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Good morning. The House Judiciary Committee's oversight hearing on family separation and short term custody regs under the Trump admin begins at 10AM ET. I'll live-tweet it and a live stream of the hearing can be found here:
Hearing will start shortly.
And away we go. Point of order: Rep Lofgren is opening the hearing since Chairman Nadler was tied up. He will return to the hearing later.
2 weeks ago VP Pence stated CBP is providing "compassionate care" but 2 weeks before that, DHS Inspector General told a different story of overcrowding and squalid conditions.
Children are deprived of nutritious food, clean water, food, soap, toothbrushes - and that's something this administration admitted to in open court.
Head of CBP recently said families only sep'd when CBP can't confirm relationship between child and person claiming to be legal guardian, but govt own data disproves this.
Out of 400 children sep'd from parents between June 2018 and March 2019, govt reported only 3% were sepd for these reasons.
"It's now clear CBP made egregious errors," Lofgren says.
Lofgren: Asylum officers are reporting that migrant protection protocols, or Remain in Mexico policy, have made problems at the border worse.
"A competent administration would plan for the arrival of families and children seeking asylum and prepare the necessary infrastructure. A capable admin would identify and detain those who pose a risk and release those who don't." - Lofgren
"But we're not dealing with a competent and capable administration. The Trump admin's separation policy has stained our nation," Lofgren
Rep Collins, R-Ga. was in the middle of delivering opening remarks but stopped in the middle, saying it is "dehumanizing" to be forced to sit through congr. hearings on family sep policy.
He says of course the admin isnt competent or capable because Congress won't act or put a bill forward that will fix immigration laws.
"What is dehumanizing is this hearing where we're going to talk to people here, and I'm glad you're here, but accept some answers, don't be fooled again, if you want to take part in a political positioning paper then thats what we're doing today." - Collins
"We've already heard, no offense to witnesses, we've heard your stmts already before. I don't know whats going to move us this time. This is becoming a committee of press releases. Dehumanizing is taking people you say you care about but doing nothing for them." - Collins
Lofgren reminds that this committee's responsibility, in part, is to conduct oversight. And oversight means you find out whether or not laws are being faithfully executed. We're onto introductions of the witnesses now.
Brian Hastings, chief of law enforcement operations for US Border Patrol and US Customs and Border Protection, will begin. Full testimony available here: documentcloud.org/documents/6213…
Hastings says widespread separations "are not occurring." "Border Patrol has sep'd less than 1,000 children of the approx . 413k family members apprehended or .45 of all families apprehended this fiscal year. It's an incredibly rare occurrence."
Says the attn to poor conditions at the border only heated up in recent weeks but says Congress has known about it for months; chalks up the failure to keep pace with overflow of immigrants to staffing shortage.
"I'm very concerned if ICE cannot take care of these adults, we will have to start direct releases on the border," Hastings says, but adds that apprehensions did decrease in month of June, even though that # was still a record high for the month overall.
Hastings says the vilification of BP agents as "heartless and inhumane" is unfair. Many continue to perform a humanitarian mission while they sacrifice the border security mission originally hired to do.
Now onto Jonathan Hayes, director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement. His full testimony is here:
Hayes has visited 50 facilities in the last year to asses level of care being provided. Upon enactment of the last emergency aid package passed by congress, he says, the full range of services has since resumed for unaccompanied children.
DHS has referred more than 61k to ORR. HHS rec'd 59K in 2016. Now, HHS has 10K children in care. As of June, avg length of time a child stays in HHS custody is 42 days, a 53% drop from late Nov. 2018 when avg length of care was 90 days
Nadler is back. He is now delivering his own opening remarks.
"Instead of addressing root causes of migration and competently managing the border, the Trump admin has chosen to exploit... and cause perm. damage to human beings."
A 3 yo. child with a serious heart condition was forced just last week to make a choice of who to stay with: her mother in the US or her father in Mexico and she had to choose, Nadler notes.
Background on that here: washingtonpost.com/immigration/20…
The culture of cruelty that stems from the White House has deeply affected the agency, Nadler says.
