tv [untitled] July 11, 2012 9:00pm-9:30pm EDT
subcommittee with valuable insight in the complex issue of immigration enforcement. and i yield back. >> other members of the committee are reminded that opening statements might be submitted for the record. again, our sole witness today is mr. john morton, who is the director of immigration and customs enforcement, i.c.e., which is the principle investigative arm of the department of homeland security. it's the second largest investigate agency in the federal government. the agency's primary mission is to promote homeland security and public safety through the criminal and civil enforcement of federal laws governing border patrol, custom, trade, and immigration. during his ten year he has strengthened i.c.e.'s efforts. the chair now recognizes director morton for his testimony. again, we welcome you to the committee, sir. >> thank you so much, madam chairman. mr. cuellar, mr. thompson, mr. duncan, thank you for inviting me. and it's my honor and pleasure
to appear before you today to talk about secure communities and our other related initiatives. let me start, madam chair, by saying that i think secure communities is an excellent program, and i think it represents one of the most important efforts by the congress to focus i.c.e.'s enforcement on criminal offenders. as you noted, secure communities got its start in 2008 in the appropriations act when congress directed i.c.e. to improve its efforts to identify convicted criminal aliens held in the nation's jails for removal from the united states. congress instructed i.c.e. to identify all convicted criminals and to prioritize their identification and removal based on the severity of the alien's crimes. congress has since reiterated that direction in every single one of our subsequent appropriations and has consistently focused our detention resources accordingly. secure communities was launched in harris county, texas, in october of 2008. we have come a long, long way since that time. secure communities is now deployed in every state of the union and fully deployed in
every state save alabama and illinois. put another way, secure communities has been deployed to 3,074 of the 3181 jurisdictions in the united states, a remarkable achievement in just under four years. i am confident we will complete full deployment in the near future starting with the remaining jurisdictions in alabama when the 11 circuit rules on the pending litigation over alabama's immigration law. for the first time in our nation's history, we can uniformly identify individuals who are here unlawfully and are subsequently arrested for a crime provided their fingerprints are on file with the fbi and dhs. this fingerprint sharing between the fbi and dhs, itself mandated by congress in 2002, now permits i.c.e. to identify large numbers of criminal offenders subject to removal as well as individuals who have been previously removed or have an outstanding final order of removal. the results have been significant, both in terms of
immigration enforcement and public safety. i.c.e. has removed 58,297 individuals through secure communities so far this year alone. and over 140,000 criminals since the inception of the program as the chairman notes. this year 75% of the individuals removed had a criminal conviction. of the remaining quarter, the overwhelming majority were either absconders, that is immigration fugitives, or had illegally reentered the country after previously having been deport one or more times. contrary to what critics allegation, the largest number of people removed are aggravated felons. 17,000 to this date alone. madam chair, that's just good law enforcement. as the program has expanded, we have also taken care to address concerns raised in certain jurisdictions, as mr. cuellar and mr. thompson note. in particular, we have made some
important improvements including considering minor traffic offenses only upon conviction, creating a 24-hour hotline for anyone who believes they are a u.s. citizen or otherwise have been improperly served an immigration detainer, ensuring witnesses and victims of crimes are not inadvertently placed in removal hearings, and developing a strong oversight program in coordination with the department of homeland securitys office of civil rights and civil liberties. with regard to the 287-g program, we have 68 active agreements. that number has not changed much over the years. 40 are in a jail setting. 20 involve task forces. eight involve both. the jail model continues to be the most productive by far, accounting for a little over 9,000 of the 9,500 removals this year. the task force model has proved much less productive. with just 361 removals to date nationwide. we are phasing out most such agreements as a result.
for example, of the seven task force agreements we just ended in arizona, six of the seven had resulted in no removals of any kind for the last two years. with regard to overall enforcement, i think we will end the fiscal year with similar results to last year. that's about 400,000 removals. like last year, these removals will focus heavily on our enforcement priorities. over half will have criminal convictions. the vast majority of the rest will be recent border violators illegal reentrants, and those who have ignored a final order. within our criminal removals, i think we'll see further emphasis on level one offenders. indeed, i am cautiously optimistic that this year we will remove the highest number of aggravated felons in our history. one final note, madam chairman. i want to thank the committee for its thoughtful bipartisan approach. i have always found the committee's oversight of i.c.e. to have been firm but fair, and the same was true when mr. cuellar was champion -- was chairman himself. and i'm happy to answer any questions that you or the committee may have.
