tv Homeland Security Secretary Testifies on Agencys Mission - PART 1 CSPAN August 9, 2021 8:01pm-9:14pm EDT
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[inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] >> the committee will come to order. before we begin, i would like to take a moment to recognize the passing of one our colleagues, senator mike enzi. he was a long serving member of this committee, and someone who really embodied the nonpartisan tradition of this committee. he was always a willing partner
when it came to commonsense legislative ideas and our thoughts and prayers are with his family. i'd like to take a brief moment of silence to honor his memory. thank you. thank you, secretary mayorkas, for being here today, and for your service to our nation. in accepting the nomination to be secretary of homeland security, you inherited a number of very serious challenges. you have a difficult job and i appreciate your unwavering commitment. i have been pleased to see the department and the administration take concrete steps to combat threats against american communities, including the ongoing covid-19 pandemic. today, this committee will discuss how we can help you and
the dedicated workforce at dhs better protect the american people from these threats by examining the administration's budget request for 2022. every year the homeland security secretary testifies before this committee to discuss the tough choices that were made to arrive at these final budgetary numbers, but we don't often hear how those decisions were made. the numbers in this budget proposal represent decisions that will have a real effect on the safety of the american people. it is our duty to carefully consider your proposal and thoroughly evaluate the process that led you to these conclusions. this year i am pleased to see that your proposed budget focuses on tackling some of the most serious challenges and threats facing our nation. challenges that have only been compounded by a pandemic that has taken the lives of more than 600,000 americans and left
serious economic destruction in its wake. and it's clear these threats to the american people will only grow and continue to evolve. this is especially true as we continue seeing a scourge of ransomware attacks against everything from k-12 schools, federal networks, small businesses, a major oil pipeline, even meat processing plants. these attacks which continue to disrupt countless american lives show that we must ensure the cybersecurity and infrastructure security agency and other federal entities responsible for our federal defenses have the necessary resources to formulate an all of government response to foreign adversaries and criminal organizations who are relentlessly target network vulnerabilities and disrupt american lives and livelihoods. at the same time the department must also be able to fight against physical threats that put thousands of american
communities at risk. in recent years, violence driven white supremacist and anti-government ideologies has continued to rise and lead to real world harm, as we saw from the deadly breach of the united states capitol. i am pleased to see that this year's budget request supports addressing the root causes of this horrific violence by supporting innovative, community-based methods for countering and collecting more information and data on domestic terrorism, while respecting the privacy of american citizens. in addition to addressing these significant challenges, i look forward to hearing how the department plans on investing in effective and modern border security that not only protects our nation, but also provides for efficient and fair processing of asylum seekers at our southern border. i hope to also continue working together to ensure secure and efficient lawful trade and travel at our nation's ports of entry, so that border states like michigan can remain hubs
for international commerce. as the department continues to address these significant challenges, it is also essential they work to counter the threats posed by climate change through disaster resilience and hazard mitigation. early investments in adaptation, mitigation and resiliency efforts will save taxpayer dollars in the long run. i appreciate that this budget request highlights the need to allocate more funding to reduce the risk for communities when disaster strikes. it is my hope that this budget and our discussion here today will reflect that broad scope of challenging responsibilities, but also the department's opportunities. secretary mayorkas, i look forward to hearing from you today. ranking member portman you are recognized for your opening remarks. >> thank you, mr. chairman, and
i want to thank you for taking a moment of silence this morning to recognize and pay tribute to our former colleague, mike enzi. mike was the best, the best senator, the best person and our prayers go to his family, to diane and his kids and the people of wyoming during this difficult time. mr. secretary, welcome to the committee. your appearance before this committee comes at a critical time because the capabilities of your department have never been needed more. we are facing simultaneous threats as you know, and as we have discussed. of course, our border is facing the worst migrant crisis that we've had in over two decades. it's obviously true that we need a new approach. what we're doing now is not working. it's the worst crisis in terms of migration, it's the worst crisis in terms of illicit drugs
and other contraband coming across the border and we need to hear from you about that today. second, our nation is under attack in a cyberwar. we've seen this repeatedly and the chairman just talked about it, the solarwinds hack, the colonial pipeline ransomware attack, and so many others demonstrate the vulnerability of both our public and private systems and our critical infrastructure. we've got to be better at anticipating the next threat and better at defending ourselves and pushing back. that's why i hope today we can discuss how to ensure that cisa, the organization within dhs, is more effective at leading this effort in defending against cyber threats across the government and within the private sector. and not just defending, but also, going on offense. third, whether it's foreign terrorists or domestic violent extremists, there are significant threats to our communities in my state of ohio and across the country.
our communities of faith are facing more threats. the department's work at a national level is critical, as are initiatives like the nonprofit security grant program that puts federal expertise and some resources to work in helping communities of faith and other nonprofits be able to address and prepare for a variety of threats. i would like to focus on the situation at the border where two surges are still underway. as we just talked about, the surge of unlawful migrants is at the highest level it's been in over two decades. the surge of illicit narcotics, particularly the deadly synthetic opioids, like fentanyl, which, unfortunately, over the most recent year for which we have data which would be 2020, have resulted in more overdose deaths in our country than ever in our history. both of these surges are at record levels. in the first case, the administration's own policies have caused unlawful migration to increase every single month since inauguration day.
