Thursday, May 29, 2014

Ranking Member Conyers Statement at DHS Oversight Hearing

(WASHINGTON) – Today, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee held a full committee hearing entitled, “Oversight of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.” The sole witness at the hearing, appearing before the Judiciary Committee for the first time since his confirmation to the post, was Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. During his opening remarks, Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) delivered the following statement:

U.S. Representative
John Conyers, Jr.
“I want to begin by welcoming Secretary Johnson to this Committee.  The Secretary has had a long and distinguished career, both in public service and the private sector. But what I like most is that he is a graduate of Morehouse College which has a special significance for myself and other Members of this body. Before his appointment to DHS, Secretary Johnson served as General Counsel of the Department of Defense, where he oversaw many critical reforms, including ending the discriminatory ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy. Given this background, I can think of no person better equipped to lead DHS and carry out the President’s directive to review our immigration policies to ensure that we are carrying them out ‘in the most humane way possible.’

“Yesterday, the President announced a delay to this review to provide my House colleagues the room they need to pass legislative reforms.  Whether through the Senate bill or several House bills, I am committed to work with them to achieve needed reforms of our system. We all agree that our immigration system is broken, and that only Congress can permanently fix it.  So we should get started on that process right away, before the window for reform closes. Every day that passes without a vote in the House is a day that thousands of families are torn apart; that businesses are deprived of critical skills; and that brilliant entrepreneurs and investors are forced to take their resources and talents elsewhere. Every day that passes is also a day in which we fail to jump-start our economy.  The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has concluded that the House and Senate immigration reform bills - S. 744 and H.R. 15 - would decrease the budget deficit by $900 billion over 20 years.

“I stand committed to work with my colleagues for legislative reform.  But if my colleagues won’t act to fix a system we all agree is broken, then I fully support the President doing what he can under current law to improve that system.

“I agree with the President’s call to make our immigration system reflect American values. People who commit serious crimes and pose a danger to the public should be our highest priorities for removal.  Those with strong ties to this country - the spouses of citizens and permanent residents, the parents of citizens and Dreamers, and those who have worked productively in the U.S. for many years - should not be.

“We know the Administration has the authority to set enforcement priorities.  It also has the authority to set detailed guidelines to ensure that those priorities are carried out by deportation officers, trial attorneys, and other enforcement personnel. This authority has been specifically recognized by my Republican colleagues on this Committee, including in a letter sent by current Members to the Clinton Administration urging it to issue guidelines on prosecutorial discretion.

“So far we have heard nothing but excuses for not doing immigration reform.  The Senate bill has too many pages.  The House wants to take its time and do reform step-by-step.  We must secure the border before we can discuss anything else. These are all excuses in my book.

“The newest excuse for not working to reform the system is that Republicans cannot trust the President to enforce the law. Put aside the fact that this administration has set records with respect to enforcement spending, detentions, prosecutions, and removals.  The ‘can’t trust the President’ excuse strikes me as a very odd complaint from a legislative body. If this President is so lawless and Congress is so helpless to stop him, then what’s the point of passing any bill?  How many other issues of national importance do my colleagues think Congress should ignore until they have someone they prefer in the White House?

“It’s time to cut out the excuses and get to work doing the people’s business.  Americans agree that the system is broken and they strongly support comprehensive immigration reform. As the people’s House, it is our duty to stop passing the buck and get to work.”

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