>> thank you very much for your testimony, director. i guess i would start off talking about secure communities. as you mentioned, it's been a successful program. that was one of the reasons we wanted to call this hearing today, to do our congressional oversight on the -- and evaluate the program, how it rolled out, where some of the hiccups that we've encountered along the way, and really, i think highlight the successful part of this program. everything that we're doing in regards of border security is not as successful as secure communities. so i think it's good for us to amplify this message a bit about what a successful program it has been. i do think that a critical component in the makeup of why it's been successful is the engagement, if, you will, the force multiplier that you're finding by utilizing the state and local law enforcement as well. one thing we always talk about on this committee, a very
critical element of the 9/11 commissions report that we never want to forget, is where they said we have to go from the need to know to the need to share. the need to know information to the need to share information amongst all the various agencies. i think that's, again, a critical component of our layered approach to border security and law enforcement, et cetera. so as was mentioned, you have a pretty good buy in. excellent buy in, i would say, across the entire nation. i know in my district, the ranking member and i were just talking about it. in his district, our local sheriffs are very enthusiastic about this program. it allows for them to utilize technology in sharing of the fingerprints and database, knowing if they pulled someone over for a routine traffic stop and they're in the database as either a visa overstay or an illegal in the country, et cetera, that they're able then
to contact your agents and look for deportation. however, we have this situation in alabama, which sounds like it's going to resolve itself hopefully in the fall. i guess sort of the big holdout that we see, although there are some municipalities, small ones in california, the big holdout is probably one of the largest counties in the nation, cook county, illinois, which has essentially become a sanctuary city. and yet they are still -- the community is still looking for federal dollars in grants or what have you to pay for detainees that they have in their jails. but they don't want to participate in the secure communities. whether they're releasing these criminal aliens or what have you, i guess i'm looking for some response, if you will, both just to clarify the alabama situation, but particularly with the cook county situation.
>> madam chairman, first with regard to alabama, i think that will be resolved, and i think we will see full deployment in mr. roger's home state. >> talking about alabama? >> that was excellent timing there. so i expect the 11th circuit to rule fairly shortly. i think the supreme court's decision in arizona will lead us to a place where the 11th circuit will rule and we will be able to fully deploy in the remaining counties of alabama over the autumn. with regard to illinois, as you note, it's a little more of a difficult situation there. cook county, which is the largest county and has one of the largest detention systems in the country, has adopted an ordinance that essentially prohibits all cooperation with i.c.e., even with regard to very serious and violent offenders. i've written a number of public letters to the county. i'm very much opposed to their approach.
i think it is the wrong way to approach public safety in cook county. i am quite confident that their approach is ultimately going to lead to additional crimes in cook county that would have been prevented had we been able to enforce the law as the law is presently written. just to give you some sense of it, in very large jurisdictions in the united states, the rate of recidivism for criminal offenders can be as high as 50% or more. when i.c.e. can come in and remove offenders from a given community so they can't reoffend, guess what? we take that recidivism rate to zero. for example, if you have 100 criminal offenders and we're able to remove them, that's 50 crimes that will not happen over the next three years as a result of our enforcement efforts. that's ultimately the power of secure communities.
