Debbie Wasserman Schultz vs. Thomas Homan

If I don't like it, it can't be true.

On September 11, the Civil Rights and Civil Liberties subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform held a hearing named “The Administration’s Apparent Revocation of Medical Deferred Action for Critically Ill Children”. The hearing was called after U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services sent letters to aliens who had overstayed their visas, informing them that USCIS would no longer consider their requests for medical deferral, which had protected seriously ill foreigners from deportation while undergoing medical treatment in the U.S.

One of the witnesses called to testify before the subcommittee was Thomas Homan, former Director of U.S. Immigration and Customers Enforcement.

This 5-minute segment shows Thomas Homan delivering his opening statement before the subcommittee.

In his opening statement, Thomas Homan:

  • Took a moment to reflect on the 18th anniversary of the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks.
  • Stressed that there cannot exist a deferred action “program”, granting an entire class of aliens a certain benefit. In the case of this hearing the benefit is deferred action, which can indefinitely delay the alien's deportation.
  • Deferred action is a matter of “prosecutorial discretion”, wherein government officials decide whether or how to punish a person who has broken the law, on a case-by-case basis. Homan says that prosecutorial discretion in immigration matters is the domain of ICE, which has statutory enforcement authority over these laws, and not USCIS, which had been deciding on requests for deferred action until the change in procedures that was the subject of this hearing.
  • Homan then veered from his prepared remarks to voice concern over Congressional hearings that are called whenever there is a policy change that might effect the plight of illegal immigrants, while there is no matching sense of urgency regarding policies that put U.S. citizens in danger.
  • I don't see the same sense of urgency when existing policies put our citizens in danger, put this country's security in danger, or result in an insecure border, which results in not just a humanitarian crisis, but a national security crisis.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D, FL-23) is a member of the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. When her turn came to speak or question witnesses for five minutes, this is how she began:

Before I ask my questions, since it has not yet been done, I think it's important to really make sure that the jingoistic, bigoted testimony of Mr. Homan is called out as nearly completely untrue, as being an outrage, and as a former official directing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, he should know better.

At this point, another committee member begins to interrupt, Homan asks what was inaccurate, Subcommittee Chairman Jamie Raskin (D, MD-8) pronounces she's made her point, and Wasserman Schultz adds so I just think it's important that it's not accepted as accurate testimony. That final remark was delivered as if she was triumphantly summarizing so don't think you're going to get away with that, mister!

A short while later, Homan was given a chance to respond, and this followed:

In her opening statement, in this exchange, and in what followed, Debbie Wasserman Schultz never did take the opportunity to explain what she thought was inaccurate about Thomas Homan's statement.

Footnote: On September 19, the Committee on Oversight and Reform announced in a press release that they had been notified by the Department of Homeland Security that the policy change had been reversed.

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