April 09, 2019

Senator Hassan Expresses “Profound Concern” About Turmoil at Department of Homeland Security During Committee Hearing

Senator Also Requests Update on Implementation of INTERDICT Act, Which Provides More Technology for Border Agents to Detect Fentanyl at the Border; Calls for Quicker Action to Reunite Children Separated from their Families

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To watch Senator Hassan’s questioning, click here.

WASHINGTON – Senator Maggie Hassan today expressed her “profound concern” with the latest turmoil at the topmost levels at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) during a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee focused on the southern border.

The Senator opened her comments, “The Department is tasked with the vital mission of securing the nation from the many threats we face, and the type of turnover we are seeing right now presents a direct threat to the ability to effectively carry out that mission. We need to see qualified leaders put forward who have the experience needed to keep Americans safe and who will also stand up to the President if necessary to uphold the rule of law and the values that make us strong.”

Senator Hassan also requested an update on implementation of the bipartisan INTERDICT Act, which she cosponsored and the President signed to help ensure that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has the tools to help detect and intercept fentanyl and other illegal synthetic opioids at the border. The Senator asked the witnesses, “Last spring when I was at the border, I heard during my visit that the agents still did not have all the access to that equipment…To both of you, can one of you update the committee on how the INTERDICT Act implementation is going now, do our agents have the technology they need to keep them safe as they’re detecting fentanyl?”

Randy Howe, Executive Director for Operations, Office of Field Operations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, replied, “It’s going to take some time to work with the vendors to purchase and get them into place but it really is going to transform where we are doing the interdiction…We are working through it it’s going to take some time.”

Senator Hassan responded, “I am still concerned that we don’t have as much equipment as we need, I’m very concerned about the safety of the people on the front lines, fentanyl as we all know is so dangerous even to the touch. I look forward to following up with the agency about how we can accelerate this.”

Senator Hassan also highlighted the failure by the Trump Administration to reunite children separated from their families at the border as a result of the President’s inhumane family separation policy. Referencing a plan put forward by Commander Jonathan White, Deputy Director for Children’s Programs at the Department of Health and Human Services, in which he said it could take up to two years to identify thousands of children separated from their families, Senator Hassan asked, “Can you tell me why it would take so long and what we can do to speed this up?”

Commander White responded, “The answer to your question is because it is 47,000 children they have all been discharged and there is no list, this is the fundamental reality the reason that it is challenging now is because there is no list of separated children. We must identify them.”

Senator Hassan closed her questioning asking Commander White if he supported reinstating what has been the “inhumane and un-American policy of family separation,” to which he replied, “I would never support the use of family separation, the systematic traumatization of children as a tool of immigration policy.”

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