it is a direct way to support public safety in a very thoughtful manner. what are we trying to do to resolve the situation in illinois? we have been working with the county to see if there isn't some solution. i won't sugar coat it. i don't think that approach is going to work. in full, we're going to need the help of others. we have been exploring, as the secretary has said, our options under federal law with the department of justice, and we will see where that goes. then with regard to the annual request by cook county to be reimbursed for the cost of detaining individuals who are here unlawfully and have committed crimes, obviously i find that position to be completely inconsistent with them not allowing us access to and removing those very same uindividuals.
and we'll be taking a very hard look at their scap requests. that's the part of the law that allows the federal government to reimburse for those costs this year. my own position is that if we do not have access to those individuals, we will not be able to verify their request for the year. >> well, i can't tell you how delighted i am to hear you make that very candid assessment of what is happening in cook county. as you say, exploring your options in regards to a financial assistance from the federal government. we do want to work with cook county, but there's reciprocity in all relationships. they need to work with us as well. they're not immune to federal law. if they're not going to assist us in removing not only criminal aliens but those that might go on to commit a terrorist attack or what have you because they want to have their city become a sanctuary, the federal government cannot stand by idly and allow that to happen. it's absolutely the wrong message to be sending. so i'm very appreciative of what you're saying. really exploring your options. is there anything further this
subcommittee or the congress can assist you with in that particular instance? if so, we are certainly all ears because we do need to resolve that in the correct way. i think cook county is going to have to recognize that the federal government is very serious about secure communities. we can't just have one hold out in the country for such a thing, or they really will become a magnet for all kinds of situations there. >> i would say that we're going to give it a very good effort to try to resolve the situation directly with cook county and with illinois and with the department of justice. if we can't do that, i think we would be happy to come back and explore further options with the committee. from our perspective, federal law is very clear on the question of cooperation with federal authorities and immigration.
we do think that the ordinance is inconsistent with the terms of federal law and ultimately, i think we share the same aims, i would assume, with the authorities in cook county. that is public safety for the people that live there. it just does not make sense to release to the streets serious criminal offenders who shouldn't be in the country in the first place given the rate of recidivism. >> i appreciate that. i guess i would just -- one other question i have. you were mentioning about the amount of the percentage of those through the secure communities program that have been previously removed that were picked up again. i'm looking at my notes here. i was trying to make notes while talking. 16% or something that your picking up had already been previously removed, which begs the question of the effective ness we have on border security. do you have any comment? are you surprised by that number? what are your thoughts on that? >> i think it highlights -- so
some of the criticism of secure communities has been that it identifies and removes certain individuals prior to conviction. the answer is it does do that, but it does that in circumstances that frankly make a lot of sense from an enforcement perspective. when you look at, well, who are these people we're identifying removing prior to conviction? they are in the overwhelming majority of cases people that have already been removed from the country and have come back again unlawfully, or they're people who have already been through the immigration system, have a final order, and ignored that final order. remember, the only way you get identified by secure communities is to have been arrested in the first place for a crime. so we're talking about people who have come into the criminal justice system and have either a final order of removal or have been previously removed. congress has been very clear with regard to both of those categories of people that their removal is a priority. so of course we focus on those
two categories of people, even if they don't have a criminal conviction. it just makes sense. otherwise, we would be releasing to the streets somebody we had deported before and has come back unlawfully. it's a felony under federal law to re-enter the law after a prior deportation. i just don't think it's the right policy for us not to focus our enforcement resources on those individuals. >> thank you, director. the chair now recognizes ranking member mr. cuellar. >> thank you, madam chair. again, director, i certainly want to congratulate you on the great you have been doing. i think, members, if you look at the activated jurisdiction document here, there's a map of it. you can see everything that's green that shows the act debated. it's 97%, which means out of the 3,181 activated jurisdictions, you got 3,074, which is pretty
