One important fact contained in Chairman Bob Goodlatte’s opening statement underlined the increasing lawlessness:
“Because of the failure by this and previous administrations to detain criminal aliens, and the failure to vigorously pursue fugitives, there are almost 180,000 convicted criminal aliens currently in removal proceedings who are living in our neighborhoods and almost 170,000 convicted criminal aliens who have been ordered removed yet are also living free. Under the Obama Administration, the total number of such convicted criminal aliens who are not being detained has jumped 28% since 2012.”The July 1 murder of Kate Steinle came up during the hearing because San Francisco released a five-time-deported felon from Mexico to city streets who shot the woman as she strolled a popular pier with her father.
Congressman Trey Gowdy’s excellent prosecutorial skills were again on display as he questioned DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson:
GOWDY: Have you had a chance to look at the criminal history or Mr. Lopez-Sanchez?A couple of minutes later, the two disagreed about who was responsible for keeping criminal aliens in jail or deporting them:
JOHNSON: I believe I have.
GOWDY: It dates back to 1991. The criminal conduct occurred in five separate states. He’s committed local, state, and federal crimes. He was and is by any definition a career criminal. He violated at least three separate statutes when he simply picked up the gun before he shot and killed an innocent woman walking with her father. So to me, Mr. Secretary, he is Exhibit A that we must not have functional control over the border or he wouldn’t have re-entered so many times.
And he is, I am assuming, not able to pass anyone’s background check. I would hope that somebody with his criminal history couldn’t even pass our friend in the Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform background check.
GOWDY: Why don’t you make the detainers mandatory? If cities like San Francisco are not complying with detainers, why don’t you make them mandatory?Gowdy didn’t specify, but I assumed he was referring to how hard the administration fought against Arizona’s attempt to enforce immigration law because the feds wouldn’t.
JOHNSON: I think that would be a huge setback in our ability to work with state and local law enforcement and I suspect they would agree as well.
GOWDY: I do not agree, and I’ll tell you why I don’t agree, Mr. Secretary. What I find ironic is you are not willing to mandate federal detainers, but you are willing to mandate that state and local law enforcement cannot assist you in enforcing immigration laws. Help me understand that. You can empower a city like San Francisco to ignore federal law but you won’t empower state and local law enforcement to actually enforce immigration laws. Help me reconcile that.
Following is Chairman Goodlatte’s questioning of Johnson:
Here is Chairman Goodlatte’s opening statement:
Oversight of DHS Hearing: Chairman Statement, July 14, 2015
Chairman Goodlatte: Good morning to everyone and I want to extend our welcome to Secretary Johnson for testifying before us today for the second time. When Secretary Johnson testified last year, I stated that he was not responsible for the dangerous and irresponsible decisions made by DHS before he was sworn in. I stated that we could only hope that he would bring back a level of adult responsibility to the enforcement of our immigration laws. Unfortunately, since that hearing and under Secretary Johnson’s leadership, the deterioration of immigration enforcement has accelerated.
DHS under the Obama Administration has taken unprecedented steps in order to shut down the enforcement of the immigration laws for millions of unlawful and criminal aliens not considered high enough “priorities.” This is done under the guise of “prosecutorial discretion.” Unfortunately, new priorities issued by Secretary Johnson last November have turned the flight from enforcement into a headlong rush.
Although DHS previously deemed fugitive aliens to be a priority for removal, under Secretary Johnson’s guidelines, these aliens are no longer a priority if they were issued a removal order before January 1, 2014. This means that DHS is disregarding removal orders that have already been issued and wasting the millions of taxpayer dollars spent to obtain the orders.
Although DHS claims that gang members are a top priority for removal, gang members are most often convicted under State, not Federal law, and State convictions for gang-related activity are ignored under Secretary Johnson’s priorities.
Secretary Johnson considers as secondary priorities for removal aliens convicted of “significant” misdemeanors – such as domestic violence, sexual abuse or exploitation, burglary, unlawful possession of a firearm, drug trafficking, or drunk driving. Yet, even this priority falls away if the aliens simply show “factors” warranting relief.
Despite DHS’s pledge to prioritize the removal of serious criminal aliens, in the last year the number of administrative arrests of criminal aliens has fallen by a third. And the Department continues to release thousands of such aliens onto our streets. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has admitted to releasing 30,558 aliens with criminal convictions in 2014. Last Friday we received data from DHS regarding the recidivist activity of these criminal aliens ICE released in 2014 — 1,423 have already been convicted of new crimes like vehicular homicide, domestic violence, sexual assault, DUI, burglary and assault, among many others.
Because of the failure by this and previous administrations to detain criminal aliens, and the failure to vigorously pursue fugitives, there are almost 180,000 convicted criminal aliens currently in removal proceedings who are living in our neighborhoods and almost 170,000 convicted criminal aliens who have been ordered removed yet are also living free. Under the Obama Administration, the total number of such convicted criminal aliens who are not being detained has jumped 28% since 2012, as shown in this chart.
The tragic impact of DHS’s reckless policies on the safety of Americans was made all too apparent in recent weeks. A convicted criminal alien who had been deported numerous times killed an innocent American woman on a popular pier in San Francisco. ICE had recently issued a detainer for the alien – which San Francisco, a sanctuary city, simply ignored and proceeded to release him. Unfortunately, DHS openly advertises that jurisdictions can ignore its detainers. While testifying this March, ICE Director Saldana expressed her enthusiastic support for mandatory detainers. Then, the very next day, she retracted that statement made under oath and called mandatory detainers “highly counterproductive”. There are now more than 200 jurisdictions – including San Francisco — which refuse to honor ICE detainers. This effectively releases criminal aliens onto the streets – with all too tragic results.
Secretary Johnson’s solution, the Priorities Enforcement Program – is a failure. Politely asking for cooperation from sanctuary cities is a fool’s errand. The clear answer to this problem is for DHS to mandate compliance with detainers – and for this Administration to defend the mandatory nature of detainers in federal court. Unfortunately, the Administration has taken neither of these crucial steps to keep our communities safe.
Prior to Secretary Johnson’s appointment, DHS under the Obama Administration went beyond simple non-enforcement and took the leap of granting administrative amnesty to a class of hundreds of thousands of unlawful aliens. Then, last November, Secretary Johnson announced that DHS would grant such “deferred action” to over four million more unlawful aliens. By granting these classes of people deferred action, he would bestow benefits such as legal presence, work authorization, and access to the Social Security Trust Fund and the Earned Income Tax Credit.
It is within the constitutional authority of Congress, not the Administration, to grant such benefits to classes of unlawful aliens. Twenty six states believe that Secretary Johnson’s planned grant of deferred action en mass would cause them irreparable harm. They challenged the plan in federal court. The judge agreed with the states and has granted a temporary injunction. The court stated that the Administration is “not just rewriting the laws[, it] is creating them from scratch.” An appeals court has rejected the Administration’s request of a stay of that injunction.
While the continuing injunction against the unconstitutional affirmative grant of deferred action is a welcome development for the health of our Constitution, the court was clear that it was not interfering in any way with Secretary Johnson’s non-enforcement of our immigration laws.
The American people have rightly lost all confidence in this Administration’s willingness to enforce our current immigration laws. This has become the single biggest impediment to Congress’ ability to fix our broken immigration system.
I look forward to the testimony of Secretary Johnson.