tv Customs Border Protection Commissioner Testifies Before Senate Judiciary CSPAN December 11, 2018 10:50am-12:00pm EST
>> assessing requirements to process lawful trade and travel. to address narcotics mission and to answer process -- process people arriving without documents. so they do that on a daily basis. with discretion down to their leadership team. >> what's the total number of claims that they allow a day along the southwest boarder? >> senators, it varies,
depending on how many people we have in custody at the ports of entry. i can tell you the last year it was almost 39,000 claims, over 120% increase of ports of entry and we have gone up again 100% from last year in the first two months of this fiscal year. so we're providing access to sylum seekers. >> vice chairman of the appropriations committee, we provided $1.7 billion to the administration on the southern border. only 6% of that money has been spent. there is almost no construction, one project in the rio grande has boomed in cost from $445 million to $787 million. 31.5 million per mile.
the president's trying to shut down the government unless taxpayers come up with another $5 billion. with 94% of the money funding has been provided remains unspent, does it make sense to be shutting down the government asking for more money when you haven't spent the money you have? mr. mcaleenan: i think that might be outdated data you are referencing. by the end of this month we'll ave $1.27 billion out of theth 1.7 appropriated in 17 and 18 obligated for the wall. senator leahy: obligated but not spent. >> when i talk about obligated that's spent, that's on contract with u.s. army corps of engineers. senator leahy: i want to give you questions for the record which i hope you'll answer. i have one other question. i also live on a border state. an hour's drive from the canadian border. c.b.p. is using dragnet vehicle
lines sometimes at the canadian border just because there's not enough manpower, does it make sense to be running around a state like vermont and telling people prove your citizenship? mr. mcaleenan: senator, checkpoints and operations on transportation that are en route of egress from the border are a security tool. in vermont it's rare that we use checkpoints. usually intelligence driven. 75 miles away might seem like a long way away, we're trying to target an area where the transportation nodes come together. senator leahy: i just note you have to be a citizen to be a u.s. senator. >> senator flake. senator flake: you started to address the use of metering. can you explain what that means?
mr. mcaleenan: we call it management. we're balancing based on our capacity, based on our responsibility to manage lawful trade and travel to carry out our counter narcotics mission, other security mission, agriculture protection mission, and still process people arriving without documents efficiently. on any given day there are only three or four ports of entry out of the 26 on our southwest border that have any backup at all. meanwhile, we have maximized the use of our capacity, our space, of course it depends on our partner's ability, i.c.e. bed space, resources to pick people up from ports of entry. it's a partnership. senator flake: it's used as a management tool, q management rather than deterrent? mr. mcaleenan: correct. we want people to present lawfully ports of entry. senator flake: do you have any information -- there is a concern of some, i share it, that maybe driving individuals who were metered in a port of
entry to go between and cross illegally between ports of entry. what information do you have on how, if that is happening, and how frequent? mr. mcaleenan: senator leahy referenced the i.g. report where that was cited based on two agents. that's certainly a concern. something we want people to wait lawfully even if it has to take some period of time. that's the appropriate and safe way to cross the border. you don't have to pay a smuggler. we see so many injuries, so many deaths unfortunately for people that try to cross illegally in the hands of a smuggler. senator flake: do you have any information of people who register, i assume they sign a document as they are metered at the port of entry, how many of them turn up being apprehended between ports of entry? mr. mcaleenan: they don't sign a document. they are not recorded. they are allowed to wait this.
-- wait there. we don't have that. senator flake: thank you. in report issued with regard to family reunification in september, office of attorney general found a lack of integration between c.b.p., i.c.e., and h.h.s. information technology systems. that was part of the problem in terms of reunification of families. what has been done to address that issue? mr. mcaleenan: i think that's a legitimate issue. that's something we work very hard with i.c.e. and h.h.s., office of refugee resettlement, which manages this process to ensure we're sharing information effectively. i would note that because agents carefully track who is encountered together, even though it doesn't automatically upload at this time, we're going to work on that through the system, they were able to identify relationships between parents and children and reunite them. it's not as easy as it needs to be, but there is a system in place. it just needs to look at multiple databases.
senator flake: not a resource issue? do it as quickly as you need to. mr. mcaleenan: as quickly as we need to and certainly let the committee note and appropriations committee know if we need additional support. senator flake: according to the september report, the inspector general report as well, c.b.p. does not use d.n.a. testing to verify the adults claiming to be the parents of children are really the parents. why aren't we doing that, at least the rapid d.n.a. testing? mr. mcaleenan: that's a real concern, especially with the smugglers' awareness come crossing with a child is a good way to be allowed to stay and released in the united states. we identified over 600 families that had fraudulent claims last year. where the adult and child weren't related. when the senator was down with me at the central processing center there was a 4 months old where the smuggler was paid. we do that through intervee.
c.b.p. is intended, that initial border security interdiction and very short-term custody before transfer to immigration and custom enforpte. we're looking at d.n.a. at that level. at the d.h.s. level to be applied in the i.c.e. facilities. if necessary, on certain high-risk cases we could explore it as well. senator flake: thank you. i want to thank you with working with our office and others to make the hiring process more rapid in terms of agents on the border. that has helped. it's my understanding. i appreciate the work of your office on that. thank you. >> senator durbin, if the vote comes right at 11:00, aim going to vote and then senator feinstein will call on people while i'm gone. hen i'm come back. senator durbin: mr. commissioner, there was a news story a few months ago which was troubling. it said for the first time in
almost a century life expectancy in the united states, life expectancy is going down. the reason of course is the drug epidemic. drug epidemic which is taking tens of thousands of lives all across the united states. in the cities and small towns, rural areas. and of course we know one of the drivers in this deadly drug epidemic is fentanyl. ntanyl were the cause of 2/3 of the more than 4 ,000 opioid deaths in the united states in 2016. the source of most illicit fentanyl, mr. commissioner, and the underlying chemical precursors is from china via international mail, which of course is part of your responsibility in monitoring that mail. fentanyl is also being shipped from china to mexico to a lesser degree canada before being
trafficked across the border. i know the president wants to focus on the families come interesting three countries in central america, a and they should be focused on. these are human beings and should be treated in a humane fashion. i want to ask you this, why are we focusing on building a $5 billion wall when your resources and technology by your own admission is not up to the task of stopping the flow of fentanyl into the united states? let me give awe couple things to point to. .