this threatens the safety and security of our country and that of the migrants themselves who are exposed to these dangerous and volatile journeys north. president biden told us all in march that the elevated border numbers were seasonal and we should expect those to go down as the summer approached. but now that we are in the hot and dangerous summer months, border encounters have not gone down. in fact, they continue to rise. and again, so does the risk involved in making that journey north, especially through the deserts of northern mexico. and with covid-19 cases now on the rise again, unfortunately, we see the administration actually considering repealing the covid-related title 42 for all adults without adequate preparation, potentially deepening this crisis further. we've done this before. we did this in regard to
children, unaccompanied children. we did this with regard to families, most families, in fact, i'm told are not subject to title 42 anymore. we did it starting on inauguration day thinking that, you know, this was something that would open up the border more. but we didn't prepare at all. the administration was overwhelmed with unaccompanied children, overwhelmed with families. and my hope is that that decision, which occurred at a time when covid-19 was raging all throughout our country, will teach us some lessons about what to do now. dhs was not prepared and we've got to be sure that dhs understands that's not appropriate going forward. it's very clear to us what will happen if title 42 is lifted for adults because it's already happened, or unaccompanied kids and families. it certainly is very clear to the border patrol. when i was down there earlier
this year with you, mr. secretary, i had the chance to visit with a lot of border patrol agents and talked to them about this. they are very concerned, as you know. they said they would be overwhelmed the moment title 42 public health authority was revoked for adults. i just got back from a bipartisan delegation trip meeting with the presidents of ecuador, colombia, mexico, and guatemala. all four of these countries have sent more and more migrants to the united states over the past several months. all four of those presidents have said they want their young people to stay in their country. they don't want them coming north to the united states. they want them to stay and be part of the future of their own country. however, because of our broken asylum system, they're coming north in large measure because traffickers can rightly say to these prospective migrants and their families because of the way our asylum system works, in particular, if you come north and come to the border, you can
come in. you can come in and you can stay. and those coyotes, those human smugglers, those traffickers, they don't care about the humane treatment of those migrants. they don't care about their wellbeing, they have the ability to say that because our system effectively provides for that. the presidents of those countries don't understand why america would want to create this pull factor. we talk a lot about the push factor and i think a lot of us want to do more with regard to deal with the circumstances in north america and elsewhere with regard to the push factor, but we're also providing the pull factor. and that's not fair. turning to the second part of the surge, recent sobering news from the center for disease control says that overdose deaths have risen to record levels, and the main driver of that is fentanyl. it is a harsh reminder of the
work left yet to be done. on this committee, we worked hard to put in place the stop act. we passed the legislation and now it's being implemented by the department, by cbp in particular. cbp has done a better and better job, in my view. they still have not been able to work with the postal service to meet all of the requirements of the legislation, but frankly, it has helped. the problem is, instead of coming by the u.s. mail system into our communities, this poison is now being sent through mexico. often the precursors are sold to mexico, then it's made into fentanyl, then it comes over our southern border. that's what all the data shows. the june cbp operational statistics show that seizures of fentanyl so far this fiscal year are 78% higher than all of fiscal year 2020. if we are seizing that much, how much are we missing? a lot, according to the border patrol.
we need to hear how this budget request ensures that your department has the tools and resources needed to stop this surge of deadly drugs at all parts of the border. of course, these two issues are related because the traffickers are not just smuggling people, many are narcotraffickers also, smuggling these poisons into our communities. i was pleased to see that your budget request includes increased funding for technology modernization at our ports of entry, including modern scanning equipment to help efficiently detect and stop illegal drugs and other prohibited items from entering our country. i've seen some of that technology working in person during my trips to the border. i think this is an important part of ensuring that our borders are both enabling commerce and trade for the economic vitality of u.s. communities and that we're stopping the contraband. at the same time, i was very disappointed to see the budget request deemphasize funding in
key areas for customs and border protection when we need their capabilities more than ever to combat criminal activity like trafficking in humans and illicit drugs. i am very concerned about technology investments that are not in this budget. investments in barriers, towers, and cutting-edge autonomous technology, as an example, between those ports of entry, is cut in this budget. i was particularly surprised to see that technology that was married with barriers was cut in this budget because that traditionally has been a pretty bipartisan effort to ensure that, yes we have barriers in place where appropriate, but that it's accompanied by technology. without the technology, the barriers are far less effective. and yet that's cut in this budget, i don't understand that. and maybe i can be corrected in this hearing because i can't believe that that technology would be reduced at this time.
