tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN July 18, 2014 1:00am-3:01am EDT
that there border can be a sanctuary for those who otherwise are at risk. that is what we have been urging countries around the world to do. we have participated in international efforts to provide safety for people who are not safe in their native country. i think we all want to make it clear, a point that we have all stressed, that it is not safe to put your child in the position of a trafficker or in the position of being taken to our border. there is no important -- no improvement of that child's status. that child will be put in deportation. that,o have to be mindful ambassador shannon, the number you gave, not our number, the number the international community, the representative
suggests that 50% of these children may need some form of protective service. that is an international responsibility of the united states -- responsibility the united states also has to be mindful. let me address with the chairman raised initially. the president is asking for $3.7 billion. $3.4 billion is dealing with the consequences of a failed policy within the native countries. instabilityy means that is not safe for families and children therefore they are putting their unaccompanied children at risk by transit to the united states. $300 million is being used for dealing with the causes. we have programs in these countries. we have the millennium challenge corporation that is operating in honduras and el salvador. we have partnership for growth operating in el salvador.
we have the central america regional security initiative. we have programs that were intended to deal with some of these issues. to me, the most successful program that was initiated to deal with a global problem that affected our country was that had significant resources identify with the u.s. initiative that made a consequential difference for future generations. what does it take to have that type of effort for safety of children in honduras and el salvador and guatemala? how can we change these programs? if we are going to spend $3.7 billion and you clearly have made the case that these funds are needed, we would like to be able to at least start down the
path of the united states using its international development assistance to keep children safe in these three countries. white frankly, i haven't seen that from the administration. what is the date? dr. shannon? >> thank you so much for that. i appreciate the larger point which is an important one, the safety and well-being of children is art of a larger -- part of a larger approach of u.s. assistance. build our programs, the idea was to address the country cover handsomely and integrated fashion in the hope that we would be able to address the concerns of children and adults, and the different sectors and factors of a society. but obviously, what we are
looking at now is something distinct, something dramatic. >> the supplemental budget is dramatic, on the number of prosecutors on the number of personnel on the border, on the new facilities. it's a dramatic. except it's not dramatic and making a change in the three countries where the children are coming from. why not? why not at least put forward a proposal that could have a consequential impact? forhi nt reagan did that hiv-aids? why are we not doing this for our hemisphere? >> the $300 million we are asking for is designed to operate in three countries. so it is concentrated and it's designed to address the printable drivers, we think, of this migration, which is the violence but also economic
opportunity and corruption and for public institutions. we think by doing this, we are going to advance the well-being of the children. but the idea of fashioning a larger policy, not just in these three countries but throughout the region around children, is a good one. do you really believe that if congress approved the 3.7 billion dollars exactly as the administration suggested that it would have a major change in the three countries as it relates to the safety of children? it will have a positive impact. >> that's not my question. >> so much of the violence is localized. it all depends on the strength of gang structures. the $300mportant is million will connect to programs we already have ultimately will be a down payment in a larger effort to fashion a new kind of central america. >> senator, if i might address
that. i think that money can be consequential from the department of justice's point of view in putting our personnel on the ground to work with their counterparts. it doesn't necessarily take that much money but it takes a sustained commitment. it won't help and -- it won't happen overnight. generally to change the way society addresses criminal justice. we think it can be an important step. . . it's just a down payment. it's not going to happen overnight but it is an essential first step. >> this committee has jurisdiction over development assistance. i would just hope that we would be able to weigh in on a in thisan basis opportunity to make a difference in the way that we provide development assistance in these three countries to make children's and families feel more confident of their it should -- of their future rather
than putting them on trains to another country. now that we have an opportunity and unfortunately a crisis to this allies people's thinking -- to crystallize people's thinking. >> thank you for the pressure. i appreciate it. thank you both for being here and thank you mr. chairman for holding this hearing. this is an issue i care deeply about. have huge central america and communities so i am aware of these issues. there is no doubt that the violence in some of these cities are as bad as anywhere in the world. if that is the reason people want to leave those countries. we have to examine the reason why they want to come here as opposed to going to panama or
some other place that is a lot closer or staying in mexico and what it is that is driving them here. andink it is unfortunate counterproductive to ignore both the reality and applications of our immigration laws and the impact that is having on this crisis. i say that as someone who is a demonstrated supporter and continues to believe that the country needs to reform its toigration laws to live up our heritage as immigrants. but word-of-mouth on this issue is increasing powerful. word-of-mouth is what people are getting information in south -- and sent -- in central america. ofy weren't -- the word mouth is that traffickers are saying there's a special law that allows you to stay. there is a special law that expires in july or in august to create a cop -- a time constraint so that people do it immediately and now. ie special law they .2 -- understand it is not the way it was written, but the deferred
action that was taken in 2012. that is what they say. we can say come under this law, you're not allowed to stay because you don't meet the criteria. that is technically accurate. if you look at how it is applied in reality, not that law but are immigration policies, they are right that there is a special practice. if you arrive in the u.s. as an unaccompanied minor or as a parent with children, you are not treated the same as someone who arrived here as a single male adult who traveled across the border. yesterday that 70% of people with unaccompanied minors are part of a family unit are in the united states and they know the process. the process is your apprehended. if there is someone in the united states and they can turn you over to, in many cases, these children party have parents in the united states, these children are turned over to the parents. they know there are backlogs in
the court system. they are given a notice to appear. in some cases, they think it is a permanent. in some cases, they never show up for the notice. that is the reality of the law. in truth, if you arrive in the u.s. as an unaccompanied minor, you are going to get the state, at least for an extended period of time. .hat word-of-mouth gets back people report what has happened and that takes on a strong application. saw --way, i also written documents the day that now what is happening is that there are individuals crossing -- i don't know what the figures are or how widespread it is -- but we have found instances -- perhaps, if this is not true, you will pointed out -- but there are instances where there are unrelated adults were posing as parents of children as family units at the border. is that correct? >> our understanding is that there are some circumstances where there are false documents
to establish family units. >> if you arrive in the united states as an adult, you have a better chance if you arrive with children. there is also evidence of that i have seen that there are churches and nongovernmental organizations in mexico and in central america that are both advising, assisting, and in some instances encouraging people to undertake's journey as well. least, i think we are naïve if we think that the governments view this as a problem for them. they see this as a u.s. problem for the u.s. to solve and we are naïve to think that 13% of the combined growth of domestic product is made up by the united states. it behooves you to have as many people as possible in the united states sending back the mittens as.
