McCain Criticizes Rules Barring Communication with Border Staff and Detainees

by Molly Wharton

Senator John McCain (R., Ariz.) expressed multiple concerns with the government’s handling of the ongoing border situation during the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee’s border-security hearing on Wednesday. 

Testifying before the committee, Juan Osuna, the director of the Justice Department’s Executive Office of Immigration Review, said the office has found that 46 percent of juveniles do not show up for their immigration hearings. He noted that not showing up does carry “considerable consequences,” as the judge can issue an order of removal. 

But McCain noted that in 2013, only 1,669 out of 20,805 immigrants – about 1 in 20 — were actually sent back. As a result, they “have every reason to believe . . . that there is ample incentive for them to come to this country.”

McCain also expressed his resentment at the rules regarding visits to immigrant-processing facilities where many of those who have recently crossed the border have been taken. 

McCain asked why one is not allowed to take photographs, to which Gil Kerlikowske, the Customs and Border Protection commissioner, explained that “the children have a right to privacy.” 

McCain also read aloud the memo issued by Kerlikowske, which stated that visitors to the border may not “have any physical or verbal contact with CBS detainees and/or staff.” He then asked, “Are you telling me I can’t even speak to the staff there?” 

Kerlikowske answered that they would make “special arrangements for special considerations.”

But McCain said that during his visit to the facility in Arizona, he was told not to speak with any of the staff or children, who were following his instructions. This, McCain said, prevented him from carrying out “responsibilities I have in my own state.”

“You have overstepped your responsibilities and your authority, sir,” he told Kerlikowske. “I want those instructions revoked as far as members of Congress are concerned and I want it done today.”

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