September 27, 2017

In HSGAC Hearing, Sen Harris Presses Acting DHS Sec Duke on Puerto Rico Response and DACA

Under Harris’ questioning, Duke commits to providing Congress with a DHS lead for Puerto Rico response

Under Harris’ questioning, Duke commits to providing Congress with a DHS lead for Puerto Rico response

HD VIDEO of Harris’ questioning at today’s hearing

AUDIO of Harris’ questioning at today’s hearing

WASHINGTON, D.C. - In today’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing, U.S. Senator Kamala D. Harris raised concerns over the Trump Administration’s handling of the response to the crisis in Puerto Rico, including granting a waiver for the Jones Act which restricts which ships can travel directly to the island, with Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke.

“Secretary Duke, in response to Senator Lankford’s question about the Jones Act, you indicated you were not aware of any requests, that you were informed because you read it in the clips this morning. That troubles me. I'm informed that there have been at least two requests, one from eight House members led by Congressman Velazquez and another by Senator McCain. So I’m troubled because if you are unaware of those requests, it suggests that there is not a sufficient priority for Puerto Rico in your agency,” said Harris.

Harris asked Duke to appoint a DHS congressional liaison responsible for responding to requests from Congress about the agency’s work to address the crisis in Puerto Rico in addition to a staff member who will serve under Duke to oversee the recovery. Duke committed to doing so and providing the name of the individual. 

Harris also pressed Duke on the arbitrary October 5th filing deadline for DACA renewals set by DHS. In order to complete the renewal application, some Dreamers currently enrolled have to provide documents and a $495 application fee – all of which will be significantly harder to collect in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.

Harris said, “And you have given them a month from the time that that word went out. One month only to apply to renew their status, which requires them to submit many forms and fill out the information in those forms. It requires them by October 5th to also provide a $495 application fee within one month. It requires them to supply two passport photographs, passport photographs cost between about 15-20 dollars, last time I looked federal minimum wage is about $7.25 an hour. And so my question to you is, given the responsibilities that they are required to meet to apply before October 5th, given also and we talked about it in this hearing, the impact of Harvey and Irma and Maria, will you consider extending the deadline beyond October 5th for these kids to apply?”

In response to Harris’ questioning, Duke admitted DHS failed to directly notify any of the DACA recipients eligible to renew their application, saying “we have not contacted each individual directly.”

In addition, Harris questioned Duke on the use of data collected for DACA recipients and urged that it not be used against them by ICE. “I will tell you from the perspective of California, these young people are terrified. They are terrified. They were told by your agency that if they submitted this comprehensive information about their background and their status to apply for DACA, that that information would not be shared with ICE. I have asked you, I asked the former Secretary, are you willing to keep America’s promise to these young people and not share their information with ICE? Can you answer that question finally?” asked Harris.

Harris requested that Duke read a copy of DHS’s DACA FAQs that explicitly states “Information provided in this request is protected from disclosure to ICE and CBP.”