i hope to talk today about your vision for improving the tools and technology that's available to our law enforcement personnel at a time when they deserve our support given the crisis at the border. mr. secretary, again, thank you very much for being here, we look forward to your testimony. >> secretary mayorkas, it is the practice of the homeland security and government affairs committee to swear in witnesses. so if you will stand and raise your right hand, please. do you swear the testimony you will get before this committee will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you god? >> i do. >> thank you, secretary mayorkas. you may be seated. secretary mayorkas is the seventh secretary of the department of homeland security. previously he served the department as deputy secretary and as director of u.s. citizenship and immigration
services, and began his public service at the department of justice. thank you for appearing before the committee today. i understand that you have a limited time with us and get a very important counter-narcotics engagement immediately following this hearing so we appreciate you will be available for only one round of questions. we also look forward to you appearing before the committee in two months for our annual threats hearing, and i will now recognize you for seven minutes for your opening statement. >> chairman peters, ranking member portman, and distinguished members of the committee, good morning, thank you for the opportunity to be with you again today. allow me to join you in expressing my sorrow on the passing of senator enzi with whom i had the privilege of working in my prior tenure in the department of homeland security, and allow me to join
you, please, in expressing my prayers and thoughts for his family at this difficult time. every day the 240,000 public servants in the department of homeland security confront an increasingly complex and dynamic threat landscape. they do so with unflinching dedication to our mission and a deep sense of purpose. i am here today to ask for your continued support of the work. as you know it is the resources afforded by this congress that enable my outstanding colleagues to keep the american people safe, and that enable us to improve and retain our nation's most talented professionals. the president's fiscal year 2022 budget helps us meet these essential goals. first, the president's budget invest in a secure border. it directs $1.2 billion toward more effective and modern port
in port security, including a $655 million investment towards modernizing our land ports of entry. another $47 million to integrate customs and border protection, detection capabilities and robust investment in border surveillance technology. there is no request for additional border wall construction. our team at customs and border protection employs a wide array of proven tactics and cutting edge technology to defend the american people against dangerous threats to our borders. to support this challenging task the president's budget includes $37 million to integrate aerial border security technologies that will provide a common operating picture for law enforcement. this will enable our board of legal agents regardless of their location to act based on consistent, shared information. this is absolutely essential to protecting our homeland in the
21st century, and it is just a snapshot of the incredible work being done on the front lines as part of our layered approach to border security. i i urge you respectfully to support the president's budget for these requested investment. it's smart and its strategic border security measures. second, consistent with the president's recently released immigration blueprint calling for safe, orderly, and humane policies and practices to govern immigration, this budget reflects our administration's commitment to rebuilding our system into one that is fair, efficient, and upholds our nation's values and our laws. it includes a new discretionary request for $345 million for u.s. citizenship and immigration services to reduce the backlog of applications and petitions, ramp up in a good capacity, and
meet our goal of welcoming up to 125,000 refugees per year. to ensure the safe and humane treatment of migraines at the southwest border, the request includes $163 million for medical needs for those in customs and border protection custody. third, the budget tackles a rising threat to our national security, cyber attacks. the president is requesting new resources for the cybersecurity and infrastructure security agency, or cisa, as it is commonly known, which leads the effort to defend against cyber threats and promote resilience across the federal government. we are seeking $2.1 billion for cyber activities which builds on the $650 million already provide to cisa in the american rescue plan. this funding will help cisa
respond to governmentwide breaches, increase cyber defenses, hire qualified experts and obtain support services to protect and defend critical infrastructure and federal i.t. systems. fourth, the president's budget invest in what we need to prepare for, increasingly costly, devastating and frequent natural disasters if the federal emergency management agency has stepped up to meet this challenge, but the challenge is one that requires new resources. this budget invest $532 million above the fiscal year 2021 enacted level to help fema and its workforce combat the realities of climate change in an echo weight including significant commitments to predisaster planning and climate resilience grant programs that benefit communities across the country. finally, this budget invest necessary resources in one of
our top priorities, at the department of homeland security. combating the growing threat of domestic violent extremism. domestic terrorism is the most lethal and persistent terrorism related threat to the united states today. that is why we are requesting $131 million to support innovative methods to prevent domestic terrorism while respecting privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties. the funding also lists of vital research on the root causes of radicalization, and has commuted outreach and locally driven prevention efforts. it is one of the great honor of my life to serve alongside the dedicated public servants of the department of homeland security. their commitment to a complex and dynamic homeland security mission is unwavering, and i am committed to ensuring that resourced, compensated and recognized appropriately. i ask for your continued support
and partnership in this effort. thank you again for the opportunity to be here today. i look forward to discussing the president's budget priorities with the department, and i welcome your questions. thank you. >> well, thank you, secretary mayorkas. as you know this past year we have seen hackers target our water supply, the chinese government has exploited vulnerabilities in microsoft services. the russian government conducts cyber espionage against dozens of federal agencies and cyber criminals are attacking our critical infrastructure. this budget does contain a request for $2.1 billion for cisa but could you please tell the committee why disfigure a sufficient for us to deal with these attacks -- this figure -- >> thank you, mr. chairman.
