard to when the children come to hhs, a number of things happen. they are informed of their rights and the immigration proceedings. and if they have a different status, that's checked again. if that happens, in terms of asylum for the child, then appropriate steps are taken. in addition, with the children, we continue to try and in some cases under 2,000, but over 1,000 cases, we do connect them with pro bono attorneys. some children have extreme circumstances with what happened to them along the way.
and they need special types of help. >> i appreciate that very much. >> and when we think about the numbers, 14% of the money that hhs has asked for is for health and legal services that are beyond the basic services we provide for children. some of them have extreme needs, whether it's legal or health. >> and a comment to be made. i know many senators have had to leave because of airplane flights that they've had to take. i want to protect the rights of every single senator. if any had to leave, i want to make sure that the record is open, they can submit their questions in writing, and ask the departments to respond in two weeks. it's been a long hearing, and i want to make sure that everyone
has the chance to do that. >> thank you, madam chairwoman. let me say to the witnesses, thanks for being here. this morning, i was driving into work and listening to npr. you might be shocked by that, but i was listening to npr. and this very well-spoken gentleman, i wish i had gotten his name, he spoke about his travels through central america. basically what he was saying is, at the risk of paraphrasing his comments, the coyotes, or
smugglers, they go to the family and tell them the chances of being deported or sent back home are slim to none. and then they rip the families off. they hit them for $3,000, $5,000, $7,000. not small amounts of money. and they starve, abuse, rape these children. and take them through hell on earth. all with the performance that here, the united states government will take care of
them. i've listened to your testimony today, and i believe you're proving their case. no reflection on you, madam secretary. you have to deal with the law given to you on december 8th, 2008. here's what's resulting. you tell me, mr. secretary, that 1,800 get deported. those are pretty darn good odds. chances are, you're not going get deported. 46% don't show up. i appreciate your comments about, if you don't show up, you're in trouble. when we catch up with you, you're going home. well, we have 12 million people in the united states with those circumstances. madam secretary, i read through the law. i took the time to go through
the 2008 law. look at what you do. it's no reflection on the job you're doing. it's what you have to do under the law that congress gave to you in december of 2008. you are responsible for their care and custody. you have to do an immediate age determination. and establish policies and programs to care for these unaccompanied minors. and make sure their placements are safe and secure. so, you have to do assessments of the family, the home, the environment, to determine whether they're going to be safely placed. you have to make sure there's access to on going information, and legal presentations.
access to counsel. and child advocates can get involved. this strikes me as the kind of law that came along, and people bought into it. i bet it passed with a bipartisan amount of support. but my question is, if the coyotes are promising that the kids will get to the united states, are going to be cared for, isn't your testimony today establishing without a shadow of a doubt that this is, in fact, exactly what you're going to do with the kids in your custody? >> i think the question of the overarching plan, something that has been raised. we are one piece of the plan.
when a child gets here, how we treat the child. and i think that's a reflection of our nation and our values. what we're asking for is the support to make the coyotes' promise not true. the way we do that is by speeding the time with which people go back. so, the way we break the programs, and the part of the coyote lie, you're right. the numbers are not high. and i think secretary johnson has said, that's our objective. that 1,800 number is not the right one to send the signal that's appropriate to deter. what we want to do is make the promise not correct. i'm not sure that what we want to do as a nation, the child is here, and we don't take care of
them. 22% are 11 years old or under. so, how one treats, how we believe one should treat -- i'm glad you read the law. the requirements are, taking care of the child, making sure they're safe. but the people that are taking these families down an inappropriate path, we need to make sure we're sending an appropriate signal. >> well, this is a complex signal. but i don't see anything in what you're requesting here that is going to impact the story they're telling down here. they're coming here believing that if they can just get in your custody, they're not going to go home.
thank you, madam chair. >> senator? >> thank you very much. i want to begin with the law which is, i think, the appropriate place the begin and follow up on some of the questions that have already been asked. everyone is referring to the 2008 law, which i have also reviewed. but i think we need to go back to the base law, the 1988 refugee act. establishing the basic right of refugees to come to this country. and it was ordered because of the fall of vietnam. and in the late '70s, refugees
needed protection. there was an humanitarian crisis, and it was signed and enacted unanimously in 1980. senator feinstein will recall, because she passed legislation regarding this. and that act separated the refugee status for children away from adults, unaccompanied children, because of her concerned about several instances, but one in particular that was gruesome. chinese children were shipped here in a container, and some of them might have died on the way.
so, we've got to go back a long way talking about this law. it's the asylum law. number two, i want to help, but i also have strong feelings about right now, today, a lack of accountability as to what agency in front of us is ultimately in charge. i want to support one agency, coordinating with the others. otherwise, it's going to be a dis disbursal of funds, and we need to get it correct. we need to secure our borders, spend the taxpayers' money well, and protect the families.
number three, we already have a plan. this is for you, mr. shannon. you've been very, very quiet. but i have some questions for the state department. i worked for several years with republicans and democrats, and the government of the united states has a plan. it's called the action plan on children and diversity. you may want to get a copy of it. it's very on-point, because it's the state department's plan. and children in adversitiy, it' to achieve a world free from exploitation and danger. it's grounded in evidence -- if
failure to do so undermines economic progress. child development is central to diplomatic efforts. the plan wants to implement good practices into our policies. and we underscored the importance of this plan of children being in families. families are the basic institution of all governments and societies. so, madam chair, i want to point out to the committee that there are several laws that need to be reviewed. there's a plan that the gentleman is unaware of.
and in closing, because my time is short, to the justice department, i want to make mention, i'm fairly clear about some of these numbers. you have a backlog of 375,000 kids. the average to deal with them is three to five years. that's what mr. tom holton -- a backlog of over 300,000, three to five years to adjudicate. and we need to make sure we're talking about the right amount of money, performance standards, accountability. i am willing to work with you on it, but i still have questions. >> senator cochran.
