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Chairman Nadler Statement for Hearing on "Oversight of the Department of Homeland Security"

Washington, D.C. - Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) delivered the following opening statement, as prepared, during a full committee hearing on "Oversight of the Department of Homeland Security":
“The Department of Homeland Security was founded after the September 11th attacks, and as the years passed, the Department has taken on new threats and challenges unimagined by Congress in 2002.

“We are pleased to welcome you to the Committee today, Secretary Mayorkas.  I will speak plainly: You inherited a mess when you took over the Department, and no one can solve overnight the problems left for you by the previous administration.  Through neglect and often malice, your predecessors more or less dismantled our immigration system and ignored the grave and growing threat of domestic terrorism.  You have made important progress in these and other areas, but there is a lot of work still ahead of you to address the many challenges that remain.

“You are responsible for guarding our national security from threats both old and new and as varied as cybersecurity attacks, natural disasters, foreign terrorists, and home-grown violent extremists.

“America faces a multitude of challenges.  But one of the greatest modern threats to our homeland is the danger posed by violent far-right extremists and white supremacists.

“2020 had the highest number of domestic terror incidents and plots in over thirty years. 66 percent of those were by white supremacists, extremist militia members, and other violent far-right extremists.  These groups recruit online, spread misinformation and conspiracy theories, scapegoat minority groups, prey on COVID-19 fears, and undermine Americans’ confidence in our institutions. 

“But rather than act, the previous administration obstructed. They were so afraid of confronting this threat, they tried to prevent DHS from even using the term “domestic terrorist” internally.

“The Trump Administration demoted an agency leader who tried to sound the alarm.  They shelved reports detailing the growing threat.  They permitted conspiracy theories, disinformation, and calls for violence to flourish until the threat became too large to contain.  The scourge of domestic terrorism and far right extremism is, sadly, now a part of our daily life.  And, unlike your predecessors, Mr. Secretary, we do not have the luxury of hiding from the problem with our heads in the sand.

“Because the truth is, domestic terrorists are killing not just Americans, but the values that define us as a country.  They recruit by sowing distrust in our public institutions, spreading lies to divide Americans, and casting blame on minority groups. 

“Domestic terrorism isolates us—not just by inflicting violence on our communities, but also by defining certain members of those communities as “other.”  They target the spaces we should feel safest—our houses of worship, our community pillars, and our places of learning.

“We also know that of the violent extremists, it is lone wolf actors who pose the most unpredictable threat.  The violent, antisemitic, anti-Asian, racist, anti-immigrant discourse that has permeated our society encourages the creation of lone-wolf actors.

“While many of our brave constituents have stood against these unprecedented levels of hateful discourse, a dangerous, radicalized few will take this discourse as gospel, and consider it a blessing to act.

“To see the corrosive harm of this dangerous rhetoric, you don’t have to look beyond our nation’s diverse immigrant population, who are the backbone of our communities, and who—generation after generation—have borne the brunt of discrimination, fear-mongering, and inhumane immigration policies.

“A fair, humane, and functioning immigration system is vital to our national security interests. The Department has jurisdiction over much of our immigration system, including our borders, the adjudication of legal immigration benefits, and humanitarian protections for migrants.

“The previous administration did all it could to break our immigration system.  We all know about the abhorrent family separation policy, under which children were literally kidnapped from their mothers and fathers with no plans to reunite them, and their attempts to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA program.  

“However, it is important to remember that the previous administration also did everything within its power to block legal pathways to our immigration system. 

“The Trump Administration virtually shut down our nation’s refugee program, implemented a Muslim Ban, and brought immigration benefits processing to a crawl, nearly bankrupting U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and implementing policies that resulted in historically high processing delays.

“Under your leadership, Secretary Mayorkas, the Department has done a great deal to reverse many of these terrible policies, creating a family separation taskforce to reunite families, ending the Muslim Ban, and undertaking rulemaking to protect DACA.  The Department has also worked to streamline and improve processing for all legal immigration applications. 

“However, these changes will take time to bear fruit and other reforms have been stymied in the courts.  Further, we continue to face Senate inaction on bipartisan immigration reform bills shepherded through the House by this Committee.  Despite these challenges, there is much more to be done.

“We are at a pivotal moment in the struggle for our country’s identity, for our safety, and for our dignity. History will judge us—and future generations will remember us—based on how we comport ourselves during this time of polarization, cruelty, and divisiveness.

“Your leadership, Mr. Secretary, can help guide our trajectory through the darkness and into a new day. 

“I am looking forward to hearing how you intend to fight white supremacy and online radicalization of far-right extremists, and to restore our nation’s reputation as one that is welcoming to immigrants and refugees.

“I thank you for appearing today and I look forward to your testimony.”

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