WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, during a hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC), U.S. Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV) questioned Chad Wolf, the Trump Administration’s nominee to serve as Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). During her questioning, Senator Rosen highlighted the egregious actions that occurred at DHS during Mr. Wolf’s time as Chief of Staff to a former DHS Secretary, as Under Secretary, and under his watch as Acting Secretary.
A transcript of the Senator’s full exchange can be found below, and a video of the Senator’s full exchange can be found here.
ROSEN: I want to go back to your confirmation hearing for the Under Secretary position that was before this committee on June 12, 2019. I asked if you were involved in developing the family separation policy and you answered me, unequivocally: “No ma’am.”
I asked you how you became aware of the policy and you told me QUOTE “through discussions with staff – discussion leading up to the Attorney General’s announcement in April 2018.”
After that hearing, an email exchange became public from December 2017. You emailed a Justice Department spokesman, attaching a memo with the file name and I QUOTE “UAC Options” – UAC meaning “Unaccompanied Children.” You wrote in the email to the other official that YOU worked with others to pull the memo together, and that the purpose of the memo was to give then-DHS Secretary Nielsen QUOTE “an idea of what SHE can do right away versus actions that will take months plus to implement.” END QUOTE.
When you open the attached memo, it’s called “Policy Options to Respond to Border Surge of Illegal Immigration” and out of 16 policy options, family separation is number TWO on the list.
So let me ask you this: I asked if you helped develop this policy, and you told me no, is that correct?
WOLF: That’s correct.
ROSEN: You and several others QUOTE “pulled together” a memo for the DHS Secretary that discussed the family separation policy. And this policy was implemented. We know that children were separated from their parents at the hands of our government. So let’s go back to this cover email. You said that the purpose of this memo was to give SECRETARY NIELSEN – the DHS Secretary, the person whose Chief of Staff that you were – an idea of what she could do immediately, versus what would take months, is that correct?
WOLF: That’s correct.
ROSEN: So at your confirmation hearing, when I asked you if you helped develop this policy, you didn’t mention this memo, is that correct?
WOLF: I don’t believe that memo was discussed at that hearing, no.
ROSEN: Thank you. So, let’s talk about your memo. Here’s what it says for the number two policy option: QUOTE “Announce that DHS is considering separating family units, placing the adults in adult detention, and place the minors . . . in the custody of HHS as unaccompanied alien children,” or UACs. But those children you recommended classifying as UACs were NOT actually unaccompanied, were they, Mr. Wolf?
WOLF: I’m sorry can you repeat your question?
ROSEN: You said you we’re going to separate – this is what you said in your memo—and I’m quoting, you “considered separating family units and treating the children as unaccompanied.” They weren’t unaccompanied, they were part of family units. That’s what you said in your memo. You called them unaccompanied but they weren’t.
WOLF: Again, unaccompanied is a legal terminology. Let me just say, it was not my memo. You keep referring to it as my memo. As I said last year, Secretary Nielsen relied on not only her operators but also her policy – her immigration attorneys to develop policy options.
ROSEN: You were part of her team, and as her chief of staff, you have direct relationship and responsibility. You were part of a series of memos that went on, deciding to separate children and treat them as unaccompanied.
WOLF: I had a responsibility to make sure that the Secretary was fully staffed. Any time we talk about immigration within the department. I appreciate it may sound simple, but it is anything but simple. Making sure that we pull USCIS, ICE, CBP, General counsel policy office…
ROSEN: I understand, but I have a chief of staff, and anyone who has a chief of staff understands that this is a difficult job.
WOLF: That was not my portfolio, it was not my issue set at that time.
ROSEN: So let me ask you this question. You’ve been Acting Secretary for 10 months. Do you now consider it your job to speak truth to power when utterly abhorrent policies like this get proposed, and do you support ending family separation. Do you stand by that, you testified to that?
WOLF: As I testified last year, I testify again this year. I support the President’s decision when he issued an executive order to stop that practice, as the department did. And we executed that executive order I believe in June 2018.
ROSEN: Thank you. I’d like to talk about the ending of TPS quickly. Nevada is home to more than 4,000 TPS holders and their families. These are mothers and fathers, members of their communities, 1,700 of those are essential critical infrastructure workers, meaning they provide services that Americans depend on to operate during this COVID-19 pandemic, and all of our response efforts according to DHS guidance.
And so, we know what happened last week, the decision to deport TPS recipients.
In light of the federal appeals court decision, what are the Department’s plans for TPS for the countries of El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan?
WOLF: So, we’re not taking any measures at this time, as you know. We can’t do that, I believe, until about 52 days after that court decision. 45 days is allowed for individual parties to appeal that decision…we certainly expect that decision to be appealed. So basically it starts from that 52 or 53 day, we then look at a number of those TPS decisions that have been issued. You’re probably looking at the earliest 180 days out before any individuals, any TPS orders are enforce. So it’s still very much in the courts unfortunately. We’ll continue to play it out in the courts even though we did a have a 9th Circuit decision last week. There’s still very much…and there’s other lawsuits I would say in other court cases, depending on the country that we’re talking regarding TPS. All that is to say there is not one answer on how we’re addressing TPS the decision was made.
ROSEN: Would you consider speaking out particularly on protecting essential workers that are important to our pandemic response?
WOLF: So, we’ll continue to look at that. Again, we have about 180 days before there’s going to be any action taken. But these are temporary programs. TPS is a temporary program. We litigated, we talked about this in 2017. Policy decisions were made by prior secretaries at that time, regarding TPS. If this is a population that the United States Congress feels very passionate about, very much like DACA, very much like these other types of temporary populations then I would encourage Congress to find a lasting solution for these individuals.
ROSEN: I would love for us to do that too. And in the meantime, we are very short of those essential workers in many of our communities across this country and during a pandemic I would just urge special consideration of those families who are putting their own lives on the line to save others as we’ve seen this week with over 200,000 families whose lives are forever altered by the loss of someone that they loved. Thank you Mr. Chairman.