back this -- sending remittances. i say they do have an interest in this and that is why they have been less than cooperative. they have been less than cooperative in some regards in addressing this. i say this in the context of this is just one more reason in my mind why long-term this country has to address this issue. i believe that if we had a legal immigration system that was better that would be a conduit for people who want to come to the united states to come in a way that is safe, if we had enforcement mechanisms that worked better, people would be discouraged from entering the country. but this is in evidence that what we have in this country is a disaster that needs to be addressed. be i also don't think we can naïve about the reality of what is happening in this regard and understand the complexities of what is driving these folks across the border and making this happen. i did want to ask you briefly
about the two points that i raised. the first, is there in fact evidence that there are ngo's, church groups and others who are assisting and encouraging others? what i mean by assistance is providing transit routes and just encouraging people to do this acting as facilitators. >> i'm sure there is plenty of people taking advantage of this migrant train for their own good or the good of their organization. most of them are criminals. there are ngo's and church-related groups that provide shelter to migrants along the way. inisited one into petula -- tapachula yesterday. run --he opportunity to to speak with migrants there. their purpose is to provide a
place for migrants to stop. dowhen they speak to them, they tell them they should reconsider this trip, it is dangerous, that this is not the right thing to do? >> some of them do. i don't know that all of them do. they also deal with women who are being trafficked in southern mexico and providing shelters for them. at least in the shelter i was in, i was told a do highlight the dangers. but their primary purpose is to provide shelter as opposed to providing guidance. >> i have one more question. in theheard reported media and have spoken to folks who have taken the journey, women on this journey are advised to take contraception is because they can expect to be sexually assaulted. is that accurate? >> not just women but girls. >> thank you. >> senator kaine. >> thank you. i am going to try to spend just
a a little bit on diagnosis and then more a prescription. tock on the diagnosis -- what degree is violence a factor in this flood of youngsters to the border? is it a major factor, a minor factor or no factor? >> i believe it is a major factor. >> i agree it is a major factor in two ways. the mapping suggests that these children are coming from the most violent areas. we are not seeing a next version of individuals coming from every country. to the extent that violence is a major factor in this, to what extent is the drug trade a factor? a major factor, a minor factor or no factor? hashe drug trade is what expanded the reach of gangs in central america and has provided
the gangs with the money and the transnational connections they smugglingay a role in operations but also in trying to control large parts of their communities. so it's significant. connection between gangs and the cartels is significant. is beingit is -- so it driven by violence is a major factor and being driven by the drug trade is a major factor. >> nearly all the drugs transiting central america are going to the united states. recognize that our consumption is a major factor in this regard. >> the way i look at this challenge, and i lived in el the childrenduras, are being largely chased out of their neighborhoods by violence, violence connected to a drug
drug trade that is intimately connected to the demand fors' drugs. the demand of those dollars is so significant that it is warping the institutions of the central american nations in a very dramatic ways. as refugeesf folks not connected to the united states, it is intimately connected to the united states. in a syrian if camp in turkey a year ago. i remember asking myself the question, when i see lebanese who are not really that wealthy and they have refugees in equivalent of one quarter of the population that have arrived in lebanon in the space of three years and they are having to do double shifts in schools to educate refugee kids, or i see the number of syrian refugee
kids in jordan and they are having to deal with a number of refugees driven there by violence when they have few natural resources of their own and i saw those countries dealing with this massive influx of refugees, one quarter of the population. and i found myself asking myself a year ago, i wonder how the united states would deal with refugees they came to the united states driven by violence from somewhere else. i wonder if we would deal with them in the same ways that lebanon or jordan or turkey is dealing with refugees. and that is what we are seeing, refugees coming here german by violence, driven by violence that is connected to the united states. so we have a connection with this. we have an obligation to try to be creative in solving it. i echo the comments that the chairman made before i arrived about how disappointing it is to see the dwindling funding.
the presidents original budget a hundred million dollars for the detention of folks at the border who might come unaccompanied. now we will take it up to $3.8 billion. it seems to me we could spend money a little bit better to deal with the problem of violence that is driven by u.s. drug trade in these nations and that would be better for the youngsters and for us. let me ask you about drug interdiction. drugrespect to interdiction, because the combination of austerity -sequester and the removal of security elsewhere, he watches 75% of the drugs that come into the united states just go right by him because he doesn't have the resources to interdict either between central america and the united states are even
coming into the central american nations. with more vigorous support from drug interdiction so these drugs don't even land in these dental american nations, would that be a way we could potentially help reduce some of the violence that is being experienced in the three nations we are talking about? >> the short answer is yes. obviously, we have to deal with the consequences today. the gangs are not going away. and having established themselves, they will continue to look for any source of revenue they can find, whether it is shakedowns, operating other illegal activities, or drug trafficking. as we look for ways to reduce the pressure on central america, we will have to recognize that the gangs are now embedded in central america and dealing will them is going to be a significant task. >> from the department of justice perspective, we agree that interdiction is critical. we also agreed that we have to strike against these gangs. we've done so. we will continue to do so, tardy
-- targeting their leadership here and in the northern triangle. responsibility. these criminal groups operate in our country and in those countries as well. >> one of the things that puzzles me is, when i lived in central america, there was a great deal of cultural several similarity between el salvador and nicaragua. samere there not the number of youngsters coming from nicaragua? >> i think a lot of it has to do with historic migration patterns. it is not just nicaragua. it is also costa rica and panama. historically, these countries have not migrated to the united states in the way that el salvador and honduras have. and the migration networks that have been established over time make it easier for migrants coming from those countries to
settle in the united states. but it also has to do with the drug trafficking patterns and the traffickers coming out of the andes looking for easy jump points into mexico. the mexican cartels have found especially honduras an easier mark then either nicaragua or costa rica or panama. also thed add to that penetration of gangs varies from country to country. nicaragua does not face executive the same issues with regard to ms 13 or the 18th street gang. >> thank you. >> let's all agree that we have a humanitarian crisis on the board that needs to be addressed. i want to confine my questioning on the definition of the problem and what we really should be the definitions of the problem is unaccompanied children. what we are debating is whether we need to spend more money. and if we do spend, how it
should be spent. asking instart out by just a sentence, what is the achievable policy goal we should be addressing right now? mr. swartz. goal ischievable policy to work with these countries, the three source countries in particular, to build their justice systems so they can address these issues in the first instance, lessen the likelihood there will be -- >> mr. shannon. >> to build partnerships with mexico as a transit and designation country. >> you are missing the mark. our goal needs to stop the flow. unaccompanied minors a came to this country. it will be 90,000 potentially by the end of this fiscal year. we have to stop the flow. that is an achievable goal.
i don't think we can achieve solving the drug problem or improving their economies are reducing violence. i don't care how much money you spent. i have seen that exact same chart. i have done a fair amount of cap notions on that. mr. swartz, do you know what percent of these unaccompanied children we sent back over the past five years? senator, i understand you have asked for that information from the department of justice. >> your answer is no. since 2009, we have returned 16.8 -- 60,800 children out of 174,000 unaccompanied minors that come into this country. that is a rate of 9.6%. more than 90% of those children are still in this country. over time, it is really defined. in 2009, we said that about 23,000.
in 2011, under 19. 2012 summer with deferred action on childhood arrivals, 8.6. we are down to 4.3%. obviousit is pretty what is a real correlated cause to the spike in unaccompanied children. i want to talk about the push factors and how unrealistic it is that we can spend any amount of money on it. just tell me what we already spent. in the last three years, we as u.s.56 million economic assistance to those three countries and terms of drug control we spent $76 billion to control drugs. do you really think throwing a few hundred million dollars down there is going to solve that problem at all? i would say not. let's talk about murder rates.
mr. shannon, you said the pressure is building. the fact of the matter is, in el salvador, murder rates spiked. it is down to 40. water molokai my it has declined . honduras, yeah, it builds up to 91 in 2011. it's down to 87 in 2013. to put that in perspective, the murder rate in detroit in 2012 is 55, 54.6. in new orleans, 52.2. i would be looking more to the policy poll factor in terms of causing this. i also want to talk about spending in general. we have spent a lot of money in terms of ice and custom border >> in 2008, we spent $17.5
billion on those programs. million orthe $1.2 mullahs returns, that is $14,900 per deportation and removal. in 2012, we spent $21.4 billion. divide by six and 50,000 removals and returns, that is $33,000 for removal or return. , we spend a lot of money on a per person basis in terms of what agencies have to spend the money on in terms of individuals. we have more than doubled spending since 2000 and eight. why do we need another $3.7 billion tobacco will have any effect whatsoever? mr. shannon. >> i believe it will.
immediate impact will be to allow us to manage the flow of people coming across the border in a better and faster fashion. determinelow us to those who have protection needs and those who don't. >> how do you answer the fact that we have doubled spending from $14,000 per return to over $33,000 in 2012? why do we need more? why are we spending so ineffectively? >> as a corollary, all the ,pending on border enforcement is that related to returns? thee were too divided by number of arrests and convictions? i want a total picture. if we're going to say that all this money is divided into the number of deportees, then we can take a lot of people off the border that our border states have asked us for in terms of
enforcement so that people will be deterred from coming. >> i am trying to provide some reasonableness. >> and i'm trying to make sure that we are talking about the same thing. >> of course we need more time to vet these numbers properly. our meeting yesterday and sylvia burwell talked about how much it would cost per bed per child per day. her answer was somewhere between a0 -- between $250 and thousand dollars. if i don't plan on a vacation properly, i'm not spending a thousand dollars per day to stay at the most expensive hotel. again, the debate we are having is, does this administration, who apparently didn't plan on this even though the action caused it, does it really need another $3.7 billion to handle this?
