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DHS Screening Official Struggles To Answer Basic Questions On Visas And Security

- December 10, 2015

Senior DHS Official Struggles To Answer Basic Security Questions

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CHAFFETZ: "Do most people come into this country on airplane, or do they come in by vehicle and car? Or vehicles, cars, and walking?"

BURRIESCI: "Um I would anticipate it would be air, but I don't know."

CHAFFETZ: "Again you're in charge of this stuff. So when will you get us that information?"

BURRIESCI: "I'm not in charge of the operations, but I am in charge of working on the policies with the components."

CHAFFETZ: "You're in charge of screening. Your title says screening in it. So if they come in on a visa waiver program by air and depart not by air, what percentage of those people do you capture?"

BURRIESCI: "So that is what I would say is one of the gaps that we have acknowledged. If someone comes in by air and leaves by land, yes."

CHAFFETZ: "And there are literally hundreds of thousands of people, who may have come here legally but now they are here illegally, correct?"

BURRIESCI: "I don't have that number with me, but…"

CHAFFETZ: "Is it hundreds of thousands of people?"

BURRIESCI: "I don't have that number with me."

CHAFFETZ: "The answer is yes, correct? I mean Mr. Lynch laid it out there for you."

BURRIESCI: "I recognize that I'm under oath and I don't want to provide misinformation to you. It's not that I don't want to provide information to you."

CHAFFETZ: "So its somewhere between hundreds of thousands and the low millions of people that came here legally through the visa waiver program, the topic that we're discussing, and just decided they're not going to leave. And you should have a list of those people, right? Do you share any of that information, who else gets that list? Who do you share that list with?"

BURRIESCI: "That list is shared with, I believe, its shared with interagency partners and its shared across..yea."

CHAFFETZ: "Who do you share that list with?"

BURRIESCI: "I…I don't have the list with me."

CHAFFETZ: "You're the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Screening Coordination. In your job description of the one paragraph on the website, you're supposed to be the one that's coordinating with the other departments and agencies. When you have somebody who's a visa overstay do you consider that a threat to the United States of America?"

BURRIESCI: "Sir, sometimes there are people who overstay, that are grandmas that come over to take care of their grandchildren. I wouldn't call them a threat, I'm not saying that they shouldn't abide by the terms of their admission period, but calling them a threat is a totally different circumstance."

CHAFFETZ: "So you just assume that everybody that comes here on this visa waiver program is not a threat?"

BURRIESCI: "I didn't say that either, anybody who comes and overstays their period of admission here. Receives that final removal order and we go after them and prioritize them based on national security and public safety first. Using the resources that we have."

CHAFFETZ: "When do they get that removal order?"

BURRIESCI: "If you're here for VWP and it's 90 days and on the 91st day you're considered to be an overstay."

CHAFFETZ: "You said they give them the removal order, who gives them the removal order?"

BURRIESCI: "Removal order would come from ICE. I can check on the timeframe."

CHAFFETZ: "Would you also give us the list of how many of those have been sent out? When you have somebody who has overstayed their visa, and came over here on the visa waiver program. Which law enforcement entities do you share that with? Which databases does that go into? Can you name one?"

BURRIESCI: "So we will have within DHS, who has the final removal orders I believe it's shared with state and local, but I don't want to say that with certainty right now. So I will do my very best to get you the information that the department has on those questions."

CHAFFETZ: "Yea who is the specific person that would know? You report to, sorry you told me earlier, but the person you report to is?"

BURRIESCI: "Assistant Secretary Seth Stotter, I'm in the office of policy."

CHAFFETZ: "And that person reports to?"

BURRIESCI: "Assistant Secretary Allen Bursin."

CHAFFETZ: "And that person reports to?"

BURRIESCI: "Secretary Of Homeland Security."

CHAFFETZ: "Jeh Johnson."

BURRIESCI: "Yes sir."

CHAFFETZ: "The request we sent was for Jeh Johnson, and Jeh Johnson sent you as the expert on these topics. So you know, this is why I think we need help on both sides of the aisle, but Mr. Johnson, the Secretary himself has got to come and answer these questions. You have, you strike me as a very nice person, but these are basic questions about the functionality here and when we're having a Congressional hearing it is a waste of this committee's time to send somebody who doesn't know the answers to basic questions, and that's why we will continue to pursue very vigorous oversight and robust discussions, you're accelerating the need for us to have multiple hearings on this. Yield back." (Committee On Oversight And Government Reform, U.S. House Of Representatives, Hearing, 12/10/15)

Top DHS Screening Official Unable To Provide Stats On Refugees

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JORDAN: "Earlier this week the chairman of the homeland security committee gave an important speech where he talked about extremist groups, terrorist groups, trying to exploit the refugee program, so, like Mr. Russell just a few minutes ago, I would like to see if you could give me some numbers just so the committee and the American people have this information. How many Syrian refugees have entered the United States in the last year? "

BURRIESCI: "Sir, I didn't bring any of my, any of the refugee numbers with me because I was prepared to talk about visa waivers but I can certainly have us send that to you."