the systems in the next year. so let me say, can you focus instead on these families for a moment, focus on fentanyl. and tell me why this administration, why you aren't asking for more technology to stop the flow of deadly fentanyl into the united states which has gone so far to lower the life expectancy of americans? mr. mcaleenan: we're extremely concerned, senator, about our narcotic, methamphetamine. one of the frontlines, as you know, for this substance to enter our country is right there at our mail facility at o'hare. senator durbin: i've been there. mr. mcaleenan: you've been there. thank you. with the interdict act, with the stop act, we thank congress for their support. we've done to detect fentanyl and to test for it. senator durbin: $44 million. this president's asking for $5 billion for a wall which a ladder or a tunnel can
overcome. and yet we have deadly fentanyl coming in for the worst drug epidemic in our country. where is the passion for this? i think that would be something that would be the first request of your agency when it comes to protecting america. mr. mcaleenan: i can promise you the passion and commitment here and with my men and women in the field is absolute for our counternarcotics mission. senator durbin: but the budget request is all about the wall. mr. mcaleenan: we did provide technical assistance in the appropriations committee on increasing the amount of nonintrusive inspection to include the drive-through systems we talked about. that's going to help us increase our ability if we're able to get that into the appropriations bill. senator durbin: 18% of the vehicles coming into the united states aside from railcars, 18% are being scanned. is that the best we can do? mr. mcaleenan: no, i agree with you we need to dramatically increase our percent. senator durbin: how much does it take for the scanning so we can find contraband, narcotics,
weapons, what do you need, how much money? mr. mcaleenan: we provided that technical assistance to the appropriators. it's -- senator durbin: give me a -- mr. mcaleenan: in the $300 million-plus range. senator durbin: $300 million? mr. mcaleenan: $300 million for several years. senator durbin: that's a heck of a lot less. mr. mcaleenan: the wall is important because we have increased narcotics coming from our ports of entry. 25% -- senator durbin: you want walls, concrete? mr. mcaleenan: we are looking for a steel wall with cameras, sensors and -- senator durbin: right, technology. of course, we're on board for most of that. we want to talk about expanding that. but i wish you were just compassionate about fentanyl than you are about these families. the fentanyl is killing americans. mr. mcaleenan: i agree. senator durbin: innocent americans every day addicted are dying because of this fentanyl and it's your agency's responsibility. mr. mcaleenan: along with u.s. -- senator durbin: put resource
noose this and we need requests from you that focuses on that as well. let me say a word about the so-called eye sigh aluminum gap where you said 80% know how to say the right words, credible, fear, so forth, and yet 10% end up in position that qualify for asylum status. would you concede -- another questioned you were asked by senator cornyn, how do they happen to be at 80% levels saying the right words and you said because smugglers and migrants awareness of what the legal system is. i think you left out an element there. aren't we also dealing with three countries in central america that are virtually in shambles when it comes to law enforcement, some of the most dangerous places in our hemisphere? mr. mcaleenan: so all three countries have significant challenges with security, but all have improved dramatically over the last two years. murder rates have gone down significantly in honduras and el salvador.
the violence doesn't explain the current flows. senator durbin: it's interesting those smaller countries are greater than mexico at this point and i don't think that's coincidental. let me read you a quote here what you said last year. u.s. needs to invest in central american governance efforts and their economic development and their security against gangs, smugglers, drug cart tells and and cartels and so forth help support their economic development. do you believe that? mr. mcaleenan: i do. i said in my opening as well. senator durbin: so you believe the administration's cut back in resources for these countries are making the situation worse instead of better? mr. mcaleenan: actually seeing our men and women down there the u.s. department of state, u.s. international agency of development apply funds. i am very inspired of the difference we can make for this aid. senator durbin: inspiring but underpaid. mr. mcaleenan: senator feinstein, can i have one second about -- i didn't get a
chance to answer. we increased staffings at mail facilities by 20%. we are working with the be u.s. postal service, advance elect trainic data to well over 60%. we increased our seizures of fentanyl in the facilities. we are going to continue to stay passionate and focused on that mission. senator feinstein: [inaudible] >> commissioner, i want to thank you for all that you do to keep our country safe and to enforce our laws. my maternal grandfather was u.s. customs agent and i appreciate greatly those who are willing to put themselves in difficult, awkward, sometimes very dangerous circumstances in order to do that. there's a lot of -- been a lot of confusion and some controversy over the supposed comp significance of these recent -- compigs of these
recent caravans. the president has insisted the caravan includes some very bad actors. senator lee: while a number of people, including some commentators in our news media, have insisted that it's largely or at least substantially composed of women and children. can you set the record straight for us? does the caravan include some dangerous criminals? to what extent do you believe it poses a potential threat to our national security? mr. mcaleenan: thank you, senator. the caravans we've seen formed from the mid october to -- in honduras coming to the united states border are different in many respects. e prior caravans we saw, the cruces caravan, it's religiously organized. it's primarily about awareness. only 300 members of that caravan even ever reached tijuana and the u.s. border.
