(CNSNews.com) – Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said Thursday that “recalcitrant countries” that refuse to take criminal aliens that are being deported should not get federal aid from the U.S. and the U.S. should not give those countries more visas.
“They should not be getting federal aid, and we shouldn’t be giving them visas so that more people from those countries can come to the United States,” said Chaffetz during a hearing on illegal immigration crime.
“Although the majority of the countries in the world adhere to their international obligation to accept the timely return of their citizens, ICE has confronted unique challenges with those countries that systematically refuse or delay the repatriation of their nationals,” Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director Sarah Saldana said in written testimony.
“Despite ICE’s continued efforts, a number of factors constrain ICE’s ability to improve the level of repatriations to those nations. Such factors include limited diplomatic relations with some countries; the countries’ own internal bureaucratic processes, which foreign governments at times rely upon in order to delay the repatriation process; and foreign governments that simply do not view repatriation as a priority,” Saldana wrote.
“We have made some progress, albeit slowly,” she added. “In FY 2015, ICE was able to remove convicted criminals to ten additional countries via ICE Air Operations charters.
“For example, ICE removed an individual convicted of selling drugs, resisting arrest, DUI, and criminal trespassing to Uganda, and was able to remove another individual convicted of attempted bombing to Sudan. The U.S. Government remains firm and focused in its resolve to engage all nations that deny or unreasonably delay the acceptance of their nationals,” Saldana added.
“This world is a chaotic world. We have countries with great instability, countries that have suffered tremendous even natural disasters like Haiti, and are in turmoil and trying to deal with them is very hard, but I am working with the Department of State,” Saldana said during her opening testimony.
Saldana said she planned to meet with Assistant Secretary of State for Consular Affairs Michele Bond to discuss what more can be done about to recalcitrant countries.
Chaffetz accused Saldana of making discretionary choices on who to release and using “as an excuse these countries that won’t accept them.”
“Here’s my question for you: Based on Section 243 D of the Immigration Nationality Act, how many times have you recommended to the State Department in writing that these countries are according to the law, ‘on being notified by the Attorney General that the government of the foreign country denies or unreasonably delays accepting an alien’ and then it goes on ‘that the secretary shall order the consular officers in that foreign country to discontinue issuing visas or non-immigrant visas,” Chaffetz said.
“How many times have you made that recommendation to the attorney general or to the State Department? Chaffetz asked Saldana. He also asked her to name the countries that have not been cooperative in taking criminal aliens that have deportation orders.
“I can’t tell you off the top of my head,” Saldana said, but promised to provide that information within one week to the committee.
“You understand that I have to talk to Department of State about that, because some of these are sensitive areas that I believe we can talk about this further in chambers sir,” she added.
“We can talk about it in the public,” Chaffetz said. “I want to know which countries are not taking—because you know what? They should not be getting federal aid, and we shouldn’t be giving them visas so that more people from those countries can come to the United States.
“I don’t know what you think is so sensitive about that, but I want you to prioritize Americans rather than those other countries. That’s what I want to hear. I want to know that the citizens of our states are your number one priority, and put it out there in the public. Let’s know and understand which countries are not taking back the criminals that came here illegally and should be deported back into their country,” he added.
“This is a complicated world,” Saldana said, “and we have to look at each country separately. Syria and Iraq – that’s a pretty hopeless situation in trying to return those immigrants to those countries.”
“Do you really think Syria and Iraq is your job and your responsibility to make that determination?” Chaffetz asked.
“Here’s what the law says, and I’m quoting. ‘On being notified with the attorney general that the government of a foreign country denies or unreasonably delays accepting an alien who is a citizen, subject, national, or resident of a country, after the attorney general asks whether the government will accept the alien under the section, the secretary shall ... order consular officers in that foreign country to discontinue granting immigrant visas or non-immigrant visas or both to citizens, subjects, nationals, residents of that country until the attorney general notifies the secretary that the country has accepted the alien,’” Chaffetz said.
“What is incumbent upon you personally – in your duty, in your role and responsibility is to make that notification. If you are trying to take even just one alien and deport them back to a country – these are criminal aliens. Remember these are the ones that committed crimes and were convicted of crimes. If you’re trying to deport even one of those, and the country won’t take them back, you need to give that notification to the State Department,” he said.
“And the State Department makes that decision. Let’s just be clear,” Saldana said.
“No, there’s no decision, because under the statute, it says the secretary shall, and so it starts with you, and if you don’t give them that notification, it doesn’t work,” Chaffetz said.