"There must be accountability for the policy choices that got us here."
Nadler: If the problem was simply an increased # of asylum seekers, the solution would be simple: increased beds, increased judges, so we can speed up adjudication for asylum claims.
"Instead, Trump admin decides to compromise safety, like by locking up all asylum seekers, unprecedented in American history, regardless if they pose any danger. " - Nadler
Nadler now goes after Collins for his earlier stmts. "It is not true that we have had sufficient hearings on this. We will not have sufficient hearings on this until the problem is eliminated nor is it true we've done nothing but hold hearings"
Earlier this week, the House passed a bill dealing with proper medical conditions at dtn facilities. Theyve passed the Dreamers Act.
"The fact that the admin is hostile to all legislative action which doesnt cause terrible hostility to immigrants and refugees who meet asylum status is our problem but not our fault." - Nadler
Commander Jonathan White of the Us Public Health Service Commissioned Corps (offshoot of HHS) full remarks available here: documentcloud.org/documents/6213…
As of June 2016, 2018, he's worked on reunification for children sep'd at border, he's the lead on identifying those children. We'll have more on the stats from his office later.
We will also hear from Joseph Edlow today, the deputy assistant AG for the Office of Legal Policy at the DOJ
"The current immigration system faces numerous legal and logistical challenges. Nationwide immigration enforcement is being dictated by court order, rather than by sound policy choices via rulemaking allowing public comment or congr. action," Edlow says.
Diana Shaw, assistant inspector general for special reviews at DHS also testifying today. A recent visit to a facility in El Paso Texas was troubling + in McAllen TX facilities, some children have been detained for more than 2 weeks.
CBP has struggled to comply with standards. Facilities in Rio Grande Valley may have things like diapers or food for children, she says, but at least 2 facilities in McAllen had zero access to hot food.
Border Patrol needs immediate assistance to address the overflow, she says. With limited bed space at ICE and HHS long term detention facilities, detainees are left in CBP custody until placement can be found. This is unsustainable.
But in the meantime, dept leadership "must make good" on an approach to address the number of humanitarian issues piling up at the border.
Nadler asks Hastings: How were agents told to implement the zero tolerance policy? (One child was separated from parent during a meal break in detention, another child was separated by being told to sit in a sep room, unaware she was being sep'd from father)
Nadler: Were border patrol agents instructed to trick children so they could take their parents away from them when they didn't know it was happening?
Hastings: No.
Nadler: How is it supposed to happen?
Hastings: We inform the mother and father of charges nad reason and provide a time to say goodbye to the child.
Hastings says how much notice families are given is not known.. But says there isn't a minimum time.
Nadler: Could it be 10 mins?
Hastings: Could be.
Nadler: If you are choosing to deport a parent w/o children, how can trump admin claim there was a plan to reunify the family?
Hastings: We placed all info of adult/child on paperwork so there could be reunification after the adult went through legal action
Nadler: So was child supposed to be returned before or after deportation?
Hastings: Probably a better question for HHS
Nadler: Who did the deportation? You would do it while childw as in a diff city in the US?
Hastings: We don't do the reunification is my point.
Nadler: So you would do deport. before reuni. without any knowledge of whether parents were being reunified?
Hastings: Yes
Nadler: In other words, you're kidnapping the child.
Hastings: We're not kidnapping, we're following guidelines.
Nadler: Deporting a parent without their child is literal kidnapping.
Collins went back up and spent several minutes railing against the hearing being held at all, saying it must become a matter of legislative action. Compares the hearing to a stunt.
Lofgren up again, repeats what she said earlier, again, this is about oversight on reports this administration has filed about conditions and consequences of the sep policy.
Reports of children being kicked or hit were submitted. Hastings says kicking/hitting not OK but "I imagine that was a check" to see if a child was OK, says they may shake child lightly to rouse them or see if they're OK, he says.
What steps does BP take to investigate allegations?
Hastings first says there are posters/signs in all stations that provide #s detainees can call and provide complaints. Lofgren says, thats not the Q. what does your office do to investigate? Refers to OIG.
