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Updated: 2 hours 36 min ago

Secretary Nielsen Statement on New Migrant 'Caravan'

Tue, 02/05/2019 - 08:52

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen released the following statement on the new migrant ‘caravan’ that arrived at the Southern Border of the United States:

“Approximately 2,000 aliens have arrived in northern Mexico as part of a 'caravan' seeking to cross our Southern Border into Texas. Illegal entry will not be tolerated, and we stand ready to prevent it. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has been working with the Departments of State, Defense and Justice to ensure all possible resources are available to address this lawless caravan. DHS will take all steps to ensure the safety and security of law enforcement personnel on the frontlines. Such caravans are the result of Congress’s inexcusable failure to fully fund a needed physical barrier and unwillingness to fix outdated laws that act as an enormous magnet for illegal aliens. This crisis won’t be solved until we have comprehensive border security. Until then, DHS will do everything in its power – with the assistance of federal and state partners - to hold smugglers and traffickers accountable, enforce our laws, and keep American communities safe.”

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Topics: Border Security, Secretary of Homeland Security
Keywords: Border Security

Acting Attorney General and Secretary of Homeland Security Submit Joint Report on Impact of Foreign Interference on Election and Political/Campaign Infrastructure in 2018 Elections

Tue, 02/05/2019 - 07:23

Acting Attorney General Matthew G. Whitaker and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen M. Nielsen submitted a joint report to President Donald J. Trump on February 4, 2019 evaluating the impact of any foreign interference on election infrastructure or the infrastructure of political organizations, including campaigns and candidates in the 2018-midterm elections.

The classified report was prepared pursuant to section 1(b) of Executive Order 13848, Imposing Certain Sanctions in the Event of Foreign Influence in a United States Election, which the President issued on September 12, 2018. 

Throughout the 2018 midterm election cycle, the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security worked closely with federal, state, local, and private sector partners, including all 50 states and more than 1400 local jurisdictions, to support efforts to secure election infrastructure and limit risk posed by foreign interference.  Efforts to safeguard the 2020 elections are already underway. 

Although the specific conclusions within the joint report must remain classified, the Departments have concluded there is no evidence to date that any identified activities of a foreign government or foreign agent had a material impact on the integrity or security of election infrastructure or political/campaign infrastructure used in the 2018 midterm elections for the United States Congress. This finding was informed by a report prepared by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) pursuant to the same Executive Order and is consistent with what was indicated by the U.S. government after the 2018 elections.   

While the report remains classified, its findings will help drive future efforts to protect election and political/campaign infrastructure from foreign interference.

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Topics: Election Security, Secretary of Homeland Security
Keywords: Department of Justice, Election infrastructure

DHS Combats Human Trafficking And Seizes Counterfeit Merchandise During the Super Bowl

Fri, 02/01/2019 - 16:16

As Super Bowl 53 approaches, 25 elements of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), with nearly 600 personnel, have been working to support State, local, and private sector security officials ensure a safe and secure event. At the same time, the Department, through Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), is on the ground in Atlanta working to combat criminal organizations’ attempts to exploit the event.

“We will not allow criminals to profit from the suffering of the most vulnerable among us,” said Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen. “Homeland Security Investigations will continue to work diligently to stop human trafficking that can surge around large events.”

ICE HSI has seen first-hand the negative impact of human trafficking following the mass movement of people in the metro Atlanta area for Super Bowl 53. This form of modern-day slavery targets and exploits millions of men, women, and children across the country every year.  This week alone, ICE HSI has made 40 arrests associated with its anti-human trafficking operation and rescued four victims in the Atlanta area. DHS is committed to eradicating human trafficking and encourages all Americans to recognize the signs of trafficking and join the fight to end this heinous crime.

The Super Bowl also results in an increase in the sale of counterfeit goods such as tickets, hats, and jerseys. Purchasing counterfeit goods can not only ruin the Super Bowl fan experience, it can also jeopardize the health and safety of consumers, burden the U.S. economy, and ultimately fund criminal organizations. In the past week, ICE HSI has seized over 6,000 counterfeit sports items estimated to be worth over $250,000.

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Topics: Human Trafficking, Immigration and Customs Enforcement
Keywords: counterfeit, Homeland Security investigations, Super Bowl

DHS Announces Implementation of Visa Sanctions on Ghana

Thu, 01/31/2019 - 18:09

Ghana has Failed to Accept Removed Nationals 

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) today announced, in coordination with the Department of State, the implementation of visa sanctions on Ghana due to lack of cooperation in accepting their nationals ordered removed from the United States.

Pursuant to her authority under Section 243(d) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen notified Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that the Government of Ghana has denied or unreasonably delayed accepting their nationals ordered removed from the United States. As a result, Secretary of State Pompeo has ordered consular officers in Ghana to implement visa restrictions on certain categories of visa applicants. Without an appropriate response from Ghana, the scope of these sanctions may be expanded to a wider population. The sanctions will remain in place until the Secretary of Homeland Security notifies Secretary Pompeo that cooperation on removals has improved to an acceptable level.

“Ghana has failed to live up to its obligations under international law to accept the return of its nationals ordered removed from the United States,” said Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen. “The United States routinely cooperates with foreign governments in documenting and accepting U.S. citizens when asked, as appropriate, as do the majority of countries in the world, but Ghana has failed to do so in this case.  We hope the Ghanaian government will work with us to reconcile these deficiencies quickly.”

Topics:
Keywords: State

DHS Secures Super Bowl 53

Thu, 01/31/2019 - 15:40

On January 30, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen M. Nielsen met with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) personnel, local law enforcement officials, and the National Football League (NFL) security team in Atlanta to discuss joint efforts to ensure a safe and secure Super Bowl 53.

“This weekend, thousands of football fans from around the country will travel to watch the New England Patriots face-off against the L.A. Rams in Super Bowl 53 in Atlanta. At DHS, we are proud to support the City of Atlanta in their planning and preparations for Super Bowl 53,” said Secretary Nielsen. “Protecting an event of this magnitude is no small task.  Twenty-five DHS entities with nearly 600 personnel are working hand-in-hand with the NFL and local law enforcement to ensure this weekend remains safe and secure.”


(DHS Official Photo/Tim Godbee)
 

The Department has been engaged with planning efforts for Super Bowl 53 since 2017 through our locally-based Federal Coordination Team. Our federal interagency partners are also supporting Super Bowl security with an additional 500 personnel.

Our primary job is to support and enable our partners in State and local law enforcement and the private sector as they protect the Super Bowl. We help by providing intelligence, conducting physical and cyber assessments at Super Bowl-related venues, providing capacity such as canine teams and air assets, and making sure that everyone is prepared if an incident happens through planning and exercising.
 

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Topics: Secretary of Homeland Security
Keywords: department of homeland security, Super Bowl

Readout from Secretary Nielsen’s Trip to San Diego

Tue, 01/29/2019 - 17:35

On January 29, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen M. Nielsen traveled to San Diego to meet with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement employees and to conduct an operational tour of the San Ysidro Port of Entry to assess implementation of the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP).

Secretary Nielsen met with employees from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to thank them for their continued professionalism and dedication to the mission.

“I’m continually impressed with the daily success stories I hear from the exceptional men and women of ICE,” said Secretary Nielsen.

Following her remarks to employees, Secretary Nielsen went on an operational tour of the San Ysidro Port of Entry and saw firsthand the implementation of the Migrant Protection Protocols. The MPP are designed to help ensure migrants are protected according to U.S. and international obligations while also addressing the security and humanitarian crisis at our Southern Border.

MPP, which was announced in December, will require certain migrants to await the processing of their immigration claims in Mexico.

The Secretary explained, “The MPP will enable DHS to take a huge step forward in bringing order to chaotic migration flows, restoring the rule of law and the integrity of the United States immigration system, and allowing DHS to focus resources on providing relief to individuals fleeing persecution while at the same time holding those accountable who make false asylum claims.”

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Topics: Border Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Secretary of Homeland Security
Keywords: ICE

MIGRANT PROTECTION PROTOCOLS

Thu, 01/24/2019 - 18:37

“We have implemented an unprecedented action that will address the urgent humanitarian and security crisis at the Southern border. This humanitarian approach will help to end the exploitation of our generous immigration laws. The Migrant Protection Protocols represent a methodical commonsense approach, exercising long-standing statutory authority to help address the crisis at our Southern border.” – Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen M. Nielsen

What Are the Migrant Protection Protocols?

The Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) are a U.S. Government action whereby certain foreign individuals entering or seeking admission to the U.S. from Mexico – illegally or without proper documentation – may be returned to Mexico and wait outside of the U.S. for the duration of their immigration proceedings, where Mexico will provide them with all appropriate humanitarian protections for the duration of their stay. 

Why is DHS Instituting MPP?

The U.S. is facing a security and humanitarian crisis on the Southern border. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is using all appropriate resources and authorities to address the crisis and execute our missions to secure the borders, enforce immigration and customs laws, facilitate legal trade and travel, counter traffickers, smugglers and transnational criminal organizations, and interdict drugs and illegal contraband.  

MPP will help restore a safe and orderly immigration process, decrease the number of those taking advantage of the immigration system, and the ability of smugglers and traffickers to prey on vulnerable populations, and reduce threats to life, national security, and public safety, while ensuring that vulnerable populations receive the protections they need.

