Statement on Hearing of the House Committee on Homeland Security

March 17, 2021 8:30 am

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas will testify before the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security today, laying out his vision for the DHS during his first hearing following confirmation by the Senate. The American Civil Liberties Union is calling on Secretary Mayorkas to outline policy reforms to protect the rights, health, and safety of immigrants and their families — particularly by addressing abuses by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

The following are comments from:

Naureen Shah, senior policy and advocacy counsel with the ACLU:

“Secretary Mayorkas inherited a legacy of abuse, cruelty, and dysfunction. While the Biden administration has begun to unwind some of the most noxious elements of Trump’s policies, far too many people continue to be unjustly deported, separated from their loved ones, or detained in horrific conditions. There are concrete, workable solutions at hand that Secretary Mayorkas should embrace. Specifically, we are asking the administration to take immediate steps to reunite families torn apart by family separation, end programs like 287(g) that enlist local law enforcement officers as force multipliers for ICE, and close ICE detention centers with egregious records of rights abuses.”

Jonathan Blazer, director of border strategies at the ACLU:

“The Trump administration wielded our public health crisis as a weapon, using the Title 42 order to close our borders to children and families in extreme need, and forcing them to endure perilous conditions on the other side of the border. The Biden-Harris administration was right to end the Trump administration’s policy of expelling unaccompanied children, and is taking promising steps towards limiting CBP’s role in detention, for which both agency officials and facilities are unsuited. The administration must unite children with their sponsors in the U.S. without unnecessary delay and should end Title 42 expulsions for all people, starting with families, which would help reduce the number of children coming to the border without their parents.”

The ACLU has asked Secretary Mayorkas to make commitments on the following critical immigration issues:

  1. Family Separation: Although the government can never fully undo these harms, it has an obligation to reunite all separated families in the United States and provide redress and other support to begin to repair the damage it inflicted. While the work of the Biden administration’s task force is important, these families and their advocates cannot wait months or years for the task force to complete its work. The ACLU is asking Secretary Mayorkas to outline immediate and concrete steps to address the damage caused by the Trump administration and ensure it cannot happen again.
  2. ICE Entanglement with State and Local Agencies: The ACLU is asking the administration to end ICE programs and practices tap state and local law enforcement for federal immigration enforcement, including the 287(g) program.
  3. ICE Detention: The ACLU is also asking that, in conjunction with the 100-day moratorium on deportations, ICE carry out a file review of every person in custody, and announce its intention to close detention facilities with egregious records of rights abuses; those in remote, unsafe locations far from counsel, emergency medical care, and community support; and those opened without clear agency justification.
  4. Rebuilding the Asylum System: The ACLU is asking the administration to rescind all of the Trump administration asylum policies to rebuild a humane system that limits the unnecessary detention of people seeking protection.
  5. Access to Citizenship: The Biden administration must also end unfair barriers to citizenship by terminating discriminatory programs like CARRP, ensuring non-citizens serving in the military have access to an expedited path to citizenship, and dismantling the new infrastructure established to advance denaturalization efforts.

The hearing will be online at 9:30 a.m. ET, here.

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