if we're going to try to spend money trying to solve the drug countries, isse that just a pipe dream that we're going to have any effect whatsoever on that? >> i don't think it is a pipe dream. we have had examples of having a transformative effect of the criminal justice system of other countries. it is been for the benefit to the national security of the united states. we have to engage with these countries. to the tunengaged of a billion dollars over the last -- years, just economically. >> thank you for the testimony. i agree with what is been said by my colleagues. let's get at the real goal here. the real goal is to stem the tide of unaccompanied minors. this is a humanitarian crisis. we have got to do something.
our concern about the president's request is that it seems to be geared at maintenance of a problem rather than fixing a problem. i was glad to hear your ambassador shannon, of what this really is and what caused the spike. we can talk about violence in those countries. we can talk about drug trade, cartels, but it doesn't explain the spike. a senatele will blame considering immigration reform, but the president's plan did not apply to these kids. by the contemplated house or the senate would have allowed this kind of spike. it is, as you said, this is a successful marketing strategy that the smugglers have latched onto. weould submit that unless
change the incentives, it will continue to work. a lot of these people in the smuggling trade were in the drug .rade a lot over time have gone over to human smuggling because penalties are less than drug smuggling. we have corrected some of that but not all the way. we need to deal with those issues. if you look at this right now, for the smugglers, this is a sweet cake. they're able to have this ,arketing strategy which works because as we know, most of these kids are allowed to stay, and the possibility for prosecution for them is minimal, because they don't even have to come into the country. they get them through mexico, taken to the border, tell them where to cross, and never cross into the country. we can still go after them, but we can't arrest him. smugglers, things are
not going to change until the incentive structure changes. thatoncern that i have is if you look at the president's request, $1.8 billion just for the department of health and human services which has no role in border enforcement or deportation, it is to take these kids and house them and place them with a sponsor. as has been said by senator rubio, the net effect, the practical effect right now, what is there on the ground regardless of what we say and advertising campaigns, whatever the president said and i want to complement the president for saying what he is said and the vice president for saying what he is said that most of these kids will not qualify, they are saying the right things. i think the administration is. the problem is, it is not backed up by actions. when the president says that
your kids will be deported, they will not be able to stay, that is belied by the facts on the ground. the facts on the ground are that an unaccompanied minor or a child with a mother comes across very few are actually being sent back. , director of the white house security policy counsel said that if you look at the history of these kids in cases that apply to them, it seems unlikely that the majority of these children are going to have the ability to stay in the united states. they are saying that. case, but the the practical effect of our policy is that once a child is placed with a sponsor, it is extremely unlikely that they are going to be deported. thesaid if we are to stem tide and start sending the right signals to families down south, it will need to involve
literally thousands of kids being repatriated. i think everybody recognizes that. when planes show up and the smugglers and families realize that their money was ill spent, that they subjected the children of potential abuse or abuse for nothing. right now, what they see is these kids being placed with a sponsor, being given a court date months or years in the future, and then, think about it from it, they -- the charge of hhs is to place a child in the least restrictive environment that is in their best interest. if you draw that out a bit, would we be placing a child with a sponsor, either parent or relative or someone else in this country, and is it in the child's best interest later to rip that child away from the family member and deport them later? i think the families that are coming, and certainly the
smugglers understand that is not going to happen. stillcentive structure is there. my concern, i think a lot of our concern is that until we change that structure, until we can that we the process so are not having to place these children here in this country only to show up or not show up later at some type of hearing or weal proceeding, until change that incentive structure, the smugglers will continue. for them, it is a successful strategy with very little downside. not even having to come into the country. it used to be when you had human smuggling, he had to get them across the arizona border, place him as someone else. -- wast someone as risk at risk of being caught. now, that is not likely. they have a good gig going. we need to change the incentive structure. i have rambled a bit.
a change in this behavior on the part of the smugglers and the families that they are preying on changing unless we change into his -- the incentive structure here? >> changing the incentive structure will change a particular form of migration. no changes smugglers turning the kids in the border. it won't stop the migration. the migration has to be addressed in the home country, because these kids alike boomerangs. how far we throw them. for those who feel they are under threat and for those that are hopeless in their home countries, they will come back. quarks are resident legal advisor has put together a joint honduras,lving guatemala and el salvador, aiming exactly at how we can engage those countries in the prosecution of smuggling.
a genuine claim of persecution. those should have in their home in the home-- countries -- as long as we are placing these children and they have achieved their desired goal to be reunited with family members or to stay a long time, incentive zone change. that is my concern. as a bigger driver than everything else right now. >> let me just go through a quick series of things. i want to make sure so we have an absolutely replete record. are there more border patrol agent's, customs inspections, than at anys now other time that you can recall? >> yes, mr. chairman. -- matter of fact
>> children placed with the we have two choices. we can either deal with the cost of detaining the child, or we , we think they're being place regarding the may not show up, we can place an ankle bracelet on them which would be more humane than detention and far less expensive. there are options for us to consider as we deal with whether a person has the right or not to ultimately seek asylum. -- is there anyway we can change the smugglers marketing? we should be smashing the smuggling networks. i would say to some of these individuals, cooperate with us
in terms of who were the smugglers who brought you here, and start prosecuting them. when the smugglers know that there is a consequence to them, they may go to jail in that country are here, we will have a change in their marketing, believe me. thatcan say in that regard one of our resident legal advisers in one of the northern tribal countries will be traveling with his counterparts to interview children here in the united states for precisely that purpose. >> i want to include in the record, since much has been made 2012 and the deferred action , since you want to make sure that we get the word out, let's get the word out there. how do you actually qualify for a deferred action? you must have come to the united states under the age of 16, and you must have continuously
resided in the united states for at least five years preceding meanste of 2012, which that if you are not physically in the united states and can 2007, and among other eligibility, you would not be eligible to adjust your status, is that a correct understanding? yes. >> you not only have to be here, but you had to be in school, you have to have graduated from high school, you have to have obtained an education developments at the be -- -- certificate or you can't do all of that. you're been your before 2007.
so without objection, i will include the homeland security eligibility for deferred action in the list of items. truee ask you, is it not that president obama has deported more migrants than any president in recent history? >> that is correct, mr. chairman. fact, some of of called him the deported in chief. er in chief.t isseems that congress failing to act to reform our immigration system. in the absence of the failure, has been congress's successful role is to dramatically increase borders and customs enforcement to the point that we have had the most detentions and deportations than at any other time.
the me ask two final questions. are all 60,000 of the children that we have estimated arrived? did they all pay smugly to get here? smuggler --l pay a did they all pay a smuggler to get here? ones, somethe older have come on their own. >> and those who rode the train of death, did they have a smuggler? >> typically, yes. >> the national security aserests, if we do nothing it relates to central america except tell essential americans to get your act together, what
will be the consequence of that? >> i think it will have serious law enforcement consequences for the united states. operate in the united states as well. when we had a concerted effort in columbia, did we not achieve taking a country that of virtually on the verge not being able to control its own internal sovereignty, being run by drug lords, and ultimately change the country to what is now one of the finest democracies in the western hemisphere? >> we did, mr. chairman. we know how to do this. >> i want to thank you for having the hearing. it is been very educational. i would like to also enter in the record an article from the wall street journal entitled "future of our deported."