Historically, illegal aliens to the U.S. were predominantly single adult males from Mexico who were generally removed within 48 hours if they had no legal right to stay; now over 60% are family units and unaccompanied children and 60% are non-Mexican. In FY17, CBP apprehended 94,285 family units from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador (Northern Triangle) at the Southern border. Of those, 99% remain in the country today.

Misguided court decisions and outdated laws have made it easier for illegal aliens to enter and remain in the U.S. if they are adults who arrive with children, unaccompanied alien children, or individuals who fraudulently claim asylum. As a result, DHS continues to see huge numbers of illegal migrants and a dramatic shift in the demographics of aliens traveling to the border, both in terms of nationality and type of aliens- from a demographic who could be quickly removed when they had no legal right to stay to one that cannot be detained and timely removed.

In October, November, and December of 2018, DHS encountered an average of 2,000 illegal and inadmissible aliens a day at the Southern border. While not an all-time high in terms of overall numbers, record increases in particular types of migrants, such as family units, travelling to the border who require significantly more resources to detain and remove (when our courts and laws even allow that), have overwhelmed the U.S. immigration system, leading to a “system” that enables smugglers and traffickers to flourish and often leaves aliens in limbo for years. This has been a prime  cause of our near-800,000 case backlog in immigration courts and delivers no consequences to aliens who have entered illegally.

Smugglers and traffickers are also using outdated laws to entice migrants to undertake the dangerous journey north where on the route migrants report high rates of abuse, violence, and sexual assault. Human smugglers and traffickers exploit migrants and seek to turn human misery into profit. Transnational criminal organizations and gangs are also deliberately exploiting the situation to bring drugs, violence, and illicit goods into American communities.  The activities of these smugglers, traffickers, gangs and criminals endanger the security of the U.S., as well as partner nations in the region.

The situation has had severe impacts on U.S. border security and immigration operations.  The dramatic increase in illegal migration, including unprecedented number of families and fraudulent asylum claims is making it harder for the U.S. to devote appropriate resources to individuals who are legitimately fleeing persecution. In fact, approximately 9 out of 10 asylum claims from Northern Triangle countries are ultimately found non-meritorious by federal immigration judges. Because of the court backlog and the impact of outdated laws and misguided court decisions, many of these individuals have disappeared into the country before a judge denies their claim and simply become fugitives.

The MPP will provide a safer and more orderly process that will discourage individuals from attempting illegal entry and making false claims to stay in the U.S., and allow more resources to be dedicated to individuals who legitimately qualify for asylum.

What Gives DHS the Authority to Implement MPP?

Section 235 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) addresses the inspection of aliens seeking to be admitted into the U.S. and provides specific procedures regarding the treatment of those not clearly entitled to admission, including those who apply for asylum.  Section 235(b)(2)(C) provides that “in the case of an alien  . . . who is arriving on land (whether or not at a designated port of arrival) from a foreign territory contiguous to the U.S.,” the Secretary of Homeland Security “may return the alien to that territory pending a [removal] proceeding under § 240” of the INA.”  The U.S. has notified the Government of Mexico that it is implementing these procedures under U.S. law.

Who is Subject to MPP?

With certain exceptions, MPP applies to aliens arriving in the U.S. on land from Mexico (including those apprehended along the border) who are not clearly admissible and who are placed in removal proceedings under INA § 240.  This includes aliens who claim a fear of return to Mexico at any point during apprehension, processing, or such proceedings, but who have been assessed not to be more likely than not to face persecution or torture in Mexico.  Unaccompanied alien children and aliens in expedited removal proceedings will not be subject to MPP.  Other individuals from vulnerable populations may be excluded on a case-by-case basis.

How Will MPP Work Operationally?

Certain aliens attempting to enter the U.S. illegally or without documentation, including those who claim asylum, will no longer be released into the country, where they often fail to file an asylum application and/or disappear before an immigration judge can determine the merits of any claim.  Instead, these aliens will be given a “Notice to Appear” for their immigration court hearing and will be returned to Mexico until their hearing date.

While aliens await their hearings in Mexico, the Mexican government has made its own determination to provide such individuals the ability to stay in Mexico, under applicable protection based on the type of status given to them.  

Aliens who need to return to the U.S. to attend their immigration court hearings will be allowed to enter and attend those hearings.  Aliens whose claims are found meritorious by an immigration judge will be allowed to remain in the U.S.  Those determined to be without valid claims will be removed from the U.S. to their country of nationality or citizenship.

 

DHS is working closely with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review to streamline the process and conclude removal proceedings as expeditiously as possible.

Will Migrants in MPP Have Access to Counsel?

Consistent with the law, aliens in removal proceedings can use counsel of their choosing at no expense to the U.S. Government.  Aliens subject to MPP will be afforded the same right and provided with a list of legal services providers in the area which offer services at little or no expense to the migrant. 

What Are the Anticipated Benefits of MPP?

Every month, tens of thousands of individuals arrive unlawfully at the Southern Border.  MPP will reduce the number of aliens taking advantage of U.S. law and discourage false asylum claims.  Aliens will not be permitted to disappear into the U.S. before a court issues a final decision on whether they will be admitted and provided protection under U.S. law.  Instead, they will await a determination in Mexico and receive appropriate humanitarian protections there.  This will allow DHS to more effectively assist legitimate asylum-seekers and individuals fleeing persecution, as migrants with non-meritorious or even fraudulent claims will no longer have an incentive for making the journey.  Moreover, MPP will reduce the extraordinary strain on our border security and immigration system, freeing up personnel and resources to better protect our sovereignty and the rule of law by restoring integrity to the American immigration system.

Topics:
Keywords: CBP

CBP Releases Apprehension Data

Thu, 01/24/2019 - 09:42

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, United States Customs and Border Protection released new information regarding the number of family units apprehended along the southwest border and the demographics of large groups apprehended in recent months by the United States Border Patrol (USBP). As of today, USBP has seen a surge in Family Unit Aliens compared to the same time from last fiscal year by 280%.  Fiscal Year 2018 was a record year and this year will surpass that if the current trend continues without any legislative fixes.  Overall apprehensions between the POE’s are up 81%.

APPREHENSIONS

Over the past few months (FY19 to date), USBP has seen a dramatic increase in the number of large groups of 100 illegal aliens or more being apprehended along the southern border. In the El Paso, Rio Grande Valley, Tucson, and Yuma Sectors over the last four months, smugglers and traffickers have delivered 53 large groups, totaling 8,797 illegal aliens.

 

Of the 8,797 apprehended in large groups, 7,757 are from Guatemala, and comprised mostly of family units (FMUA) and unaccompanied children (UAC). That means 96.1% are members of family units (84.6%) or unaccompanied children (11.5%) and 99.6% are from the Northern Triangle countries: Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

MEDICAL CRISIS

So far this fiscal year, USBP has also seen an increase in the numbers of apprehended individuals requiring medical attention.

  • USBP transported 2,224 subjects (5.3% of all southwest border arrests for the same period) to local hospitals since December 22, 2018.
     
  • USBP has spent a total of 19,299 hours providing various levels of support to these hospital visits. This includes transportation to and from, and over watch for each person/family at the hospital. This means there are less agents performing border security duties.
     
    On January 15, 2019, USBP arrested a group of 247 illegal aliens, of which 50 individuals required immediate treatment/evaluation from a medical professional at a hospital. Transporting 50 individuals to the hospital utilized nearly all available agents, severely limiting their ability to process the large group or respond to other border security duties; thus resulting in increased time in custody, delaying custody transfer coordination, and inhibiting response to other illegal cross-border traffic.

NARCOTICS

Smugglers and traffickers then use these large groups as “cover” while USBP resources are utilized to arrest and detention related duties associated with the large groups.

  • On January 16, 2018, USBP apprehended a group of 253 illegal aliens and in a separate event seized approximately 265 lbs of Marijuana.
     
  • On January 17, 2018, USBP agents seized 705 lbs of Cocaine. On the same day, USBP agents apprehended a large group of 174.
     
  • On January 18, 2018, USBP apprehended a group of 116 and in a separate event seized approximately 1,087 lbs of Marijuana.
Topics:
Keywords: CBP

DHS RELEASES SOUTHWEST BORDER ENFORCEMENT STATISTICS

Wed, 01/09/2019 - 07:36

Today, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released the number of enforcement actions at the southwest border for the month of December.  Due to the lapse in funding, U.S. Customs and Border Protection is unable to publish the enforcement actions for December on its website.

Total Enforcement Actions (individuals apprehended in between the ports of entry and deemed inadmissible at the ports of entry) for the month of December in Fiscal Year 2019 was 60,782. December marks the third consecutive month of enforcement actions surpassing 60,000.

The United States Border Patrol apprehended 50,753 individuals (83.5% of all enforcement actions) between the ports of entry on the southern border. The total number of individuals deemed inadmissible for entry at the ports of entry was 10,029.

Key statistics:

The total number of family unit aliens (FMUA) apprehended in between the ports of entry and deemed inadmissible at the ports of entry: 31,901

  • In Fiscal Year 2017, CBP averaged 13,210 family units and unaccompanied alien children each month – in Fiscal Year 2019 CBP is now averaging 31,188 a month. That is a 136% increase.
  • The total number of FMUAs apprehended in between the ports of entry was 27,518. December was a record-breaking month for FMUAs apprehended at the border.
  • FMUA apprehensions through December total 75,794 – higher than 5 out of the last 7 years FY totals – exceeding all but FY16 and FY18, but currently tracking 253% higher than FY16 and 280% higher than FY18 for the same time frames.
  • Of FMUA apprehensions in December, 95% are from Northern Triangle. 96% for the first quarter.
    • For the first quarter, 77% of family units are from Guatemala and Honduras alone.
  • This month marks the third time FMUA apprehensions exceeded Single Adult apprehensions.
    • Apprehensions from Guatemala exceeded Mexico for the third consecutive month (only happened four times) and Honduras has exceeded Mexico for the second consecutive month.