>> madam chairman, secretary johnson, i address my question to you. the number of children crossing the southwest border of the united states is expected to increase by 2,000%. yet the administration did not request any increase in funding for any of the agencies responsible for addressing this problem in the 2015 budget. despite the fact that they were aware of the increasing demand. so, how do you have this as an emergency request? >> well, in the last two years,
we have definitely seen a rise in unaccompanied children. we've worked with the mexican government, and worked with the government of guatemala on a task force. we've known about this issue for some time, but it really spiked in january and also in the period of march-april. that's when it really spiked. i saw it myself in mcallen, texas, in may. but it is the case that it has been rising, and we've attempted to deal with it in a variety of ways that have been incorporated in prior submissions.
>> what is the outlook in terms of improving the capacity to deal with the increase of numbers, or working with local government as an alternative as a safe haven for these migrants? >> the assumption is that there will be $145,000 in fiscal '15. i believe we'll address this tide. and i also believe we need transfer authority in case we're more successful to devote to things like increased detection capability. and also money to support repatriation and reintegration
to central america, so we can return people quicker. >> thank you. thank you, madam chair. >> senator koons? >> thank you, madam chair, and vice chair shelby. thank you for your personal engagement. hearing the stories of children, and adults who are part of this extraordinary humanitarian crisis at our southern border. i think the children are fleeing dramatically increased levels of violence. and if this increase in refugees
was part of a change in american poli policy, we would see it from other countries than just three. so, it's my hope that a significant share of the action that will be taken as a result of this emergency supplemental, will be -- i would love to hear more about the intended increased investment in the three countries. and as a judiciary committee member, this request, additional badly needed resources. because we know we have a significant backlog, we have significant unmet detention
costs, i think we need to act now to fix our most urgent problems. so, thank you to our four witnesses for being here. and i look forward to working with you. ambassador shannon, can you tell us about the state department request, and your plans for processing, what is the baseline funding requested? and why is it not greater? and second, if both you and secretary johnson would speak to the media campaigns. it's a very modest amount of money to ensure that parents understand that their children are most likely not going to be granted a chance to stay in the
united states. >> thank you very much. i appreciate the questions, and the opportunity to respond. let me start with the public messaging campaign. that's been a focus of the president, vice president, and others in the embassies in central america. as we attempt to deal with the misinformation from the smuggling organizations, and this is an unprecedented phenomen phenomenon. to have children leaving in these numbers, we've never seen before. and we focused first on the danger of the journey. and secondly, there is no pass to get in. one does go into deportation
proceedings. independent of the outcome of the proceedings. and we are asking for money to accelerate those proceedings. however, that said, it's important to know that our public messaging campaign is not just our campaign. it's also a campaign that the governments of other countries have joined. -- back to the mothers and fathers, but also in the migrant communities in the united states, and highlighting the misinformation that the smugglers are providing.
we've already spent money announced by vice president biden, and we're asking for $5 million for public diplomacy. and part of it is additional public engagement, but a big part of it is going to be focused on the community of returned migrants. so they can talk to them about what went on. >> i'm out of time, but if you have a brief response, are we doing enough? >> well, we need to do more. we've addressed some of the issues, but $300 million will allow us to focus on a few new areas. but this will be a down payment.
>> madam chair, may i add to that, please? >> yes. >> public messaging is critical here. when i was in guatemala a few days ago, it was an awkward moment standing next to the president of that country, we will send you back and don't do this. but it's critical. and the population in central america and the parents need to see that we're sending people back. >> thank you very much for your testimony. >> senator? >> thank you. i'd like to ask secretary johnson and mr. shannon, is mexico helping stem this flow and secure the border?
if not, why not, and what are we doing to get them to help stop the flow of illegal aliens from central america. >> let me take the first crack at that. this has been the subject of conversations at the highest levels of both governments. president to president. me to my counterpart. i believe the mexicans will step up and assist us in the security of our southern border. they announced on monday a plan to deal with the migration and to put in place a guest worker program for guatemalans.
and border security, i'll defer to ambassador shannon. >> we announced a mexican border initiative. all the migrants have to cross there, and it's the first point at which they can be interdicted in a meaningful way. and the mexicans have created a three-tiered security, and attempting to address the human networks of smuggling routes moving up the coast by bus and train, in an effort to stop them and turn, especially the children, around. mexico removed over 8,000 unaccompanied children last
year. and it's difficult because of the vastness of the terrain, but they understand that this is a problem, and they don't want the children to be caught between our borders. especially to have them grouped in some areas where they would be subject to criminal gangs that operate in that part of mexico. and mexico has built a network which has facilitated our ability to remove them from the country in quick fashion. and mexico has been working with the central americans about this challenge.