the budget magnates affect sophistries not only a matter of homeland security but national security as well and it invest in every dimension of our defense to this increasing threat to the homeland and to our country. it resources cisa to develop response teams that can assist not only federal government agencies across the enterprise, but state, local, tribal and territorial partners, as well as and critically, the private sector and understanding the threat, building their prevention capabilities as well as resilient should they be victimized by a cyber threat. it invests in our greatest resources of all, our human capital. we are underway in executing the largest cybersecurity hiring initiative in the department's history. we invest in technology and the capabilities that we have as a department to address this
increasing threat. technology, human resources, the human capital, the talent, and also increasing our footprint throughout the country so that we are present and more able and nimble to respond to events whatever they might occur, and support our partners from border to border and c2c. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, mr. secretary. mr. secretary, as you know candidate will begin to reopen its border with the united states allowing those who are fully vaccinated to cross the border. u.s. restrictions, however, remain essentially unchanged since the beginning of the pandemic and those restrictions are hurting the cross-country communities in michigan as well as all along the northern border. so my question for you, mr. secretary, what criteria are using to reform the restrictions
on cross-border travel with canada? >> mr. chairman, we are very well aware of mindful of and monitoring every single day the economic impact of the travel restrictions. our greatest priority is the health and safety of the american people. just last week i spoke with my counterpart in canada, mr. blair. i was aware of the measure that canada would take, and we're watching the trajectory of the pandemic, a pandemic of the unvaccinated. we're watching the delta variant very carefully and we will lift those restrictions in collaboration with the centers for disease control when the ark of the pandemic so warrants. this is a public health position. position. where mindful of the economic impacts, and we urge the
american people who have not yet been vaccinated to get their vaccines. this is a pandemic of the unvaccinated at this point. >> as you monitor this situation, mr. secretary, is it possible the department will consider easing restrictions based on type of travel across the border from canada? so, for example, will immediate relatives of u.s. citizens and green cardholders soon be permitted to enter from canada? >> mr. chairman, we are looking at not only the economic impacts but the other impacts on people's lives. the fact that families have not seen one another across the border. we are looking at all the different ways that we can compartmentalize the issue and see whether we can allow certain flows or ease certain restrictions in a limited way without imperiling the public health and safety of the
american people, as well as the people of canada. this is something we are looking at very carefully and in many different ways. i commit to you to continue that close study on a daily basis. >> well, , we appreciate that ad it does require that kind of daily look, i believe, so we will look forward to continue to work with you on this, mr. secretary. i can tell you the impact is significant in my state and other states on the northern border. the fbi's internet crime complaint center found cyber crime victims in michigan saw a loss of nearly $84 million and we know that malicious actors are increasingly relied on ransomware attacks to export ransoms from these victims to understand early in your tenure at dhs you launched a ransomware sprint to begin tackling this issue. if you could please let this get me know how your organizing the department to assist public and private entities to prevent and to respond to ransomware attack
attacks. >> mr. chairman, ransomware is one of the greatest cybersecurity threats that we face. we have seen a 300% increase in ransomware attacks over the last year. we have seen more than $300 million in losses this year alone to ransomware. we are working in close coordination with our federal partners and the private sector to educate the private sector about the steps they can take to best guard against a ransomware fpac. in fact, not only did we start ransomware sprint was before the colonial pipeline attack, but just last week we launched the stop ransomware.gov website, the first of its kind which is a one-stop clearinghouse where information related to ransomware. businesses, small, medium and
large, how american residents, the american public can protect themselves, by backing up their systems, by changing the passwords. the blocking and tackling that is easy, accessible and can really make a difference. >> thank you, mr. secretary. ranking member portman, you are recognized for your questions. >> thank you, mr. chairman. mr. secretary, we have talked about this in our conversations, but as you know i'm very concerned about the lack of investment in technology between our ports of entry, which is obviously the vast majority of the encounters are occurring. dhs budget request for border security infrastructure is $54 million which is a deep reduction from the more than 1.5 billion funded for this last year. you are also asking us to rescind 1.9 billion in billion in funds for border security.
over a time a lot of democrats have said walls are not effective, that technology is really what is effective so if you various unique technology so they can be more useful because the people are not doing the surveillance, and folks will go under or over or around the walls. and yet here we see a big cut in investments, tools like autonomous towers with cameras and sensors which you and i saw when we were out there, badly needed with regard to the el paso sector as i recall. the actual fence is about eight -- 80 or 90% complete and a final completion makes all the sense in the world. we have already paid for it, otherwise you have huge problems for the border patrol protecting those openings. but what's even more shocking to me is i was told on about 20% of the technology was completed. on inauguration day when the wall was halted, the so-called construction of the fence, that
technology was ended, too. i just don't get that. i would wonder if you could give us an answer as to why you would want to reduce the amount of funding for technology between the ports of entry and specifically as it relates to technology that could be contained with and make these fencing and other barriers more effective? >> thank you, mr. portman. you and i discussed this issue before. we appreciate this committees support. it investments in our technology which is, in fact, needed. we have proposed a budget that includes $655 million to modernize our ports of entry as was $54.3 million of investments in technology between the ports. i am looking at the projects, project by project. in fact, i just approved the
implementation of technology with respect to 33 gates that were not previously operationalized. i also approved in the san diego sector of our border the implementation of technology to complete that section of the border. and so as i've mentioned before and as i am committed, i'm looking at project by project to understand the technological needs, the nation needs, and all aspects of the analysis -- the nation needs. >> mr. secretary, with all due respect you will not have any money to do that if you follow your own budget. i know this budget have to go through and omb widest process, having been a director but my gosh, i hope you will fight for more money for technology between the ports of entry. that's what the encounters are taking place. it's at record levels in terms
of the illicit narcotics we talked about like fentanyl. the worst in over two decades has you have goes with regard to migrants at potentially about to get a lot worse with regard to your decisions. 54 million, you're not going to be able to do this. you at 1.5 billion funded last year and you want to see us rescind an additional 1.9 billion. you know, policy follows money. in this case you are not providing yourself with the tools you need to build up the border patrol to do their job. i know you know that. with regard to i.c.e., immigration customs enforcement office, i.c.e. numbers of arrest have dropped considerably as the borders face a surge, about a 58% decrease between the last administration and this administration. so i can't imagine what these
i.c.e. agents must be thinking. they were told on inauguration day stop the deportation altogether. and now they are apparently being told not to arrest people, otherwise arrest would be down almost 60% at a time when we have record numbers of people come into our country. what single do think that sends to the traffickers, the human smugglers at the potential lawful migrants when you're such a dramatic decrease in internal enforcement by i.c.e.? >> ranking member portman, i look forward to discussing with you the comments you made after i answered your first question. i have much to say in that regard, but when the answer the question with regard to the i.c.e. agents that you have now posted. because it is absolutely not true that they've been told not to arrest people.