this group was different from the outset. its size overall, its compo composition, mainly male. the way they entered guatemala, assaulting the police, pushing past them, explaining they would get a chance to enter guatemala. throwing rocks in mexico. dismantling border infrastructure and ultimately crossing the river unlawfully and then pushing past them again in southern chapas when the federal police asked them to regularize and register their presence in mexico before moving further. and then, of course, the events of november 25. same group. same aggression. same type of tactics. this was a concern that was noted when it formed, when they entered guatemala and that's why we responded assistance from d.o.d. to make sure we had
the right preparation in place to not have a mass rush at our ports of entry and make sure we can maintain safety and security of all involved. senator lee: based on the composition and look me in the eye, can you say they don't have threat? mr. mcaleenan: they do. they demonstrated two weeks ago. senator lee: one of the things that concerns me, i look what we're able to do with scarce resources, with the personnel we have. it's quite remarkable. in some ways i worry we might be asking too much of you in that at times you face an overwhelming onslaught of those who are wanting to break our laws. we have to re-examine from time to time whether or not there is something about our laws that's encouraging this. i'd ask you what you would have in mind to do that and i'd like to specifically raise the idea of a safe third country agreement. tell us whether you think that
might be something that is helpful. i've spoken to a couple officials in the outgoing and ow in the incoming lopez administration in mexico. wanted to get your thoughts on an agreement. mr. mcaleenan: i've been to refugee camps in turkey. i was at the border between norway and russia where they had 5,500 folks arrive from different countries over a two-month period in 2013. whether it's chancellor merkel, president erdogan, what they were able to achieve that the alignment of policy for asylum seekers between the destination country and transit country is a very effective technique to address a regional phenomenon like this. not the only thing but it's an important step. you know, i wouldn't presume to know that the position of the incoming administration on this, again, i would defer to the diplomatic level for ongoing discussions. but i think what you're seeing
from the administration is a commitment to address regional migration flows. one of the first acts of president lopez was to propose a significant aid package for central america to address poverty, especially in the western highlands of guatemala. senator lee: about $450 million i think. mr. mcaleenan: that's a welcomed partnership and will augment a lot of the u.s. efforts that are ongoing. absolutely. you have to partner with transit countries to address this. you can see in our own agreement with canada where people that cross between the ports of entry are returned to apply for asylum in the safe country they already are in. it doesn't happen between ports so we see a northbound flow between ports of entry going into canada within the last two years. it's a surprising development. senator lee: and it might be a safe third country agreement whether someone is coming
through mexico en route to the united states they would have to apply for asylum with the mexican government. related but analytically distinct solution would be an agreement requiring those crossing through mexico en route to the united states attending to apply for asylum in the united states to remain thin mexico during the pendancy. would you say that's a comparable outcome? how would those two relate? mr. mcaleenan: the way you put it is appropriate, related but analytically distinct. they are covered in title 8 of our immigration laws, options partnering with foreign governments on migration flows. they are both things we should think about and discuss. senator lee: neither would change a require to current statute? mr. mcaleenan: no. senator lee: thank you very uch. >> thank you very much, senator feinstein. thank you very much for being
here, commissioner. so my country, as you know, has the -- my country and our state has a proud tradition of refugees and i'm not going to really focus on that today but i wanted to bring that up again because for a state like ours which is unemployment rate at 2.8% and part of our employment workforce has been the somalis and the mong and the liberians and refugees coming in and so we're concerned not just for our fabric of life in that state but also on the employment front because these are legal workers after they get here. senator klobuchar: we are very concerned about losing that workforce. so i just wanted to put that on the record here. so on the asylum front, could you speak to why it's important to adjudicate the asylum claims of individuals are fleeing violence and efficient manner and one of the things that concerns me, when we did the comprehensive immigration bill in 2013, we have tens of billions of dollars, as you know, in that bill -- i think
over $40 billion for border security that was for everything from the fencing to the personnel and for things like the holding facility, things you're talking about could have been used for. could you talk about any steps to increase the capacity of the holding facilities in light of what we're seeing with the migration of people? mr. mcaleenan: first. would emphasize your point adjudicating asylum claims completely and expeditiously is a much better approach. right now we have so many aims that frankly it's overwhelmed the system. c.b.p. is just the front end of that process. either folks we apprehend who cross illegally they can make a claim, not just to c.b.p. but later in the process to i. you c.e. and to c.i.s. in their immigration proceedings and those folks arriving at ports of entry. as i mentioned in some of the prior dialogue, we've increased our asylum seekers at our ports
of entry, the ability to process and dramatically over the last year and over the first two months processing more. senator klobuchar: i need to have more questions. so you are increasing it. would it be -- do you think there's other things you can do? would it be helpful if we had comprehensive immigration reform then you could have some of those resources? mr. mcaleenan: i think one of the keys to investing is investing in the entire continuum and the ability to i.c.e. to pick up from ports of entry is a key part of that as well as our c.s.i. asylum seekers. senator klobuchar: the border separation policy which has since been changed and my mind was so heartless having been down there and spoken with some of those families. do you have any regrets about how the family separation policy was implemented? mr. mcaleenan: so i think that law enforcement operations, even well meaning law enforcement measures that are designed to protect people to secure the border if they lose the public trust they can't be
effective. i think that was a challenge in this case. senator klobuchar: thank you. in a statement on june 23, the department of homeland security said there was a central database of the location of separated parents and children but a recent report by the i.g. found department's inspector general found no evidence such a database exists. can you explain the discrepancy? mr. mcaleenan: my understanding a comment by health and human services about their unaccompanied child portal which does have a comprehensive view for their system. there are multiple systems maintained by multiple agencies in the continuum and they need to be integrated and talked to each other more efficiently. senator klobuchar: thank you. i know some questions from senator durbin you mentioned the bill that senator portman and i just passed, the stop act. which will help your agency to crack down on illegal shipments of things like fentanyl by requiring them to provide the postal service electronic advanced data. i appreciate the administration's support for the legislation. can you provide an update on the implementation of the of
