U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen testified before a House panel on Thursday about border security, sanctuary cities, immigration law loopholes exploited by transnational gangs, and deployment of the U.S. National Guard to the southern border.
During a U.S. House Homeland Security Committee hearing, Nielsen testified that sanctuary cities that do not adhere to federal immigration laws “protect criminals, not the community.” She said sanctuary city policies also “ pit blue against blue, federal law enforcement against state law enforcement when they should be working together to protect our communities.”
U.S. Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ), chair of the Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security, cited reports that 100 gang members, many belonging to MS-13, were released in California from October 2016 to June 2017 because of sanctuary city policies.
“So we have gang members and other violent felons and criminals who — because of these dangerous policies — and being released back into our communities to be a further danger, instead of being handed over to federal authorities in prison where it is safer for the community and safer for your agents,” McSally said.
McSally also said the Yuma border patrol sector in Arizona is a transition point for MS-13 gang members from Central America to enter the country. In 2017, she added, a joint U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Department of Justice operation accounted for 25 percent of 267 arrests of gang members who entered the country as unaccompanied (UAC) minors.
“Earlier this week, a Yuma sector border patrol apprehended 61 people who entered the U.S. illegally,” McSally said. “During an initial interview, one of these individuals claimed to be an unaccompanied minor. He later admitted he was an adult and part of MS-13. UACs from El Salvador and other Central American countries are given different treatment than those from Mexico or other countries like Canada and are allowed to remain in the United States only to disappear into the shadows.”
McSally and Nielsen also voiced support for deployment of the National Guard to the southern border. Nielsen testified that the National Guard would be used as a “force multiplier” along the border.