what they are doing is smart and effective law enforcement. they are focusing on the threats to public safety, the threats to national security, the threats to border security, just like in a responsible and intelligent law enforcement agency in office would do, just as we did in the united states attorney's office of which i was a part for 12 years. in fact, just yesterday we announced the results of operation soar and arrested over time 300 individuals who had committed sex offenses that we felt were a public safety threat. we are focused on the people that pose the greatest risk to the safety of the american people. we are engaging in smart and effective enforcement. i have traveled around the country to meet with i.c.e. personnel to speak with them to get their ideas about what those threats are, how they think their resources should be best dedicated. later today i'm speaking with
leaders of that agency on that very same subject. we are dedicated to the protection of the american public in a smart and effective way. >> thank you. i've got a little bit of time and i want to respect my colleagues time. 58% decrease in arrests at a time of unprecedented, the worst in at least two decades, the number of people come into the country. how many unlawful migrants have been removed from the united states so far this year by i.c.e. enforcement and removal operations? >> i would be very pleased to share that data with you and your staff. i don't have that figure in front of me, but let me just say this. when individuals are encountered at the border, single adults are, , majority of them are expelled under the central, the centers for disease controls title 42 42 authority. it's a public health authority held by the cdc. the majority are expelled, they
are turned around. the others are placed into immigration enforcement proceedings. if they successfully make a claim for humanitarian relief under united states law, then as the law recognizes, they can stay. the others who are in immigration enforcement proceedings, if the claims for humanitarian relief fail, they are removed. and, in fact, we are making reforms to increase the efficiency and expedition of that process that have never been made before and that are long overdue. >> mr. secretary, my time is expired. as you know, i respect the fact you spent time with the i.c.e. officers. i respect the fact you i think personally would like to see some changes, but i must respectfully say it's not true that they are removed. i don't think any children have yet been removed who came back
in the last surge in 2019. i think 58% decrease in arrests indicates a change in policy. i think that the question i asked about how many unlawful migrants have been removed so far this year is one that will be quite shocking people because of the incredibly low, very close to very few. maybe very few, and so we've been asking for this information for weeks. i appreciate the fact that today you're committed to getting us that information because i think the entire committee meets to see. again thank you for testimony and for your service. the unprecedented surge deserves a new approach and i look for it to working with you on that. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, ranking member portman. senator padilla, i understand you need to preside over the senate shortly. senator carper has agreed to defer to you for your questions.
>> thank you, mr. chair. thank you, senator carper as well so i can do exactly that, for to stay in and fulfill my duty to preside over the senate session. i also like to thank secretary mayorkas for his service and his leadership at this a very challenging time for the department of homeland security, and better balancing multiple objectives. yes, maintaining safety and security at the border, along the border i should say but also respecting our nation's i sign and humanitarian laws in the midst of a global health pandemic which the delta variant is causing us or reminding us that we're not out of the woods of the covid-19 pandemic quite yet. but wanted to raise questions and issues on a different topic. mr. secretary, last month as chair of the senate judiciary
subcommittee on immigration and citizenship in order safety i've held a hearing on the subject of the military naturalizations and deported veterans. we're from veterans advocates on how difficult it became under the trump administration for military naturalizations to occur. we are talking about eligible immigrants that became more difficult to go through the naturalization process and we heard a number of heartbreaking stories with families torn apart because of harsh immigration laws in a more difficult process than necessary. had a chance to meet some of the new citizens personally on july july 1 when i spoke at a naturalization ceremony aboard the uss iowa in los angeles. so i was pleased shortly after the hearing you made an announcement that the department was working with the department
of veterans affairs and department of defense to ensure that veterans receive the benefits they deserve, and those who have been deported might be able to come home again. .. >> the staffing for any intraagency agreements and what the time line is for reviewing cases of deported veterans and their family members? >> senator padilla, thank you for your kind words at the outset and also to your dedication to this issue which is so important not only to the department of homeland security, but to our countries that our veterans are appropriately respected for their extraordinary service to us. since we spoke about this first, we have, indeed,
embarked upon a number of initiatives. number one, to remove barriers to naturalization for those veterans who are eligible for that benefit, and, two, to embark upon a concerted effort across the department to see that veterans who have been unjustly removed, unjustly reported from our country can be returned. and just over the last few days i selected a leader of initiative within the department of homeland security who has dedicated her career to this effort and we are drawing upon the different agencies within dhs and across the government and we are partnering with secretary mcdonough and the veterans affairs administration to achieve this noble and imperative goal. >> thank you. i want to ask you a question on the subject of wildfires.