The total number of unaccompanied children apprehended in between the ports of entry and deemed inadmissible at the ports of entry: 5,121

  • Total number of unaccompanied children apprehended in between the ports of entry: 4,766
  • Total number of unaccompanied children deemed inadmissible at the ports of entry: 355

The total number of single adults apprehended in between the ports of entry and deemed inadmissible at the ports of entry: 23,682

  • Total enforcement actions for single adults fell by 10.87% in December from November.

 

Topics:
Keywords: CBP

MYTH/FACT: Known and Suspected Terrorists/Special Interest Aliens

Mon, 01/07/2019 - 16:57

In recent days, the terms “Special Interests Aliens” (SIAs) and “Known and Suspected Terrorists” (KSTs) have become more frequently used as part of discussions about the federal budget and border security.  These terms are not synonymous nor interchangeable, but are two separate terms that are commonly used in the national security community to describe different types of potential threats.  These are generally well understood terms that are, unfortunately, being misunderstood or mischaracterized as part of the current shutdown debate.

The facts are clear:

  • There are thousands of individuals on the terrorist watchlist that traveled through our Hemisphere last year alone, and we work very hard to keep these individuals from traveling on illicit pathways to our country.
     
  • We work with foreign partners to block many of these individuals and prevent them from entering the United States. But effective border security is our last line of defense.
     
  • The threat is real. The number of terror-watchlisted individuals encountered at our Southern Border has increased over the last two years. The exact number is sensitive and details about these cases are extremely sensitive. But I am sure all Americans would agree that even one terrorist reaching our borders is one too many.
     
  • Overall, we stop on average 10 individuals on the terrorist watchlist per day from traveling to or entering the United States—and more than 3,700 in Fiscal Year 2017. Most of these individuals are trying to enter the U.S. by air, but we must also be focused on stopping those who try to get in by land.
     
  • Additionally, Last year at our Southern Border, DHS encountered more than 3,000 “special interest aliens”—individuals with suspicious travel patterns who may pose a national security risk—not to mention the many criminals, smugglers, traffickers, and other threat actors who try to exploit our borders.

What is a Special Interest Alien?

Generally, an SIA is a non-U.S. person who, based on an analysis of travel patterns, potentially poses a national security risk to the United States or its interests.  Often such individuals or groups are employing travel patterns known or evaluated to possibly have a nexus to terrorism.  DHS analysis includes an examination of travel patterns, points of origin, and/or travel segments that are tied to current assessments of national and international threat environments.

This does not mean that all SIAs are “terrorists,” but rather that the travel and behavior of such individuals indicates a possible nexus to nefarious activity (including terrorism) and, at a minimum, provides indicators that necessitate heightened screening and further investigation.  The term SIA does not indicate any specific derogatory information about the individual – and DHS has never indicated that the SIA designation means more than that. 

This term isn’t new and neither is the threat from SIAs. In 2016, Secretary Johnson ordered that DHS form a “multi-DHS Component SIA Joint Action Group” to drive efforts to “counter the threats posed by the smuggling of SIAs.” Just this month, the House Homeland Security Committee released a report outlining the threat posed by SIAs, as well as unknown and other potentially dangerous individuals, traveling to the United States using illicit pathways.  The report can be found here: https://republicans-homeland.house.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/FINAL-SIA-REPORT.pdf 

What is a Known or Suspected Terrorist?

KST is a term commonly used by law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

First, a “known terrorist” is an individual who has been (a) arrested, charged by information, indicted for, or convicted of a crime related to terrorism and/or terrorist activities by U.S. Government or foreign government authorities; or (b) identified as a terrorist or a member of a terrorist organization pursuant to statute, Executive Order, or international legal obligation pursuant to a United Nations Security Council Resolution.

Second, a “suspected terrorist” is an individual who is reasonably suspected to be engaging in, has engaged in, or intends to engage in conduct constituting, in preparation for, in aid of, or related to terrorism and/or terrorist activities.

The use of KST is generally accepted to refer to someone for whom we have a reasonable suspicion to believe that they have or are likely to be engaged in terrorist activity, as that term is defined in U.S. law.

Why are these confused publicly?

In a document released by the White House, on Friday January 4, 2019, the White House, using data compiled by the Department of Homeland Security, mentioned a number of KSTs who were prevented from traveling to or entering the United States. 

The presentation stated that “3,755 known or suspected terrorists were prevented from traveling to or entering the United States by DHS (FY17).” This statistic has been used repeatedly by the Department and the Administration (e.g. “CBP prevents an average of 10 individuals on the terrorist watchlist per day from traveling to or entering the United States”). The majority of such individuals are attempting to travel to the United States by air, but others are encountered arriving by land and through maritime routes—and have been encountered attempting to enter the country through the Southern Border. 

A number that was not included in the presentation, yet has recently been used by Administration officials is Friday: “DHS encountered more than 3,000 Special Interest Aliens last year at the Southern Border.” These KST and SIA figures are not the same and should not be conflated.

Despite what some media has reported, SIAs are not simply people who “traveled from a country that had terrorism.”  The targeting information and analysis done by DHS is more sophisticated and incorporates a number of factors.  Often these are individuals who have obtained false documents, or used smugglers to evade security across multiple countries.  In addition, some have engaged in criminal activity that could pose a danger to the United States, and some are found to have links to terrorism after additional investigative work and analysis by CBP personnel.

The bottom line is that significant numbers of threat actors have attempted, and continue to attempt, to enter the United States surreptitiously and without authority.  DHS and other national security agencies remain concerned about the volume of terrorist-watchlisted individuals, SIAs, convicted criminals, gang members, and others who pose a threat to the homeland, attempting to enter the United States. And we will take all appropriate action to legally block their entry.

Topics:
Keywords: CBP

CBP Issues Statement on Illegal Border Crossings in San Diego Sector

Tue, 01/01/2019 - 11:25

The following is based on initial operational reporting. Last night, an approximately 150 migrants attempted to illegally enter the United States by climbing over and crawling under border fence in San Diego Sector. Due to CBP’s increased presence, a first group of 45 turned back towards Mexico. Shortly thereafter, migrants began throwing rocks over the fence at the CBP agents and officers. Several teenagers, wrapped in heavy jackets, blankets and rubber mats were put over the concertina wire. Border Patrol agents witnessed members of the group attempt to lift toddler sized children up and over the concertina wire and having difficulty accomplishing the task in a safe manner. Agents were not in a position to safely assist the children due to the large number of rocks being thrown at them.

To address the rock throwers assaulting agents and risking the safety of migrants attempting to cross who were already on the U.S. side, both smoke and minimal countermeasures were deployed. Agents deployed smoke, pepper spray and CS gas to a position upwind of the rock throwers and south of the border fence.  The deployments were not directed at the migrants attempting entry on the U.S. side or at the fence line.  The rock throwers were located south of the fence, in an elevated position both above the border fence area and the incursion attempt.

These countermeasures successfully suppressed the rock throwers causing them to flee the area. Most of the migrants attempting the incursion, to include those with children, returned to Mexico via a hole under the fence and by climbing over the fence.  No agents witnessed any of the migrants at the fence line, including children, experiencing effects of the chemical agents, which were targeted at the rock throwers further away.  Twenty-five apprehensions, including two teenage migrants, were made.  Under CBP use of force policy, this incident will be reviewed by CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility.

 

Topics:
Keywords: CBP, Customs and Border Protection

CBP Commissioner: Continued Humanitarian Crisis - Increase in Medical Emergencies on the Southern Border

Mon, 12/31/2018 - 14:43

Today, U.S. Customs and Border Protection is releasing data regarding the very high number of referrals being made for medical care of arriving migrants by U.S. Customs and Border Protection to medical providers along the Southwest Border. 

CBP is releasing this information to provide greater context to the ongoing border security and humanitarian crisis on our border.  The dramatic increases in both families and unaccompanied children crossing our border over the last three months have resulted in larger numbers of young children coming into CBP custody.  Over the past three months, CBP has apprehended or deemed inadmissible for entry over 2,000 arrivals today, and 65% in December were comprised of families and children.

These increases, combined with the stress of the journey, crowded conveyances, and flu season have resulting in significant requirements for referrals to medical providers. A referral to a medical provider is made based on a determination by a Border Patrol Agent or CBP Officer, and/or a medical professional on staff at a CBP facility.

Please note that the below numbers are based on operational reporting and is subject to change on a daily or hourly basis. As of December 22 through December 30, 2018:

  • The United States Border Patrol has referred 451 cases to a medical provider. Of those, 259 were children. 129 children are under the age of five. 88 are between the ages of six and fourteen, and 42 between the ages of 15 to 17.
  • 17 individuals including six children are currently hospitalized with illnesses.
  • On average, the Border Patrol is referring approximately 50 cases a day to medical providers. December 26, 2018, Border Patrol referred 82 cases to a medical provider.

