Prepared Statement by Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa
Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee
Hearing on Oversight of the Administration’s Decision to
October 3, 2017
morning. We’re here to consider how to address the problem created by President
Obama’s unconstitutional executive action known “Deferred Action for Childhood
Arrivals.” In September, President Trump gave Congress six months to act in
accordance with the Constitution on an issue that impacts millions of Americans
and hundreds of thousands of unauthorized immigrants.
We have been
debating this issue for 16 years – what type of legal status, if any, that
unauthorized immigrants who were brought here as children should have.
successive Congresses have considered this question and always refused to
address it. In both 2007 and 2013, Congress considered what we called
“comprehensive” immigration reform that would’ve legalized millions of
unauthorized individuals. However, these misguided efforts at mass amnesty
is simple. Remembering what happened in 1986, the American people recognized
that legalization without enforcement and a way to address increasing demand
for cheap foreign labor would only continue a cycle of illegal immigration.
for years, Congress, in a bi-partisan fashion, worked together to strengthen our
nation’s border security and interior enforcement, but has struggled to address
some of the thorniest elements of immigration.
better highlights Congress’s bipartisan commitment to preventing illegal
immigration than the Secure Fence Act. That bill authorized the Government to
construct almost 700 miles of fencing on the U.S-Mexican border. It passed with
overwhelming bi-partisan support, including from then Senators Obama, Biden and
Clinton, and from our current Ranking Member, Ms. Feinstein. As President
George W. Bush said, that bill was an “important step towards immigration
the Secure Fence Act was an effort to restore the American people’s trust in
the integrity of our lawful immigration system by taking a real step in
protecting our borders.
as 2010 both Democrats and Republicans agreed that the only lawful action that
could be taken was by Congress. President Obama himself summed it up best when
he said he “wasn’t a King” and was “obliged to execute the law . . .[and] can't
just make the laws [himself].”
paraphrase novelist T.H. White, a King President Obama was not, but a King he
decided to be. On June 15, 2012, President Obama decided to bypass the
Constitution and use his “pen and phone” to create DACA: a large-scale
executive action for hundreds of thousands of unauthorized immigrants.
Not only did
President Obama abuse prosecutorial discretion by staying deportation for these
cases, he also allowed recipients to apply for work permits.
did, in the hundreds of thousands. Since 2012, Citizenship and Immigration
Services has issued more than 1.7 million work permits to DACA recipients.
Granting these permits was a clear violation of the law and of the
beginning, President Obama’s executive action was riddled with numerous
loopholes that allowed for fraud and abuse. Since 2012, victims and
whistleblowers have contacted me to explain how criminals benefitted from this
their courage, I, along with several of my colleagues, sent over a dozen
letters to the Obama Administration about the program’s vulnerabilities to
exploitation and abuse.
In one such
case, a DACA recipient was granted work authorization despite being under
investigation by Homeland Security Investigations for child exploitation. After
receiving his work permit, the beneficiary was hired by a summer camp in
California where he was eventually arrested for distributing and possessing
hundreds of images of child pornography, and for molesting children in his
considered to be a “potentially egregious public safety threat” months before
his arrest, he was nonetheless given a work permit by Citizenship and
also reported how once-eligible beneficiaries could fraudulently continue
employment once their DACA was terminated.
work authorizations are invalid after benefits are discontinued, a recipient
could work until the work document itself expires, unless the employer is aware
of the termination.
spite of this clear abuse of power, and the multiple examples of fraud in the
program, we were at least comforted by President Obama’s assurances that, “this
is not immunity. This is not a path to citizenship.” Even this assurance,
however, was untrue.
data released to my office from Citizenship and Immigration Services indicate
that by the time the Trump Administration made its announcement on DACA, almost
40,000 beneficiaries had adjusted to lawful permanent resident status and were
on a pathway to citizenship.
that from the beginning President Obama’s program, while not ill-intentioned,
never operated in the way it was supposed to. Worst of all, the program created
a false sense of hope among DACA beneficiaries.
them, in reliance on President Obama’s ill-conceived “pen and phone” promises,
started working jobs, pursuing education, and making steps towards productive
contribution in American society. Now, that’s all at risk.
5, 2017, Attorney General Sessions announced that President Trump had decided
to rescind President Obama’s program. In reaching this decision, Attorney
General Sessions acknowledged what many of us had known all along, that DACA
was, plain and simple, an “unconstitutional exercise of authority by the Executive
We all have
empathy for these young people, who came to this country through no fault of
their own. And, for many of them, it is the only country they know.
Administration isn’t without empathy. In recognition of the fact that almost
700,000 young people relied on President Obama’s false promise, the Trump
Administration didn’t immediately terminate the program.
they created a six month wind down and allowed anyone who currently has DACA to
keep their work authorization until their two year DACA status expires.
down is simple: to get Congress to adopt a long term solution—a legislative
So here we
are, almost a month after the Administration’s announcement, and now’s the time
to start considering a path forward in earnest.
foremost, any potential deal on DACA has to include robust border security, and
by that, I don’t mean a wall. Of course, tactical infrastructure like fencing
is a part of the answer, but border security is more than that.
security is an all-of-the-above approach and includes fencing, technology,
funding for more law enforcement personnel and equipment, changes to
substantive law so that “catch-and-release” and other misguided policies are
ended, and we need to require that the administration finally complete the
biometric entry and exit systems that Congress has continually demanded—and
allocated money for—for more than 15 years.
equally as important as robust border security, we’ve got to make sure any deal
includes meaningful interior enforcement. The simplest, most common sense way
to ensure that we eliminate the root causes of illegal immigration is to make
the e-Verify system mandatory for all employers.
helps employers confirm that job applicants are here legally, but until it is
mandatory, it has almost no impact.
I know that
this is a controversial and difficult step, and some big corporate interests are
going to object, but we know that jobs are the number one reason people come
here and stay here unlawfully.
E-Verify isn’t the only answer. We also need to make it easier for law
enforcement to deport gang members, dangerous felons, sex offenders, and human
traffickers. We need to fix the Zadvydas decision that requires us to release
dangerous criminal aliens.
need to take a hard look at our asylum and immigration court backlogs, and take
steps to ensure speedy deportation for those who deserve it while preserving
lawful claims for those truly in need.
It would be
a dereliction of our duty if we fail to take steps to end at least some of the
illegal immigration as we know it, and kick the can down the road so that a
future Congress has to address this very same problem again in another fifteen
years. I’m confident that if everyone is reasonable, we can find a solution.
today is the first step in finding that solution. We’re going to hear from two
panel is composed of government witnesses, and I hope they will be able to
provide some insight into what measures the Trump Administration thinks we
should take to secure the border and the homeland.
I know the
Administration is currently engaged in ongoing litigation, and witnesses may be
restricted in questions they can answer. I can appreciate that, and I hope my
colleagues will do the same. However, to the extent questions can be answered
and guidance can be given, we would expect your forthrightness.
panel will include an outside expert, a beneficiary, and a victim. I hope they
can provide some insight into what the American people expect from us.
I want to
thank the second panel for their courage in testifying today, especially Mr.
Bill Hartzell, whose 93 year old grandmother was brutally raped and murdered by
an unauthorized immigrant. His story, although difficult to hear, represents
many victims who have lost loved ones due to poor immigration policies.
forward to the testimony today, and to the dialogue this hearing will
inevitably produce among my colleagues. Thank you to everyone for being here,
and I now turn to Ranking Member Feinstein for her opening remarks.