tabled also like to enter 39 from the u.s. department of thatand security document senator johnson was referring to. it really challenges the notion and stipulates the differences between removals and returns. i think returns are diminishing at a pretty high level. here is what i would like to say. this is a humanitarian crisis. i think everybody here, most of us have children. to see what is happening with so many children from other countries breaks our heart. at the same time, within emergency supplemental, it seems to me that what we should be addressing is if there is something we can immediately do to change the incentive structure. we talked a little bit about what the phenomenon is. i do think it would be very important for all of government on the executive side to address what is causing this spike.
i do think there is a marketing that is taking place. it is based on policies. if you look at returns, the returns issue is a big part of this. very few people are being returned. greatartz, i know you are public servants, but let's talk about the asylum issue. 50%, is what it also means is that if you ever make it to court, which very few do, you then have a 50% chance -- a 58 percent chance where no action is being taken against you. i don't want to get into a debate about what asylum is. we have different categories. i do think it is important over time to define that.
i do think it is important for that develop policies affect the region. i do think some of the partnerships are important. i think senator kaine's comments about traveling to central america. in fairness, you can see that the u.s. demand for drugs is ravaging these countries. that is a fair statement. that is fair. i would think that during this. of time we have an emergency that what we would address is the incentive structure and trying to address the problems that senator johnson raised. and then come back and look longer-term at what we need to do throughout the region to onsibly have some impact what is happening. some of the central american countries don't have this issue. i think we should look at why they don't and why others do. thank you for hearing.
i think what is before us is an acute issue that we need to first address. i hope that over time the committee will develop a longer-term plan. are running high on both sides. hopefully there will be some consensus to a policy that will stem the flow as quickly as possible and let us address the longer-term issues. thank you both very much. >> one request for mr. swarts, i would like you to produce to the committee what would the detentions of children and the deportations of children prior to 2009. let's say eight years prior. secondly, the only thing i would say is that there's a difference
between passion and emotion. some of us are passionate about some of these issues and some are passionate about the size of government or cost of government, the spending of government. it is not so much emotion as it is passion. with the appreciation of the committee for your testimony, your excuse at the time. i like to call up the second panel. she has been recognized for her book. she serves as a board member of kids in need of defense. arnzen, the cynthia director of the latin american program for scholars here in washington. i would ask the audience was leaving to do so quietly, please.
stephen johnson, the regional director for latin america and the caribbean at the international republican institute. let me welcome you all to the committee. panel,id to her previous your full statements will be included in the record in their entirety without objection. i would ask you to try to summarize them in about five minutes or so so we can engage in a dialogue. we will start with you. if you would turn your microphone on. >> thank you for inviting me to speak and testify before you today. . am sonja nazario it recruits pro bono attorneys
to represent unaccompanied children. i first went to central america to write about civil wars in the early 80's. i focused on unaccompanied children 15 years ago, writing the modern-day odyssey of one whose mother left him in honduras when he was just five years old. 11 years later, he went in search of her in the u.s. by riding up the length of mexico on top of freight trains. last month, i returned for the first time in a decade to his home in a neighborhood of tegucigalpa. i lived there for one week. i saw a huge change in my children are migrating to the u.s.. a level of violence directed at them that astounded me. i have lived through argentina's dirty war and written on top of seven freight trains controlled by gangs through most of mexico. spooked, butly
after a week, i thank god i got out of and rick is neighborhood alive. -- out of his neighborhood alive. this has got a new reach and viciousness to the violence. children are being targeted here and throughout the country. they are kidnapped, found hacked apart, heads cut off, skinned alive. sometimes at night, men in facemasks strafe anyone on the street. war taxes are imposed on virtually everyone. if you don't pay, the narco's kill you. other neighborhoods are worse. an 11-year-old sixth-grader told me he had to leave honduras soon no matter what. he has been threatened twice by narco's and he fears the worst. last march, his father was killed by gangs. three people he knows were
murdered this year. a girl his age was clubbed over the head, dragged off by two men who cut a hole in her throat, stuffed her panties and it and left her broken body in a nearby ravine. i can't be on the street, says christian, who says that narco roads passed by on these in taxis. they shoot at you, i have seen so much death. gangs are forcibly recruiting children as young as 10 to be the foot soldiers throughout the country. children told me they had two choices, join or get out to stay alive. this is no different than child soldiers who are forcibly conscripted in sudan. girls face particular dangers. recently, three girls were raped and killed. one of them eight years old.
215-year-olds were abducted and raped. a girl i interviewed were been threatened by gangs said, it is better to leave then have them kill me here. christian told me, i am going this year, even if i need to ride on the train. children like christian fully understand how lethal the journey can be. neighborhoods are dotted with people who have lost limbs to the train. many know someone who has died in that attempt. kidnappingartel is 18,000 central americans off those trains every year. they prefer children. and killnd ransom children whose relatives can't or won't pay. you would have to be honestly crazy or desperate to save your life to ride on the train now. , not all,ese children are refugees. refugees flee their country for safety because they face
persecution and possible death and can't turn to their government to protect them. the narcollions, cartels, mostly mexican, have simply rerouted inland to honduras. 2011, the narco's grip in the neighborhoods tightened. year thenot the first u.s. started to see a surge in unaccompanied children. we must address the situation, but by treating these children humanely. that means more than using the word in the title of legislation. to roll back basic protection of the trafficking victims reauthorization act of 2008 and expedite deportation, means border patrol will give even trafficking victims a cursory screening. their job is to secure our
borders, not to take information from traumatized children. that thehas found screening of mexican children for protection concerns by border patrol has been a failure. full,child should have a fair and timely hearing before an immigration judge and an attorney. while kind has recruited thousands of volunteer lawyers, more than 70% of children still present on plex immigration cases without counsel due to the surge. picture a seven-year-old boy that i saw alone in court shivering with fright, expected to argue against the government's attorney who is battling to send him home. then he finished by saying we must bolster security in honduras and the region, not by funding her up police and military, but by strengthening ,ccountability, the judiciary and child protection.
lesson 1/10 of the president's proposed three point $7 billion funding request is for aid to this region. u.s. a id hasg, closed its program. we show deep concern for girls who are kidnapped in nigeria, but not for girls kidnapped by narco's in honduras. why? how can we demand that countries nearlyring syria take in 3 million refugees but turn our backs on tens of thousands of children from our own neighbors? process,rt change due i believe that congress and this administration will be sending many children back to their deaths. thank you for the opportunity to speak. i welcome your questions. >> as i said before you came back to the chamber, your full statement will be entered into the record.
there is a vote going on. i will try to see if we can get you the testimony and then recess and come back for questions. >> thank you very much for this opportunity. i would like to emphasize some of the poinsettia been made by earlier speakers. a long-term solution to what is now this humanitarian crisis depends on the quality of improvements in democratic governance in citizen security in centralment america. the united states government must be prepared to commit to these goals over the long term and central american actors in and out of government must assume a willingness and a will to transform their own countries. there is no one causal factor. i will focus mostly on the push factors of criminal and drug fueled violence.