stop act and describe how additional authority will help the c.b.p. to interdict these shipments? mr. mcaleenan: thank you. i thank senator portman, senator klobuchar, has been beneficial. our relationship with the postal service has deepened. i worked with megan brennan and the postmaster general. they're committed to advance electronic data coming from china and other countries in the effort to counter fentanyl shipments. we've mad great progress. i mentioned some of those quickly in response to senator durbin's questions. our targeting based on that advanced electronic data has increased features at j.f.k., international mail facility. we've been able to working with i.c.e., h. simplet, as well as the u.s. postal inspection service, to follow those procedures through to the u.s., everywhere from manhattan to washington state to take down not just the individual
shipment which can be a 25 gram vial but also the entire network that's producing the drugs. senator klobuchar: ok. very good. i have a northern border question about an area in minnesota that's kind of off the beaten track to try to do their best and i'll ask that on the record because my colleagues have questions. so thank you. mr. mcaleenan: thank you. >> senator kennedy. senator kennedy: thank you, mr. chairman. mr. commissioner, welcome. mr. commissioner, can we agree that legal immigration is good for america? mr. mcaleenan: i have no disagreement with that point. senator kennedy: ok. we welcome, what, about a million people in the legal -- year legally? mr. mcaleenan: that's my understanding. senator kennedy: can we say illegal immigration undermines legal immigration system? mr. mcaleenan: i agree with that point as well. senator kennedy: how so? mr. mcaleenan: it's unfair to folks who have been waiting for visas, waiting for an immigration process, to have the line jumped, if you will, by people that are crossing
illegally. senator kennedy: ok. other countries have border walls, do they not? let me back up. when we talk about border walls, we're talking about actual walls, fence, we're talking about a way of securing the border, is that correct? mr. mcaleenan: yes. e look at it as one of the capabilities of securing the border. senator kennedy: every country has a border, is that right? mr. mcaleenan: that's my understanding. senator kennedy: kind of a definition of a country? mr. mcaleenan: it's central to sovereignty. senator kennedy: does every other country protect its border or every country says, hey, come on in, the price is right, come on down? mr. mcaleenan: there are varying degrees of resources obviously and varying degrees of people trying to enter but, yes, that san international principle. two u.n. security council resolutions in the last year and a half on this topic, to encourage countries to do
better at determining who's crossing their borders and sharing information about threats. senator kennedy: the nation of israel has a border wall with the west bank, does it not? mr. mcaleenan: yes. senator kennedy: has it worked? mr. mcaleenan: i've been there, seen it, it works effectively. senator kennedy: saudi arabia has an 1,100 mile border wall with yemen, does it not? mr. mcaleenan: i have not been to that border but they have invested, including infrastructure. senator kennedy: has it worked? mr. mcaleenan: my understanding it's big and challenging border. it's not perfect but i think it's improved their security in key areas. senator kennedy: hundred gary has a border -- hungary has a border wall? mr. mcaleenan: yes. it has prevented hungary being part of the route of immigration. senator kennedy: bulgaria has a wall, doesn't it? mr. mcaleenan: i don't know about that wall. senator kennedy: the saudis are building a wall with iraq, 600 miles. why are they doing that? mr. mcaleenan: i think they
realizing investing in security infrastructure helps create better security environment between countries and hopefully drive folks to the lawful means of entering and leaving. senator kennedy: ok. now we don't know everything about everyone who tries to come into our country illegally. i think there's some people hat are looking for a better life. and in an ironic sort of way it seems to me it's almost a compliment we have so many people that want to come to america. have you ever heard of anybody trying to sneak into china? mr. mcaleenan: well, yes. on the border with north korea. i mean, i think we have a very attractive society and our economy is so strong. we did a study with u.s.c., university of southern california, recently that identified the huge wage gap between the united states and the countries in the northern
triangle as being one of the key elements attracting the migration flows we're seeing today. senator kennedy: some of the people that want to come into america are worried about getting killed in their own country, right? mr. mcaleenan: correct. senator kennedy: volume of the people who want to come into america illegally terrorists? mr. mcaleenan: yes. senator kennedy: are some of them -- are some of them drug dealers? mr. mcaleenan: of course. senator kennedy: are some of the people who want to come nto our country illegally gang members? mr. mcaleenan: yes. senator kennedy: and how do we know who the folks are that are in good faith trying to come in illegally versus those who represent a national security threat, how do we know the difference if we don't stop them? mr. mcaleenan: that's our goal is to identify and interdict
all illegal crossings and assess who we've encountered. it's part of why we share information with the f.b.i. and other agencies, with h.s.i. and their anti-gang efforts. senator kennedy: i am about to run out of time. what i don't understand, we have a nation of immigrants, we ought to be proud of that. legal immigration makes our country stronger. i think, for example, japan is waking up to that fact as we speak. but illegal immigration is illegal. i think about introducing a bill, illegal immigration is illegal. and if you support legal immigration, don't have you to oppose illegal immigration? don't you? mr. mcaleenan: it would stand to reason. senator kennedy: it's based on the rule of law, is it not? mr. mcaleenan: right. senator leahy: senator blumenthal.
mr. blum: thank you, mr. chairman. -- mr. blumenthal: thank you, mr. chairman. we are a nation of immigrants and illegal immigration that undermines our country is certainly to be opposed, but a wall is not necessarily the most effective means of stopping illegal immigration if it is truly immigration by criminals or others who pose a danger to this country, would you agree? mr. mcaleenan: i actually think good border security requires balance investments to include a wall system but also technology, agents, the whole wall -- mr. blumenthal: for a wall for a wall's sake, if it's an ineffective form of a wall, if it does not have technology, if it's not accompanied by other means of security is likely to be ineffective and conversely,
effective security can be done without certain kinds of physical obstacles, correct? mr. mcaleenan: yes. that's why we built our requirements for border security, including the wall system from the ground up. from our agents in the field, our sector chiefs have requested capabilities in different parts of the border. we have not asked for a wall system for all 1,954 miles. only where it would be an effective part of an integrated border security strategy. mr. blumenthal: let me ask you about an integrated border security strategy, should it include active duty troops? mr. mcaleenan: not necessarily. i believe it's a law enforcement -- mr. blumenthal: did you request national guard at the border? mr. mcaleenan: yes. c.b.p. -- all of our current d.o.d. requests for assistance are driven by our operational requirements within c.b.p. d.o.d. has responded to those. mr. blumenthal: did you request active duty american troops?
