Oct 7, 2020
DHS Sec. Chad Wolf Press Conference Transcript October 7
DHS Secretary Chad Wolf held a press conference on October 7. He addressed the first phase of ‘Operation Rise,’ which resulted in the arrest of over 100 undocumented immigrants. Read the transcript of the briefing here.
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Chad Wolf: (00:00)
… exemplifies the commitment by ICE to uphold the rule of law. I’d like to recognize our angel families. I’ve had the opportunity to meet with several of them and I want to express my deepest condolences to them. I cannot imagine your pain. I remind them that their loved ones are not forgotten by DHS and that their suffering will never be forgotten and that their grief is shared by all Americans who mourn with them.
Chad Wolf: (00:26)
Nearly four years ago this administration put forth an American first strategy with a clear mandate to secure our borders, restore integrity to our immigration system and most importantly protect American communities by upholding the rule of law. Since day one, DHS has worked around the clock to fulfill that mandate and to perform our sworn duty to secure the homeland. Unfortunately, certain local political leaders, including many in California, continue to put politics over public safety. Instead of fulfilling our shared mission to protect our communities, they would rather play politics with the law by enacting so-called sanctuary city policies to the detriment of our country’s safety. Some mistakenly believed that this is compassionate, but it is not. There’s no compassion for the Americans whose lives have been destroyed or ended by these policies.
Chad Wolf: (01:18)
Politicians and media pundits may attempt to spin and hide the truth, but the fact remains sanctuary cities policies, shield violent criminal aliens at the expense of American lives. There’s simply no way around it. It wasn’t always like this. Historically ICE has enjoyed strong partnerships with local law enforcement. They used to honor our request to detain violent criminals and keep them from further harming our communities. Sadly, political gamesmanship has shattered many of those partnerships mocking and hurting the rule of law. Nevertheless, this administration and this department will never be deterred by reckless policies. We will continue to do our job and protect the American people with or without the help of local political leaders. Our obligation to protect American citizens from illegal aliens who rape, murder and otherwise commit violent crimes against our communities, does not stop at the borders of a so-called sanctuary city. It encompasses all of the United States of America. Like it or not, this is the reality. Our constitution ambiguously places the power to set immigration policy with the federal government. Our government is by the people and for the people and those who represent them in congress decide our immigration laws.
Chad Wolf: (02:37)
The job of President Trump, DHS and ICE is to fully enforce the law as written, not a certain politicians wish it were. DHS has the legal right and the moral obligation to investigate and detain those who break federal laws under our jurisdiction, anywhere in the country. Any local jurisdiction thinking that refusing to with ICE will result in a decrease in local immigration enforcement is mistaken. ICE has no choice but to conduct more at large arrest in local neighborhoods and at works sites, which inevitably result in additional collateral arrest instead of targeted arrest at jails, where enforcement is safer for everyone involved. Residents should understand and continue to expect a more visible ICE presence in California and other cities where non-cooperation sanctuary city policies remain in effect.
Chad Wolf: (03:31)
Let me be clear. The individuals that ICE lodges detainers against are not random illegal immigrants in our communities. They are not. ICE focuses its limited resources first and foremost, by targeting those who pose the greatest threat to public safety. Nationally, approximately 90% of all people arrested by ice during fiscal year 2019 either had a criminal conviction, a pending criminal charge, had criminally re-entered the US after being previously removed or were an immigration fugitive subject to a final order of removal. Again, these are not everyday people. These are hardened criminals who threaten American communities and put American lives at risk. Operation Rise is proof positive that we will never back down from enforcing the rule of law with or without the cooperation of local political leaders. Thanks to the men and women of ICE operation Rise is a stunning success thus far.
Chad Wolf: (04:28)
In just five days between September 28th and October 2nd, our officers in California arrested 128 illegal aliens wanted for some of the most heinous crimes imaginable. Of those arrested, 96% either had criminal convictions or pending criminal charges for crimes, including homicide, sexual assault, sexual offenses against children, aggravated assault, battery, domestic violence and weapons offenses. One of those arrested is a 40 year old El Salvadorian who was convicted of first degree murder in November of 2009 and was sentenced to 25 years to life. In August ICE issued a detainer for this individual, but the Los Angeles County jail denied the request and instead inexplicably chose to release this murder into the community they are sworn to protect.