so, it's been positive, and i think it's going to bear fruit. the plan was announced on monday. and it is being implemented as we speak. we are spending $86 million of merit initiative money to enhance the border patrols. and we're working with the guatemalans as well. and we're going to judge our metrics in terms of who is being returned. and we will be following this very closely. in fact, secretary johnson and i
were there just yesterday. >> isn't the most effective deterrent actually having the people in those countries, seeing the young people returned? isn't that the most effective deterrent? and how can you assure us that these funds will be used to accomplish that? to secure the border, and to be sent back to their home country? >> i agree that they need to see people coming back, that they wasted their money, giving the smuggling organizations $3,000, $4,000, $5,000. and a large part of the money will go to expediting requests. >> can you do it without repeal
of the 2008 law? >> i believe we can. yes, sir, i believe the 2008 law reflects the fundamental values and commitments of this country that we should adhere to. but i also believe that with increased capability and resources we can turn people home. >> so you can do this even with the 2008 law in place? >> i believe that we will get at this problem. >> thank you, madam chair. >> i was glad to hear that. i agreed with president bush when he signed the 2008 law. i think it speaks to our moral
values as a country. just as we don't tell jordan, because they're being overwhelmed with refugees, just send them back to syria to be killed. we have to set a good example. i was stopped by someone in the press on the way over, we heard from a republican member of the house, we should be changing immigration laws. i reminded them we came together in the body last year, republicans and democrats, a year ago, and we ended the evening, and a long debate on the floor. all 150, 160 amendments, we passed an immigration law, with
both republicans and democrats voting for it. the republican leadership in the house, i'm tired of the sniping about changing the immigration laws. it's a lot easier to snipe rather than vote. if you snipe, than say yes or no, then it's not on record. they get paid the same as i do, they ought to pass a law. now, i don't believe that, of course, i agree with you. you said in your testimony, our border is not open to illegal immigration. and i agree with you on that. and i don't believe all those children qualify for immigration protection. but some do, and we should give
them that. they're fleeing violence, rape, and human trafficking. the distinguished senior senator from california worked on this law. t the children, fleeing extreme violence should be interviewed by child welfare specialists, and have a opportunity to tell their story to a judge who can identify them as victims of violence, or persecution. i'm willing to help. i know, two or three hours before the vice president arrived to guatemala, you were
planning to announce money -- we may want to look a little bit further than that. but i can assure you that i will fight tooth and nail, changes in the trafficking victims protection act. we have to do the right thing. we can and should work with you. we will help you. but, when you have an 8 or 9-year-old girl being raped by gangs sending her up here. or being sent by her parents to escape that kind of violence, i'm not sure americans all really feel that we should immediately send them back. we routinely ask these other countries to support refugees
fleeing violence, let's do it ourselves. and look for the funding in a long-range plan. in the meantime, i hope the body will pass an immigration law. anybody want to respond? >> i do. i have a letter written by a number of senators, including senators on this committee. and there's a sentence in the second paragraph that i agree with. we strongly believe that in responding to this crisis, we must not set aside our fundamental commitments as a nation. that's the bedrock of my public service. dealing with this or responding to a terrorist attack, we should
not jettison the law or bend it. and it's at times like this, when adherence to our laws, in my view, is very important. >> i'm very familiar with that letter, as you know. thank you. >> senator? >> thank you, madam chair, and thank you all for being here. i'll be honest with you, i feel like you're going to have a lot of problems with the proposal you're giving us because it's not balanced. there's been concern over the cartels advertising falsely, if you get here you're going to get amnesty, those kinds of things, and the ability to administratively deal with the
people here. you mentioned you had, i guess, 2,000 people that you sent back last year. how many administrative judges did you have to do that? >> we have 243 judges. >> how many additionally are you asking for? >> an additional 25 judge teams that could take us up to about 40 with other teams. >> 270? 283. so, a 273,000 backlog? >> and we're in the process of hiring through fiscal year 2014 appropriations -- >> well, if you multiplied your judges by ten, you'd still be in
trouble. >> there's no question, there are a large number of cases that going to be lasting for a long time. >> what about the people that have been in detention already? are we going to do the new people first? what's the -- >> well, the people in retainer right now, they're our priority. what we're doing, adding the recent border crossing cases to that priority. th th >> that doesn't make sense to me, increasing by 40 administrative judges, working through the backlog plus the additions we're talking about are coming, if we don't develop
a plan. and how long are the kids going to be out there? >> well, part of the reasons we need the money and soon is because permanent facileliitiese much cheaper. permanent facilities, a bed can cost between $250 up to $1,000. we can make a plan, and go into grant agreements with people, that affords us to do this in a much more cost-effective fashion. right now, with the department of defense, we had 120 days we renewed that for 120 days.