mr. mcaleenan: we requested specific types of capabilities. the department of defense decides which parts of their forces are most readily available and effective for that mission set. mr. blumenthal: did you specific a -- request a specific number? mr. mcaleenan: we requested capabilities. mr. blumenthal: you did not request a specific number? mr. mcaleenan: no. mr. blumenthal: who would do that? mr. mcaleenan: the department of defense. mr. blumen: -- mr. blumen: who would request that? mr. mcaleenan: by c.b.p., our operational personnel who needed support with engineering, with transportation, with logistics, with medical and ultimately force protection. they went up through the department of homeland security and over to the department of defense where they were assessed and responded to. mr. blumenthal: let me ask you about a memo that you sent on ril 23, 2018, along with other officials to secretary
nielsen. it was entitled "increasing prosecutions of the immigration violation." your memo has made available with the freedom of information act. it argues that department of homeland security could, quote, per missably separate parents or legal guardians and minors, end quote. in order to facilitate the separation of parents and children, the memo advocated for prosecuting, quote, all aminnable adults who cross our border, including those presenting with a family unit, end quote. the public version of the memo is heavily redacted, but "the washington post" has reported the memo argues family separation is in the "post" words, the most effective way, quote, most effective, end quote, way to deter asylum seekers trenting into the united states. we now know this memo was
critical in providing guidance in that policy. the zero tolerance policy and resulted in the government ripping children away from their families when they posed absolutely no risk to children. when you wrote that memo, did you intend for the government to systematically separate parents from their children? mr. mcaleenan: this memo was written in the context of the april 6 executive order on ending catch and release. the april 6 announcement of zero tolerance, immigration violations from the attorney general and was requested as a set of options for how to implement increasing prosecutions for immigration enforcement. at the time we were seeing an increase in families crossing the border. we had a whole category of adults crossing the border, violating the same law as single adults -- mr. blumenthal: you did intend the policy to result from that memo? mr. mcaleenan: we intended to
provide options for increasing violations of adults crossing the border. mr. blumenthal: which separating from their families? mr. mcaleenan: they were never separated. they were only away for a few hours and their family were reunited. the focus was prosecuting adults that violated it. senator grassley: senator hirono. senator hirono: u.s. c.b.p. has a big job and much of what you do involves enforcing customs laws and has nothing to do with immigration. in fact, i worked with you in the past over some of these kinds of other responsibilities you have, particularly at our airports. so while we're focusing -- what we're focusing on there are lots what c.b.p. do raise legal constitutional and humanitarian concerns and that is everything involving people coming through our southern border.
i just want to note for the record that there are some 12 million undocumented people in our country. i would say most of them are providing needed labor, including, by the way, at one of president trump's own golf courses. so it's one of the reasons that comprehensive immigration reform is very necessary. you have said that you support president trump's border wall. as the head of c.b.p., have you seen any plans for the president's border wall? mr. mcaleenan: so c.b.p. has developed those plans and those requirements based on specific segments of the border where we need capability, prevent people from crossing. senator hirono: you're talking about a physical barrier? mr. mcaleenan: combined with sensors, cameras, lighting, access. ms. hirono: so how many miles have you identified as needing physical barriers, not the sensors, not the technology, but physical barriers on our
southern border? mr. mcaleenan: in terms of the full requirements as we understand today, about 1100 miles. ms. hirono: 1,100 miles. all of those designated area, those miles, how many many of those miles do the united states control the land that would be affected? mr. mcaleenan: i can get back to you, senator. senator hirono: that's a small percentage. most of the 1,100 miles which you have designated as requiring a physical border of some sort is actually in the hands of private owners. which means in order to build this wall and the way it's being contemplated you would have to engage in some sort of process, eminent domain process, to get access to these lands. do you have any calculation how long such a process would take, especially when you're talking about lots of landowners in texas and other places who will be forced through eminent
domain to give up their property for this wall to be erected? mr. mcaleenan: so the property acquisition aspect of building border wall is significant and involved many months and consulting with take holders and landowners, it involves requesting rights of entry to do a -- senator hirono: i'm pretty familiar what would be required under an eminent domain proceedings and sometimes it could take years and could you have landowners who just will refuse to cooperate and give up their land in which case you have to give up the alternative. i think one of the things we need to focus on is the reality of building 1,100 miles of physical barriers and what it would take to successfully in eminent domain proceedings. that's something i don't think the president particularly focused on or even thinks about.
you previously also suggested you support family detention and, of course, c.b.p. plays a key role in sending families to detention centers. c.b.p. is the first point of contact. i realize after c.b.p. they go to i.c.e. i think you testified you have a partnership with i.c.e. in the immigration continuum. so how many parents and children are in family detention centers currently? mr. mcaleenan: so i.c.e. has capacity for about 3,300. at any given time they have 2,500 at family residential centers. senator hirono: 2,500. do you know how much it costs to keep families in detention centers? mr. mcaleenan: i don't. senator hirono: well, 2019 congressional budget estimates the cost is almost $320 per day per family. by contrast, the family case management program, which the trump administration terminated
in july, 2017, was about $38 per day. i believe you said you did not think alternatives to family detention would work. can you tell me on what basis and what justification you have for that conclusion? mr. mcaleenan: so i would defer to the i.c.e. testimony, including by the deputy director in july, where he discussed alternatives to detention including the family case management program. from my perspective, from a border security perspective, when we apprehend families and they are either not detained at all, which is the majority now, or they're detained for such a short period of time and aren't kept together through the entirety of their immigration proceedings, it creates an incentive for other families to cross. that's what we're seeing today at our border. senator hirono: i would be interested to know how many families, how long of the -- some 2,500 or so who are in family detention centers, how long they stay there and whether alternative woos work because there are -- there's evidence that these much more
cost-effective alternatives do work. senator grassley: senator harris. senator harris: thank you. commissioner, there's been a lot of talk about the use of tear gas in november and my question is -- there have been public reports, i believe it was from chief agent rodney scott, and then you today you have -- you are conducting an internal affairs investigation, is that correct? mr. mcaleenan: it's aided by our office of professional responsibility. it's not an internal affairs investigation with the assumption of misconduct, though? mr. harris: you are -- senator harris: ok. you are investigating? mr. mcaleenan: yes. senator harris: you said in your testimony today will you approach it and then the findings with transparency, specifically, will you commit making all of your findings public and available to this committee? mr. mcaleenan: we have a process after use of force review board is complete about
publishing findings from the use of force review board whether it's tactics, training, procedures that have been identified for improvement and, yes, i'll share that with the committee. senator harris: ok. were your agents wearing body cameras during this incident? i know chief scott said there's video from the incident. mr. mcaleenan: yes. obviously there were cameras out there, both open source media has a number of videos, most from the south side. we do have imagery from our fixed cameras on the border. some from air assets, we're packaging all that -- senator harris: body worn cameras? mr. mcaleenan:. no. we're expanding that into operational deployments. senator harris: i know you conducted a feasibility study in 2015. you found c.b.p. could benefit from body worn cameras and i commend you for your leadership on that. i agree with your reasons.
