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Higgins Opening Statement at ICE Response to Covid-19 Hearing

July 13, 2020

 Higgins Opening Statement at ICE Response to Covid-19 Hearing

WASHINGTON – Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.) – Border Security, Facilitation, and Operations Subcommittee ranking member – today delivered the following opening statement at a subcommittee hearing entitled, “Oversight of ICE Detention Facilities: Examining ICE Contractors’ Response to COVID-19.”

Thank you Madam Chair, and thank you to the witnesses for being here today.

I appreciate Chairman Thompson opening the hearing room to Members to conduct official committee business. We should be conducting our important oversight and legislative missions here in Washington. Hopefully we will return to regular order as soon as possible to get to work for the American people.

First let me state, that I find it disappointing that the Majority did not invite Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to update us on the preventative measures they’ve taken to address COVID-19, the implementation of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations, and further guidance they’ve provided to detention facility contractors.

Under the Trump administration’s direction, ICE activated its pandemic workforce protection plan in January of this year in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

That plan provides an additional layer of safety measures on top of ICE’s Performance-Based National Detention Standards.

ICE also convened a working group of medical professionals, disease control specialists, detention experts, and field operators to identify further steps to protect detainees.

As a result, the populations of ICE-dedicated detention facilities were reduced to 70 percent capacity. The CDC recommendation is 75 percent.

This reduction included the review of nearly 34,000 detainees in custody nationwide to identify those with a high-risk of severe illness due to COVID-19.

As a result, more than 900 detainees who posed a low risk to public safety were released.

We can all agree that these are unprecedented times.

And while I commend ICE for going above and beyond CDC guidance, there is more that needs to be done.

As of July 7th, 3.7 percent of those in ICE custody – or 835 individuals – have tested positive for COVID-19.

However, today in a hearing where we will heavily discuss the agency’s response to COVID-19, ICE was not invited to testify.

ICE should be here to update us on what further measures they’re taking to address COVID-19 and what additional improvements can be made in the future.

ICE should be here to tell us what issues have arisen and how they’ve overcome them.

ICE should be here to answer questions about the new information we received from these contractors as a result of the Chairman’s document production request.

ICE should be here before us today, but they weren’t invited.

Quite frankly today’s hearing topic is outside our Committee’s jurisdiction, with this witness panel making it even more of a stretch.

Today we have the Presidents and CEOs from four government contractors who have to respond to repeated document production requests and testify before a Committee with tertiary jurisdiction at best.

Any legislation related to this topic, immigration detention, and immigration laws would not be referred to this Committee.

On its face it seems the purpose of this hearing is to further the radical leftist narrative on open borders, abolishing ICE, government contractors, and defunding federal agencies charged with securing the Homeland as we’ve heard time and time again from some of my colleagues across the aisle.

It creates ever-moving goal posts for hard-working federal employees and contractors who are simply doing their jobs; abiding by the laws prescribed by Congress.

The truth is, nearly half of those in ICE custody today have final orders of removal.

The majority of individuals still in custody have either criminal convictions or charges pending ranging from aggravated assault to homicide to rape.

These crimes committed in the United States are not to be taken lightly, yet some of my colleagues across the aisle don’t want anyone to be detained by ICE no matter what crime that individual has committed or how much of a public safety risk they represent.

I hope we can cut through the politics during our questioning today, and I hope next time the majority actually invites the federal agency they are critiquing so we get all the facts.

Thank you, Madam Chair. I yield back.