The following statement is attributable to Commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan, U.S. Customs and Border Protection:

“We are facing an unprecedented crisis on the southern border that is putting the most vulnerable populations at risk. 129 children under the age of five have been referred for emergency medical care in the last week. The care of those in CBP custody is paramount, and the United States Border Patrol is doing everything in its power to handle this crisis.  The status quo is not acceptable.  As Secretary Nielsen has stated, the system is at the breaking point.  Border Patrol stations built decades ago are not resourced to handle this crisis and are not the best facilities to house children with their parents for extended periods.”

In light of recent events, the Commissioner has directed the following actions:

  • On December 26, CBP completed secondary medical reviews of children in Border Patrol custody by Contract Physicians’ Assistants or CBP Agent and Officer EMTs and Paramedics on all children in our custody.  The checks involve the following:
    • Talking to each child and parent to determine if they have any current medical complaints using a general questionnaire;
    • Talking to each child and parent to determine a medical history to identify any past illnesses or medical concerns;
    • Taking basic vital statistics, including blood pressure, pulse, respiration, temperature, and blood sugar, and referring children with abnormal results for further evaluation; and,
    • Asking each parent if they wanted further medical review of their child, and making those referrals upon the parents’ request.
  • As of December 26, the United States Coast Guard began to deploy surge medical assistance teams to the Southwest border. These teams have been deployed to Yuma, Tucson, and RGV Sectors.  This week, the Public Health Service will also deploy additional teams to increase CBP’s capacity to perform medical checks of children at intake.
  •  The Department of Homeland Security is also coordinating with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to assess the situation with infectious diseases presenting among the people in our custody, and develop recommendations.
  • Lastly, DHS and CBP are seeking advice from external medical experts, including the American Pediatric Association and others. 
  • In the fall, Secretary Nielsen and Commissioner McAleenan requested that the Homeland Security Advisory Council review best practices in the care of children and families and make recommendations to better inform CBP policies and procedures in the future. Chaired by former DEA Administrator Karen Tandy, the HSAC panel has already toured CBP facilities and met with nongovernmental experts, and will continue to do so as they complete their work early in the new year.  CBP continues to support these efforts and will pursue recommendations from this process.
Topics:
Keywords: CBP, Customs and Border Protection

Secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen Statement on Passing of Eight Year Old Guatemalan Child

Wed, 12/26/2018 - 12:09

Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen M. Nielsen today released the following statement on the eight year-old Guatemalan national who passed away shortly before midnight on December 24 at Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center in Alamogordo, New Mexico:

"In the evening hours of December 24th, a child who had been apprehended with his father by the Border Patrol attempting to illegally enter the United States, died at an El Paso hospital after being taken for emergency treatment for the second time in less than 12 hours.  This tragedy, the death of a child in government custody is deeply concerning and heartbreaking. In the last 24 hours, I have a directed a series of additional actions to care for those who enter our custody.

"In recent months, we have seen a dramatic increase at the border of families and unaccompanied children crossing our border illegally.  In the last two months alone, the Border Patrol has apprehended 139,817 illegal aliens on the Southwest Border as compared to 74,946 during the same time frame of FY 2018.  This is an increase of 86%.  In just two months into this fiscal year we have seen 68,510 family units and 13,981 unaccompanied children.  This is a dramatic change from historical trends and has only become starker in December. 

"This changing dynamic is the direct result of obvious draw factors: an immigration system that rewards parents for sending their children across the border alone, a system that prevents parents who bring their children on a dangerous and illegal journey from facing consequences for their actions, an asylum process that is not able to quickly help those who qualify for asylum, a system that encourages fraudulent claims, and a system that encourages bad actors to coach aliens into making frivolous claims. The bottom line is that 9 out 10 asylum claims are rejected by a federal immigration judge.

"Our system has been pushed to a breaking point by those who seek open borders. Smugglers, traffickers, and their own parents put these minors at risk by embarking on the dangerous and arduous journey north. This crisis is exacerbated by the increase in persons who are entering our custody suffering from severe respiratory illnesses or exhibit some other illness upon apprehension.  Given the remote locations of their illegal crossing and the lack of resources, it is even more difficult for our personnel to be first responders. 

"We at DHS are committed to continuing to assist those in need – in the past year alone the Border Patrol assisted more than 4,300 people in distress along the border – that’s a 20 percent increase in rescues from the year before.

"To put this in perspective, there were six migrant deaths while in CBP custody during FY 2018 – none whom were children.  In fact, it has been more than a decade since CBP has had a child pass away in their custody.  It is now clear that migrants, particularly children, are increasingly facing medical challenges and harboring illness caused by their long and dangerous journey.

"In response to the unprecedented surge of children into our custody, I have directed a series of extraordinary protective measures. I have personally engaged with the Centers for Disease Control to request that their experts investigate the uptick in sick children crossing our borders and identify additional steps hospitals along the border should be undertaking to prepare for and to treat these children. I have asked the US Coast Guard Medical Corps to provide an assessment of CBP’s medical programs and make appropriate recommendations for improvements.  I have also asked for assistance from the Department of Defense to provide additional medical professionals. 

"At my direction, all children in Border Patrol custody have been given a thorough medical screening.  Moving forward, all children will receive a more thorough hands on assessment at the earliest possible time post apprehension – whether or not the accompanying adult has asked for one. 

"I have also spoken with our partners in Mexico to ask that they begin to investigate the causes of these illnesses on their side of the border and to provide medical assistance in shelters as needed. 

"I will be travelling to the border later this week to see first-hand the medical screenings and conditions at Border Patrol stations.   

"These immediate steps described above are in addition to steps taken following the death of a Guatemalan child earlier in the month – to include the staffing of additional Emergency Management trained Border Patrol agents in remote areas. There are 1,500 medically trained agents and officers on duty across the border.

"As a result of bad judicial rulings from activist judges and inaction by Congress, we are seeing a flood of family units and unaccompanied alien children. The unprecedented number of families and unaccompanied children at the border must not be ignored.  I once again ask – beg – parents to not place their children at risk by taking a dangerous journey north. Vulnerable populations – including family units and unaccompanied alien children should seek asylum at the first possible opportunity, including Mexico.

"To be clear, Border Patrol stations were never intended to be longer-term holding facilities for any individuals.  Under current law, non-Mexican unaccompanied children cannot be released or removed from the U.S. – they must be turned over to Health and Human Services for placement pending bed space availability.  Moreover, family units are almost always released into the interior – in any case, they cannot be held past 21 days.

"I am proud of the lifesaving work the men and women of the Border Patrol do every day, but we do not currently have the resources we need to execute the mission as directed by Congress.  To those in Congress who continue to refuse to take action to address the loopholes that cause a flood of humanity to travel north and place children at risk, I once again call on you to do your job, protect vulnerable populations, secure our borders, and provide the men and women of DHS the authorities and resources we need to address this crisis. Please put politics aside, we have common cause – let’s work together to protect family units and unaccompanied alien children. It’s a mission we share."

Topics:
Keywords: CBP, Customs and Border Protection

Department of Homeland Security Issues Travel Advisory to the Republic of the Philippines

Wed, 12/26/2018 - 07:18

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) today announced the determination that aviation security at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (MNL), which serves as a last-point-of-departure airport for flights to the United States, does not maintain and carry out effective security consistent with the security standards established by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).  This determination was based on assessments by a team of security experts from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). 

In view of this finding and effective immediately, airlines issuing tickets for travel between the United States and MNL are directed to notify passengers in writing of this determination. The Secretary has also directed this advisory be displayed prominently at all U.S. airports that provide regularly scheduled service to MNL and that it be published in the Federal Register, pursuant to sections 114 and 44907 of Title 49 of the United States Code.

In coordination with the Department of State and the Department of Transportation, TSA representatives have been working with the Philippine government to assist airport and transportation authorities in bringing MNL up to international security standards. TSA will continue to work with the Philippines and assist its aviation authorities with correcting the security deficiencies at the airport. In addition, TSA will continue to assess security measures at the airport and take appropriate actions as warranted. 

Under section 44907 of Title 49 of the United States Code, DHS is charged with the responsibility of assessing security at foreign airports with direct service to the United States to ensure they meet international standards as set by ICAO. 

Topics:
Keywords: TSA

CBP Shares Additional Information about Recent Passing of Guatemalan Child

Tue, 12/25/2018 - 20:12

An eight year-old Guatemalan national, previously apprehended by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, died shortly before midnight on December 24 at Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center in Alamogordo, New Mexico.  CBP released an initial statement, which can be found here.  Consistent with CBP’s commitment to accountability and transparency, CBP is releasing a timeline reflecting a current understanding of key events that occurred prior to the child’s passing.  These updates are based on initial operational reporting.

The following statement is attributable to Commissioner Kevin K. McAleenan, Commissioner, U.S. Customs and Border Protection:

“This is a tragic loss. On behalf of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, our deepest sympathies go out to the family.

Deaths in CBP custody are extraordinarily rare.  In light of recent events, the Commissioner has directed the following actions:
 

  • U.S. Border Patrol is conducting secondary medical checks upon all children in CBP care and custody, including children arriving as part of Family Units (FMUA) and Unaccompanied Children (UACs), with a focus on children under 10 years old;
     
  • U.S. Border Patrol is engaging U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement regarding available surge options for transportation to Family Residential Centers and/or supervised release.  CBP is also reviewing all available custody options to relieve capacity issues in Border Patrol stations and checkpoints in El Paso Sector, including any options identified by NGOs and/or local partners for temporary housing that can safely accommodate those in our custody;
     
  • CBP is considering options for surge medical assistance from interagency partners, including receiving support the U.S. Coast Guard, and potentially requesting further aid from the Department of Defense, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and Health and Human Services to assist the U.S. Border Patrol with supplemental medical capabilities.  CBP is coordinating with the Centers for Disease Control on the numbers of children in custody as well; and  
     
  • CBP is also reviewing its policies with particular focus upon care and custody of children under 10 both at intake and beyond 24 hours in custody.