we have heard the homicide statistics, but as impressive as they are, they tell only part of the story. there is an excessive focus on homicides that is understandable , but it does not capture the other forms of crimes that affect citizens on a routine and intimate really basis. many of these statistics about other crimes are not reliable as civilians to not trust the police or other authorities. this leads to a significant underreporting of the most serious crimes. i would encourage members of the committee to examine a map prepared by the department of studied security which the cities and towns of origin of the bulk of the undocumented , between migrants january and may of 2014. he found that the largest number were honduran, led by san pedro
sula, the most violent city in the world. salvadoran and honduran children come from extremely violent regions where they probably perceive the risk of traveling alone to the u.s. preferable to remaining at home. -- notre responsible solely responsible for the levels of crime, but their role is pervasive and highly organized. i think it is important to highlight that the ms 13 and the 18th street gang were formed in the united states in los angeles , and that u.s. deportations of gang members who had been convicted of crimes in the united states for years with little or no advanced warning to government officials in the region contributed to the diffusion of gang culture and practices. crime and violence including
that perpetrated by gangs have worsened as drug trafficking and other forms of organized crimes have spread. those points have been dealt with extensively. i will not go into them now. but i would like to address is the kind of policy responses that this committee could oversee and that the u.s. congress could take. -- at no that this time since a central american wars of the 1980's that there have been so much -- that there has been so much attention focused on central america. i welcome that attention. i also think that our inability or our walking away from the many needs of the peacetime era in the 90's and early 2000's had some contribution to the current situation. the initiative that was launched in 2008 in response to the
concern about the spillover of organized crime from mexico has focused rightfully on security. it has been under resourced and not focused sufficiently on other government or development objectives. there is no silver bullet to address these problems. they have taken decades, if not centuries to develop. i believe that progress is possible with the right leadership, with sufficient resources, with active participation from central american societies and with integrated approaches. above all, with adherence to the principles of transparency and accountability. a key ingredient, as we've seen in columbia and so many other places, is a lyrical will and leadership from the region itself. i believe that as large as a current spending request is,
before congress, far too little is made available for addressing the root causes of migration in central america. approximately 200 95 million to address economic, governancernments -- and security in the region, but that amount is also to be used for the repatriation and reintegration of migrants in central america. i believe that my time is up and i will say that improving citizenship purity -- citizen security is necessary for fostering economic growth and .or fostering investment our assistance programs up until now have in to overly focused on counter drug operations and not on providing citizen security and attacking the causes of crime and violence that affect daily lives. i believe we need to make
efforts to foster opportunity in the legal economy by investing in human capital formation that matches education and job training with strategic -- with the demands of the labor market. >> chairman menendez, senator corker, thank you for this opportunity to testify on the conditions in central america that are driving out minors as well as adults. while overall apprehension is that the u.s. southwest border, or or a quarter of what they were during the largest waves of mexican migration the took place 14 years ago, the current uptick among central american rivals is worrisome because of the unaccompanied children that are among the migrants and are taking extreme risks. that highlights the citizen insecurity factor and the presence of criminal trafficking organizations. today,have already heard
the region has persistent security challenges, so i won't add to the list except to say that there is a good case to be made for focusing attention on the conditions that compel people to leave their country. 30 years ago, after prolonged periods of civil conflict, is countries chose to exchange military rule for civilian elected leadership. no question, it was the right decision. urging it meant reorganizing government, adopting democratic behaviors and building a base of public servants from a pool that had little experience. police had to be divorced from the armed forces to which they had belonged. courthouses had to be built, and modern justice systems established. it is a process that is still going on today. unfortunately, crime and violence prey on such societies at their moment of weakness. during this time, colombian and mexican drug traffickers fueled
by north american cocaine habits invaded central america. deportations from the united states gave rise to use gangs. our country has tried to help central american neighbors among others such as mexico, establish new justice systems, but these tasks take time and they are resource intensive. central america's traditional models of centralized top-down governance with weak districts and musicality is also leave citizens, mayors and town councils largely out of the business of making their communities more secure. doesn'tork that it central america, the international republican institute specializes in the development of citizen security mechanisms that reduce the gap between citizens, municipalities and national efforts. we have begun working with public security officials at the ministry level as well as municipal authorities to
strengthen citizen input and participation. as well as conduct exchanges with communities throughout the hemisphere that have exemplary citizen safety models. the number of municipalities is huge. there is much work to be done. the united states has many priorities in the world. whatever actions are decided, they should take into account the partnership that our country has entered with central american countries 30 years ago to turn dictatorship into democratic rule. most of the heavy lifting is being done by our partners. our approach to helping them has to be long-term, comprehensive, consistent and strategic. very much for this opportunity to testify. i welcome your questions. thee are at the end of
first vote. we will have about 20 minutes before we will be able to return. i hope you will be able to stay with us. there are questions we want to ask of you. i think each of you have valuable contributions to make. the committee will stand in recess subject to the call of the chair. i expected to be somewhere around 20 minutes. -- i expect it to be somewhere around 20 minutes. >> this hearing will come back to order. to our panelize and thanked them for their forbearance. there were more votes than i understood there were. we had the last one. the good news is we don't have any more votes until much later. corker is on his
way back as well. in the interest of collective time, let me try to move forward with some questions. ms. nazario, you spent time in the communities in which the children are leaving from. some of my colleagues suggest that parents decision to send a on a 2000 mile journey is and a wayortunistic to take advantage of american law. these parents indifferent to the dangers their children might face on this perilous journey? is it just a question of opportunity, or is it a question of violence, some of which you described earlier?
>> i think these parents make a valuation of whether it is safer to bring my child despite the , or is it the journey safer to leave them in the home country. parents who have come ahead of their children often times would say it is more dangerous to put my kid in south-central los ineles than leave them honduras where they are being taken care of by a grandparent or an aunt. shiftedation has radically given what is happening on the ground in honduras. these parents have decided that it is just too dangerous to leave their children there. i think greater border enforcement is part of that .icture as we have ramped up border enforcement, we have -- a lot of parents come here thinking they are going back quickly. they prefer to live in their home countries with everything they know and love and with their families.
when parents come here, they don't buy a bed or furniture, these mothers say they will go back any time. i think now with greater border enforcement they are more clearheaded about it being hard to circulate back home. up theirill just bring children more quickly than they would have otherwise. , half of mexicans went back within a year. they want to circulate back home. with greater border enforcement, fewer than a quarter circulate back within a year because they know it is getting harder to get in and it makes it more costly. that has been part of a dynamic as well. instance, is it fear or opportunity? >> it is absolutely fear driving this. there has been much talk about 2012, but the actual surge of
children began in 2011. that is when we started to see the numbers go up to radically. -- let me askou you, i am wondering about in addition to my arguments about the lack of resources and our disengagement since the wars in central , we fought to create the seeds of democracy and then we didn't nurture it to go fully in all of its dimensions. citizen security, economic growth and opportunity, and all the other things we want to see in a democratic society. how would you assess the effectiveness of current u.s. assistance programs in central america, and what steps could be taken to enhance the quality of programs and ensure a greater impact on these countries? assistance has
been most effective in el salvador, where there is a formal partnership for growth. el salvador is one of four countries globally. that are shared objectives come up together between the u.s. government and the salvadoran government. there are regular reporting requirements. ande is accountability metrics. to identify strategic areas for investment. i do believe that the effort to a certain extent has been under resourced. therefore, what you have in the security area are many little points of light, but they don't connect or necessarily build towards a much bigger national phenomenon. great there has been frustration in a country such as honduras with the lack of and security institutions. therefore, people start from the
agencies that have created these units. in many ways, bypassing the leadership structures. tot is why i have tried emphasize the need for transparency and accountability as a key ingredient of any program that we would put in place. you can't just throw money at this problem or set of problems, as much as i do need greater resources are necessary, there have to be specific object does and commitments from the governments to adhere to certain standards. give assistance must be contingent on the willingnessountries' to abide by that criteria. >> i agree with you and think those are very important. case that this is not a life switch? we are not going to suddenly turn on a certain amount of resources with all the
accountability, transparency and conditionality, and find a change in central america from one year to another. it is going to take some time. it took some time to get to where it is, part of it from our own neglect and part of it from the week and corrupt governments that have existed in the region. you're just not going to turn this around overnight. having a commitment here is going to be necessary in order weget it to a point where can see citizen security, where we can see a greater movement towards institutions that are transparent and not corrupt, and that we will see the benefits of that as we did for example in columbia, a different set of circumstances, but it took some time. is that a fair assessment? >> i would completely agree with that statement. we tend to focus on a crisis and response in the crisis and then turn away once the immediate
crisis has dissipated. i think the effort in central america is going to take years. the aid programs to columbia have evolved over almost 15 years now. it takes time to turn things around. i think staying the course but doing so with metrics and measurements in place is the way to go seed. -- is the way to proceed. >> in many respects they are similar. i think our approach to the problems in central america to the extent that we don't want them on our doorstep, it is important to have a long-term view, that we have a comprehensive route -- policy and it is strategically driven, and not quite as episodic. is for difficult for our country