california's 2020 wildfire season was the worst on record. experienced 10,000 fire incidents for than 2.4 million acres burned and 10,000 structures damaged for destroyed. in 2021 there are already seven large fires burning in california. it's only july. the largest of these fires, the dixie fire, has already burned nearly 200,000 acres and as of yesterday was only 22% contained. fema, specifically region 9, has been an excellent partner for california, as we continue to weather the unprecedented disasters year after year, but now is the time for increased funding, support, and understanding for the unprecedented times that we're living in, particularly as we see the drought conditions in california. mr. secretary, what resources does the department of homeland security need to ensure that
fema is adequately supportive, so they're not just responsive to wildfires when they happen, but they can work in the off season to support mitigation efforts to reduce the chance of devastating fires? >> senator, i had the opportunity to speak not only with governor newsom, but governors across the country in a bipartisan way at a summit hosted by president biden on this very serious concern. we no longer have fire season in light of climate change. we are seeing fires year round and our budget request for funds for fema in support of its firefighting efforts. and that is critical. in addition, our office of science and technology is working on innovative
technology to best detect the probability that a fire will start within an approximate period of time and be able to assess the potential magnitude of that anticipated fire. we are using technology and we are seeking resources to fund our state and local tribal territorial partners and our budget requests additional funding for this purpose. >> thank you, and just in closing, you know, i mentioned your leadership and approach at the outset of my comments, just three of the many concerns, i'm sure you have, to a safety and security, of course, public health during the global health pandemic, respecting our nation and international humanitarian and asylum laws and more. clearly these are policies that are not mutually exclusive, but have to -- any comments on your
philosophy and your approach to this job? >> senator. our commitment is to be a nation of laws. laws of accountability, laws of humanitarian relief, the respect, the dignity of the individual, and i think you put it so powerfulfully and aptally, that these are not mutually exclusive of one another and i appreciate that. >> thank you, mr. secretary. thank you, mr. chair. >> thank you, senator padilla. senator johnson, you're recognized for your questions. >> thank you, mr. chairman. let me start off by saying that under my championship, it was arare i didn't allow a second round of questions, the second time that the secretary appeared before this committee and we have serious issues to discuss and the second time that we won't be able to ask a second round of questions, i would hope the next time he appears and he will afford the committee the respect we
deserve with responsibility. mr. secretary, have a short period of time so i've got a lot of questions and i hope you keep your answers short and suscinct. i appreciate the fact we had a phone conversation yesterday and went over some numbers, i just want to you confirm based on that conversation that the numbers i'm dealing with in terms of the extent of the crisis on the border are largely accurate. through six months, january through june, a total apprehensions are a little over 900,000, is that correct? >> i believe that is. i mentioned yesterday-- >> that's-- >> i will provide you with accurate data when our-- >> okay. good. that compares to last year, 180,000. so he about 720,000 individual increase, 400% increase on that. for the first six months about
138,000 people have been released in the interior with a notice to appear, is that about the right number? >> as i mentioned yesterday, senator portman, pardon me, senator johnson, i will provide you with the data. >> so again, i will tell you what numbers i've got and you can respond. again, i don't have much time. according to senator lankford's excellent report on the fact we haven't completed this wall and it's costing us billions of dollars, in that report he also stated there are about 35,000 individuals that have been released in the interior with just a notice to report, and he also states that only about 16%, a little over 5,000 have reported, so, in total, in the first six months of this year, about 173,000 people have been released in the interior and that compares to about 5,000 during the first six months of 2020.
an enormous increase, 168,000 people more so my question is, do you have any idea where those 173,000 people went? do we keep track of that? >> senator, you are citing data with which i disagree. i share the reasons why i disagree-- >> okay, good, no matter what the number is, no matter what the number is, do we know where the people that have been released with either notice to appear or notice to report, do we know where they're going? are we keeping track of it so that we can round them up if they don't appear? >> i would use different language, senator. yes, we do. and if, in fact, people flout our laws we will exercise our enforcement authorities as the law provides. >> okay, so, do we notify states and cities that we are releasing individuals into
their jurisdictions? >> there are times when we work very closely with state and local jurisdictions, but to coordinate-- >> are there times when you don't? does every state, does every city know when you are sending a truckload or a busload or a few people into their city, into their jurisdiction, with the notice to appear or notice to report? >> we do not. and there are reasons for that under the law. and let me say that-- >> that's all i need to know, okay. let's talk some more numbers. so if we're at 173,000 people released in the interior for the six months and multiply by two, 346,000 people. a recent report, and this is anecdotally as well. we're hearing that on average about 750 to 1,000 known got-aways per day on top of the apprehensions, 750 to a
thousand known got-aways. we don't know how many unknowns we've got. but that translates to basically 269,000 people getting away, getting into the united states, and we have no idea who they are or where they're going. is that roughly your understanding of that number as well? >> no, no it isn't and-- >> okay, again that's something else you need to report back to me. the information i've got if you add up two numbers of doubling this six months people with notice to appear, notice to report, plus 269 that's over 600,000 people coming into this country, either being apprehended and dispersed or just because so overwhelming cdp they're able to get in the country and get away and nobody
knows they are, just 600,000, to put that in perspective larger than the population of wyoming. it's approaching the population of vermont. that is the extent of the problem that, i'm sorry, mr. secretary, you and this administration are denying. you are in a state of denial in terms of the crisis. you said that you're going to defend against dangerous threats. you don't know who they are. many of them might be drug traffickers, members of trans national criminal organizations, gang members. let's talk about the murders and the deaths occurring in our inner cities. mr. secretary, let me ask you, are you aware, are you awe wear that the human traffickers sell children so they can exmro it our laws and are you aware that
