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Partisan Report Distorts Real Problem at the Border


Friday, October 20, 2006

Today, Reps. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, Bob Etheridge (D-NC), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Investigations and senior Committee Member, Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), released the following letter in response to the ‘A Line in the Sand: Confronting the Threat at the Southwest Border’, a partisan report by the majority staff of the House Committee on Homeland Security Subcommittee on Investigations.

Congressman Thompson issued the following statement regarding the report:

“This is an irresponsible use of the Homeland Security Committee name which prides itself on the dissemination of well documented, well sourced and proven information for the all the reports we release. It is disappointing that Chairman McCaul would use his position on this Committee to advance his own personal political agenda. This type of behavior only undermines the credibility of this very important Committee.”

“The Chairman made a serious mistake. The use of a committee office to issue a report that includes misleading and uncited information is a breach of the public trust. I hope that the subcommittee can return to working in a bipartisan professional spirit in order to complete the job the American people have entrusted us to do,” added Rep. Etheridge.

“The timing for releasing this inflammatory, uncorroborated, and partisan report weeks before an election clearly illustrates how politics is opportunistically allowed to triumph national security. This report reflects neither the bipartisanship nor the deliberation which would have ensured the release of an accurate document emblematic of the rigorous documentation present in other bipartisan reports issued by the Committee on Homeland Security. Instead, House Republicans offer only simplistic and caustic rhetoric regarding immigrants and immigration reform which is too often articulated in an attempt to fuel anti-immigrant sentiment,” said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee.


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Text of the letter follows:


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October 20, 2006

Congressman Michael T. McCaul
Chairman
Homeland Security Subcommittee on Investigations
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairman McCaul:

We would like to express our alarm and disappointment with the report you issued on Tuesday entitled “A Line in the Sand: Confronting the Threat at the Southwest Border.” We believe that it is irresponsible to release a report that includes inflammatory, undocumented, and under-sourced claims as a Homeland Security Committee publication. Furthermore, though the Majority and Minority staff of the Homeland Security Committee initially worked together gathering information and developing an outline for this report, Minority Staff was given little opportunity to discuss their questions and concerns about the final draft before you ordered its release.

When conducting bipartisan investigations, it has been the practice of the Homeland Security Committee and Subcommittee staff to work in a cooperative and bipartisan basis through preparation and release of any report. For example, months of collaboration led to the recent bipartisan report “An Examination of Federal 9/11 Assistance to New York: Lessons Learned in Preventing Waste, Fraud, Abuse, and Lax Management.” Unfortunately, your report does not reflect similar bipartisan work, and the report contains questionable statements that a collaborative effort, including rigorous documentation, could have avoided, resulting in a superior, accurate document.

For instance, your report is often devoid of citation despite the sensational nature of the assertions. You state, without further attribution, that “Law enforcement has stated that some individuals come across the border because they have been forced to leave their home countries due to their criminal activity. These dangerous criminals are fleeing the law in other countries and seeking refuge in the United States.” Yet beyond the bare assertion that “law enforcement” so stated, there is no further evidence of any source for this claim.

Other assertions, such as those concerning the number of illegal aliens and the quantity of drugs entering the United States, are stated as “fact” when in reality they are extrapolations of assumptions. We were particularly troubled by your claim that there is an unusually high percentage of sexual offenders among the illegal immigrant population. The only basis cited for this assertion is a “study” by an organization called the “Violent Crimes Institute.” From what we have been able to discern, the “Violent Crimes Institute” is a one-person affair, and this “study” appears unscientific and was not peer-reviewed.

We are also concerned about the manner in which your staff conducted this investigation. We were shocked to see that the preliminary report draft cited no fewer than seven interviews with state and federal law enforcement officials that were conducted solely by Majority staff. Again, in direct contradiction of Committee practice, your staff did not notify Minority staff of these interviews, even though we were working under the assumption that this report was a bipartisan effort. When your staff is conducting initial or follow-up interviews related to a bipartisan investigation, we expect that our staff will be invited to attend well in advance of any such interview.

We had hoped to work in a bipartisan manner to expose border security threats and to offer viable, common-sense solutions. Despite the unilateral and partisan process used to develop this report, we hope that you will see fit to work more cooperatively on future projects. Although we may differ on some conclusions and recommendations, we are sure you will agree that official Committee products should always be factual, accurate and well-documented. The citizens of our nation expect no less.

Sincerely,

Bennie G. Thompson
Ranking Member
Committee on Homeland Security

Bob Etheridge
Ranking Member
Subcommittee on Investigations

Sheila Jackson Lee
Member of Congress


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FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Please contact Dena Graziano or Todd Levett at (202) 226-2616.



Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS)

Rep. Bennie G. Thompson
(D-MS)

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