The following timeline, based on an understanding of the facts at this stage, is in local time, Mountain Standard Time.

  • On December 18, at approximately 1300 hours, an eight year-old child was apprehended with his father at 3.29 miles west of the Paso Del Norte Port of Entry in El Paso, Texas for illegal entry.
     
  • Driving distance from that apprehension location to Paso Del Norte Port (PDT) is less than 15 minutes; however, groups may be detained in the field until transportation becomes available. 
     
  • On December 18, at approximately 1639 hours, the father and child were transferred to the PDT processing center.
     
  • While detained at PDT, the child and his father were provided hot food, snacks, juice, and water, and the agents logged six welfare checks.
     
  • On December 20, at 1200 hours, the child and his father were transferred to El Paso Border Patrol Station (EPS).
    • From December 20 to December 22, the child and his father were provided with showers, food, juice, and water, and the agents logged 17 welfare checks.
       
  • On December 22, at approximately 2317 hours, U.S. Border Patrol transferred the child and father to the Alamogordo Border Patrol Station (ALA) to finalize processing.  The child and his father were transferred because of capacity levels at the El Paso Station.
     
  • On December 23, at approximately 0108 hours, the child and his father arrived at the Alamogordo Station.
    • Upon arrival, the child and his father were provided with personal hygiene products and meals, and they received several welfare checks.
       
  • On December 24, at about 0539 hours, a placement request for the child and his father was e-mailed to Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Enforcement and Removal Operations’ family placement inbox.
     
  • On December 24, at approximately 0900 hours, a processing agent noticed that the child was coughing and appeared to have glossy eyes.
    • On December 24, at approximately 0930 hours, based on the agents’ observations, the child and his father were transferred to GCRMC with possible influenza symptoms.
       
  • On December 24, at about 1130 hours, hospital staff conducted several tests on the child for strep throat.
    • On December 24, at about 1245 hours, the child was given a diagnosis of common cold and given Tylenol.
    • On December 24, at about 1320 hours, the child was evaluated for release and found to have a 103 degree fever and was held for continued observation.
       
  • On December 24, at about 1450 hours, the child was released from the ER with a prescription for amoxicillin and Ibuprofen.
    • The child and his father were transported to temporary holding at the Highway 70 checkpoint.  While at the checkpoint, the child and his father were offered and accepted a hot meal.
    • At about 1700, agents provided the child with a dose of the prescribed medication as ordered by the medical staff and agents conducted several welfare checks that evening.
       
  • On December 24 at 1900 hours, the child appeared to be nauseous and vomited.  Agents were aware of this and helped clean up the vomit.
    • His father declined further medical assistance as the child had been feeling better.
       
  • On December 24, at about 2200 hours, the child appeared lethargic and nauseous again.
    • As no EMT was on-duty, out of caution, agents made the decision to return the child and his father to GCRMC.
       
  • On December 24, during transportation to the hospital the boy began to vomit and he lost consciousness.
     
  • At 2307 hours, radio traffic indicated that the agent had arrived at GCRMC where he was met by hospital staff.
    • The GCRMC staff were unable to revive the child and pronounced him deceased at 2348 hours on December 24, 2018.
    • The child’s body will be transported to Alamogordo Funeral Home pending transfer to Albuquerque for autopsy.
       
  • The Guatemalan Consulate was contacted at 0740 hours on December 25, 2018. The father is currently detained at the Alamogordo Station pending transfer to ICE ERO.  He has spoken to his spouse in Guatemala and the Guatemalan Consulate.

*Welfare check definition:  Agent directly observes all detainees are safe and secure, and attends to any issues observed or relayed by those detained.

Topics:
Keywords: Customs and Border Protection

Guatemalan national passes away at Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center in Alamogordo, New Mexico

Tue, 12/25/2018 - 10:44

An eight year-old Guatemalan national previously apprehended by U.S. Customs and Border Protection was died shortly after midnight on December 25 at Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center in Alamogordo, New Mexico.

According to initial reporting, while in CBP custody earlier on December 24, a U.S. Border Patrol agent noticed that the child showed signs of potential illness.  The father and his son were promptly transferred to the Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center.  The child was initially diagnosed by hospital staff with a common cold, and when evaluated for release, hospital staff found a fever.  The child was held for an additional 90 minutes for observation and then released from the hospital mid-afternoon on December 24 with prescriptions for amoxicillin and Ibuprofen.

The evening of December 24, the child exhibited nausea and vomiting and was transferred back to the Gerald Champion Regional Medical Center for evaluation and treatment.  The child passed shortly after midnight on December 25.

The official cause of the child’s death is not known.  Consistent with CBP policy, CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility will conduct a review.  The Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General has been notified.  The Guatemalan government has been notified and is currently engaging the father and any family members in Guatemala. CBP has also made the appropriate Congressional notifications consistent with CBP’s Interim Procedures on Notification of a Death in Custody.  CBP will release more details as available and appropriate, and will ensure an independent and thorough review of the circumstances.

DHS has continued to see a dramatic increase in unaccompanied children and family units arriving at our borders illegally or without authorization.  Consistent with existing law, these individuals are held at federal facilities pending their removal or release into the interior of the United States with a notice to appear at a court hearing.  During their period of detention they received medical screenings and further treatment as needed.

Topics:
Keywords: Customs and Border Protection

Joint Statement by Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen M. Nielsen

Thu, 12/20/2018 - 10:03

Since at least 2014, Chinese cyber actors associated with the Chinese Ministry of State Security have hacked multiple U.S. and global managed service and cloud providers. These Chinese actors used this access to compromise the networks of the providers’ clients, including global companies located in at least 12 countries.

The United States is concerned that this activity violates the 2015 U.S.-China cyber commitments made by President Xi Jinping to refrain from conducting or knowingly supporting “cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property, including trade secrets or other confidential business information, with the intent of providing competitive advantages to companies or commercial sectors.”  China has also made this commitment with G20 and APEC members as well as in other bilateral statements.

Stability in cyberspace cannot be achieved if countries engage in irresponsible behavior that undermines the national security and economic prosperity of other countries. These actions by Chinese actors to target intellectual property and sensitive business information present a very real threat to the economic competitiveness of companies in the United States and around the globe. We will continue to hold malicious actors accountable for their behavior, and today the United States is taking several actions to demonstrate our resolve. We strongly urge China to abide by its commitment to act responsibly in cyberspace and reiterate that the United States will take appropriate measures to defend our interests.

Topics: Cybersecurity
Keywords: Cybersecurity

Secretary Nielsen Announces Historic Action to Confront Illegal Immigration

Thu, 12/20/2018 - 07:50
Announces Migration Protection Protocols

WASHINGTON – Today, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen M. Nielsen announced historic action to confront the illegal immigration crisis facing the United States.  Effective immediately, the United States will begin the process of invoking Section 235(b)(2)(C) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.  Under the Migration Protection Protocols (MPP), individuals arriving in or entering the United States from Mexico—illegally or without proper documentation—may be returned to Mexico for the duration of their immigration proceedings.

“Today we are announcing historic measures to bring the illegal immigration crisis under control,” said Secretary Nielsen.  “We will confront this crisis head on, uphold the rule of law, and strengthen our humanitarian commitments.  Aliens trying to game the system to get into our country illegally will no longer be able to disappear into the United States, where many skip their court dates.  Instead, they will wait for an immigration court decision while they are in Mexico.  ‘Catch and release’ will be replaced with ‘catch and return.’  In doing so, we will reduce illegal migration by removing one of the key incentives that encourages people from taking the dangerous journey to the United States in the first place.  This will also allow us to focus more attention on those who are actually fleeing persecution.

“Let me be clear:  we will undertake these steps consistent with all domestic and international legal obligations, including our humanitarian commitments.  We have notified the Mexican government of our intended actions.  In response, Mexico has made an independent determination that they will commit to implement essential measures on their side of the border.  We expect affected migrants will receive humanitarian visas to stay on Mexican soil, the ability to apply for work, and other protections while they await a U.S. legal determination.”

Background

Illegal aliens have exploited asylum loopholes at an alarming rate.  Over the last five years, DHS has seen a 2000 percent increase in aliens claiming credible fear (the first step to asylum), as many know it will give them an opportunity to stay in our country, even if they do not actually have a valid claim to asylum.  As a result, the United States has an overwhelming asylum backlog of more than 786,000 pending cases.  Last year alone the number of asylum claims soared 67 percent compared to the previous year.  Most of these claims are not meritorious—in fact nine out of ten asylum claims are not granted by a federal immigration judge.  However, by the time a judge has ordered them removed from the United States, many have vanished.