Q. to Commander White: In July 2017, you sent a memo which said ORR would need additional resources if DHS deterrence model was deployed, which incld. DHS instit. family seps in agreement between ICE/HHS where fingerprints of all ppl in household would be shared w/ICE.
Why is it called a DHS deterrence model?
It's about anticipating how many beds are needed.
Lofgren says the DHS got another report that said pre-verbal children, or those who cant speak, were sepd from parents without any IDs etc. Those who say this would all be resolved by simply passing a bill aren't considering the full scope, she argues.
This is beyond a bill, but about considering the culture of care (or lack thereof)
Rep Veronica Escobar is up. She says she thinks there are far more children ripped from their parents than Americans realize. The policy is "abhorrent" she says.
Notes that Hsatings says fam sep is rare ocurence, but he was talking about biological parent/child
Escobar: To many of us family goes beyond biological parent/child relationship, its aunts, uncles, grandparents etc.
Hastings: we are following the definition - which is parent or legal guardian.
So grandmothers are being sep'd from grandchildren, then, correct?
Hastings: That's correct.
Rep Johnson asks if the racist/xenophobic posts in the BP Facebook group concerns Hastings. He says yes, he's taking appropriate actions.
IG is currently looking into the FB group, conducting review to determine who among CBP leadership was aware and if any action taken.
Recent background on a hearing with head of CBP focusing on the secret group. From my colleague @JackRodgersCNS:

Diana Shaw says they hope to have a report on the FB group findings in 2-3 months.
Hastings: 88% of those separated have been sep'd because of criminal/gang history affiliated with the guardian. Says in on case a girl told agents she was raped by her father in Mexico the night earlier, so they sep'd them.
Rep Deutch asks Hayes: during a visit to Homestead, facility confirmed it cost 3x as much to operate than a permanent facility, which are subject to all state/local laws. So is ORR in process of looking for less $$ alternatives + shutting down Homestead?
Hayes: Homestead pop. down to 829, still drawing down, havent taken in any more children, in process of winding down facility altogether.
Can ORR provide info on how many assault cases have resulted in firing/disciplinary actions of agents? How many cases are being investigated?
Hayes says he will compile data soon and notes there are 3 diff types of sex misconduct, (inapprop behavior, assault, sexual abuse) and some of it happens child-to child
Rep Deutch: One case is too much and please dont try to make us feel better that some sexual harassment is less objectionable
Hayes: That's not my intention, sir.
Rep Cicilline: Is there a strategic approach to care/service in custody?
Hastings says they are constantly working on a strategies, even before getting the emergency supplemental funding from Congress. Says kids mental health is considered before separation.
Rep Matt Gaetz says, if Congress would have responded timely to passing emergency border funding, how many more immigrants would not have been separated?
Commander White: Im not sure how I can answer that.
Hayes says the lack of funding did impact some services for childcare mission but as for specifics, the question is largely unanswerable.
Hastings: Sep. is not taken lightly, we run all criminal records and checks, working with other entities to make sure that everything we're told is true and correct
Is HIV status enough to separate families?
Hastings: Yes, it is, under guidelines as communicable disease.
Rasking: But its not communicable like ordinary communicable diseases. The flu is communicable, so do you separate mom/dad that have flu?
Hastings: We are not, sir.
Typo - It is Raskin. Not Rasking.
Rep Jayapal, D-Washington: The entire two yr period that the GOP held the House and Senate, this crisis was going on and they did not hold a single oversight hearing about it.
Dec 2018: DHS IG reported DHS was not fully prepared to implement zero-tolerance or deal with after-effects, created communication issues between families.
Jayapal to Hastings who says tracking done to best ability:
"Somewhere between BP, ICE, DHS, the data was lost and kids were separated" - Rep Jayapal
I am going to wrap up live-tweeting now but will have a story on today's hearing coming up soon for @CourthouseNews.
You can continue to watch here:
@CourthouseNews STORY: In a heated confrontation with lawmakers, a chief officer for U.S. Border Patrol testified Thursday that immigrant families might have just 10 minutes to say their goodbyes before agents separate parents from their children.
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