April 09, 2021

Durbin, Padilla: Judiciary Committee Democrats Will Restore Committee's DHS Oversight Role

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-CA), Chair of the Judiciary Immigration Subcommittee, today pressed back on a letter they received from Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and John Cornyn (R-TX), Ranking Member of the Judiciary Immigration Subcommittee, requesting Judiciary Committee hearings regarding migration at the southern border and oversight of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  In their response, Durbin and Padilla called out Senate Republicans’ lack of interest in immigration oversight during the previous four years under the Trump Administration and restated Committee Democrats’ intention to restore the Committee’s traditional role as a standing committee of an independent and co-equal branch of the federal government conducting oversight of the agencies over which they have jurisdiction. 

The Committee’s last DHS agency-wide oversight hearing was held more than three years ago, on January 16, 2018, and the Immigration Subcommittee only held two hearings during the entire 116th Congress, despite unprecedented chaos and crisis at the agency. 

“Rest assured, we intend to restore the Committee’s traditional role as a standing committee of an independent and co-equal branch of the federal government conducting oversight of the agencies over which we have jurisdiction.  Under Democratic leadership, the Committee has already held its first Federal Bureau of Investigation oversight hearing since July 2019.  Chair Durbin also plans to reinstitute the Committee’s longstanding tradition of holding annual Department of Justice (DOJ) and DHS oversight hearings, which will be scheduled in due course,” wrote Durbin and Padilla. 

The Senators’ letter continues, “Over the last four years, the Committee ignored the worst abuses of President Trump’s Administration, including the cruel separation of thousands of children from their parents at the border, a travel ban targeting mostly Muslim-majority countries, and the attempted termination of deportation protections for more than 800,000 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients who grew up in this country… In addition to seeking oversight hearings, your letter states that you look forward to working with us on bipartisan solutions.  We welcome you to this effort, as we believe the Senate has a responsibility to act on long-overdue immigration reform legislation on a bipartisan basis.”

During the past four years, then-Immigration Subcommittee Ranking Member Durbin repeatedly asked then-Chairman Cornyn to hold Subcommittee hearings on the harmful Trump Administration anti-immigrant policies.  Then-Chairman Cornyn never responded.   

Full text of today’s letter is available here and below:

April 9, 2021

Dear Senator Grassley and Senator Cornyn:

We have received your April 1, 2021 letter requesting Judiciary Committee hearings regarding migration at the southern border and oversight of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  We appreciate the interest in immigration oversight from Senate Republicans, which was largely absent over the previous four years. 

Rest assured, we intend to restore the Committee’s traditional role as a standing committee of an independent and co-equal branch of the federal government conducting oversight of the agencies over which we have jurisdiction.  Under Democratic leadership, the Committee has already held its first Federal Bureau of Investigation oversight hearing since July 2019.  Chair Durbin also plans to reinstitute the Committee’s longstanding tradition of holding annual Department of Justice (DOJ) and DHS oversight hearings, which will be scheduled in due course.  The Committee’s last DHS oversight hearing was held more than three years ago, on January 16, 2018, and the Immigration Subcommittee only held two hearings during the entire 116th Congress, despite unprecedented chaos and crisis at the agency.  The Committee stood by while the Trump Administration implemented immigration policies that put our nation’s values and security at risk.

Over the last four years, the Committee ignored the worst abuses of President Trump’s Administration, including the cruel separation of thousands of children from their parents at the border, a travel ban targeting mostly Muslim-majority countries, and the attempted termination of deportation protections for more than 800,000 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients who grew up in this country.  During the past four years, then-Immigration Subcommittee Ranking Member Durbin repeatedly asked then-Chairman Cornyn to hold Subcommittee hearings on these harmful Trump Administration policies.  Then-Chairman Cornyn never responded.   

In addition to seeking oversight hearings, your letter states that you look forward to working with us on bipartisan solutions.  We welcome you to this effort, as we believe the Senate has a responsibility to act on long-overdue immigration reform legislation on a bipartisan basis. 

Sincerely,

-30-