Process
  • Aliens trying to enter the U.S. to claim asylum will no longer be released into our country, where they often disappear before a court can determine their claim’s merits.
  • Instead, those aliens will be processed by DHS and given a “Notice to Appear” for their immigration court hearing.
  • While they wait in Mexico, the Mexican government has made its own determination to provide such individuals humanitarian visas, work authorization, and other protections. Aliens will have access to immigration attorneys and to the U.S. for their court hearings.
  • Aliens whose claims are upheld by U.S. judges will be allowed in. Those without valid claims will be deported to their home countries.
Anticipated Benefits
  • As we implement, illegal immigration and false asylum claims are expected to decline.
  • Aliens will not be able to disappear into U.S. before court decision.
  • More attention can be focused on more quickly assisting legitimate asylum-seekers, as fraudsters are disincentivized from making the journey.
  • Precious border security personnel and resources will be freed up to focus on protecting our territory and clearing the massive asylum backlog.
  • Vulnerable populations will get the protection they need while they await a determination in Mexico.
Topics: Border Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Secretary of Homeland Security
Keywords: Border Security, immigration enforcement, southwest border

Written testimony of DHS Secretary Nielsen for a House Committee on the Judiciary hearing titled “Oversight of the Department of Homeland Security”

Wed, 12/19/2018 - 21:00

2141 Rayburn House Office Building

Chairman Goodlatte, Ranking Member Nadler, and distinguished Members of the Committee:

It is a privilege to appear before you today to discuss the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) critical missions. Before I proceed, let me first extend my gratitude to you, Mr. Chairman, on behalf of a grateful nation for your service to this Committee and to the country. I wish you well in your retirement from Congress.

The men and women of DHS are exceptional and dedicated professionals who are on watch 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Their mission is to protect Americans from threats by land, sea, air, and in cyberspace, while also promoting our nation’s economic prosperity. They work tirelessly to strengthen the safety and security of our nation from persistent and emerging dangers, including terrorists, transnational criminal organizations, rogue nation-states, and natural disasters.

On October 10, I testified before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs regarding threats to our country and our work to thwart them. I encourage you to review that testimony, and I look forward to taking questions on how we are addressing the full spectrum of dangers to the homeland. Today, I want to focus in particular on the crisis at our borders and how DHS is responding to it.

The President has made it one of his highest priorities to secure our nation’s borders and enforce our immigration laws, and as Secretary, I have worked hard to execute those missions. These are among the most fundamental responsibilities of a sovereign nation, and they are part of the solemn duty of my Department. I am proud to say that the men and women of DHS have made extraordinary progress to uphold those obligations and provide the safety and security the American people rightfully expect.

Let me begin by briefly outlining a few of the successes achieved by the DHS team to advance the President’s homeland security agenda at our borders and on the issue of immigration. I will also elaborate on the current crisis at our southern border and the challenges we face in the realm of enforcing our immigration laws and delivering immigration benefits.

Successes

Despite the many challenges we currently confront at our southern border, the men and women of our Department have remained steadfast in our nation’s struggle to secure our borders, and have made historic strides in holding illegal aliens accountable for violating our nation’s laws. Our successes so far include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • The Border Wall: We have championed a “border wall system,” to include border barriers, infrastructure, and technology. We are building the first new border wall to go up in a decade. We are also actively replacing old, ineffective barriers. Recent events demonstrate how important these replacements are to U.S. border security, especially when illegal aliens have circumvented older barriers. While we are building new wall, we still urgently need Congress to provide the necessary resources to construct more where needed to protect our borders.
  • Increased Border Enforcement: We have witnessed a dramatic uptick in total apprehensions at the southern border, with apprehensions increasing by 25 percent from FY17 to FY18. Our frontline defenders are getting both more efficient and effective and we have similarly increased removals by over 10 percent.
  • Actions to End “Catch and Release”: We have implemented virtually every measure within our authority and existing budget resources to ensure individuals apprehended at our border are detained until ordered removed by an immigration judge. We are eager to work with Congress to close remaining loopholes that prevent us from fully ending the senseless practice of releasing illegal aliens who often disappear into our country. Allowing legal loopholes to exist will only encourage future illegal migration to flow into our country.
  • Expanding the Workforce: While we continue to request and champion expansion of the U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) workforces, our requests for additional staffing have not come to fruition. Nonetheless, we continue to make hiring gains using existing resources – as is the case with CBP – where, in FY2018, we increased Border Patrol hiring by 95 percent, and Office of Field Operations workforce by 35 percent. Increases to CBP staffing directly affect the Department’s ability to stem the illegal entry of goods and people.
  • Deployment of the U.S. Military: The Department of Defense supports the DHS mission by deploying troops to the southern border to assist and protect the brave men and women of CBP. This collaboration has resulted in the increased prevention of illegal entry, tens of thousands of apprehensions and “turnbacks” – aliens who attempt to illegally enter our country but decide to turn back due to the presence of our agents at the border.
  • Higher Prosecutions: We dramatically increased referral for prosecution of single adults illegally crossing the border, from 12 percent at the start of the Administration to nearly 50 percent today.
  • Removing Immigration Violators and Criminal Aliens: We launched a concerted effort to arrest criminal aliens, with a focus on targeting violent gang members, resulting in a more than 10 percent increase in ICE arrests and removals over the past year. ICE continues to prioritize limited resources on public safety threats and immigration violators, as reflected by the fact that 9 in 10 aliens arrested are either convicted criminals, have pending charges, are illegal reentrants, or are ICE fugitives.
  • Decisive Regional Action: We have developed, with the Department of State, a comprehensive regional approach to combat illegal migration and security challenges, emphasizing partnerships in Mexico and the Northern Triangle countries designed to counter migrant smuggling, human trafficking, transnational criminal organizations, and the drug trade. For instance, the U.S-Mexico Transnational Criminal Organization Dialogue focused U.S. and Mexican law enforcement on attacking the business model of the cartels. In addition, at the second Conference for Prosperity and Security in Central America that we recently hosted in Washington, D.C., we highlighted a number of areas where we could coordinate to address shared regional challenges.
  • Fighting Back Against Transnational Criminals: We have intensified DHS actions to counter transnational organized crime, including a coordinated interagency effort to identify, arrest, and prosecute human, drug, and weapons traffickers, migrant smugglers, and to mitigate the importation of dangerous drugs such as heroin and synthetic opioids into the United States. Additionally, we continue to collaborate with our foreign partners to disrupt and dismantle human trafficking and migrant smuggling networks and to support a coordinated effort to address the broad range of crimes perpetrated by transnational criminal organizations.
  • Protecting Vulnerable Populations: We are in the process of exploring new counter-measures to mitigate online child sexual exploitation and other crimes against vulnerable populations perpetrated by transnational criminals, including the cases where criminals direct child sexual exploitation in real-time via live-streaming platforms.
  • Asylum Overhaul: We, along with the Department of Justice (DOJ), published an interim final rule cracking down on illegal entry by barring aliens from seeking asylum who enter the U.S. along the southern border in violation of a presidential proclamation. While this rule has been enjoined, once implemented, it will have a tremendous effect.
  • Confronting Asylum Fraud: We have also taken action to reduce asylum fraud. For example, this year we returned to an approach of processing affirmative asylum claims used successfully from 1995 through 2014. Known as “Last In, First Out,” it means we prioritize the most recently filed applications when scheduling affirmative asylum interviews. The aim is to deter individuals from using the asylum backlogs solely to obtain employment authorization – for example, someone who has been here for years looking for employment and is only now claiming asylum. Giving priority to recent filings allows us to place promptly such individuals into removal proceedings if we determine they filed a frivolous, fraudulent or otherwise non-meritorious asylum application. This approach also allows U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to decide qualified applications in a more efficient manner.
  • Deeper Frontline, Local Cooperation: We have doubled the number of agreements with local law enforcement regarding cooperation on immigration enforcement, and increased available funds for southwest border localities to provide assistance on border protection through available grant programs.
  • Combating the Opioid Epidemic: We have seized thousands of pounds of opioids, including fentanyl, and increased law enforcement resources dedicated to combating the opioid threat.
  • Holding Countries Accountable: Under this Administration, we have held countries accountable in cases where they have failed to take back their nationals when they are expelled, removed, or deported. We believe this is an international obligation of every country. In cases of non-compliance—when foreign governments refuse to accept the return of individuals who have been ordered removed from the United States—DHS and the State Department have worked successfully together to make sure countries change their approach and comply with their international legal obligations.
  • Addressing Student Visa Overstays: We have prioritized efforts to identify and locate student visa overstays and send leads that are more actionable to the field offices throughout the country. As a result, ICE HSI sent 3,918 leads on student visa and exchange visitors to the field in FY 2017, an increase of approximately 65 percent from FY 2016.
  • Expanded Worksite Enforcement: We have increased criminal prosecutions of employers who knowingly hire unauthorized workers. This year to date, we have opened approximately 6,860 worksite investigations, which is an increase of approximately 400 percent from FY 2017, and initiated approximately 5,950 I-9 audits, an increase of approximately 430 percent from FY 2017.

These successes and many more, are a testament to our devoted workforce and their unbending commitment to the rule of law.

Decisively Confronting the Border and Immigration Crisis

Despite all of the aforementioned successes and the tireless work of our frontline defenders, we face a mounting crisis at our southern border, and again I ask Congress to help us confront it once and for all. Illegal crossings at the southern border are increasing at an alarming rate. The number of overall arrests and inadmissible aliens encountered increased by 62 percent from September 2017 to September 2018. Simultaneously, apprehensions of families increased by 210 percent, and the number of encountered unaccompanied alien children increased by 36 percent.