that happens? >> will you give me an opportunity-- >> no, no, i want my questions answered. are you aware, are you aware that human traffickers sell children to create a family unit? >> your articulation of what occurs at the border is inaccurate. >> well then give us better information because we're not getting it. are you aware of how many people-- how many of these young girls are raped on their way, being abused by these human traffickers, are you aware of that happening? are you aware of how many people, are you investigating the people that are being engaged, being forced into the sex trade and human inservitude. involuntary servitude. >> of course we are and when an individual suffers that victimization alt the hands of criminals comes to our border and makes a claim for humanitarian relieve under united states law we consider those claims for relief under united states law. that's what we do with respect
to those tragic cases. >> mr. secretary, again, i have so many questions. i've run out of time. i hope next time you come, and you actually will stay for second and third, maybe fourth rounds of questions, because the american people deserve transparency. they deserve accountability. they need to understand this enormous tragic crisis on our border and right now because the mainstream media is not reporting and your administration isn't admitting we have a crisis on the border, the american people are basically in the dark of what's happening here. it's a tragedy, it's a travesty. >> senator the next time i testify before this committee i do hope i'll have the opportunity to provide answers to explains the laws of the united states, to explain how we're executing those laws, to explain the plan that we have. >> i would be satisfied with basic facts and numbers that
we're not getting because the facts and the numbers will describe what's happening and that's probably one of the reasons why we're not being provided that information. so please give us the information and not necessarily just a hearing, on an annual or on an ongoing basis, daily, weekly, give us that information. >> i will, senator. >> mr. chairman. >> thank you, senator johnson. senator hassan, you are recognized for your questions. >> well, thank you, mr. chair and i want to thank you and the ranking member not only for this hearing, but for sharing your own thoughts and sympathies to the enzi family today. mike enzi was a valued colleague and friend and he will be deeply and sorely missed. and i want to thank the secretary for being here today. and mr. secretary, i do have a number of questions for you, but i wonder if you would like a minute or so to respond to anything that senator johnson did not give you an opportunity
to respond to just now? >> senator, thank you for your opportunity. let me be brief. individuals whom we encounter at the border, some of them are expelled under title 42, which is a centers for disease control public health authority. it's not an authority of the department of homeland security. those who are not expelled under that public health law are actually placed into immigration enforcement proceedings under united states law, where they can make a claim for humanitarian relief under our laws. if their claim is found top solid. they're entitled to stay under the law. if their claim is not found to be valid. they're removed, consistent with the united states law. we have a plan underway to address the surge of migrants
at the border. a surge that began in april of last year. it is a periodic surge that we have encountered for many, many years in the absence of immigration reform and the opportunity to fix our immigration system once and for all, but we are using the authorities that we have wisely and also in unprecedented ways so we build our immigration system after dismantling in the prior administration and we are making and taking measures that have not been taken before that are long overdue and we're doing whatever we can within our authority and we hope that congress will act as well. that's the fundamental change that's needed. >> thank you very much, mr. secretary. now, on to my questions. i was encouraged to see that u.s. customs and border protection's budget included a $14 million increase to the
national vetting center's budget which will allow the center to expand vetting disabilities. i was disappointed the department's budget did not include funding for the visa security program. i strongly support the visa security program it allows dhs to interview and vet individuals long before they arrive in the united states. so mr. secretary, the budget request is an opportunity to expand and integrate its critically important screening and vetting programs in a thoughtful way. how will the department continue to do that using programs like the national vetting center and the visa security program? >> senator, i appreciate your concerns with respect to the visa security program and i'd welcome the opportunity to speak with you further about it and discuss our budget request in that regard. we are looking very carefully not only at the vetting process
and eyes on data, but also how we can use data analytics and new technology to create greater efficieies and actually save money while advancing our security obligations and so i look forward to speaking with you further about the concerns that you have that we share, and how we are addressing them most effectively. >> thank you, i would look forward to that as well. now, i want to turn to a topic that senator peters also raised because i was pleased last week the canadian government announced it would permit vaccinated americans to travel to and from canada beginning on august 9th. but i am disappointed, as senator peters is, that the department of homeland security announced that u.s. borders would remain closed even to vaccinated canadians for another month. this border closure continues to impact families and local economies in new hampshire, and all around the country and i appreciate, too, that in your
testimony just now you recognize that. given that the canadian vaccination rate recently surpassed the rate we have here in the united states, what is the department's rationale for extending the restrictions? >> so if i may, senator, as i mentioned in response to chairman peters' question, i spoke with minister blare blair of canada about this and he was aware because we communicate very closely and coordinate. he was aware that i would be issuing the renewal of our title 19 authority to restrict travel between our countries. but one thing that that renewal articulates is very important, and that is that those renewal of the travel restrictions is in effect for another 30 days, should the public health enable us to lift travel restrictions in any way before the expiration of that 30-day period we do have the authority
to do so. and what we are doing is looking at it on a day-to-day basis, understanding the concerns that the chairman expressed and you have echoed now. >> well, i appreciate that and i'm going to interrupt you here in the interest of time. i'm going to urge you though to not extend the border closure any longer than it already has been. and you've talked about some of the is it epps-- talking about some of the steps to make the analysis. i don't understand the public health analysis given the canadian vaccinated rates and they're just allowing the vaccinated americans in and we could do the same. and i urge you to take the steps to open the border to vaccinated canadians as quickly as you can. let me move on to one more topic before my time expires. the opioid epidemic across the united states.
