Thursday, December 19, 2013



Divisive Mayorkas nomination advances in Senate
By Zach Rausnitz

The nomination of Alejandro Mayorkas for deputy secretary of the Homeland Security Department advanced to the full Senate after a party-line vote Dec. 11 in the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

The committee's Republicans all voted "present" and had boycotted the confirmation hearing held in July for Mayorkas, currently the head of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Mayorkas is the subject of a DHS office of inspector general investigation into allegations that he helped Terry McAuliffe--now the governor-elect of Virginia--obtain EB-5 investor visas from USCIS. He and Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), the committee chairman, both said they learned of the investigation days before the July hearing, and only after word of its existence leaked to Congress.

Before members voted on the nomination Wednesday, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), the ranking member, said the vote should be delayed until investigators release their findings. Coburn said he was not blindly obstructing the process, noting that he has supported nearly all of President Obama's nominees that the committee has considered this year.

To approve Mayorkas now would violate a well-established precedent for how the Senate handles nominees under investigation, he said. He also argued that Mayorkas will suffer a shortage of credibility and trust in his new role if he takes it on before his name is cleared.

Additionally, Coburn said, approving Mayorkas would send a message to OIGs that lawmakers do not take their investigations seriously.

Carper said the OIG's investigation has taken too long. It first received the allegations regarding Mayorkas in September 2012, but took nearly a year to begin the investigation, Carper said, and it remains months from completion. He said the OIG has so far found no evidence of criminal misconduct.

The position of deputy secretary has been vacant since May, when Jane Holl Lute left DHS. The department has also had an acting secretary since Janet Napolitano left in September.

"In a perfect world, I would prefer to have the OIG complete its report on the allegations" before voting on Mayorkas, Carper said. "The Department of Homeland Security is in dire need of Senate-confirmed leadership."

Carper also said his staff have tried to meet with the whistleblowers who made the allegations against Mayorkas but have not been given an opportunity, even though the whistleblowers did meet with the committee's minority staff. The minority staff have not shared what they know with their majority counterparts, he added.

Coburn said whistleblowers may prefer not to meet with Carper's staff because his actions "suggest the chairman has made up his mind."

Carper's approach to the nomination "does not suggest to potential witnesses of wrongdoing that their information will be received with willingness, interest or discretion," Coburn said.

For more:
- go to the meeting webpage (webcast available)

Topics: Border Protection | Immigration
Deportees report abuse, theft in U.S. custody
December 11, 2013 | By Zach Rausnitz

Eleven percent of recently deported Mexican migrants said they suffered physical abuse while in U.S. custody, and 34 percent said one of their possessions was stolen, a report from the Immigration Policy Center says.

The findings stem from the Migrant Border Crossing Study, a project of the University of Arizona and George Washington University. In 2011 and 2012, researchers interviewed more than 1,000 recently deported migrants upon their return to Mexico, randomly selecting participants at ports of entry and migrant shelters.

Each participant was asked 250 questions in face-to-face interviews that lasted about 45 minutes.

Of the 11 percent who reported physical abuse while in U.S. custody, 70 percent characterized the abuse as something other than a blow to the body, the the Immigration Policy Center report says. They may have been pushed, dragged, lifted, placed in painful positions or spat upon.

Thirty percent of those who reported physical abuse said they were hit, kicked or thrown.

Six percent of them said they received lasting injuries, and three percent said they were sexually abused while in U.S. custody. Migrants who reported lasting injuries or sexual abuse represented less than 1 percent of all the study's participants.

Multiple past academic studies have found similar rates of physical abuse, suggesting that "abuse of migrants while in U.S. custody is a systematic problem relating to an ongoing institutional culture rather than simply a consequence of a few people who are acting inappropriately," the report says.

Nearly one-fourth of all migrants interviewed said they were subjected to verbal abuse. Some recalled being cursed at, yelled at or threatened. Others said they were the targets of nationalistic or racial slurs, or anti-immigrant remarks.

Stealing from apprehended migrants "is a systemic problem," the report says. More than one-third of the study's participants said they had belongings taken and not returned. Clothes, backpacks, cellphones and Mexican identification documents were among the items commonly lost.

One-fifth of those who said they lost possessions in custody said they had cash taken from them. The median amount reported lost was $55.

The report says one challenge to studying migrant mistreatment is that victims may have no way to take effective action.

"It is imperative that U.S. officials create transparent avenues with which to file complaints of mistreatment and ways in which interested parties can follow up on pending investigations," it says.

For more:
- download part one of the report, "Bordering on Criminal: The Routine Abuse of Migrants in the Removal System" (.pdf)
- download part two of the report (.pdf)

Read more: Deportees report abuse, theft in U.S. custody - FierceHomelandSecurity
Subscribe at FierceHomelandSecurity

No comments:

Post a Comment