Top Oversight Democrat demands immigration brass testify

Top Oversight Democrat demands immigration brass testify
© Greg Nash

A top Democrat on the House Oversight and Reform Committee demanded Wednesday that the heads of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) appear before the panel.

His request comes after lower-ranking officials refused to answer most questions during testimony before the committee earlier this month.

Rep. Jamie RaskinJamin (Jamie) Ben RaskinEx-Trump aide on Russia testifies for 10 hours as part of impeachment inquiry Oversight panel to subpoena Trump officials next week over deportation deferrals Democrats plow ahead as Trump seeks to hobble impeachment effort MORE (D-Md.), chairman of the Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Subcommittee, wrote to Ken Cuccinelli and Matthew Albence, the acting heads of USCIS and ICE, respectively, formally requesting they testify before the subcommittee on Sept. 26.

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Raskin panned what he called a "flagrant, last-minute breach of the agreement" to avoid committee subpoenas in exchange for making officials available to testify.

Cuccinelli and Albence had previously been requested to appear before the committee, but had reached an agreement to send lower-ranking officials instead.

But at the hearing this month, called in response to the administration's decision to end deportation deferrals for critically ill children and their families, the officials sent by the two agencies repeatedly refused to answer member questions, citing ongoing litigation.

In his letter, Raskin cited an exchange he had with Daniel Renaud, the associate director of the Field Operations Directorate at USCIS.

"You can't tell me there's a new policy. You can't tell me what motivated the new policy, and you can't tell me what the new policy is. Is that a correct assessment of the situation?" asked Raskin.

"That is my testimony, sir, yes," replied Renaud.

Raskin further complained that the administration officials failed to comply with requests made in a letter signed by Oversight Chairman Rep. Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsDiplomat who raised Ukraine concerns to testify in Trump impeachment probe House rejects GOP measure censuring Schiff Overnight Defense: Trump weighs leaving some troops in Syria to 'secure the oil' | US has pulled 2,000 troops from Afghanistan | Pelosi leads delegation to Afghanistan, Jordan MORE (D-Md.) and more than 100 members of the House to follow up with their committee testimony.

"The Department's actions are a clear breach of its agreement with the Committee," wrote Raskin. "The Department's rationale for refusing to answer questions from Congress has been rejected by the Supreme Court, and the Department's stonewalling is obstructing our investigation."