The illegal alien caravans arriving at our southern border demonstrate the challenge we face. Migrants are being organized and supported to come to our border, deliberately flouting the rule of law and disregarding the legal immigration process. In doing so, they put their own lives in danger and help line the pockets of dangerous transnational criminals. This must end.

This crisis is the direct result of loopholes created by federal law and adverse federal court rulings that prevent the detention and repatriation of illegal unaccompanied alien children and family units. For instance, aliens know that if they arrive with children, they will most likely be released as we are limited in our ability to detain them until removal. Over the last two years, we have seen a 110 percent increase in male adults showing up at the border with minors.

Many illegal aliens have treated this as a “get out of jail free” card, which has resulted in a surge in aliens falsely claiming to be part of a family unit and the abuse of children who are used as pawns to gain entry into America. The results are stunning. For instance, in the past five years, we have seen a 620 percent increase in families apprehended at the border, and last fiscal year was the highest year on record. Further, from April 19, 2018 to September 30, 2018, 507 aliens came as a family unit and then separated, as they were not a legitimate family unit. We face similar challenges with many illegal aliens falsely claiming to be under the age of 18, which they know will prevent their timely removal. And we have seen surges in the number of aliens claiming fear of return to their home countries or seeking asylum for illegitimate purposes that do not qualify under U.S. law, as evidenced by the low approval rates in immigration courts.

That is why I respectfully request, and will continue to ask, that Congress pass legislation to address key loopholes in existing immigration laws and gaps in our enforcement authorities. These gaps hamper enforcement of the law, weaken border security, and endanger both the American public and the illegal aliens making the dangerous journey to the southern border. These “pull” factors drive illegal migration and undermine the territorial integrity of the United States. The enormity of the lawlessness that the longstanding illegal immigration crisis represents challenges the public’s faith in the rule of law. Congress has the power to close the statutory loopholes that impede our ability to enforce the law and keep America safe.

With that in mind, I want to thank you, Chairman Goodlatte and your Committee Members and staff, for working diligently with us to address legislation that closes loopholes that exacerbate immigration enforcement challenges faced by DHS. This Committee has often been at the forefront of offering reasonable and necessary solutions.

Tougher Border Infrastructure

Let me talk about our immediate activities at the border itself. To secure the homeland from illegal immigration, illegal trafficking of humans and drugs, violence, and other threats associated with unsecure borders, President Trump and I have prioritized construction of a border wall. With the funding Congress has provided for the construction of a border wall system, we have completed approximately 30 miles and new panels are going into the ground every day. This, however, barely scratches the surface of what is needed. As we have recently witnessed at our southern border, old and outdated fencing does almost nothing to prevent illegal entry. I implore Congress to continue this momentum by appropriating all funds requested by the President to complete the wall and provide greater security to our nation.

The vastness and diverse topography of our borders also demands more Border Patrol agents, surveillance technology, and air support. Only a comprehensive approach to border security will keep the United States safe. We will continue to work with this Committee and others to make sure we have the right people, in the right places, at the right time to protect our country. We also need a whole-of-government response, which is why I have asked for and received the support of Department of Defense personnel, the National Guard, and law enforcement agencies at the federal, state, and local level. Their assistance is yielding real results.

Pushing Border Security Outward

Our efforts do not begin at the border. Indeed, we are doing a great deal to push our border security “outward” through international partnerships. It is imperative that we address the “push” factors that drive people to make the dangerous journey to the United States and attempt to enter our country illegally. To that end, Secretary Pompeo and I have been working tirelessly with our counterparts in the Northern Triangle, Mexico, and beyond, to develop a comprehensive regional approach to deal with the flow of illegal migration. This includes intensive security cooperation, information sharing, economic incentives to develop greater prosperity in the region, and groundbreaking efforts to ensure migrants receive humanitarian protection earlier in the process and closer to home, rather than traveling to the United States. These efforts are paying dividends, and we are hard at work to stem the flow of immigrants.

We are also developing stronger law enforcement partnerships throughout Latin America to detect and disrupt the movement of nefarious actors. Whether it is drug smugglers, human traffickers, terrorists, or other criminals, we are launching new initiatives to find these dangerous individuals before they can get into the United States. Such efforts have allowed us to catch wanted criminals and dangerous threat actors. As long as I am Secretary, we will prioritize these bold actions to make sure that our layered approach to security begins well before an individual even gets close to our country.

Flores Settlement Agreement (FSA)

Once again, the loopholes are among our biggest impediments to achieving lasting border security. One challenge that President Trump and DHS raised in the immigration debate earlier this year concerns the Flores Settlement Agreement (FSA). In 1996, the former Immigration and Naturalization Service entered into this agreement following a Supreme Court decision relating to detention of minors and their release. Since that time, litigation on this agreement has continued, and multiple court decisions have further handicapped DHS’s ability to detain minors. Ultimately, the restrictions imposed by this settlement almost always leads to the ‘catch and release’ of family units – and unfortunately, smugglers know of this loophole all too well. From FY 2013 to FY 2018, we have seen an unprecedented 621 percent increase of family units attempting to enter the U.S. FY18 was, in fact, a record-setting year for number of family unit apprehensions, with 107, 212 family units apprehended between ports of entry and 53, 901 family units deemed inadmissible at ports of entry. To stem the tide of migrants using minors as a way into the U.S., I issued a notice of proposed rulemaking to define clear rules on how to humanely deal with this serious challenge.

Unaccompanied Alien Children (UACs)

This Committee is well acquainted with the existing loopholes with regard to UACs. Those loopholes stem from the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (TVPRA) and burdensome court opinions that have undermined enforcement efforts for years. Certain immigration provisions included in the TVPRA that deal with UACs have created a magnet for minors to enter the United States illegally. Although the law intended to protect trafficking victims, transnational criminal organizations and human traffickers are using the loopholes to entice children to our border, exploiting them for their own gain, and placing the children in danger. Congress must stop this exploitation.

On this issue, the House Judiciary Committee has demonstrated real leadership. The Securing America’s Future Act of 2018 (SAF) and other legislation introduced by the Committee provides the much-needed reforms to remedy the moral hazard created by the criminal exploitation of the current law’s loopholes. While other legislative solutions also exist, Congress needs to correct the current problems to deal both humanely and efficiently with the UAC population. I applaud the Chairman and the 99 House cosponsors of SAF for attempting to tackle the UAC issue, which is a concern that President Trump has raised many times.

Asylum and Credible Fear

In cases where a person is apprehended at the border and claims a fear of returning to their country of origin, those individuals receive a credible fear screening. USCIS officers handle the credible fear screening, which most applicants easily pass. For those who found to have credible fear, these aliens withdraw from expedited removal proceedings and their cases enter the DOJ’s immigration court, contributing to the increased backlog.

Massive backlogs in the adjudication of asylum claims have enabled illegal immigrants with unmeritorious claims to stay in the United States for far too long. Those who file frivolous claims abuse the lawful immigration system, and the lengthy delays in adjudication can create an opening for fraud and public safety or national security threats. Many aliens who have established a credible fear never even file an asylum application. Nearly half of the cases completed by DOJ in FY 2018 involving aliens from the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras who had a positive credible fear failed to file an asylum application with the immigration judge or failed to appear at all. While asylum applicants await an interview and decision, they live in the United States, and many receive permission to work. The delays create a clear incentive for exploiting our asylum system for entry, and this incentive only becomes stronger as the backlog grows. True victims who deserve to have their legitimate asylum claims heard and approved in a timely fashion are lost in the backlog. Congress must step in and give DHS the tools and staff we need to protect legitimate asylum seekers and the American people.

DHS is doing what it can to address the asylum backlog. DHS is working with DOJ to ensure that detained cases along the southern border are adjudicated as expeditiously as possible. USCIS is also working to place asylum officers at detention centers to adjudicate screen aliens for credible fear claims and avoid the release of inadmissible aliens. USCIS has provided extensive asylum standards training to asylum officers, and is working with the Department of State to ensure that those officers have access to up-to-date country conditions for Mexico and the Northern Triangle, as nationals of these countries comprise the majority of those in expedited removal. USCIS’s Fraud Detection and National Security Immigration Officers have been detailed to border detention facilities to enhance the integrity of the protection-screening interview and determination process. In early FY 2018, USCIS’s Asylum Division established a periodic Credible Fear Quality Assurance Review Program to ensure integrity and consistency in the adjudication process.

President Trump and my Department have called for legislative reforms to address these problems. We must:

  • Elevate the standard of proof for those claiming credible fear and modify the credible fear provision to ensure asylum officers conduct a credibility assessment to determine whether it is more probable than not, and that the statements made by the alien in support of the alien’s claims are true;
  • Bar an alien from seeking additional immigration benefits where an alien has filed a frivolous, baseless, or fraudulent asylum application, and expand the use of expedited removal, as appropriate;
  • Expand the ability to remove asylum seekers to safe third countries;
  • Require aliens who seek asylum protection to enter the U.S. at ports of entry;
  • Prevent aliens who have been granted asylum or who entered as refugees from obtaining lawful permanent resident status if they are convicted of serious criminal offenses, such as an aggravated felony;
  • Require review of the asylee or refugee status of an alien who returns to their home country, absent a material change in circumstances or country conditions; and
  • Close loopholes to bar terrorist aliens from entry and receiving any immigration benefits.
Criminal Aliens

We also need Congressional assistance to close loopholes that allow criminal aliens to circumvent the removal process. For the good of the American people, Congress should ensure that DHS has full authority to detain and remove criminal alien gang members, alien gang associates, and aliens who participate in gang-related activities.

