Democratic Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee entered into a heated exchange with an ICE official several times during a House congressional hearing, forcing the chairman at one point to intervene.
The House Homeland Security Committee held a field hearing in Tougaloo, Mississippi, on Thursday regarding Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) arrest of 680 illegal aliens in August who were working at several food processing facilities across the state. Democrats on the committee complained that the agency did not warn local officials before the raid, and also chastised the operation for resulting in family separations.
Jere Miles, the special agent in charge of the New Orleans office of ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations, attracted criticism from the Democrat lawmakers throughout the hearing.
“It’s one thing to sit here and say ‘this is cruel, this is this, this the other,’ but it is the law, and the Congress writes and enacts the law. We don’t. The problem with looking at us and saying ‘you should exercise discretion’ is I honestly believe it puts too much power in the hands of police. Do you not?” Miles, speaking on behalf of ICE, said to Jackson Lee at one point during the hearing.
The line drew a booming response from the longtime Texas lawmaker.
“I beg to differ with you. It is not Congress’s policy to separate families and mothers from children. That is the policy of the president of the United States. That’s not our policy,” Jackson Lee said, earning applause from audience, many of whom had been holding up anti-ICE signs during the hearing.
Miles then pointed out that, since the Mississippi raids took place in August, ICE and Homeland Security Investigations uncovered 400 cases of identity theft — a federal crime.
“Is that not a serious crime?” Miles asked as the two began to talk over each other. “But is that not a serious crime? You’re asking if there’s a serious crime.”
The back-and-forth prompted Democratic Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, to interject.
“Just a minute now. She’s got to ask the question before you can answer,” Thompson said. “Mr. Miles, just calm down.”
Miles quickly responded, noting that he was, in fact, calm.
“No. Then be quiet,” the chairman said back. Once again, the line drew wide applause from the sympathetic audience.
The hearing came after ICE raided seven different food processing facilities that were suspected of employing illegal aliens. Altogether, ICE agents nabbed 680 illegal aliens during the Aug. 7 raid, a record-breaking number for the agency. However, the operation drew criticism from Democrats and other immigration-advocates who decried the fact that many of those arrested were not able to go home to their families. (RELATED: Medical Exam Disputes CNN Report, Shows Detained Immigrant Was Not Lactating, ICE Says)
However, many of the illegal aliens who were arrested were subsequently let go for humanitarian reasons.
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