To start the letter, committee chairman Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, D-Miss., condemned the president’s plan for a border wall, funding for which has been a sticking point in negotiations between Democrats and Republicans to end the government’s ongoing partial shutdown.
“Your border security presentation submitted to Congress today is yet another example of the misinformation and outright lies the Trump Administration has used to make the case for the President’s boondoggle border wall, defend the government shutdown, and distract the American people from a border policy so flawed that children have died in Department of Homeland Security custody,” Thompson wrote.
Last month, two children – both from Guatemala – died while in U.S. custody, according to immigration officials.
“Squandering American taxpayer money on a wall may satisfy a segment of the President’s political supporters, but it will not solve the real border security challenges facing our Nation,” Thompson continued.
Aside from the border wall, topics at the hearing – the first for the committee during the new Congress – will include “metering of individuals” who reach U.S. border points of entry looking for asylum and the care of children in the custody of Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the letter said.
The committee also requested documents pertaining to border wall construction and “the interdiction of families” by Jan. 18.
Thompson wrote that Nielsen had previously come before the committee one time and “another appearance is overdue.”
In a statement to Fox News, Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman Katie Waldman said, “The Secretary testified before a House Committee two weeks ago on this topic where she answered dozens of questions from members. She has been meeting with House and Senate leadership where she has repeatedly sought to provide them with vital information pertaining to the humanitarian crisis on the border. We look forward to receiving the reported request and will review it.”
DHS Secretary Nielsen visits border after child’s death
EL PASO, Texas — Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen on Friday visited the Texas border city where an 8-year-old Guatemalan boy was detained with his father before dying in government custody.”
DHS spokeswoman Katie Waldman said earlier in the week that Nielsen was scheduled to tour multiple stations and substations, and was also scheduled to meet with emergency medical technicians and medical professionals, as well as local officials.”
Nielsen then was scheduled to go to Yuma, Arizona, on Saturday. DHS did not immediately release more details on the trip or who Nielsen met, saying it was closed to the press.”
The trip came four days after the death of 8-year-old Felipe Gomez Alonzo. Felipe was the second Guatemalan child to die in government custody in three weeks.”
Nielsen has called the death “deeply concerning and heartbreaking” and requested medical help from other government agencies, including the U.S. Coast Guard. As Nielsen made the trip to Texas, New Mexico’s Democratic senators, Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, sent her a letter Friday seeking answers about the boy’s death.”
“The timeline, action and factors that led to Felipe’s death are still developing, but the information that has become public so far is alarming and demands immediate attention and investigation,” the letter says.”
Felipe and his father, Agustin Gomez, were apprehended by border agents on Dec. 18 near the Paso del Norte bridge connecting El Paso to Juarez, Mexico, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The two were detained at the bridge’s processing center and then the Border Patrol station in El Paso, until being taken at about 1 a.m. Sunday to a facility in Alamogordo, New Mexico, about 90 miles away.”
After an agent noticed Felipe coughing, father and son were taken to an Alamogordo hospital, where Felipe was diagnosed with a common cold and found to have a fever of 103 degrees Fahrenheit, CBP has said.”
Felipe was held for observation for 90 minutes, according to CBP, before being released with prescriptions for amoxicillin and ibuprofen. But the boy fell sick hours later on Monday and was re-admitted to the hospital. He died just before midnight.”
New Mexico authorities said late Thursday that an autopsy shows Felipe had the flu, but more tests need to be done before a cause of death can be determined.”
DHS Secretary Nielsen struggles to answer basic questions during hearing. The DHS boss couldn’t even say how many people have died in her department’s custody."
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen faced a heated House Judiciary Committee hearing on Thursday — and she couldn’t answer a number of basic questions lawmakers asked her about immigration and border security.”
The hearing came less than a week after DHS announced that a 7-year-old Guatemalan girl named Jakelin Caal Maquin died in Border Patrol’s custody, and as President Donald Trump is threatening to shut down parts of the federal government unless he receives $5 billion toward a border wall he promised Mexico would pay for. But while Nielsen had good reason to expect tough questions, she seemed unprepared to deal with them.”
“You don’t have a number?” First, Nielsen was unable to answer a question from Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) about exactly many people have died in DHS’s custody.”
“Madame Secretary, did I understand you correctly to say that as you sit here today, you do not know how many human beings have died while in custody of the department that you lead, and in preparation for today’s hearing, you didn’t ascertain that number?” Cicilline asked.”
“I don’t have an exact figure for you,” Nielsen replied. “Do you have a rough idea?” Cicilline followed up. “Sir, what I can tell you is —””
Cicilline cut her off, saying, “I’m talking about people who have died in your custody. You don’t have the number?” “I will get back to you with the number,” Nielsen said. Cicilline’s questions came days after DHS announced that Caal Maquin died in Border Patrol’s custody after making the journey through Mexico to the United States with her father.”
The most recent numbers Customs and Border Protection has released are from 2015, when 10 people died as a result of force used by CBP officials. Voice of America reports that CBP was not forthcoming with updated figures when asked for them following news of Caal’s death.”
VOA requested updated information from DHS and CBP about the number of deaths in CBP custody for the past three years.”
DHS assistant press secretary Katie Waldman responded with the number of rescues Border Protection officials have performed in the last year, but did not include the number of deaths in custody. A follow-up email regarding the questions about deaths in CBP custody went unanswered.”
During Thursday’s hearing, Nielsen used a similar tactic. After Cicilline entered news reports into the congressional record about migrants who have died in DHS custody, Nielsen attempted to turn the tables by entering into the record “every single migrant that a CBP agent has saved.””
“I have not seen those particular studies” Later, Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) asked Nielsen if she was “aware” of a plethora of research indicating that immigrants, both documented and undocumented, are less likely to commit crimes than native-born Americans — a reality that undermines President Trump’s efforts to stoke fears about them.”
Nielsen said she was not. “I have not seen those particular studies,” she said. “It’d be helpful if you start putting in some basic facts about the actual facts related to immigrants and crime,” Lieu replied.”
One piece of research Lieu cited is a 2015 study by the Cato Institute titled “Immigration and Crime — What the Research Says.” It found that “roughly 1.6 percent of immigrant males 18–39 are incarcerated, compared to 3.3 percent of the native-born,” and concluded that “the weight of the evidence suggests that immigration is not associated with increased levels of crime. To the extent that a relationship does exist, research often finds a negative effect of immigration on levels of crime, in general, and on homicide in particular.”
“It’s late in the day” After Rep. Karen Handel (R-GA) noted that “there are so many people watching this hearing from my district, and they have some basic questions,” she proceeded to ask Nielsen one of them: “How many legal points of entry are there across the US-Mexico border?”
Nielsen, however, was stumped. “Ah, I — it’s late in the day, and, it’s about, ah, between 20 and 30 is my recollection,” she said. (It was just after 2 pm at the time.) “Okay, so certainly more than 20?” Handel followed up. “I believe so,” Nielsen replied. There are in fact 48 legal ports of entry across the border.
The hearing did not go well. Nielsen also had a hard time explaining why the Trump administration is threatening to shut down the government unless Congress forces American taxpayers to foot the bill for a border wall that Trump spent much of 2015 and ’16 vowing Mexico would pay for.
“From Congress, I would ask for wall — we need wall,” she said at one point. There were a number of heated exchanges. Nielsen responded to Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL) saying that “there is one thing this administration has done better than any other administration has in American history, which is lie” with the retort, “Calling me a liar are fighting words.”