January 16, 2018

Feinstein Remarks at Homeland Security Oversight Hearing

WashingtonSenate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today delivered opening remarks at an oversight hearing for the Department of Homeland Security:

“The Department of Homeland Security, actually more than any other agency, impacts the lives of tens of thousands of the residents of the largest state—California—on a daily basis. Through its policies affecting tourism, immigration, as well as efforts fighting wildfires and other natural disasters, and protecting our nation’s security, your agency, Madam Secretary, impacts my state in profound ways.

Since the Trump administration assumed power in January of last year, Californians have watched with great concern as the department has implemented a series of concerning policy changes.

This administration has systematically announced a series of policy changes targeted at immigrants and their families.

They include the reckless and poorly drafted Muslim ban in the first days of the administration; the decision to slash and cripple the refugee program; the rescission of DACA before a legislative solution was in place to protect these young people who trusted our government; the systematic deconstruction of the legal immigration system, including the cumbersome expansion of immigration application forms; and the termination of Temporary Protected Status, or TPS, for Salvadorans and shockingly, Haitians, meaning individuals will likely be deported to some of areas with the highest rates of violent crime and poverty next year.

These policies have had a ripple effect throughout communities and neighborhoods in my state.

We have seen children afraid to go to school, parents afraid to go to work, distinguished professors denied visas, husbands and wives separated, and families torn apart.

One case that really stood out for me is that of the Sanchez family from the Oakland area. The parents, Maria and Eusebio Sanchez, were deported late last year.

They weren’t criminals. They owned a home. They paid their taxes. They lived in the United States for 23 years. The mother was an oncology nurse at Highland Hospital, the father a truck driver.

Their deportation meant that their children, one a United States citizen and one a DACA recipient—ages 23, 21, respectively—have to be the caretakers for their two younger siblings, ages 16 and 12.

In fact, I personally pled with your predecessor to spare this family from deportation. However, my requests were rebuffed.

Let me just share a few other examples from California.

A teacher from Los Angeles writes: “I woke up this morning to the Trump Administration’s decision to rescind the…immigration status for Salvadorans. Tomorrow, I have to face my high school students and try to reassure them that they will be okay, even though they will be facing tremendous uncertainty and possible deportation in the coming months.” That’s a quote.

A young dreamer, from Riverside wrote, “I came to the United States in 2005 when I was only six years old…ending DACA would mean that my dreams and opportunities to be successful will be destroyed…I would not have been able to reach and afford a higher education…if it were not for DACA.”

So my office has been inundated with hundreds of these stories, Madam Secretary.

Since this administration assumed office, my office and I have sat with Muslim-Americans afraid that their families will be denied visitor visas because of their faith. We’ve met with DACA recipients who’ve told me personally that they’ve contemplated suicide for the potential exposure to ICE that they may have inflicted on the rest of their undocumented families.

What’s worse is that this is just the tip of the iceberg. I understand the administration is considering even more drastic policy changes.

For instance, the press has reported that the administration is once again considering a generalized policy of separating small children from their parents at the Southwest border.

Candidly, woman to woman, I can’t believe that, and I hope you will clarify the department’s position in your remarks. Because not only would such a systematic policy encroach upon the constitutional rights of parents, it is callous and, quite frankly, stunningly un-American.

The American Academy of Pediatrics called such a proposal “inhumane and counterproductive,” citing the potential for trauma and stress to cause permanent harm on the developing brains of children.

The America I know does not rip small children from their parents. And I can’t imagine the fear that a small child must [feel] if this were to happen. And for what? Because that child had no choice in any of this. So please, I hope you will set that straight today.

When I heard for the first time that this policy was being considered by your agency, I wrote to your predecessor, Mr. Kelly, and asked him to soundly reject this cruel proposal. And I now hope that you today here will reject it as well, immediately and forcefully.

Lastly, in light of the reports about the president’s recent comments, I hope you’re ready to specifically address one issue in particular, and that’s the termination of Temporary Protected Status, known as TPS, for Haitians.

In light of the president’s comments, I am forced to question whether the decision to terminate protected status for Hattian nationals was in fact racially motivated. I hope not.

I thank you Madam Secretary for appearing today. I know that some of the decisions made by the department came before your tenure in the office.

However, given your proximity to General Kelly during many of these decisions, I hope you’re prepared to answer the questions that my colleagues and I have.”

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