to do because in a democracy we ,ometimes change our priorities and because of our position in the world we have to look at other things that happen that come up on our doorstep that we have to deal with. given that, and given the kinds tools that we have that we can apply to these problems, i think consistency and a strategic vision is really important. sometimes if you don't appreciate the enormity of the change that is involved, for theance, in columbia, transformation of the napoleonic code to an accusatory of criminal justice system seems like just a matter of changing the laws and retraining lawyers, at what it also entailed was building of court houses, which columbia never needed before,
criminal justice tracking systems for cases, evidence warehouses, and forensic laboratories, which they never had. thanded up being much more what was originally anticipated. when you multiply that over something like 1100 municipalities for the various installations and facilities that had to be built, it ended up being quite an investment. i think we have to appreciate that dimension as much as the dimension of changing certain kinds of behaviors. america, we don't have the luxury of having all the criminal elements in the rural areas as much as that was the case in columbia. in central america, you have criminal elements in the are out inds that the rural areas as well. in also in the capital and
the very dense urban areas in the form of drug trafficking organizations. some human traffickers penetrate into those areas as well as criminal youth gangs. this is very difficult to deal with, especially when you are dealing with drug traffickers that have a lot more resources, in many cases than the government does to try to deal with them and try to apprehend them. so it is very difficult to go up against this corrupting power that they have which is tremendous. again, it is going to take time. one of the things that we feel is key in my organization is that citizen anticipation and citizen security is very important because people in their own neighborhoods know some of the things that need to happen and need to change in terms of leadership. for their authorities to begin to react in a proper way that
will deal with the problems that they actually feel. and the top-down leadership of governance that has been the experience in central america long before the transformation to democratic rule is something that is still there and still in peds, to a great degree, the ability for citizens to have a voice. >> thank you very much. senator johnson. >> i know that senator corker asked for consent to include in -- i wouldtable 39 ask for unanimous consent to add my summary of the table. i would like to speak to it because i would like to provide the full and complete picture in terms of removals and returns, which is what i think the american people really view is duplication. while it is true in terms of removalsmovals, formal
, president obama is ahead of the pace of president bush's first and second term. removals are defined as the compulsory and confirmed movement of an inadmissible or a portable alien out of the united states based on an order of removal. removed owing to the fact -- that is what he removal is. a return is a confirmed movement of an alien out of the united states not based on an order of removal. i think what we are really trying to do if we are trying to we reallyhe process, want more returns as opposed to removals, which take a whole adjudication process which takes years. we want to create more incentives for people to come. let me lay out the facts in terms of president obama's record on removals and returns,
which is what i think most americans would view as total deportations. term, president obama had about 1.5 8 million removals, 1.6 million returns for a total of 3.2 million deportations. president bush in his second term had about 1.2 million but in terms of returns he had 3.8 million versus president obama's 1.6. so total removal and returns a president bush's second term was 5 million removals and returns, 3.2 millions under president obama. term,sident bush's entire there were 10.3 million removals and returns. i just don't think we're being completely complete in our
description of what president -- of what president obama has done. if we combine the two, his record is lagging. is leading in terms of removals and returns. again, i think that provides a more complete record of what the problem is. i'm not sure whether you are here doing my first line of questioning, but i would like to give the witnesses the exact opportunity. what should be the achievable goal of u.s. policy? i like to start mr. johnson. our goals and foreign policy are to protect our country, to defend our nation and our citizens and protect our borders. we have a foreign policy that works with other countries to develop alliances
-- what i mean.ine we have this humanitarian crisis on the border, 57000 and this year. secretary johnson said to be 90,000 by the end of this fiscal year. by the end of dust by the end of 2015 it could be 100,000. what is achievable goal to solve the problem narco i think this can be described. briefly. , the on therespect scope of my current responsibilities, i defer that question to the other witnesses. >> the achievable goal, one would be to speed up the process by which children who might have legitimate cases for asylum or
refugee status are heard, so ist that waiting time rapidly gone through and to speed up the process without violating u.s. law and international law regarding the claims of people who potentially have requests. that is a very short term is to more stable and prosperous and safe central america. that is the long-term goal that has to be the focus of this committee, but also an important objective of u.s. foreign policy >> based on your answer, you're telling me that long-term goal is not achievable in the short term. the me ask you, what is the speeding up of the process of adjudication? that is a goal to achieve what? thedo you want to speed up adjudication process? >> to speed it up so the backlog
does not exist and send a message that is exploited by traffickers to play on people's a getand hopes that once to the country they will stay for some number of months stretching into years, so that those cases can be sped up. so that there is an expanded process in a more expeditious process. >> so you're saying the goal is to send a message to the smugglers so that they no longer send children to america unaccompanied. onm just try to focus in whether the goal would be to stop the flow. >> at think the goal would be to conditions that no longer serve as incentives to the flow. the principal cause i believe it is not the misimpression of the rumors, but the critical
if you look at the children that have come this fiscal year and you look at the levels of violence in the areas, those are the most violent places. >> i did point out the murder rate in both new orleans and detroit are comparable to one or two of those countries in central america. we have violence as well. real quick, what would you say is the goal, our short term achieveable goal to address the unaccompanied children problem? >> i think the goal is to protect children from being sent back to death. there is a humane practical approach that is not being discussed by the senate. i am concerned that children are released and too many of them do not show up for their court hearings. if you were a seven-year-old child and didn't have an attorney, you wouldn't show up
either. you can hold these children for 60 to 90 days. a limited amount of time would be humane. bring in immigration judges, spend money on that and ajudd kate their cases quickly. give them a full fair hearing with somebody who can bring out child sensitive interviewing techniques. provide that child with an attorney. if they do qualify, 40 to 60% of these children do qualify for some existing relief to stay in this cuntrifment very few of them are getting that because they don't have attorneys but if they do qualify let them in and increase the number of refugees we take. if they are economic migrants then deport them immediately and that message will get back. if you are coming for economic reasons and there are people who are doing that, then send them back and that will send a message.
and that option -- and i'm not popular in some human rights groups for saying keep these kids in detention. but that will force them to go through the process and not simply be released and sometimes show up to court. and by the way they are more likely to show up to court if they have an attorney and these cases go more quickly if they have an attorney. if they are a refugee, i think we are a compassionate country and let people in. if they are not, deport them quickly and that will send a message. >> we want to treat these kids with humanity but i'm concerned about parents making that decision to send the kids on that dangerous journey. our goal is to stop the flow, stop parent frs making that choice. if we asylum cases those should be requested in the how many countries. if we need to beef up resources
do it in the how many countries. let's not incentivize people to come here. >> we need to have more in country processesing, the ability to apply for refugee stat us in those cun tryst. i spent three months making that journey. i had post traumatic stress. and many die and lose arms and legs on that journey. you need to beef up the ability to do that in those home countries. >> it's important we define an achieveable goal so we can design policy to make that goal -- >> what i defined is achieveable. >> thank you. just a quick follow up, senator johnson. i've spoken with a lot of people, u.s. officials and others in preparation for this hearing but also over the length of this crisis. and one of the things that sticks in my mind is the comment of a senior official from the
u.s. government, i won't say who to identify him. but he said if as a parent you face the choice of your child joining a gang, being killed because they are not joining a gang or sending that child to the united states regardless of the pearls of the journey, it's pretty obvious why many parents make that choice and those conditions have to be addressed. >> i appreciate all the information and the views. as i understand it, honduras is the per capita is the murder capitol of the world, that beats detroit if you are the murder capitol of the world, you are the murder capitol of the world. and i understand the other two countries are third and fifth in that category as well. that's globally. that's pretty significant in
terms of citizen security and why people flee. if it would be my hope that we defined just stopping the flow as our goal, then we are going to have a long -- i want to stop the flow too. but the way you stop the flow is to change the realities on the ground in central america so that people will stay in their country and not flee out of fear or even a belief of opportunity. if i have no fear for my life and if i have opportunity, then i'm not going to flee. i visited those central american countries, they are quite beautiful. so i think that if we really we have op the flow,
to change the realities on the ground because if not, this will be a recurrent problem. it will have spikes and lows but the goal is to ultimately change the dynamics so we don't have any of this flow coming to the united states other than through normal legal procedures. >> you rightly focused on the statistics, the homicide statistics in honduras about 91 per 100,000. it's worth recalling that the distinction of the most violent city of the world was in columbia. and in the last year or two it was identified as the most innovative city in the world. those homicide rates are still serious, but they have gone way down and gone down as a result of a sustained investment, the participation of a broad swath of society of the private
sector, of the church and of the local government in ininvesting in human welfare and really transforming that city. so it is possible to go from a very bad place to a much better, if not a good place. >> any other final comments? >> when i was just in honduras, i saw very few children bringing up the issue of is there some avenue to stay legally in the united states. what they all talked about first, second and third it was violence. and until that changes and i recognize it's a very difficult pros says given corruption and the corruption that has affected the economy. the chamber of commerce says that 7 in 10 small businesses have shut down in honduras because of extortion threats on businesses. can you imagine that happening in the united states? it's a very long process.