>> how do you educate them? >> through guarantees on the facilities. these are often religious organizations that do child welfare services. licensed organizations that enter into grant agreements and agree to provide the care. >> what i would like is, again, not pie in the sky. when you look at it logically, there's no way we can adjudicate these people. and i'm also concerned about how they're being housed. i hope it's not pie in the sky like the adjudication process is. and it sounds like we're going to be keeping some people for a long time. as far as education, health care, i've got to see it on
paper, so we truly can provide the money it's going to take. but the biggest deterrent is, if they come to this country, they're going to be sent back. >> the children in our care in 2011, it was about 75 days that it took for placement with a sponsor that we believed was safe, and appropriate. and several weeks ago, we started a pilot for the group of children we feel we can place most quickly. and the variables are about cost, number one, the amount of children coming across the border. number two, the amount and type of beds, what we have to pay for
them. and number three, the speed in which we can appropriately place. >> and quickly, you don't have any props with congressmen showing up and looking at facilities in their districts or their states unannounced? >> with regard to the question of visiting the facilities, we welcome members of congress to visit our facilities. and i speak on behalf of my colleagues, but we need to be able to handle our guests when we come, providing the information they need, and protecting the children. so, the one thing we do ask, we do ask there is scheduling. right now, since we've opened
the temporary facilities, there have been visits from elected officials. we want to schedule them as quickly as we can. and we want to be able to manage the work of the people on the ground. we welcome it, and we want to make sure that we respect the children as well as respecting the border agents. we're sorry if there were misunderstandings. let me be clear, we welcome members to come. >> i couldn't say it any better. >> we're now going to turn to senator feinstein. but i want to respond to senator bozeman. i want to point out, where we
are here, which is my senator shelby and i are passionate about an order. this is supplemental to fiscal '14 appropriations. in ord in other words, to get us to october 2014. >> some would be paid out in '15, and it would be above the current levels in terms of what the president has proposed. >> but isn't that like, if you do a contract with the catholic charities or the baptist charities -- >> we need to be able to, if we enter a grant agreement with someone, two weeks before
october 1st, we have to take the beds down, about 1,600 beds -- >> remember this, we have to pass our appropriations for fiscal '15. if you want more immigration judges, we need to pass the corresponding bill. that's where the judges are. and anybody that has other amendments, let us alone. let us get our bills done. we're ready to move on homeland security. foreign ops, ready to go. we have the infrastructure for fiscal '15. let us come to the floor. senator feinstein. >> thank you. i want you to know i'm fully in
support of this supplemental. i would like our distinguished heads and secretaries to know, i started this legislatively back in 2002. i was home, i turned on the tv, and saw a 15-year-old chinese youngster shackled, handcuffed, tears rolling down her face in front of a judge. in interpreter, no counselor, she was one of the survivors from a container of chinese that came to this country. one of the very few. and i believe her parents died coming across the ocean. and i thought at the time, i'm going to take a look at the law and see what we can do.
so, i introduced this unaccompanied minor bill. and the purpose is pretty much as secretary johnson has elucidated. unaccompanied minors traveling alone, they would have a process that is different. transferred to hhs, and would have help, with pro bono counsel, an advocate, if we can bring them back to their country, or whether there was a place for them. the numbers at that time was about 5,000. now, we have 60,000. i want to thank you both. i've had my staff go to all the facilities starting up in
california and arizona. and they come and tell me that they are really well-run. and that people are moving quickly, alertly, whether it's customs, border patrol, i.c.e., any other staff. i'm grateful for that. you've moved, secretary johnson, you are a man of your word, and i find you a very impressive secretary of homeland security. madam chair, i've known you. but it's clear from your discourse today, you know what you're doing. from 2002, we were not able to move the bill through. and we worked with large numbers of groups. church groups, other groups. and i think the bill grew
somewhat. and it was signed by president bush in 2008. to secretary johnson, who said he thought he might need added discretion, i would like to refer you to section 235 b-3, which says the following. except in the case of exceptional circumstances, any department or agency of the federal government that has an u u unaccompaniedcustody, shall send it to hhs within 72 hours. what this does is trigger a number of other provisions. but what i would say is, the
exception is the case of exceptional circumstances. i would suggest that you sit down and go through the exceptional circumstances. and how the process might be modified to give you more time. i agree very much with what you said, secretary johnson, about the values of this country. and i think if people see the children, if they know the growth of crime, and particularly in honduras, which today, the reportedly the murder capital of the world. the fear that people have. i don't think a mother in this country necessarily acts the same way as a mother in hondu s
honduras, guatemala, or any other place. because their options are so limited. so, i hope this exception is enough to give you want you need, mr. secretary, in terms of added time. and from 5,000 to 60,000, i really offer to work with you. i hope the bill does not need amending. because it took six years to get where we are. but i thank you for your good work, and i wanted an opportunity to say that. thank you, madam chairman. >> excellent. senator? >> thank you. and thank you each for your testimony here today. i have to tell you, i have been looking at the handout that
senator collins had presented in terms of the numbers that we have seen over the years. since 2009. and the very dramatic rise, beginning in 2012. and i come back to the fact as the chairman has noted that we are here today presenting this as an emergency supplemental. this is a humanitarian crisis, and i think it pulls at the heart strings of all of us. these are not numbers, these are lives and these are children's lives. i find it very troubling we areo get our hands around this and we've seen these numbers grow
from 24,000 in 2012 to 38,000 in 2013 to 52,000 in 2014 and now 57,000. and so i'm frustrated and i'm concerned as i'm sure that all of you are but i just can't understand why we have not had you before us prior to this time. why it is now part of an emergency supplemental request and to hear the testimony from both secretaries about the very immediate need to act before august or the consequences in terms of how these children will be cared for when they're here in this country. are quite dire, as you have stated. so secretary johnson, you have
said that doing nothing is not an option and you outlined some things. some additional detention facilities being built. but it's not translating in terms of what we're skiing so the proposal is that we build out more permanent detention facilities. more permanent because those are less expensive. i want to believe you when you all say we need to stem the tide. we all want to stem the tide. that's what we're trying to drill down on. how do we reduce these numbers? how do we reduce these bar
charts? that are real-life children? the queer successful we have places on the board that we can gear up. and if you do what you're hoping and we fund what you're hoping for, we have in place facilities that would seemingly no longer be necessary if we have done what we all hoped we would do before this became a crisis. so i'm trying to reconcile what is being asked for here in this emergency supplemental. and as much as i can lament about we shouldn't be where we are, we are where we are and that's a shame.