amazing, except for the ones we have been focusing on. so i want to congratulate you and all. i ask you to look at the written testimony of the director because he does talk about the efficiency. there is the transparency part of it on it. of course, the safeguards that sheriff garcia in harris county had talked about when we talked about it. i think congressman mccullough is very familiar with to make sure that they do the work, but at the same time provide that -- make sure there is no profiling involved in that. so the insput is very important on that. i certainly want to thank you on that. besides alabama and besides illinois, i believe there were a couple of jurisdictions out there that have past ordinances also. i think they were in california. what is it, san francisco? >> santa clara. >> yes, exactly. again, to follow up on this, it
makes common sense because i remember when i did the tour to make sure all my 12 counties -- this was at the very beginning. the 12 counties that i represent that i was traveling, the rural areas, urban area, especially the rural areas, they like this. because if you're a small community, it's very important that you get this help, and it was seen as a taxpayer saver. and at the same time, because you're able to remove those folks out there that need to be removed. for a small local community, rural community, that means a lot. the other thing is just common sense. if you have somebody there and then they're wanted for something else, it's only common sense that we coordinate the federal, the state local partnership. the communication part of it, i think you all are working to make sure there's a lot more communication to the state and federal -- i mean local level. i appreciate that. but i think you hit something very important. i think sometimes local state politicians have a way of
attacking the federal government and then at the same time with one fist out there, and then the other hand out there. and i don't want to point out my state of texas, but point this out saying don't do this, don't do this, but then they'll wait for the money. on the scap program, i think you're absolutely right. i think you ought to do with those communities. i don't represent those communities. but they cannot say, you know, we don't want you to do secure communities, but then at the same they're requesting federal dollars for holding those prisoners. you know, those persons in there and asking for federal dollars for reimbursement. i would ask you with all do respect to look at those communities very, very carefully because they cannot say we don't want you here. they cannot be selective in what moneys they're committing. as the chairwoman said, federal law should pre-empt what they're doing there, unless it's under article ten. we understand that. but i would ask you all to just
look at those very carefully, because i think it would be unfair to be with a fist out there saying we don't want you, but then at the same time hand that out there, give us money for reimbursement. again, director, i don't have any questions to ask you. but i just wanted to say i think you're diagnose a great job. very balanced approach that you and your men are doing out there. and i really appreciate it. it's not easy. it can become below political sometimes. it's not your job to be political, but i think you're doing this in a very transparent, very fair, very focused way to make sure that we get the people that are not supposed to be in the united states and get them out. criminals are not supposed to be here. no questions. just the comment. appreciate your good work and the men and women that work for y'all. >> thank you. >> i yield back the balance of my time. the chair now recognizes the ranking member of the full committee, mr. thompson of mississippi. >> thank you very much, madam chairman. director morton, in june 2011, a memorandum between i.c.e. and
dhs for civil rights and civil liberties indicated that statistical monitoring would be used to identify possible anomalies and arrest patterns under secure communities with reports at least once a quarter. what has been the result of the statistical monitoring to date? >> you're right, mr. thompson. one of the major reforms that we undertook to improve the transparency of the program and to address concerns that somehow secure communities might inadvertently have been used to promote racial profiling was to create a statistical analysis. we teamed up with the office of civil rights and civil liberties at the department of homeland security so that it wasn't simply something that i.c.e. was doing itself. we had people who were knowledgeable and expert in this area. we actually helped them to hire a statistician. in direct response to your question, as we started the
statistical analyses, we are looking at the first couple of instances in which the statistics appear to be anomalous, and we're doing a couple of things there. first and foremost, we're trying to work with the department of justice and the civil rights division in particular to come up and use their expertise with some modeling and to understand the statistics. there can be a lot of reasons why a particular county has statistical spikes. some of them not necessarily related to civil rights concerns. so we're working with the civil rights division to sort of come up with a cross departmental approach because ultimately it would be the civil rights division that would investigate and prosecute anything we would refer to them. we don't -- we at i.c.e. don't have civil rights investigative authority.