but i've long said to stem this exodus whether it's children or adults, you have to deal with the root causes of these issues at its source. >> i would just say that in addition to the work that is being done in our capitol and in the capitols of central american countries by their leaders that we focus also on the citizens and involving their participation because ultimately the policies that are being debated are ones that should benefit them and affect their decisions whether they can stay in their countries or whether they have to look elsewhere to lead safe lives. i think their voice is very important and i hope we can keep that in mind as we decide actions to take moving forward on this issue and the overall issue of our relationship with our allies in central america. thank you.
>> all very valid points and we will certainly as we try to deal with what we are going to do on the cause side, think about many of the suggestions that you have collectively had. i want to thank you all for your testimony and for hanging in here with us through the votes. this record will remain open until the close of business tomorrow. i would say that we as the record remains open, we will permit outside organizations to submit statements for the records and this hearing is adjourned. >> on our next washington
journal we will get the latest on the malaysian airline crash in eastern ukraine. then a look at the long-term federal budget outlook. we will talk to the committee for the responsible federal budget. this marks the 45th anniversary of the apollo moon landing. the nasa administrator and space analyst miles o'brien will join us to discuss the history of space exploration. we will take your calls. washington journal, live each morning at 7 a.m. eastern. the republican campaign committees talked about some of the key races in the
november election. this briefing is just under an hour. >> good afternoon. thanks for coming. want to thank matt walter with the republican state leadership council. the goal is to give you an idea of where the republican party at all levels from the local to the federal level stand as we head to the midterm election. each of the folks up here is going to give you a 10 minute description as to where their committee and the races they are overseeing.
when we are done we'll have .ime for a brief q&a we will try to hold this is close to an hour as possible. i want to introduce mike shields, chief of staff of the rnc. >> thank you. i want to thank my colleagues. i can tell you we have an unprecedented level of cooperation between the folks working here and all their staffs. it's one reason we felt so confident going into this election season with the amount of information we can share with one another. sometimes there is not a unified but i think we are very confident about what we're going to see. there are some common things we that make us feel
good about where we are headed. we have a lot of work to do, but we still feel good going into the fall elections. it isn't working. this one? sorry. i apologize. we are working together. from the rnc's perspective it has been a real pleasure dataing and working on the selection they need for their campaigns. we have both out following their lead. put the troops on the
ground based on where they need help. nd based upon where they are telling us that they have target races and if they need help. so there are a lot of rules to play on the team. we are all teammates here together. as many of you have heard from us in the briefings we decided in the start of the cycle to ask yourselves what are some existential questions of the rnc. what is our role and what can we do best and what can we only do? we have decided there are two things we have to focus on building out the ground game and working on her data infrastructure. there's a lot of tv ads running and you will hear from my colleagues on how they focus on math messaging and they do recruitment in a lot of things well. what the rnc knows we have to do is provide the backbone and start a full-time national ground operation. we launched operation. the launch will be called bigotry be called victory. at 65 this ear an update at the old program at the rnc. we started in june of 2013 and you see the states on this map.
we have staff across the country that are permanent staff. they are there to work year-round in precincts in local areas. it's essentially community organizing and it's not an rnc that waits until five months before an election. that can work when you are buying television and you can buy ad time and work towards the end. in the past the ground game had the dumbest same way and we have heard that doesn't work that if you are going to put people in communities building relationships you need to be there a lot sooner. we have been spending our money throughout the entire cycle following their lead us to where to get the hill. i think you can see some of the numbers. we currently have 16,000 precinct captains recruited in the top precincts working with our colleagues we determined are the key places when he could have volunteers. these are folks. we are not trucking folks who really can. these are folks that have relationships in these communities. they know where to knock on the doors and they are with local
boaters on the ground. the volunteer force. we have paid staff with over 200 staff over the country. 91% of the political department does not work at the rnc so this is big and led by paid staff. we are building a true volunteer army to build this in elections. there you can see there are three or four field staff, 24 state directors 280 field staffers across the country. we have opened up 147 different offices and supplemented that with regional field data operatives who work with state parties and campaigns to help train them and utilize the data we have been putting in the fields of the campaigns can work with us on that. we have 30 hispanic engagement staff across the country 15 african-american engagement staff and eight asian/pacific islander staff. built in the background game is something that goes back to our growth and opportunity report republished last year addressing
the demographic challenges the republican party faces. not just looking at hiring hiring someone of the coalitions director down the hall but putting our engagement staff as part of our field staff so they are no skin in a tease to get those voters. again something you can't do if you wait until the end is build a relationship that a minority community that the republican party may not have before. we have been taking that leap once again from our house and senate gubernatorial campaigns where they have seen the need for that and working with them to hire staffers. as i mentioned we have by far most of our political staff don't work inside the beltway. we mentioned a number of precinct captains we have recruited. we think we have got 30,000 by the end of the election we need to get too to get to so we are well on her way considering now we would be standing up a lot of victory offices around the country in a typical election cycle in the past. we abari made 1.3 million voter contacts so those volunteers are not just out there learning the ropes and getting involved in
putting on a t-shirt. they have been out doing voter contact in utilizing some of the tools we have put out in the field. a primary focus of what we are working on are the 10 million plus voters. we know and our job is to focus on turnout. the democratic party in the past has done a good job of focusing on those low propensity voters. both parties have lower propensity propensity voters who need to focus on in this field staff allows us to zero in on those voters and of course using the voter score so we have on line that are available in all 50 states. we used to put voters in one of five buckets low or high propensity with republican or democratic. we now have the survey backed voter scoring system that puts every voter in a one to 100 score. we can zero in a granular way. we use that in the florida 13 special election which lisa lisa
lisa can talk about what the nrcc. of course the canvassing tools we have put in the hands of those volunteers. we now have a system that her state parties have been purchasing where we have a canvassing at the goes on a smartphone that loads the information there an api augmented system. together information at the doors. admittedly gets put into the rnc voter file and database and shared with the campaign so we have real-time data generated by the volunteers. they are not only on the field working to persuade voters and talk to them, they are gathering data and making our voter file more robust and more accurate. the voter scores are being enhanced now through the election weekly. we will be doing thousands of poll questions to give us a running track of issues across the country and continuing to enhance those models that we have on the voter scores.