but i guess my question to you is -- do we truly understand what the strategy and the plan is going forward beyond august? we haven't seen legislation from the administration where we're making the assumption that the numbers are going to continue to grow and that's why we're going to need the request that you have within your budget. but if we're doing what we're all talking about doing which is to reduce the times and to have a process that is better expedited, is this the right answer? >> i think there are two things. one is, at the beginning of your comments with regard to the numbers, the chart that senator collins handed out, i think an important thing we need to
distinguish is that it includes the mexican numbers. because there's a different process and procedure for the mexican numbers the vast majority of those never come. >> but in fairness knows mexico numbers are actually going down. >> right. if we take the numbers out and look at the numbers that we've received as unaccompanied children in 2011 to 2013, 6500 to 13,600. that's 108% increase. the increase from '12 to '13 was to 25,000. that's an 81% increase. if you take, let's say we all bought at a might be a minimum of 90% and we're working off a higher base. any time you say there's 100% increase off of 24,000, you're estimating something big. what this congress and the administration funded in the f yooimpblt ch 14 appropriations was enough money for 54,000.
the transfer, secretarial transfer that the secretary before me did was 44 million. that got us to a place where we would have had 60,000. last year we had about 25,000. we had planned for 60,000. that was a worst case scenario. that was far greater than the increases we had seen in percentage terms off of a larger base. what we're seeing now is numbers as has been reflected in everyone's comments, that are far beyond. so the planning element, i think, in terms of the question of why weir here, with regard to your second question, which i think is a very fair one, it is related to how we make sure we stay in front. we're extremely hopeful that you are correct. that the plan we're putting in place will not lead to the numbers -- >> we need more than a hope for a policy. >> and part of what we asked for in the supplemental is the ability to have transfer authority. if the needs aren't there and we are trying to plan ahead so we
don't have the backup at the border, and in the needs are not there, we're hhs as the secretary mentioned in his opening comments, we're willing and happy to transfer any funds that are not needed to the other departments to increase the transfer would occur to any of the departments, most likely, to dhs but could occur to any and we think that's an important part of trying to balance the planning ahead with what you're rightfully pointing to. we need these numbers to come down. and so we're trying to balance that need for what you said in your earlier comments. you don't plan for the worst making sure that we do that at the same time, created a space for the success we hope we have. >> okay thank you very much, madam chairwoman. ambassador, in your remarks you said that part of the strategy is to, quote, attack criminal gang structures.
that implies someone is responsible to coordinate that effort. that it would also imply, i think, intelligence operations and i will prosecutions. so can you give us sort of the outline of the plan? who is in charge? and what intelligence assets you need and are they a reflected in the budget or where athey coming from? >> in the supplemental request you asked for $100 million for security. which would augment activities we're already undertaking under the central american security initiative. some of that has to do with law enforcement capacity training and community policing in order to address the structure of gangs in communities. and to work in communities to find alternative to gangs, especially for at-risk youth. there's no specific money aimed at intelligence activities related to gangs. and most of the work around
immigration studies, around immigration security related issues would be done by i.c.e. and by our operations here. but we have intelligence activities that are focusing on that. i can not discuss this in this environment. but most of the activities focused on breaking down the smuggling networks and working with the local police and the local authorities, would fall within the range of homeland security. we are, however, work through the judiciaries and toe enhance it and to imtheir ability to prosecute these cases. >> secretary johnson, if homeland security has the responsibility for identifying the smuggling rings and disrupting those rings, do you have the resources to do that? it seems to me that what the ambassador is saying is there's money to go in and try to do gang activity as much as we do
in major urban centers in the united states, et cetera, which is important. but these children are getting here because it's a business. these are pretty hard-nosed people who are we've got to take a more put them out of business to be blunt. and does this plan or these funds or your efforts at homeland security specifically go after these people? >> part of our request will go to not only working with the central american governments on the law enforcement effort there but our own hsi, doj efforts. which is something we've already begun in the month of may. we made 163 arrests of those attached to smuggling organizations and i'm actively working with doj right now to get at the money flow, the intradiction of money from the united states and senator, to simply underscore your point, i want to read from, briefly, from
my operation's report that i got this morning which is unclassified. hsi, and special agents reported the rescue of a honduran national who was reportedly held against her will and threatened by human smugglers. and the arrested two citizens of mexico for violating the alien smuggling statute and the smugglers demanded $2,000 for the release of the victim and the smugglers stated to the rel five they didn't pay the money they would decapitate the victim or sell her to a brothal. those are the groups we're dealing with. it's crucial to not only return people but to get at these smuggling organizations and i think we can and we should. >> in terms of priority that has to be at the same level as the humanitarian treatment of these children. and here's the final question i'll raise. in some respects these are