We must clarify the definition of “conviction” in the Immigration and Nationality Act to address aliens who receive post-conviction relief or sentence modifications to avoid immigration consequences. In addition, Congress must address U.S. Courts of Appeals and U.S. Supreme Court decisions, including Mathis v. United States, 136 S. Ct. 2243 (2016), that have made it increasingly difficult for ICE to remove aliens convicted of very serious crimes. Further, Congress must address a series of Supreme Court decisions that have weakened the current removal grounds for aggravated felony convictions to ensure that those who commit a serious criminal offense cannot avoid removal and remain in the United States to commit additional crimes. We know from years of reporting by the Government Accountability Office that the rate of recidivism for criminal aliens who are not removed is seven arrests per criminal alien.

In particular, we must urgently close loopholes created by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Zadvydas v. Davis, 533 U.S. 678 (2001). This decision generally requires that DHS release a criminal alien ordered removed whom DHS/ICE has detained for 180 days after the period for removal began, unless DHS can show that it is extremely likely that removal can occur in the reasonably near future. The result of this Court decision is that we are forced to release dangerous individuals—including those responsible for terrible crimes—into the U.S. population. We must close loopholes created by the Zadvydas decision to give DHS the authority to keep dangerous criminal aliens who are subject to final orders of removal in detention as necessary to keep our communities safe.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

Earlier this year, President Trump provided a reasonable solution that would have addressed major loopholes in our immigration laws, and provided generous relief to illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. Presently, DACA is being litigated across the country, and current DACA beneficiaries are still allowed to apply for renewal. However, I am confident that ultimately the judicial branch will reach the same conclusion that DHS, DOJ, and the White House reached: DACA was an unlawful use of executive authority. I sincerely hope the House and Senate can work to provide relief for those that merit it while giving DHS the tools to address future surges in illegal immigration.

Immigration Benefits

Another key DHS mission is to manage our legal immigration system. President Trump understands that the system must work to the benefit of the American people, and DHS is moving to take all lawful action possible to protect American workers and industry.

Our legal immigration system is vast and it is generous. In FY 2016, there were 179 million nonimmigrant admissions into the United States. This included more than 2.4 million temporary foreign worker admissions in categories like H-1B, H-2A, H-2B and the NAFTA-created TN visa. In addition, there were more than 1.9 million foreign student admissions to the United States and over 60 million admissions for tourism/pleasure (not counting most Canadian or Mexican visitors). I encourage the public to recognize the number of foreign nationals welcomed legally into the United States every year to both understand the scale of work for DHS and its partner agencies, and to realize that there are millions entering the United States the correct way through legal channels.

Under this administration, inherent in all immigration policy decisions is how we can best protect the economic interests of the American people. Our immigration laws should, first and foremost, promote the national interest, which includes job creation, sustainment, and protection for U.S. workers, points recognized in the April 18, 2017 President’s executive order entitled Buy American, Hire American. We want industry to have the workforce it needs, but that should not come at the expense of American workers. When a qualified and willing American worker is qualified for hire, he or she should be hired before looking abroad.

Our nonimmigrant temporary work categories are not meant to supplant, but rather supplement, the workforce in the United States. Over the past few years, we have seen high profile stories of American tech workers terminated from jobs after training their foreign worker replacements. That is unacceptable. Exploiting legal and illegal workers by paying them less or treating them unfairly will not be tolerated. To this end, DHS is conducting an ongoing review of all policies, guidance, and regulations governing the implementation of our legal immigration system to ensure that the American people we serve are protected. I will cover just a few of these issues below.

H-2B

The H-2B program allows U.S. employers or U.S. agents who meet specific regulatory requirements to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary or seasonal nonagricultural jobs. The annual statutory cap on H-2B visas is 66,000. For the second year in a row, Congress granted DHS the authority to allocate visas above the cap in FY 2018. I echo former Secretary Kelly’s sentiment that this is inappropriate. Instead of authorizing DHS to exceed the cap, Congress should enact changes it wishes to make by adjusting the statutory cap itself.

Congress is in the best position to know the “right” number of H-2B visas that American businesses should be allocated without harming American workers. Members of Congress are directly accountable to their constituencies, the realities of local labor markets, and their local employers, including the timing of those employers’ needs. Therefore, Congress, not DHS, should be responsible for determining whether the annual numerical limitations for H-2B workers set by Congress needs to be modified, and by how much, and for setting parameters to ensure that enough workers are available to meet employers’ temporary needs throughout the year.

Lastly, requiring all U.S. employers to use E-Verify to confirm the employment eligibility of their employees, existing employees as well as new hires, would greatly help reduce the magnet for illegal immigration and preserve jobs for legal workers.

H-2A

The H-2A program allows U.S. employers or U.S. agents who meet specific regulatory requirements to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary agricultural jobs. Unlike the H-2B and H-1B programs, it is uncapped, and the number of visas issued has been increasing as of late, approaching 200,000. This is encouraging, to the extent that it reflects movement toward a legal workforce in the agriculture sector. However, much more needs to be done to discourage the use of illegal agricultural workers and encourage utilization of the H-2A program. The agriculture industry faces serious time sensitivities, and, as such, DHS moves expediently on H-2A petitions so that workers can arrive in a timely fashion. DHS is working with both Department of Labor and Department of State to share information faster to accelerate the decision making process. We will be working to identify other efficiencies that could increase H-2A program benefits to farmers and growers.

EB-5

Under this program, investors (and their spouses and unmarried children under age 21) are eligible to apply for a green card (permanent residence) if they make the necessary investment in a commercial enterprise in the United States, and plan to create or preserve 10 permanent full-time jobs for qualified U.S. workers. Congress created the EB-5 Program in 1990 to stimulate the U.S. economy through job creation and capital investment by foreign investors, focusing on rural locations and areas experiencing high unemployment. In 1992, Congress created the Immigrant Investor Program, also known as the Regional Center Program. This sets aside EB-5 visas for participants who invest in commercial enterprises associated with regional centers approved by USCIS, based on proposals for promoting economic growth.

This program attracted much needed attention from both the House and Senate Judiciary Committees due to demonstrated concerns regarding fraud, abuse, and deviation from the intent of the Congress that created the program. DHS shares those concerns and encourages Congress to reach a long-term legislative solution to provide DHS more authority to bring integrity to EB-5 adjudications. Within the current statute, DHS is finalizing the EB-5 Modernization Final Rule for publication. We will publish a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to reform the Regional Center Program by September 2019. While these regulatory changes are designed to enhance the integrity of the EB-5 Program, they of course cannot address those areas under Congress’ control to reform. DHS is also reviewing other possible regulatory changes within our authority to improve EB-5 and looks forward to continuing coordination with Congress on this vital issue.

H-1B

The H-1B program allows companies in the United States to temporarily employ foreign workers in occupations that require the theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge. Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree or higher in the specific specialty, or its equivalent. H-1B specialty occupations may include fields such as science, engineering, and information technology.

Perhaps no other visa category has received as much attention in recent years as the H-1B, as reports of abuse of the program have caused outrage among the public. No qualified hard-working American should be forced to train their H-1B replacement, and then let go. The number of H-1B petitions routinely exceeds the statutory cap, and among that pool of petitions, we should endeavor to select the very best for the privilege of coming to the United States for work. DHS seeks to ensure that American workers are not pushed aside for the promise of cheaper, foreign labor, and that employers, recruiters, or any of their agents do not exploit foreign workers.

We stepped up our measures to detect employment-based visa fraud and abuse, but certain nonimmigrant visa programs need reform in order to protect American workers better. While current law only requires it for certain employers, which are few in number and can easily meet the wage and degree exemption, all employers should be required to certify that they have made a good faith effort to recruit U.S. workers before filing an H-1B petition, and have offered jobs to qualified and available American applicants. Although current law prohibits some H-1B employers from displacing U.S. workers, there are loopholes that must close. We have to make sure the H-1B program does not harm American workers who may be as qualified and willing to do jobs that foreign workers are imported to fill.

Per President Trump’s Buy American, Hire American Executive Order, DHS is reviewing current guidance and regulation for opportunities to protect American workers while also providing good faith employers the opportunity to recruit H-1B workers where needed. This balance is consistent with the statute and President Trump’s priorities. We also seek to work with Congress to make legislative changes that would provide more protections to the United States workforce.

Conclusion

Today I implore Congress to respond to the demands of the American people and take action once and for all to address gaps in our immigration system that are being taken advantage of every day. Truly, these gaps are costing American lives, they are putting our communities at risk, and they are undermining the very foundation of our national sovereignty. America is the most compassionate nation in the world and a beacon of hope for all who seek a better life. We can, and should, ensure that those aspiring to join our enduring republic can do so legally, safely, and humanely. And for that, we need your help.

Regardless of the operational and legal challenges we may face, it is our obligation to the American people to ensure our border is secure. We will not permit illegal entry into the United States by groups large or small. At the same time, we will act in accordance with the law, we will always treat intending migrants humanely and professionally, and we will continue to pursue ways for vulnerable populations to receive protection closer to home, rather than undertaking the dangerous journey to the United States.

I thank this Committee again for its leadership on these issues, and I look forward to your questions.

Topics: Border Security, Citizenship and Immigration Services, Economic Security, Human Trafficking, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, International Engagement, Law Enforcement Partnerships, Secretary of Homeland Security
Keywords: border wall