also, can you please then as a follow-up to that point commit to providing us with a written update on your progress in implementing the body worn cameras pilot? mr. mcaleenan: absolutely. senator harris: ok. great. as you acknowledged and there's been discussion, again, regarding the november 25 incident at the san isdro point of entry. that port seized 73 million border crossings a year. and it's at the heart of over $250 billion of annual gross regional product from san diego and imperial counties and neighboring baja, california. so my question is, i appreciate the security concerns that you've expressed and that existed at that time, but what i want to understand, why did the closure require up to five hours of closure, why that long nd given your agency's mission and facilitate legal trade and
commerce, how did you weigh the harmful effects on commerce? mr. mcaleenan: sure -- senator harris: against your concerns about security? mr. mcaleenan: i couldn't agree, it's an economic engine to that area of california and more broadly around the country. i personally wrote into our operational plan the need to maximize legitimate trade and travel while we made sure that any caravan arrival would be managed in a safe way. so i delegated that authority to the lead field coordinator in san diego area. he made that decision based on what had was presented to him in terms of intelligence from our mexican counterparts, imagery we had about large groups still very active in the region for that full five hours. they actually opened it up a little bit before they felt we had full resolution because they thought it was a secure enough situation and they worked very hard to catch up on the traffic backlogs. senator harris: the process by which that decision was made for it to be closed for that length of time, is that part of your review of the incident? mr. mcaleenan: absolutely. it has to be documented. the reasons for it.
and the length of it. senator harris: and you can appreciate there's a lot of concern in that part of our state from business owners, especially when the president was threatened to -- had threatened to, quote, permanently close the border, that there would be real economic harm to that region. to the follow-up to that point, have you in the san diego elected officials and the chamber of commerce loords to get feedback from -- leaders to get their feedback from them about the economic impact of those policies and if not will you commit to doing so? mr. mcaleenan: i will. i met with mayor faulkner. talking with the chamber of commerce. senator harris: and provides us what happened looking in the rear-view mirror and what can be made in policies going forward in training. shifting the
the speaker pro tempore: topic. the president on november 27 declared that, quote, you have a lot of people that grab children at the border. suggesting there are a lot of people who falsely pose as asylum seeking families in an attempt to enter the country. secretary nielsen told congress that d.h.s. was separating families to protect children from trafficking. you have stated that the c.b.p. has identified 600, quote, fraudulent families in the past year. so my question is, how many of these cases has c.b.p. referred for criminal prosecution, especially since secretary nielsen has repeatedly declared, quote, our policies if you break the law we will prosecute you, because i have asked your agency for data on how many individuals have been referred for prosecution of trafficking and i'm told you are not collecting that data which seems inconsistent with the statement that this is a priority there will be criminal prosecution of people violate and break the law, especially i would think, our trafficking
laws. i'm attempting to reconcile a priority that apparently is the basis for separating children from what might be their parents. >> sorry to interrupt. [inaudible] senator harris: absolutely. i appreciate that. can you explain why you're not collecting this data and how is it we can determine if trafficking is actually happening, if there is no criminal referral? mr. mcaleenan: we are tracking to carefully and we can cross-designate that with the folks who have been part of a fraudulent family unit. we'll share that with the committee as well. senator harris: thank you. >> thank you, commissioner. great to have you in front of us again. i thought your lengthy submitted testimony, 15 pages, covered a very wide range of important and interesting issues. i'd love to follow up with you. for example, on trademark enforcement, counterfeiting enforcement, something the chairman and i have a caucus on and commend you on the work in
automated commercial environment, a.c.e. i'm struck given president trump's insistence on funding and building a border wall that in the 15 pages of testimony you dedicate just one sentence to border infrastructure. could you help me understand why president trump's threatening to shut down the government of the united states when in an oversight hearing on the whole scope and reach of c.b.p.'s important responsibilities you dedicate just one sentence to building physical barriers between our country and others? mr. mcaleenan: i think i had a few more sentences in my oral testimony and i knew it would be a topic of conversation during the dialogue at the hearing. it is a critical tool for us. it's already making an impact, the miles we built in el sent row, el paso -- centro, el paso. over 70% in el centro. over 30% in el paso. coons coons you've already given to a number --
senator coons: you've already you to a number of -- support a series of tactical systems that combine surveillance, monitoring, fencing and wall systems, that's really what you've been advocating today, is that correct? mr. mcaleenan: correct. that's what our people in the field asked for. senator coons: it's my hope -- i supported investment in border security blue i think there is a significant disconnect between what the president has been advocating for and what i think has been your more nuanced testimony here today. let me move on. the administration's travel ban that targeted predominantly muslim majority countries was something i strongly opposed and i don't believe it makes us safer. i want to ask you about one provision of the travel ban proclamation which says that c.b.p. or consular officials can waive the entry restrictions on a case-by-case basis. how many waivers have been granted by c.b.p. officials? mr. mcaleenan: i have to get back to you on that, senator. i don't have any --