unavoidab unavoidable. what we're talking about is creating a standard which we're maintaining these young, people. we can't, for many reasons, some are basic values as a nation, allow, you know, afacility suitable for 12 children to be inhabited by 100 children. these -- secretary johnson, i think what happens then, if we don't do in you're going to have to find some monies from tsa, from cybersecurity efforts, from a host of the different functions because, again, we have a problem now. we'll have a much greater problem if we're seen as basically, you know, mistreating these children who are in the custody of the united states. is that fair? >> senator, that's a very fair
statement, yes, sir. >> thank you. >> madam secretary, if one of these children are placed with the relative in the united states, do we check the legal status of the relative? >> that's not part in terms of the legal status with regard to immigration status that's not something we do with regard to the legal status that's relevant to what we do is the safety of the child and there's a number of conditions that were guided with regard to that. >> so are we, in fact, turning children over to people who are here illegally? >> we do not know the answer to that question. but we can assume -- >> i think we should know the answer to that because the likelihood showing up for a hearing is zero if the person who is taking care of them is illegal, i doubt if they're going to bring them to deportation hearing or any other kind of hearing. so i'd like to see that changed
in our law. is this problem a about of failure to pass the immigration reform or is it something else? >> senator graham, if i may, to your prior question, also, before i answer this one, i do not think that removal of the parent who probably has been in the interior for years is the answer to dealing with this current situation. >> mr. secretary, it's all about signals here. you're right. we're going to tell people back in the countries, stop this and the best way to stop this is to send the kids back. i don't think you're -- you're reinforcing another bad problem when you don't check the legal status of the person, there's zero hope they're ever going to get into the legal system because the person yao turned the child over to is illegal themselves and you're just compounding the problem. i'm pretty far out there on reforming immigration but you're
reinforcing bad behavior. to my point, is this problem a result of the failure to pass illegal immigration reform or is it something else? >> this has nothing to do with immigration reform? >> the reality of how we treat these kids pursuant to the 2008 law -- >> which has nothing to do with immigration reform. >> and the misinformation that's being put out there by the smuggling organizations about the current state of legal -- >> i agree with you with all three and it has zero to do with -- >> but senator, if i may -- >> i want to pass immigration reform but i want to stop that narrative that if we pass some law we wouldn't have this problem. this is a result of believer
that if you can get here you can stay. i don't know what's driving this. senator made a good point. a kid gets a better deal then anybody else. it goes back to the 2012 change by the president but there's no use debating that. let's go forward. knowing what we know today, knowing what we know today the problem we have in front of us would we write the 2008 law the way we the? >> senator, i can't -- >> clearly we wouldn't. senator feinstein is one of the world's best senators and nicest people but she addressed wraas real problem. she's talking about a. and we're dealing with b.? 2008 law never envisioned the problem. it envisioned the chinese people and others that have been
sexually exploited. i understand not wants to throw somebody back to the hell they came from but we're now being overrun by folks. this hell to get here and if you gae agree, i agree with yao to stop it, you got to let somebody down there know stop doing it. if we don't change the 2008 law, we're never going to get a handle on this problem because the 2008 law had nothing to do with this problem. so i think we should adjust our laws to meet the needs in front of us so i'm very disappointed to hear that the administration believes, after everything we've been dealing with for the last two years, there's no reason to change the law. i just find almost impossible to understand. but let's get to this point about mexico. the difference between mexico and these three countries substantively different. the time to get somebody back to mexico is because it's contiguous is different. is that correct? >> yes.
plus we have the legal authority to offer an uncompanied compiled voluntary return to mexico. >> so there's a jeanning process when you turn somebody to mexico we don't just throw them over the border we look to see if they apply for refugee or asylum status? >> that's true. >> so i think you're on to something trying to create similar conditions for these countrieslike mexico. in that regard i think you're pursuing a good solution. b i think you are -- >> we have to change this law and we're nuts if we don't and as senator reed said we're nuts if we don't go after these groups. we need to get the mexicantion and every other group, form a task force and hunt these guys down and put them in jail. it should be like a military jail. a humanitarian threat that i haven't seen in a long time and i think our response and our
sense of urgency is woe fringe inadequate. it's not just a money problem. it's a will problem. stronger than those who are abusing the law and, using these children. thank you. >> let me thank my colleague senator durbin for letting me go ahead of him. i very much appreciate that. i want to follow up on what senator graham said about what's happening in those three countries in central america. and i wonder, if you could talk a little bit about what's changed in the last three years or two yourself in those countries to encourage this
influx of children and families and, also, whether we're seeing that same kind of influx into other neighboring countries from honduras, guatemala and el salvad salvador? >> we've not seen the same flowing from other central american yeses. costa ree kwa nicaragua and el salvad salvador. >> maybe i wasn't clear in my question. i appreciate that. what i'm asking is, are we seeing people from those three countries going into neighboring countries close to them at the same rate or in similar rates? >> we are seeing that. as i noted in the testimony, the u.n. high commission on refugees notes that asylum requests in surrounding countries are up 400%.