talking about our strategic initiatives,, i mentioned this with their asian/pacific islander and latino and our 1414 program working 14 weeks back from the 2014 elections to get women the volunteers more engaged in republican party politics. this is a proactive program. our co-chairman susan dey, share and excuse me is heavily involved in this. working to recruit women to get them involved in republican party politics. we want to get you off the sidelines and we think that will eventually help generate officers and candidates in the future. and our youth program. we now have a youth director that is working to organize college campuses. in the past i think republicans have looked at college republicans as a group of volunteers that we could shift somewhere else getting deep into college towns. we look at them as here's an army of folks we can help in
local areas where they are to our inner to our end and roll them into her victory fitted 65 programs so they are using the same tools and doorbell and phone calling strategies. the florida 13 special lisa can talk about this. we talk about at the rnc. i have to say the nrcc did a brilliant job of going in early and doing a lot of persuasion mail and running a fantastic campaign with david jolley. we were working on the ground game. they spent $3 million into some very smart things but we were working hand-in-hand to provide a canvassing tools, the voter scores and volunteer base. it was really the first way that all the things things i talked about were able to be implemented and we won the race by less than 4000 votes. we beat the democrats at their own game. they talk a lot about their voter scores in the virginia governor's race and they suddenly quit talking about the things they were doing in florida 13 because they so we were able to implement a lot of
the single incident election. now what we are working hard to do is was implement this across the country in all of the races that we will be involved in. just talking briefly about the gop brand. 53% of americans believe it's more important to have republicans in charge and act as a check and balance and on president obama and his policies. it looks a lot like 2010 in terms of how independents break and the windows that are her base in this election. the gop holds a 15% advantage in the midterms midterms and our pace is much more motivated. 27% believe the country is headed in the right direction. these are all very bad numbers for democrats and one of the reasons we feel optimistic. also even with minorities, we would never say if they are and see that by putting our strategic initiatives program together in hiring an african-american field staff that we are suddenly going to carry 50% of the african-american vote in the
2014 election. we have never said that was our goal but her goal is to cut in the way the democrats have. as you can see in the survey here going from 11% to 16% is a good improvement for us. we think showing up in being part of the community matters. there are certainly congressional districts where she took 5% of the democrats they can't win the race anymore. we think it's a significant thing to continue to do. fighting the war on women working within rcc. we did a national survey to provide our candidates with tools on how to push back on the false narrative of the war on women. the gop wins when we stop allowing the democrats to set the false narrative on this. women's priorities the economy governmental spending education and health care are things that when we actually manage to get our message through the women they cut in our favor according to the survey data. they are not happy with the status quo and they are looking for really a pragmatic solution
and republicans can offer that this ball and we feel like our candidates are now being armed with those tools. and then of course kerry reid is busy plucking families bills being sent to him and our engagement efforts as i mentioned the 14 and 14. obama's approval rating stands at 40% of these considered the worst president since world war ii. of course 40% approval is the economy and 4040% as obamacare. we don't really see away the democrats are going to be able to shake these numbers. you see this when you see senators and people completely avoiding the president. it's only july and it's only going to get worse as we continue. just to let you know in terms of the messages and research pieces that will be coming out from the rnc it shows you where focus is. obamacare energy the economy government missed management and the weakened democratic brand. i want to turn it over to my
colleague at the nrcc the executive director lisa. >> thank you mike. this first slide i think demonstrates where the house planning field is right now. actually a surprise when nancy pelosi made her comments this morning about where she's sees the election heading in november. she obviously wasn't briefed on this. charlie cook has got 11 democrats and two republicans in tossup seats. up is that those democrats are top targets for the cycle. i can tell you the numbers we are seeing in these districts these democrats are in trouble. not long ago we launched something called our drive to 245. it's obviously an ambitious and aggressive goal but the generic ballot that we are seeing in our battleground districts, obama's numbers, obama's job approval they are much worse than what you are sitting in national
surveys. our battleground districts i'm probably seeing plus five to plus seven then you are seeing in the national polling. we have -- to get us there. today we have 235 in the house. we are going to pick up two seats won in utah with the retirement of jim matheson, one in north carolina with the retirement of david bowser. this puts us where we need to pick up nine in our 31 target races. these races, as we put this map together clears a path to victory in all these races we have got to win as candidates in these districts. i think this also demonstrates kind of where the landscape is. recently the dccc expenditure lay down their fall reserve. we lay down our fall tv reserve. 68% of our spending is on
offense than 40% of nurses on defense. their mission is to stop the bleeding as they go into the fall. ours is obviously to expand and maximize opportunities and that's going to be our goal. really quickly want to talk about a few of our candidates. don't want to spend a lot of time because i know rob stuff is much more interesting to you all. i will just quickly highlight some of them. and this is one of the most exciting recruitment classes we have seen in a really long time. i have got here about 15 candidates that i'm going to run through really quickly starting with martha mike sally. she's in arizona to district in tucson. she is running against ron barber for the second time that she came with only 2000 votes last time. she is the first female pilot in combat and she has outraised barber for four quarters in the road. this is one of our best pickup
opportunities in the country. this is jory western. this is who we are paying attention to. collin peterson has never had a race against him. we never had a research book on this guy. he doesn't know what 4000 points of tv feels like dropped on his head in the fall. we have a great candidate on top of a story of perseverance. he was blinded in a farming accident at age 14. he is a successful business owner and a state senator. the fargo newspaper said that he was -- worst nightmare. carl tamayo and california 52 running against scott peters. he won in the mayor's race in 2012 and one that part of the congressional district with 57%%. there is not than one poll since he entered the race last year
that has them losing. elise stefanik if elected would be the youngest thing i'll elected to congress. she is 29 years old in the onc. this became a great pickup opportunity for us. she just came out of a tough primary fight and we are excited about her election this fall. evan jenkins was a democrat until last year. he switched parties. he is running against neck rheault. obama's approval rating in this district is 22% so neck rheault is in a fight like he has never been in before. carlos carballo running against joe garcia in the southernmost district of florida. he's a rising star in the party. who do we have next-paragraph ryan costello. he is in the turlock open seat a terrific candidate running against a three-time loser who
ran against spurlock in the past several cycles. barbara comstock and others are interested in this race. there's not a candidate who works harder than barbara. this is going to be a great race for us. i am bullish on illinois. i know phil will talk about illinois some. the numbers we are seeing there in the governor's race and our two candidates they are bob dole in the northern part of the state in the chicago suburbs and mike bastin the southernmost district down there. they are both running ahead of their opponents. interesting in illinois and in california last cycle we have a lot of freshmen democrats to none other voters left. they just check the box and voted for the democratic at the congressional level and their numbers are very weak in these illinois districts and in the california district. bob dole recent public polling
had him beating brad schneider. this is in the new jersey run up and see. tom went up on tv and came up with a great primary fight in june. richard thursday against john tierney. john tierney ethical policies have not gone away. john tierney is in a serious primary fight of his own. it's a late primary where he will have to spend a lot of money. stuart mills running against rick noland in upper minnesota. this guy for a first-time candidate he has such natural ability and instincts. i have never seen anything like it. he has got a great shot against noland. once again going to california.ocie running and sacramentally -- the sacrament and jeff correll this is the seed young people's radar right now.
he has an afghan war vet. he is unable reserve duty as we speak and he said assemblyman who wins a tough district there. lastly we have lee zeldin who came out of a tough primary fight in long island new york. he's running against him bishop once again another democrat for serious ethical problems. and we represent senate district that was part of the district and we are really excited about his chances. was i under time? i will turn it over to rob. >> thank thank you. good afternoon i'm rob collins the executive director of the nrsc. when we started this 18 months ago the question was always could we recruit candidates and when their state? could we get them through the primary process and could we train them up to run a campaign that was moderate and ready to take on the democrats?
i think by most standards everyone would say of recruiting class turned out to be pretty darned good. the primary process like any primary process is always bumpy but starting back in september and continuing today we have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in training and travel and time to make sure our candidates, we don't tell them what to believe but just making sure they talk in a way that's relevant to voters. so a real quick overview of the senate. history. presidents lose 6.6 seats on average going back to the 50s in their second midterm elections. obviously 6 feet except the majority. democrats have also had a geography problem. we have had 14 incumbents up for re-election and 13 are in states that romney won. one is