the second thing that we're doing is were we to identify any particular jurisdiction that did have a concern, we would work with the civil rights division to engage in a direct investigation in the form of interviews on the ground inspections. we're doing our own auditing of the program, which isn't a criminal investigation, but we go around to the various jurisdictions and audit the results ourselves. i'm happy to say that to date we have not had instance to refer something for direct investigation to the civil rights division, but we have had the first set of results that suggest there are some counties we need to do a little deeper digging to determine what's going on. and we're doing that now. >> well, if at some point when
you've moved along with the program, some of us would be interested in seeing some of those reports for our review. >> i think we'd be happy to give the committee or you in particular a briefing on our results and share exactly what we found with you. >> on a local matter, a county south of me, adams county, mississippi, natchez, mississippi, where some i.c.e. detainees are some time housed, there had been a rash of gang-related violence that actually led to the death of one guard and several injured. explain to me as well as committee members what kind of oversight do you give private contractors who have contracts with i.c.e.?
just kind of describe what you expect of those companies like cca in this particular instance. >> several things. we have detention standards that are worked into our contract with them that they must abide by. in many of the larger facilities that are dedicated or primarily focused on our use, we actually have our employees there in addition to the contractors. and even those where we don't have a full-time presence, we routinely visit them. with regard to gang violence, there what we do is just as in the criminal justice system for those incarcerated, we screen for gang affiliations at intake. so we classify people based on their criminal convictions first and foremost, but we are looking for gang affiliations as well, and we do what we can to
separate gang members so that we don't create an undue concentration in a particular facility. now, as you know, not everybody volunteers that they're a member of a gang and the use of tattoos is less widespread than it was in the past, but we do our very best. >> well, i thank you. i see my time has expired, but i'd like to get with you just to further this discussion about this particular facility. >> yes, sir. >> thank you. i yield back, madam chair. >> chair now recognizes gentleman from south carolina, mr. duncan. >> thank you, madam chairman. i thank director morton, secretary morton for being here today. you know, there's an interesting constitutional debate raging across this country right now in the wake of the supreme court ruling on the arizona law. i bring that up because south carolina passed a very similar law.
i think there will be future supreme court rulings on this, but i want to point to justice scalia's dissenting opinion. when he talks about the rights of the sovereign states and we're a nation of individual sovereign states and what rights those states have in enforcement of federal law, what rights the states have in protecting and securing their own state borders. i would point to the chairwoman and the members of the committee to read that opinion if you haven't. i think it's very interesting going forward. mr. morton, director morton, i was reading the memorandum of march 2nd, 2011, where you point out some priorities for i.c.e. first off, thank you for what you do and what the agency does. i also want to mention the fallen cbp officer, mr. cuellar mentioned earlier. condolences to his family.
tragic. but going back to the priorities in 2011, interesting that you've got recent illegal entrants. so that means if someone had just entered the country and is apprehended, then they get priority for extra -- being taken back to their home country. then i read in the june 17th recommend, it goes on to talk about length of presence in the united states. so someone that broke the same law, crossed our border, just because they've been in this country longer than someone else, they're given priority. could you explain the reasoning behind that, please? >> sure, mr. duncan. so we start out -- the beginning equation is, what can we do with the resources that congress has provided us? on average we can remove about 400,000 people a year with the
resources that we have. obviously, our statutory direction is broader than that. and to me the question then is, who are those 400,000 people going to be? are they the first 400,000 people that walk in the front door? i don't think that can be the approach. i think in a world of limited resources, you have to say, no, it's got to be the 400,000 people that make the most sense for public safety and the administration of the immigration system. >> i don't mean to interrupt you, but you're having to utilize the resources you're given. an apprehension is an apprehension whether that person has been here ten years or they just crossed our border. you still have contact with that person. and so in your priority, if they've been here longer, you're going to let them go. but if they just crossed the border, you're going send them back. >> not quite. what we're talking about is it's not a question of apprehension but really of detention and ultimate removal. we have to get a removal order before we can remove somebody from the united states.