by Sharon Rondeau

(Dec. 20, 2018) — On Thursday morning at 10:15 EST, the House Judiciary Committee opened a hearing concerning the committee’s oversight of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), with the department’s secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, listed as the only witness.

Chairman Bob Goodlatte opened the meeting and was lauded by Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), who is expected to be the new committee chairman beginning next month.  Goodlatte is retiring, and Democrats won the majority in the House in November’s midterm elections.

Nadler thanked Goodlatte for his service and said that he will be missed.

Goodlatte’s opening statement enumerated challenges and what he said are “dangerous” conditions at the U.S.-Mexico border, particularly elements of the “caravan” from Central America.  Late last month, some caravan members threw rocks and bottles at Border Patrol agents, of whom Goodlatte said four sustained injuries in the incident.

When it was Nadler’s turn to give his opening statement, he raised the death of a young girl who was reportedly brought over the Mexico-New Mexico border earlier this month by her father and died after being rushed to a hospital while in Border Patrol custody.  It is expected that Nielsen will face questions on that issue.

Nadler objected to the Trump administration’s efforts to reduce “legal immigration” and said that beginning in January, the committee “intends to do its job” as to oversight of the executive branch.

At 10:35 a.m., a recess was called.

Update:  As of 11:23 a.m., the committee is still in recess.

At 11:24 a.m., Goodlatte reconvened the hearing and introduced Nielsen.

In a formal statement on Thursday, Nielsen announced the implementation of “migration protection protocols” allowing for illegal aliens applying for asylum in the U.S. to await a decision on their case in Mexico.  “Effective immediately, the United States will begin the process of invoking Section 235(b)(2)(C) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Under the Migration Protection Protocols (MPP), individuals arriving in or entering the United States from Mexico—illegally or without proper documentation—may be returned to Mexico for the duration of their immigration proceedings,” the announcement’s first paragraph reads in large part.

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




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