Chad Wolf: (05:19)
Another of those arrested is a 35 year old Mexican citizen who illegally re-entered our country after he was deported. This individual was arrested for sexual intercourse with a minor in March of 2016, was later arrested for domestic violence in violation of a court order in January of 2018. ICE issued a detainer for this individual, but once again it was denied, this time by the San Diego County jail which then released this criminal back into the streets. Thanks to ICE’s remarkable efforts these two felons, as well as others, will no longer be allowed to prey on American citizens and while I’m proud to see criminals are back behind bars, it’s important to note they should never have been allowed to walk free in the first place.
Chad Wolf: (06:04)
Political leaders who support sanctuary city policies must stop putting politics over the public safety of their communities. I hope that they will look at the angel families and see the real and tragic consequences of their actions and the victims that could have been protected simply by working with the department to enforce the rule of law. To any leaders who are in enacting or proposing sanctuary policies I say this, do your job. Uphold and follow the constitution. Protect your communities. Cease these harmful policies and allow your local law enforcement officers to partner with DHS to protect American citizens. Your country and its people deserve better. We all share a common moral and legal duty to protect American people, the homeland, our communities and the rule of law that keeps us free and safe. This responsibilities should not be advocated for any reason.
Chad Wolf: (07:00)
Again, I’d like to thank the men and women of ICE for their hard work, their dedication, their service and most importantly, their sacrifice. You continue to do a tremendous job despite some of the most difficult circumstances and I am incredibly proud of your work. With that let me turn it over to acting director Pham who will provide details regarding the success of operation Rise. Director. Podium is yours.
Tony Pham: (07:28)
Mr. Secretary, thank you very much. To the men and women of Immigration, Customs and Enforcement, I want to extend my heartfelt appreciation and thanks to you all for your steadfast dedication to applying the rule of law, public safety. To the angel families who were adversely impacted by tragedy based upon the sanctuary policies, I wanted to let you all know that my thoughts are with you as we begin to discuss the successful results of operation Rise. Operation Rise was a recent operation conducted by ICE’s enforcement and removal operations throughout the Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco areas, between the dates of September 28th and October 2nd of 2020. The objective of Operation Rise was to identify, locate and arrest criminal immigration fugitives and to ensure that they were timely removed from the United States.
Tony Pham: (08:20)
This operation focused on apprehending individuals in certain jurisdictions where ICE detainers were not honored. The results as you see include those convicted of murder, violent child sex offenses, drunk drivers, domestic violence offenders and many others. The operation was a success because we were able to secure over 120 individuals so they would not be in a position to hurt anyone else. Thanks to ICE’s dedicated officers over 120 immigration fugitives are now in custody awaiting removal from the United States. More than 95% of those arrested in this operation have prior criminal convictions or pending criminal charges and we’re free to re-offend because of California’s noncooperative sanctuary policies, that politicized public safety.
Tony Pham: (09:15)
As you can see by the presented chart, the aliens apprehended have committed serious crimes against children, spouses, loved ones and other innocent victims. Specifically ICE was able to detain the following individuals during Operation Rise. Two individuals convicted of murder, multiple aliens convicted of violent criminal sex offenses against children, multiple aliens convicted for violent sexual assaults. The list goes on. Unfortunately, this is not a new battle for us. ICE has tried time and time again to get cities across the country to cooperate with us and recognize the importance of our shared public safety mission. Because of Operation Rise, multiple communities are now safer than they were a week ago. Strong local partnerships and reliable cooperation are vital to a successful law enforcement posture.
