Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Statement of House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. Oversight Hearing on the Department of Homeland Security Committee on the Judiciary

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
“When Secretary Johnson last testified before this Committee, I said that—given his distinguished record of public service—I could think of no person better equipped to lead the Department of Homeland Security, and to carry out the President’s directive that we are carry out our immigration policies ‘in the most humane way possible.’

“Much has happened in the past year and I am pleased to say that I stand by my initial assessment.  Which is not to say, Mr. Secretary, that there is not still a great amount of work to do.

“In your written testimony, you speak in great detail about your efforts to counter the ‘global terrorist threat,’ which has become ‘decentralized, more diffuse, and more complex.’

“I agree that ISIL and Al Qaeda have moved to a new phase of the conflict, recruiting at-risk individuals hoping to inspire attacks in the West.  The Department rightly combats this threat with a combination of heightened security measures and community outreach.

“But I wonder if the Department has also taken note of a recent study by New America, which demonstrates that, since September 11, 2001, nearly twice as many people have been killed by white supremacists, antigovernment fanatics, and other non-Muslim extremists than by radical Muslims.

“Another study, released last month by the Police Executive Research Forum, shows that state and local law enforcement agencies feel far more threatened by right-wing and antigovernment terrorism as they are about ISIL-inspired attacks.

“I hope that you will provide us with some assurance today that our priorities are in order, and that the Department focuses on homegrown extremism with the same forcefulness it has shown in countering threats from abroad.

“The immigration actions you initiated last November through a series of memoranda should make our immigration enforcement system smarter, more efficient, and ultimately more humane.

“Carrying out these reforms clearly has not been easy, but meaningful reform efforts rarely are.

  • Your job has been made harder by the refusal of Republican leadership in the House to allow a vote on the immigration reform bill that passed the Senate two years ago with 68 votes. 
  • It has been made harder by their refusal to consider the bipartisan House bill, H.R. 15, which had 201 cosponsors in the last Congress.
  • And it has been made harder by the barrage of litigation that you have had to fight off as you have attempted to implement commonsense — and entirely lawful — immigration reforms.

“At the end of the day, it only makes sense that people who commit serious crimes and pose a danger to the public should be our highest priorities.

“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.  Who could disagree with that?

“We are already seeing a positive impact from the reforms that have been implemented and I thank you for your tenacity.  Certainly we might disagree about the implementation of some of the enforcement reforms — and that is something we will monitor — but I believe we are heading in the right direction.
“One area that is particularly in need of urgent reforms involves the detention of mothers and children in secure, jail-like facilities.

“You recently acknowledged that “substantial changes” must be made to the current policy of detaining thousands of these families — some for many months and some for longer than one year. 

“We are monitoring these changes because we know from experts that family detention is causing real, lasting damage to these children.  

“We look forward to continuing to work with you to ensure that all aspects of the Department of Homeland Security operate in a way that reflects our American values and continue to honor the contribution of immigrants to our great nation.

“One final note.  The Chairman spoke about the tragic death of Kate Steinle, an innocent young woman who was walking with her father on a San Francisco pier.  Our hearts go out to her family.  But as we think about the proper way to respond to this situation we must make sure we do not adopt policies that would diminish public safety and undermine our commitment to the Constitution and civil liberties.  I ask unanimous consent to enter into the record yesterday’s New York Times editorial, titled ‘Lost in the Immigration Frenzy.’

“I look forward to hearing your testimony and I yield back the balance of my time.”
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