Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley took ICE representatives to task Wednesday at a congressional hearing on how President Donald Trump's war on immigrants has affected ill children and their families, but were ultimately stymied in that effort as the officials refused to cooperate or answer questions.
"This is a threat to the rule of law," Ocasio-Cortez said of the recalcitrance of Daniel Renaud, ICE's associate director of field operations, and Timothy Robbins, the acting executive associate director of ICE's enforcement and removal operations, in the face of her questions.
Right now, another tense exchange between Renaud and @AOC why he's citing pending litigation, when SCOTUs has said that's not a good reason for denying to answer congressional questions.— Tanvi (@Tanvim) September 11, 2019
The House Oversight Civil Rights and Human Services Subcommittee hearing on the Trump administration's "apparent revocation of medical deferred action for critically ill children" also heard from victims of the policy, including Maria Isabel Bueso, who suffers from the rare disease mucopolysaccharidosis type VI, and Jonathan Sanchez, who has cystic fibrosis. Both Bueso and Sanchez could be sent to their home countries, away from life saving care, under the administration's proposed policy disallowing deportation deferments for children with diseases and their families.
As Common Dreams reported, the policy change was announced in August, when families of patients at Boston Medical Center received letters from ICE informing them of a 33-day limit to their deportations being deferred.
At the beginning of her questions Wednesday, Pressley tore into the Trump administration for its immigration policies.
"Just when I think that the occupant of this White House and his xenophobic administration cannot reach any new lows—they decide to go even lower," said Pressley. "Giving seriously ill children and their families 33 days to leave the country and risk being deported."
The #trauma of a chronic illness can last a lifetime. The trauma of #deportation & family separation can last a lifetime.— Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (@RepPressley) September 11, 2019
Imagine facing both.
Today patients, advocates & gov't officials are testifying before @OversightDems on the cruel termination of #MedicalDeferredAction pic.twitter.com/DcB4CYVV9s
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During the hearing, Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Calif.) waved a copy of the letter at Renaud and Robbins.
"This is a cruel, heartless thing to send out," said DeSaulnier.
Ocasio-Cortez questioned Renaud and Robbins on the policy but both men told her and other lawmakers repeatedly that they could not answer for reasons relating to ongoing litigation.
The New York Democrat turned to subcommittee chair Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) and said, "we are getting open resistance."
Pressley expressed frustration as Renaud and Robbins repeatedly evaded her questions on requests from patients to reconsider deferment refusals.
"For the questions you've not answered based on pending litigation, do you actually know the answer to those questions?" the Massachusetts Democrat said at the end of her questions, clearly exasperated.
At the hearing's conclusion, Ocasio-Cortez gave Renaud and Robbins until Friday to answer her questions on who recommended they stonewall the subcommittee under oath and suggested that if the duo did not answer the questions, the subcommittee should seek a subpoena.