Tony Pham: (10:11)
As the nation’s premier federal law enforcement agency, it is absolutely frustrating for our officers, agents and investigators to know that victims and communities across this country and in these cities continue to struggle with public safety, when we had the opportunity to help the locality who refuse to cooperate with us and it’s all because they lawfully executed detainer is ignored and quite frankly, a simple phone call is not made. When we lodge a detainer, we are not asking the state or local enforcement officer to ask any individual about their immigration status. ICE is the one making the enforcement action and those determinations. All they need to do is call us before they release the individual. That’s it. Just a phone call so we can help protect the American people in our communities.
Tony Pham: (11:02)
A phone call would have saved Mr. Rocky Jones, who was murdered by an alien who was wanted by ICE, but released into the community by non-cooperative jurisdiction in California. Folks, crimes committed after a removable alien is released into the community are all preventable. What happened to Mr. Rocky Jones could have been prevented had the locality cooperate with ICE. At this time I also want to introduce Mr. Tae Johnson with ICE, the acting deputy director, as well to his left Mr. Peter Berg, the acting deputy executive associate director as well for ICE. Mr. Secretary.
Chad Wolf: (11:42)
All right. We’ll open up to some questions and answers. If you do have a question, please identify yourself and who you’re with. Thank you. Yep. All right, we’ll go back there.
Priscilla Alvarez: (11:53)
Hi, Priscilla Alvarez with CNN. You’ve mentioned more ICE presence in California. I was hoping you could elaborate on that. Should we expect to see an uptick in enforcement in the coming weeks? What is your response to critics who say that this doubling down on enforcement is because of the presidential election in November?
Chad Wolf: (12:15)
Sure. A couple of answers and I’ll let Tony talk a little bit, specifically about California. I will say when we target sanctuary city policies or sanctuary cities, it’s not about republicans, it’s not about democrats, it’s not about elections. It’s about dangerous policies that are dangerous for that community. We’re going to target any community where we see those dangerous policies occurring. We’re going to go in there, we’re going to pick up individuals that should not be in those communities. Wherever they’re at, obviously we understand and we know that California has a number of sanctuary cities in their jurisdiction and so we started there. I talked about phase one. We’re going to continue enforcement actions across the country and the ICE does this every day, so it’s nothing new for them. What was the first part of your question again?
Priscilla Alvarez: (13:02)
Well, I wanted to give you the opportunity to respond to critics who say that this is tied to the presidential election.
Chad Wolf: (13:06)
Right. It’s not, obviously. I kind of commented on that. It’s not about an election. It’s not about republicans or Democrats, it’s about the sanctuary city policies. Specifically regarding California, in my comments earlier during my prepared remarks was just to underscore the fact that ICE officers have to go into these communities regardless. There is a sanctuary city jurisdiction, it doesn’t wall off ICE officers from going in and do their job. They’re still going to have to go in. We oftentimes have to go in with more officers, for not only their safety, but for the safety of the individuals in those communities. My point earlier was if there seems to be an irrational notion or an incorrect notion, I would say, that you’re somehow preventing ICE from coming in to do their job if you enact a sanctuary city policy of some kind, the opposite is actually true. They’re going to have to come in with more officers to do a job that could easily have been done in a jail setting without going into the community at large. Tony, do you want to comment on anything? You’re good? Okay. Next.
Claudia Uceda: (14:13)
Claudia Uceda with Univision Network. We are hearing that the arrests and the deportations are not done with a hearing in front of a judge. Can you confirm that? That this is actually happening or not? Our second question is, how different is this operation, the one that you just did? If you want to compare it to previous ones, to the routine ones, can you be as specific and tell us how different this operation is from previous ones?
Tony Pham: (14:45)
If I may, sorry about that. Let me address the first part of the question with regard to these arrests are occurring with an immigration judge. What typically happens in this enforcement posture is folks are taken into custody and then they are issued their NTA and their detention determination is made accordingly, but they’re provided an opportunity to have their hearing, if there is a claim appropriately and they can have their hearing before the court. Secondly, how this is different, we do daily operations, but when we have sanctuary jurisdictions that are openly and willfully not making a phone call and specifically not cooperating with ICE, we’re going to have to surge resources and operations and personnel and individuals into a particular locality, just to look for one particular individual. Mr. Secretary said it appropriately, we are spending more resources going into a locality, looking for one particular dangerous individual, as opposed to if that jurisdiction would legitimately just pick up the phone and give us a call. Instead of 10 people maybe going into a community looking for a particular person, it would maybe take a two or three person team to perfect and effectuate the transfer of the individual. That’s where we have a surge in our operations, in having to find these individuals that were notified to the local communities that we wanted them in our custody.