dhs is focused on disrupting international drug trafficking organizations. unfortunately they've shown themselves able to adapt and exploit the predictable procedures at u.s. borders. for example, they use pedestrian border crossings, concealing drugs on many people knowing that cbp doesn't have more than a fraction of the drugs. and the organizations smuggle money and guns out of the united states to exploit c bp's minimal outbound screening. mr. secretary, what is the department doing to increase capabilities? are there additional resources that can stop drug trafficking and organizations from smuggling drugs into the u.s.? >> senator, this is a very, very important question. i respectfully will request an opportunity to answer it. the scourge of drugs in the united states has been a problem for many, many years.
in fact, in 2020, that year, last year, saw a 30% increase in fentanyl overdoses in 2019. we're very very focused on this, not only are we continuing to invest in technology at our border and border modernization because interestingly and importantly the narco traffickers seek to move the greatest amounts of drugs through the ports of entry and that's where our apprehension efforts are focused, as well as in between the ports of entry and by air and by sea. and we are investing in technologies and we are developing strategies, investigative and prosecution strategies to attack the narco
traffickers. operation fentanyl, a concerted effort across our department, a new effort, is focused on following the money and tearing down the infrastructure of these criminal organizations. we're doing a lot across the board and i'd be very pleased to provide details to you and your staff at the earliest possible opportunity for you. >> i appreciate that, and i appreciate the chair's indulgence in letting me go over time. thank you, mr. secretary and thank you, mr. chair. >> thank you, senator hassan. senator scott, you're recognized for your questions. >> thank you. chairman peters. first, my heart goes out to the enzi family, to diane and the children and the grandchildren. tragic what happened to mike, what a wonderful person and what a great senator and mentor to a lot of people. so, secretary, thank you for being here today and thank you
for your service. the first thing i'd like to say, i'm surprised and disappointed you've not been more vocal will what's going on in cuba. you probably to this, these are pictures of protesters being mistreated by the the castro regime. we know over 500 dissidents have been detained and they're being tortured. i met with some of the families, one of the families yesterday and i think you have a role, as secretary of dhs, to be more vocal on this and i'm disappointed you haven't. the biden administration blamed root causes, violenc poverty, climate change the united states needs an all of governor effort to address the southwest border, but strong longer terms solution, but migration from
the hemisphere. may 7th you went to donna, texas we must address the southwest border by addressing the root causes of migration and then you're here on may 13th and the most sus sustainable solution, and the root causes that cause people to migrate in the first place. root causes, refer to instability in latin america and dangerous and ruthless dictatorship that have oppression and force citizens to flee in search after better life. if we think about root causes, cuba is the root of instability in latin america, according to satcom, cuba, nicaragua. and classifying cuba as a country failing to cooperate with anti-terrorism efforts and certifying it as a state
sponsor of terrorism and the root causes by neglecting regimes like cuba. and propping up, nicaragua, and venezuela, and with unrest across the region. cuba supports drug and weapon trafficking and trans national organizations. and totalitarian dictatorships in our back yard hinder any change toward democracy. communist cuba is a threat to our national security and a horrible human rights violator. the cuban people are suffering. i've talked to families across florida, they're talking about the atrocities happening to peaceful protesters, their children are being taken to serve in the military, and i know dissidents and their families, and the dissidents have been arrested and detained and they know they're tortured and they have no idea where they are. i met with jose daniel perez,
brother, sister and daughter yesterday and they have no idea what is happening to him right now. so first, secretary mayorkas, do you believe that the illegitimate in cuba helps drives illegal activity that causes families to flee their countries and is a threat to our u.s. national security. >> senator, as you'll be able to hear, there's a fire alarm in the department of homeland security's building in which i am currently residenced. i did hear your question. i hope you can hear what i am saying and then i will need to step out for a minute and i'm very, very sorry for that. i will take to heart your comments that i need to be more vocal about what is going on in cuba, i did speak publicly about that and of course, our
president, our secretary of state, the president's national security advisor has spoken very powerfulfully on this subject as well. it is something of tremendous personal importance to me. my family lost everything as a result of the communist takeover by cuba. the authoritarian regime is responsible for the oppression of the cuban people and we stand with the cuban people. i'm afraid i'm going to have to step out and i will return as quickly as i possibly can. i'm so very sorry. >> that's all right. we'll take a brief recess until we assess the situation as of the secretary's location and senator scott you have two minutes for your questions when we come back.
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