Chair Roybal-Allard's Statement at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Resource Management and Operational Priorities Hearing

2021-05-13 10:12

Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Chair of the Homeland Security Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks at the Subcommittee's U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Resource Management and Operational Priorities hearing.

Today, I welcome Tae Johnson, Acting Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

He is here to discuss ICE’s management of its resources and its operational priorities. Thank you for being here this morning.

Acting Director Johnson, as a career civil servant, you have been asked to step into this interim role as ICE Director and we appreciate your service in this capacity. We have spoken about some of the recent challenges you and the Secretary face, and I want to reaffirm my commitment to help you both address them.

We have seen many important retractions of the prior administration’s policies that abrogated the rights of asylum seekers and others. Those policies drove a wedge between ICE and many communities, particularly with large migrant populations. There are significant disagreements about immigration policy in this country and among members of this subcommittee.

My own view is that we should not simply accept approaches that divide us, but instead work together to find appropriate solutions that balance immigration enforcement with due process, and balance removals with humanitarian considerations. We have a lot of work left to do. But if we are truly to address the challenges of immigration, it is critical we fix our broken immigration system. That is why it is critical for Congress to pass the President’s immigration reform bill, H.R. 1177, and other important legislation, like The American Dream and Promise Act.

One issue I’m particularly alarmed by is the increasingly high number of detainees in ICE custody. This increased number not only puts at risk the lives of detainees, including those who pose no threat to our communities, but it endangers the lives of ICE and detention facility personnel and the communities in which they live. We have a public health imperative to find a way to address this issue.

I am also concerned about ICE’s relationships with communities around the country. ICE must find a better way to balance fulfilling its important mission and respecting the important mission of local law enforcement. It is unfortunate that the prior administration’s aggressive interior enforcement policies placed demands on many local law enforcement agencies that have compromised the trust they work so hard to nurture in their communities.

As you know, that trust is strained in many places by concerns about abusive law enforcement practices.

We should not be adding to that erosion of trust with immigration enforcement pressure from ICE. Victims and witnesses to crimes must feel safe in coming forward.

It is my hope ICE can find a way to work collaboratively with our local law enforcement agencies.

And I look forward to working with you and this Administration to rebuild that trust with communities and colleagues concerned about this issue.

A good place to start is by increasing transparency and collaboration with nonprofit community organizations which provide shelter, along with legal assistance, trauma counseling, and other services to migrants.                           

Lastly, I would like to recognize the important work and accomplishments of the Homeland Security Investigations workforce. I especially commend them for their work in combatting the criminal activity related to vaccines, personal protective equipment, and attempts to steal CARES Act funding meant for families and small businesses.

It is now my pleasure to turn to the distinguished gentleman from Tennessee, Ranking Member Fleischmann, for his opening remarks.

117th Congress