and what i noted is it's not obviously at the same rate or same number but, in fact, the number are quite small in comparison but they're much, much higher than historically, they have been and that indicates that there are groups of children who are fleeing. and when they determine that they can not flee the united states, either because they don't have the money or not prepared to take the risks but they must flee, they go to the nearest place possible. so from our point of view, although the vast majority of these children are moving toward the united states, this is a regional problem and for that reason it needs to be addressed regionally. and as senator landry noted, is a problem related to children and what happens to children when they're caught in environments in which the breakdown of state authority and the presence of gangs in communities and controlling the communities puts these children at risk. now, in terms of what's happened over the last three years, it's
going to take socialologists a long time to dig through that data. but i think what's evident is, as mexico has become more successful in his activities with the merit initiative and as colombia has become more effective in attacking the farc and changing the nature of drug production and trafficking out of colombia, the burden has fallen largely in central america and it's largely fallen in the three countries that offer easy jumping-off point into mexico and into the drug trafficking routes that lead to the united states. but in the process of mexican cartels moving into the honduras and guatemala and looking for ways to facilitate the movement of drugs through the region, the -- they've obviously built relationships with gangs. and this has provided gangs with
levels of wealth and weapons and communications equipment historically they have not had and has allowed them to take over and control parts of communities which puts at risk, teenagers. and what we're seeing in the groups that are leaving these three countries and moving northward is that 75% of them are between the ages of 14 and 17. which means that they are in recruitment age. both males and females. >> thank you. i'm going to cut you off that the point. i'm sorry to do that but i have a question for secretary burrwell that i would like to have answered. one of the things that i'm hearing from organizations in new hampshire is concern about the movement of money out of the office of refugee resettlement. and concern that once, if this
appropriation goes through, that that money might not be replaced and that the services that are offered through that office might not be available. that's a concern that we're hearing about refugees in new hampshire. can you speak to that? >> because we actually take the concerns that it sounds like folks at home are articulating. that's why we actually asked for the back fill for the $94 million. i think you know we sent reprogramming up to the hill and we've started in on that reprogramming. those funds that we've taken out of the office of refugee resettlements you have a sense of what those funds do, a number of those funds go to schools that are impacted by high refugee populations. a number of those funds go, actually, to affect haitian and cuban refugees that affects florida disproportionately and the third category of that money is money that's sometimes going to states to help where there are disproportionate numbers of refugees and what is our other
refugee program. we had to make choices in order to continue on a path of making sure we can move children from the border. and from vhs to hhs. they were difficult choices. and choices that we hope that in the supplemental can be taken care of. >> thank you. and thank you all very much for your efforts to address this crisis. thank you, madam chair. >> senator durbin. >> thank you, madam chair. each year under presidents republican and democrat, the united states of america issues a report card on human rights to the world. where we grade other nations. as to their record on human rights. that's pretty bold of us, isn't it? to hold ourselves out in judgment of other nations? and one of the things we ask is how those nations treat refugees and children. we don't have a very long record when it comes to refugees in
this country. primarily because of location. haitians, cubans, we've had some but certainly, when you look at the state of the world, with 2.3 million refugees coming out of syria and fewer than 200 coming to the united states, we are kind of on the periphery of this issue until now. now, we get to face it. our backyard. our border. i just got a report about two children. it came from young center for immigrant children's rights at the university of chicago law school. samuel and emily are siblings. amazingly, ages 3 and 6. 3 and 6 years old. they got here from honduras. i don't know how. when they initially arrived in the united states, it was very quiet and they didn't open up.
they were clearly victims of trauma. after two months of care and custody of these 3 and 6-year-old children by hhs, emily revealed that both children had been raped by members of a local drug cartel. i think about those children when i think about this debate. are they the exception? i pray they are. but i'm afraid there are many more with similar stories. so mr. secretary, secretary johnson, i think you're a good person. i even have evidence you're a good father because i got to meet your son and i know you're a good lawyer. when you ask for added discretion, so that we can voluntarily deport some of these children, i think about these two. where i grew up, in down state illinois, you wouldn't ep enter a courtroom with a 3 or 6-year-old without someone standing next to them,
representing them, explaining to them, trying to speak up for their rights. and i worry about what we're asking for here. and here's why i worry. let's get down to dollars. there's a request for $15 million in this multibillion dollar appropriation for direct legal representation. to contract with lawyers to represent approximately 10,000 children, 10,000 children in immigration proceedings. we're dealing with 50 to 90,000 children. and it strikes me that this number is grossly inadequate. to make sure these children have someone standing next to them to protect them. maybe to explain this to them. that's the first thing that crosses my mind. the second thing is, who are we returning them to? honduras, the murder capital of the world? where it is not safe to even have your children outside of your home?