Claudia Uceda: (16:05)
Is this operation different from the ones that you did last year?
Tony Pham: (16:09)
No. The operations are going to be the same. We are looking at individuals that have prior criminal records, criminal backgrounds, that come to our radar, that we’re going to be looking to go and try to arrest because they were not turned over to ICE.
Kelly Phares: (16:30)
Hi, Kelly Phares with Fox News channel. I just have a question generally. If you guys have seen any trends or any increase in criminal alien activity since COVID really hit the United States in March and if so, what do you attribute that to?
Tony Pham: (16:47)
I’m going to turn that question over to acting deputy director for enforcement removal as well. Tae.
Tae D. Johnson: (16:55)
I don’t know that we can say that we’ve actually seen an uptick in immigration issues as it relates to COVID, so, no. I don’t think that’s something that we can say for sure has occurred. What has happened is there’s been some domestic violence issues and we had several, say about two months ago, where we focused on that segment of the population, just because people being cooped up in the house and we heard some concerns with domestic violence. We’ve certainly focused our enforcement efforts based on what we were seeing in the COVID environment, but we can’t say for sure that there’s been an increase in crimes as it relates to COVID.
Chad Wolf: (17:46)
Let me just make a comment there. I think a couple of different things. Obviously ICE, like the rest of us in March, had to slow down some of their operations as COVID took hold. They’ve adjusted. Obviously they have PPE. We’ve adjusted to that. They’ll continue to do their job. They always did their job, but they’re going to continue to continue to do that job. When we talk about COVID though, we do see impacts to COVID here in the homeland when it comes to immigration. When we look at illegal immigration, particularly on the southwest border, we see different population flows than we had previously seen over the past we’ll say 12 months because we know that the US economy was suffering during COVID and we continue to get it back up and running. We know that the economies of Central America are also hurting and so we see more economic migration continuing to occur and that’s as a result of COVID.
Chad Wolf: (18:47)
There are impacts to the homeland, but I think Tae was right. The specific impacts to COVID and illegal activity will be somewhat difficult. Also, when we talk about COVID, we talk about counterfeits. In a number of ICE operations, CBP operation and others have seen a number of illegal COVID related counterfeits coming into the country that we are stopping and prosecuting as well.
Kelly Phares: (19:12)
Have you seen more border crossing since March and are you attributing that to economic impacts that COVID has had on other nations?
Chad Wolf: (19:22)
It’s not necessarily more, but we are starting to see the composition change a little bit. If you recall back in 2019, we put together historic agreements with the northern triangle country and we saw our numbers significantly decrease as the amount of individuals coming. We’re starting to see a little bit of those numbers returned and it’s mainly because… Again, as border patrol picks these individuals up, they’re doing interviews with them. We have a pretty good idea of why they’re coming. It’s for economic reasons, mainly. We’ll do one more.
Claudia Uceda: (19:54)
Just one more question, I’m sorry. We are hearing that some of them are deported within 24 hours. Can you tell us why?
Chad Wolf: (20:02)
Sure, absolutely. The department is working under a CDC order that was issued to us in March of this year. It’s a COVID related public health emergency. What it says is border patrol and ICE should not hold individuals in congregate settings, that we don’t have the facilities to make sure that COVID doesn’t spread there. Individuals that border patrol is picking up, about 90% of those are being returned within about two hours. Again, that’s for the safety of not only for the border patrol agents, for the American communities along the southwest border, but also for the migrants as well. A lot of these individuals arrive in our care and custody with no medical history. Oftentimes with no documentation. It’s very difficult to make medical judgements about where they are and who they are and so it’s for the safety of our people as well as them as well. All right. Thank you all. Appreciate it.