senator coons: do you know how many request for waivers c.b.p. received? mr. mcaleenan: i don't know. senator coons: can you provide a country-by-country breakdown and the reason for granting or denying waivers? mr. mcaleenan: yes. senator coons: i would thank you. a reading of the supreme court's decision upholding the travel ban was provided there was a real waiver process. my concern is that process either doesn't exist or isn't effectively working. so please follow up with me in writing i would appreciate that. mr. mcaleenan: will do. senator coons: and just to be clear, are individuals apprehended between ports of he wantry still being given the opportunity to seek asylum as the law requires? mr. mcaleenan: yes. senator coons: thank you. let me move to a last topic if i could. two things. the u.s.a. act which i produced with senator mccain in february would have required a strategy for addressing root causes of illegal imfrakes from central america to the -- immigration
from central america to the united states. this bill slashes aid. would you agree helping to improve stability, rule of law, safety conditions in the three core countries in central america is a necessary component of border security? mr. mcaleenan: i think working on the root causes and the push factors is absolutely essential. it's one of the key elements of an effective integrated strategy. we've got partners we need to support in central america. i'm personally doing that with c.b.p.'s capabilities, on a customs-to-customs basis, on a law enforcement security basis and also trying to support efforts of partners at usaid and elsewhere who are really trying to target their efforts at the key push factors for migration from the region. senator coons: do you have any idea if the 2020 budget proposal will reflect the importance and significance of that ongoing and close partnership? mr. mcaleenan: so the formation of that budget is not part of my responsibilities but it's certainly a key element of an overall strategy.
senator coons: i'm struck, i agree. i think that's a critical part of a sustained strategy but it has to be sustained and sustained at a significant level and yet the last two years budget proposals slashed that aid ig significantly. i think we're heading in the wrong direction. i commend you for your attention to that relationship. let me ask about the family separation policy. i'm glad it's been rescinded. i thought it was cruel to separate parents from children at the border but i remain concerned about their treatment. when an be unaccompanied child arrives at the border one of the first questions u.s. officials asks is whether that child has a family. as we've seen unaccompanied children spent more time in the care of our government or the custody of our government before they're released to sponsors. i have concern how that information is being used. can you guarantee information c.b.p. obtains from these children to identify caretakers is not then being used to
arrest and -- >> give us a brief answer, commissioner. mr. mcaleenan: what i can you guarantee is information we collect is available to our partners at i.c.e. and h.h.s. which has the care and custody of our children at the immediate period they're at the border. i know they're committed to finding the right sponsor to place the child. senator coons: i will close in september senior i.c.e. officials told congress more than 40 people who came forward as sponsors were arrested for having done so. and i'd be interested if you would follow up in writing in how many of those arrests stem from information c.b.p. obtained from unaccompanied children. there's so much more i wish we could talk about in this oversight hearing about the broad and important work you and c.b.p. do. these are divisive foundational issues. thank you for your service. >> the distinguished senator from rhode island. >> well, i think the distinguished chairman from louisiana. >> you're quite welcome. >> we coastal folk have to stick together. senator kennedy: a couple
distinguished guys. >> first of all, commissioner, thank you for coming in. i wanted to follow up a little bit some of senator durbin's questions about fentanyl. what more can we be doing? this is such a scourge and so much press attention and so much management attention goes to border wall issues. senator whitehouse: i think a lot more americans are dying because fentanyl is coming through our customs and border protection system than because of people coming over our borders. so what more can we do to be helpful? you speak generally about a few projects trying to improve mail surveillance in your testimony. mr. mcaleenan: right. senator whitehouse: it seems we are a long way from being close to an adequate surveillance and adequate intervention. mr. mcaleenan: yeah. i think mr. were some -- i think there were some important developments within the last few weeks. there has been importance, administrationwide. the president has a personal commitment to addressing
fentanyl. i've seen that demonstrated. he engaged the chinese president on scheduling fentanyl as a controlled substance which really the chinese government effort is going to be essential to addressing this because so much of the production right now is in china. much of it illicit now and i think -- senator whitehouse: you don't want to talk about ongoing investigations and prosecutions. i've been a united states attorney and i understand that. but can you at least reassure me there is a flow of cases being prepared for presentation to united states attorneys so that chinese individuals who are responsible for shipping fentanyl into the united states are indicted under u.s. law and can you give me some sense of how wide that thread of cases is? is there one out there or is it really a serious effort and can he we look forward in the future to continued indictments of those responsible for firing fentanyl into our country? mr. mcaleenan: i think it's a
really serious effort. and especially given the vector in the mail facilities. senator durbin started the dialogue on. getting the advanced electronic data allows us to bring in our investigative partners, h.s.i., u.s. postal service, not only going after the network who is sending it, what companies on this side of china who are responsible for this and how do we go after them. senator whitehouse: whatever order of magnitude you're comfortable, let's say, to the nearest 20 or 50 cases, how many criminal cases do you think are in process focusing on the chinese fentanyl delivery system? mr. mcaleenan: i fear my visibility would limit the overall federal government ffort with h.s.i., d.e.a., the hidas out there focused. i am personally aware of a couple dozen cases. senator whitehouse: ok. that are coming out of c.b.p.? mr. mcaleenan: a lot generated by c.b.p. seizures that are addressing the network, yes.