JORDAN: "Do you know how many Americans have travelled to Syria in the last year?"

BURRIESCI: "I don't have that number on me either."

JORDAN: "So you wouldn't know how many Americans have travelled and then returned?"

BURRIESCI: "I don't have that number on me."

JORDAN: "How many visa waiver program overstays are there currently in the United States?"

BURRIESCI: "Sorry, I didn't bring that number with me."

JORDAN: "Ms. Burriesci, when I look at the witness list, you've got the longest title, Deputy Assistant Secretary Of Screening Coordination Office Of Policy Department Of Homeland Security, you've got the longest title, and it says 'screening coordination,' what screening are you coordinating? Is that just intra-agency? Or is that inter-agency?"

BURRIESCI: "It's both."

JORDAN: "It's both. So it's all of that?"

BURRIESCI: "Yes, I coordination across DHS components."

JORDAN: "And the two biggest issues right now that we are dealing with relative to with these terrible tragedies, terrible terrorist attacks and we're talking about the refugee issue and the visa waiver program issues and you can't give us any numbers on either program?"

BURRIESCI: "So I came prepared to talk about the visa waiver program."

JORDAN: "And I just asked you how many visa waiver program overstays are there and you said 'I don't know.'"

BURRIESCI: "Sir, I don't have a number. The visa waiver program…"

JORDAN: "So when I asked you how many overstays of the visa waiver program may have travelled to Syria before they got here…do you know that number?"

BURRIESCI: "Sir, if visa waiver program national has a citizen of a visa waiver program country rather, has travelled to Syria, Iraq or a conflict zone, and they are considered a foreign fighter, that VWP country…"

JORDAN: "I'm not asking that, I'm saying someone from Great Britain comes to the United States, on a visa waiver program, and they are now an over stay, do we know if that person who is here today, maybe they are not even an overstay, do we know if that person has been to Syria before they came to the United States? Do we know that? I mean, I know this is what our bill that we passed earlier this week is trying to get to, I'm asking if you know that information now?"

BURRIESCI: "So that's why we have the IC involved and there is intelligence assessments we use…"

JORDAN: "I'm not asking that, I'm asking do we know that, do you know the number?"

BURRIESCI: "I don't know the number, but that's why I'm trying to…"

JORDAN: "Do we have people, who are in that category that I just described; come from a visa waiver program country may have travelled, may be here today and may have been in Syria or Iraq or somewhere there in the last, before they came here, do we know that?"

BURRIESCI: "If a person from a VWP country has traveled to one of those areas, there's a nexus to the United States, or the the VWP partner shares that information with us, yes, we know that information and we will vet against it. We will also use our algorithms to do their background for travel."

JORDAN: "But could they be here right now is my question."

BURRIESCI: "I don't have that answer, sir."

JORDAN: "Um, alright, well. How about, can you tell me anything about the no fly list? If you can't tell me anything about those two, how does a person get put on the no fly list, what is the criteria for that, can you tell me anything about that?"

BURRIESCI: "Sir, the no fly list is a subset of the overall terror screening database. Um, the inner agency works together, the terror screening database is owned and operated by the terror screening center as I said earlier, there are criteria to get on that that are agreed to…"

JORDAN: "How many American's are on that list right now, can you give me that number?"

BURRIESCI: "I'm sorry. JORDAN: How many American citizens are on the no fly list right now?"

BURRIESCI: "I know there are American citizens on the list, it is an extremely small number but I don't have my numbers with me but again that's something I can easily get back to you after."

JORDAN: "Ms. Burriesci, I've asked you the number of Americans that have travelled to Syria, you don't know. The number of Americans who might have travelled and return, you don't know. The number of Syrian refugees who have entered the country in the last year, you don't know. The number of visa waiver program overstays, you don't know. The number of visa waiver overstays who may have been to Syria before they came here, you don't know. And the number of American citizens on the no fly list and you don't know. And yet you are the Deputy Assistant Secretary For Screening Coordination Office Of Policy, Department Of Homeland Security in front of the Oversight Committee and you can't give us one, single number to some, I think, pretty basic questions?"

BURRIESCI: "Some of those statistics are not held by the DHS, that is why I want to work with my interagency partners…"

JORDAN: "That's why I referenced your title, you are the one who is the screening coordinator for all of this, and you said you were intra agency, that's why I referenced your title. It seems to me you should be able to be in front of this committee with that information."

BURRIESCI: "I'm a DHS civil servant employee and I will work with my inner agency partners their authoritative source for a lot of those numbers you mentioned…"

JORDAN: "If you could get us those numbers, and the ones Mr. Russell asked for that would be great. Thank you, Mr. Chairman." (Committee On Oversight And Government Reform, U.S. House Of Representatives, Hearing, 12/10/15)


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