Chairwoman Roybal-Allard Statement at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Oversight Hearing
Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA-40), Chair of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks at the Subcommittee's oversight hearing on U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement:
Today, we welcome Matthew Albence, the acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Thank you for being here this afternoon.
As we continue to monitor the challenging situation on the southern border, we look forward to hearing your perspective on ICE’s operational and funding priorities and requirements. As chair of this subcommittee, I am committed to ensuring the integrity of our borders and strengthening our immigration system. But I’m equally committed to making sure we do so according to all our laws, and in a way that exemplifies our American values.
In particular, we must ensure that, in accordance with our laws and values, those fleeing violence and persecution have meaningful opportunities to seek asylum. We must get this balance right – and I believe we can if we work together. It is a false choice to believe that more migrants need to be unnecessarily detained, and that cruel and exclusionary immigration laws need to be enacted in order to increase security in our country.
Our own constitution, federal law, and several international agreements serve as the foundation for the rights and protections I believe need to be embodied in our efforts to address the humanitarian crisis we are currently experiencing. Unfortunately, the rhetoric and the policies of this administration have made achieving that balance more difficult, and by all indications have exacerbated our challenges at the border.
We must also be mindful of the resource limitations we face. There is likely no area of our bill where we have sufficient resources to fully address known requirements.
For instance, we are barely cracking the surface of what the Coast Guard truly needs to address the flow of illegal drugs in the transit zone, or to protect our sovereign interests in the Arctic.
Detention is a very expensive option that should be reserved for cases where public safety or flight risk is a valid concern. When public safety is not a concern, ICE should use alternatives to detention. When used as intended, with appropriate case management, alternatives to detention have proven to be effective in mitigating flight risk and improving compliance with immigration court requirements.
For those whose detention is appropriate, I remain seriously concerned about substandard conditions at ICE detention facilities. In addition to what I have personally witnessed, we continue to get alerts from the media, the Office of Inspector General, the Government Accountability Office, and advocacy organizations about detention facilities that do not meet ICE’s minimum standards but are nevertheless allowed to continue operating. Preventing these inhumane conditions can only be achieved if ICE leadership makes clear that anything less is unacceptable and will have consequences. I will continue to work with ICE to ensure this happens.
On a more positive note, I want to highlight the good work ICE does in areas such as combatting human trafficking, human smuggling, child exploitation, and the smuggling of fentanyl and other opioids. In the fiscal year 2019 appropriation, the subcommittee provided additional resources to Homeland Security Investigations for these efforts. This is a great example of a mission where we have worked together to accomplish shared goals, and we have sustained these efforts in our fiscal year 2020 bill.
Lastly, I want to follow up on the letter I sent to you on July 12 about increased interior enforcement operations. I requested that you submit for the record today some of ICE’s written policies and procedures, which I described in that letter. This kind of transparency is very important for us to better understand how ICE’s leadership expects its frontline officers and agents to operate. I understand that you have submitted documents in response. Thank you. I look forward to reviewing them and will follow up accordingly.