where garbage is piled in the street so they can go through it and maybe, find something to eat because that's all they've got? what kind of social service agencies are we referring these kids to when we return them to honduras? beds. i get it. i want they kids to be in the safest, cleanest place possible. i couldn't live with it any other way. but as i understand it, 85% of these children are reunited with family, 55% with parents. 30% with relatives. so when we're talking about beds, it sounds like for the most part, at least 85% of it, it's for temporary beds. i assume that's what we're discussing. finally, before i asked you to comment on this, i authored the dream act. i'm proud of it. we passed it in the house and senate and we can't beat the republican filibuster in the senate except the comprehensive
of immigration bill. i asked the president, my friend, to sign and i'm proud that he did and i'm not going to stand here and let people blame those two acts on what we're facinging today because during the same period of time there was a 700% increase in children from those three countries, to neighboring countries not the united states. it had nothing to do, as you said, mr. secretary, daka which set a 2007 target, couldn't come any later than that. so i'd appreciate if you could respond to this in the time remaining. >> senator, the only thing i'll say is a request for discretion, as long as i'm secretary, means a request for the ability to do the right thing. that's how i see it. i've met with enough of these kids now, including a 15-year-old two weeks ago, who was three months pregnant, to
have a real sense for what these kids go through. we've heard about before they leave central america, some of these kids' parent also give them birth control in case they're raped along the way. and so whatever we do, whatever discretion i'm given to address this situation, will be the discretion to do what i believe is the right thing. for the country and for these kids. >> there's not enough money being requested to provide the kind of representation and advocacy to protect these kids. it's not even close. 10,000 out of 90,000? and i think that's secretary burrwell's world. >> there are different portions in terms of sometimes it's provided by justice and sometimes by dhs. we do provide the counsel that i jooished in the initial stages and then for the extreme circumstances such as that that you described, hhs does provide
council and we try to connect with pro bono counsel. you're right we don't have the resources to get council for all the children that passion through and go to sponsors but there are a group that we do that for. >> senator harkin. >> snthank you, madam chair. i want to associate myself with everything senator zur bin just said. he hit the nail on the head. i want to thank all of you for the work that you do. as we hear more and more about the situation of these young people coming across the border, you know what my ears are hearing? round them up and ship them back. it sounds like we're dealing with cattle. some kind of livestock. round them up and ship them
back. senator murkowski had it right. this is a humanitarian crisis. again, senator durbin talked about a couple of cases. i suggest anybody wants to know this, read enrique's journey. it's a great book. read it. now i have a problem with the administration. this administration. on the one hand they say we want to send kids back as soon as possible. then they turn around and say, well, but these kids are escaping violence and drugs and sexual abuse and gangs. how do you reconcile those two? ship them back as soon as possible? and they're escaping the violence and drugs? that doesn't sound to me like those two statements are compatible. how they exist side-by-side. the focus, our focus had to be simply, i'm making sure these
kids are, first, safe and that they're fed. they're clothed and that they're shelter and that they get not only good health services but mental health services and, under the law, that they have every meaningful -- that's the key word -- "meaningful" opportunity to apply for asylum. are we a country of laws? that's what the law says. there are some that want to modify this law and u hear voices from this -- this administration, wants to modify the law. secretary johnson, i have no doubt you're a good and decent and honorable person and i think you do a great job but you want president flexibility. there's danger in flexibility. not just because of you but everybody that works under you, and the border patrol. a lot of these kids that come over there and they see someone in uniform, it's a flash back of what they just came from where the people in uniform may have
been beating them up. and on the side of the drug lords. are they going to open up about who they are and what they are? that's why we have a law that says you got to transfer them in 72 hours to hhs. hhs is supposed to provide all of these things for these kids, shelter, clothing. meaningful council. people that stand alongside of them so that they can tell their story. so they can apply, meaningfully, for asylum. you can't do that with the border patrol. i'm sorry, you can't do it. you can't do it as somebody comes across the border. they need to be taken in. as i said, and given these protections under our laws. under international law.
under international law. some people want to modify the law to let dhs ship them back right away. i hear this from the administration. and you may say, secretary johnson, that you're going to be very careful on this. that's why we have laws. that's why we set it up this way i don't know who's coming after you and i don't know how long you'll be there and i don't know how many people work underneath you and how good they are. they may have in their head, round them up and ship them back. i rely upon health and human services to make sure these kids are protected and that they have their full legal rights in this country. they're supposed to be transferred in 72 hours and now it's, what, six or seven days quarterba, before they get transferred? and now hhs don't have the wherewithal to do it. to take care of these kids. the mental health providers. the social workers. child advocates who can look
after not the -- rounding them up and shipping them back, but the best interest of the child when they arrive here and protecting their rights under u.s. and international law. so, we have a situation where i'm sorry, i have to disagree with this administration. this administration should be saying, we should follow the law. these kids need to be protected. they need to have hhs protect them. and care for them and give them every meaningful right to apply for asylum. now, the problem is, hhs doesn't have the money to do it. they should do it but they don't have the money to do that. that's what this supplemental is about. it's to allow hhs to follow along which they aren't right now. but they can't. th