senator whitehouse: ok. back to the wall for a minute. we heard repeated reports in the news that customs and border protection agents saying we want to fence -- quote, fence so we can look through, that's what we need. another one, you never want to have a barrier in place that will obstruct your vision. that seems like a pretty sensible, tactical concern for our folks to have along the border. it also seems inconsistent with the big masonry wall. is the ability to see through and have situational awareness and visibility to the other side part of the reason you're supporting this network of obstacles and surveillance devices rather than a sea-to-sea concrete solid barrier? mr. mcaleenan: it's an officer and safety issue to be able to have a transparent barrier so you can see threats from the other side. the president and administration have supported the barrier that does include
that capability. senator whitehouse: and when we -- i don't know we got a plan yet from anybody for what is being asked for. we are being asked in congress to put a lot of money behind a, quote, border wall. i am not accustomed to giving a contractor money for a project before i've seen the plan. you roll it out, you look and see it's going to go here, it's going to go there, it's going to be this high, it will require this much land to be condelled. is there such a plan that you have seen for a solid border wall that actually is a real plan that a contractor could use to build off of? mr. mcaleenan: so we have a plan, absolutely, a 33 segment plan for building a wall. the way we do our contract at the army corps of ennears where they compete with american --
engineers where they compete with american companies. it's 100% design build. we specify the requirements. the contractors and the army corps come in and do the -- senator whitehouse: there's no place right now where the center can go and say, roll out the paper and say this is the plan for the wall from place-to-place, you'd have to grab different sections in which walls are being proposed, is that what i understand? senator kennedy: answer briefly, commissioner. mr. mcaleenan: we can give the overall plan and segment by segment for the plans under contract. e can show how it's being -- senator whitehouse: i'd like to see that. mr. mcaleenan: enormous amount of private property could be taken from american citizens from ranches and so forth that had it could interfere with the access of livestock to reach water, it could cut off various facilities on the other side because you can't fence around different things. there are a whole lot of concerns.
senator kennedy: dual noted. in the meantime i'll start a second round for anybody that wants to ask questions. i've seen i think the plans you're talking about, mr. commissioner. why does this wall/fence/barrier cost $25 million a mile? mr. mcaleenan: it doesn't. it costs different amounts depending on the type of terrain we're working in. senator kennedy: what is the average cost? mr. mcaleenan: it's a lot lower to that. i'll get that to you now we have precision of the number of contractors. it's from $5 million to $25 million depending on the area of border we're talking about. senator kennedy: well, you drive on the interstate, don't you? mr. mcaleenan: indeed. senator kennedy: have you ever seen those walls alongside the interstate? mr. mcaleenan: yes. senator kennedy: how many miles of road -- barriers, fences, walls are you planning on building? mr. mcaleenan: we talked about
-- and this is a combination of primary barrier, right on the border, some secondary barrier in a place like the rg iii valley we have a -- we have the rio grande valley we have -- about 1,100 miles. senator kennedy: we build 2,700 miles of barriers for $4 billion. now, i understand these barriers are different. but we spent $1.5 million a mile for the interstate and they probably could have done it less -- for less than that. so how come the -- and i understand you got to have some technology and sensors and all that stuff. mr. mcaleenan: right. senator kennedy: but $25 million a mile? mr. mcaleenan: so, senator, there's a number of different factors. we are costing out -- we want to present to congress an accurate depiction how much it's going to cost for this barrier. it's not just the physical -- you know, barrier it's self.
it's the property -- itself. it's the property acquisition. senator kennedy: we have property acquisition for the interstate as well. mr. mcaleenan: and maybe you calculated that in the cost you offered on the interstate wall creation but we have a fully loaded cost that includes all of the different elements and -- senator kennedy: i agree with you. mr. mcaleenan: and cameras. i would respectfully offer and we can get an expert briefing that this is a different type of engineering project than a domestic interstate. senator kennedy: i understand that. i just want to understand why it's, what, 10, 15, 20 times different. i just think you can sharpen your pencil and reduce the cost here. and make this money stretch further. mr. mcaleenan: we had a number of segments so far come in under cost on contract due to the competitive bidding process that we worked through the army corps of engineers to put in place. senator kennedy: why not change the money here, save some money here? mr. mcaleenan: we will absolutely continue to drive
cost savings throughout the management of this program. senator kennedy: before i call on senator cruz, has the wall in san diego worked? mr. mcaleenan: absolutely. senator kennedy: has it worked in yuma, el paso? mr. mcaleenan: worked everywhere we put in barrier. senator kennedy: do walls work? mr. mcaleenan: yes. senator kennedy: senator cruz. senator cruz: commissioner, welcome. thank you for your service and thank you for the men and women of c.b.p. i've been proud to spend a great deal of time with the men and women you lead, having an incredibly difficult time, incredibly important job. they risk their lives on a daily basis and let me say thank you for the important service you and the men and women you lead provide. mr. mcaleenan: thank you. senator cruz: as you know, first six months of the trump administration we saw illegal crossings plummet. we saw apprehensions at the border plummet. and then since then, we've seen the numbers steadily
increasing. to what do you ascribe that increase in illegal crossings? mr. mcaleenan: the main factor, especially given the demographic changes we're seeing, last month we had over 59% of crossings were either families or unaccompanied children. they are predominantly coming from central america now. almost 70% in november. all of these trnds are just stephening at this point. we attribute that to the understanding the smugglers advertising it and the migrants understanding that they come to the family or if they claim fear of return they'll likely be allowed to stay indefinitely in the united states. senator cruz: so can you put some specifics on the numbers? what increase have we've seen in family units crossing illegally? mr. mcaleenan: so in june -- well, actually, if you want to go back to april or march of 2017 when we saw that huge
decrease, you know, we had fewer than 10,000 people overall -- >> we are going to head live to the floor of the house about to gavel back in. you can continue watching this live online at c-span.org. [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2018] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] by our chaplain, father conroy. chaplain conroy: let us pray. loving and gracious god, we give you thanks for giving us another day. we ask today that you bress the members of the people's house to be the best and most faithful servants of the people they serve. may they be filled with gratitude at the opportunity they have to serve in this place. thank you for the abilities they have been given to do their work, to contribute to the common good. as this second session of the 115th congress draws near its end, and legislative business once again