Monday, June 30, 2014

Congress discusses border fence, immigration policy

Valley Morning Star
June 25, 2014
by Ty Johnson

One Republican Congressman called for more border fence construction while another suggested suspending foreign aid to Mexico and Central America during a heated House Committee on Homeland Security hearing in Washington, D.C. Tuesday where lawmakers discussed the growing crisis in the Rio Grande Valley posed by an influx of unaccompanied child immigrants from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson held fast amidst questioning of his agency’s handling of the situation. Other witnesses included Federal Emergency Management Director Craig Fugate and U.S. Customs and Border Protection Deputy Chief Ronald D. Vitiello.

While Republicans blame the immigration policies of President Barack Obama for the influx, the administration says it’s being exacerbated by slow immigration courts and misinformation spread by profit-hungry human smugglers in Mexico.

U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Alabama, said it’s a lack of fencing in the Rio Grande Valley that has made it the epicenter of the nation’s undocumented immigrant crisis.

Rogers suggested that fencing like that in San Diego would help keep immigrants from entering the United States illegally, though he seemed unaware of the amount of border fencing already in place in Cameron and Hidalgo counties.

“We don’t have a fence down there and that’s why,” he said in his second red-faced address in four days of talks about DHS and its role in combating the crisis.

On June 20, he angrily questioned whether terrorists could take advantage of the situation while Border Patrol agents are “changing diapers and warming formula” — language he again used Tuesday.

Amidst calls for more discussions and aid for the immigrants’ home countries from Democrats, including ranking member Bennie G. Thompson, D-Mississippi and U.S. Rep. Filemon B. Vela, Rogers said he would like for dialogue to center solely on deportation.

“Why aren’t we bussing them back?” he asked. “I think what you ought to do is ask Guatemala where they want these kids dropped off.”

Johnson reminded Rogers of a 2008 law signed by George W. Bush that made special requirements for unaccompanied and undocumented children encountered near the border, but Rogers brushed it off by commenting on how long implementation of the Affordable Care Act was taking.

Speaking later, U.S. Rep. Candice Miller, R-Michigan, pushed for a much more stern foreign policy response, calling for aid to be cut off to Mexico and Central America and for the United States to reassess or suspend its trade agreements with the countries.

Miller said Mexico was “complicit” in the smuggling of children across the American border as most immigrants trek across the country’s porous southern border and pay smugglers to reach the United States.

While she attempted to blame Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy for the crisis, others at the hearing noted that order deferred action only for children who were already in the country.

Still, the misinformation along the smuggling routes is stoking rumors that the United States is offering some form of refuge to displaced immigrants and parents continue to send their children on perilous journeys to the north.

Border Patrol agents apprehend them when they cross the border — sometimes easily as immigrants run toward agents believing it is their best shot at amnesty — and children found to be without parents are screened by U.S. Coast Guard medical personnel.

CBP is legally obligated to hand over these unaccompanied children to the Department of Health and Human Services within 72 hours of finding they are alone — a benchmark that Johnson said the agency was not meeting.

DHSS sends those children off to live with relatives or others in the country with a notice to appear in immigration court — effectively an indictment requiring their appearance at a hearing sometimes scheduled more than a year away.

Those notices are likely the “permisos” that immigrants send word home about, their legitimacy bolstered by smugglers looking to profit off the false hope of desperate immigrants fleeing dangerous conditions in their home countries.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden was in Guatemala to attempt to stem the tide of immigrants at its source on June 20, the same day the Obama administration announced half a dozen new programs in Central America to help those nations repatriate their citizens and enhance policing efforts to reduce crime.

Vela, who last week called for more aid in Mexico and Central America, said he saw the situation at the border as a trifecta of crises in Central America, within the U.S. immigration courts and with immigration reform efforts, which have ground to a halt since the U.S. Senate passed a comprehensive reform bill nearly a year ago.

Vela noted the sentiments GOP mega-donor and kingmaker Sheldon G. Adelson expressed in a recent op-ed in Politico Magazine where he called for the establishment of paths to citizenship for undocumented immigrants already in the United States.

Vela said those views — not the ones of tea party Republicans like Miller and Rogers — were signs that extremist views concerning border security and immigration reform were wilting.

“There are some tea party extremists in the Republican party who happen to sit on the committee that just have views that are very extreme,” he said. “Those are the voices that you’re hearing calling for more fencing, which we strongly object to, and ... for all practical purposes, eliminating our trading relationship with our nation’s second-largest trading partner.”

Vela was particularly critical of Rogers’ suggestion about fencing, explaining that reports he has heard have shown immigrants “walking straight through the bridge and turning themselves in,” throughout the Valley’s ports of entry.

Vela said while he believes CBP likely needs more manpower at its processing centers — the Fort Brown Border Patrol Station was at double capacity last week — the responses from Vitiello have him convinced that Border Patrol has enough resources to handle the situation.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Cuellar: We need to act now to avert a potential humanitarian crisis along border

Rio Grande Guardian
June 2, 2014
by Luis Montoya

LAREDO, June 2 - U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar on Monday called for the establishment of a multi-agency processing center on the border to deal with a recent influx of immigrant apprehensions.
In a letter sent to the chairs and ranking members of various House committees, as well as Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, the Cuellar pointed out that since the beginning of this year over 145,000 undocumented immigrants have been apprehended in the Rio Grande Valley sector. This is more than a 65 percent increase over the same period of Fiscal Year 2013. If current rates continue, the Rio Grande Valley is expected to have over 240,000 apprehensions for Fiscal Year 2014, Cuellar wrote, in his letter. Cuellar said the Valley is currently at more than 190 percent of its temporary detention capacity. “We need to do a better job taking care of the children who are crossing the southern border unaccompanied and we must act immediately to avert a potential humanitarian crisis along the border,” Cuellar, D-Laredo, wrote. Cuellar sent a letter on the same day President Obama President Obama held a news conference at the White House to say there is an "urgent humanitarian situation" at the border. Obama referenced a surge of unaccompanied immigrant children crossing into the United States from Mexico. According to Kids in Need of Defense, a group that advocates for immigrant children and provides legal services during deportation proceedings, as many as 150,000 unaccompanied children could cross into the United States next. In fiscal year 2012 that number was 13,625, the group says. It rose to 24,668 in 2013. The government predicts as many as 60,000 children could enter the U.S. unaccompanied in 2014. Border Patrol cannot keep the children form more than 72 hours and so the numbers are overwhelming the agencies charged with catering for the children. Obama said he was placing Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate in charge of a group that will coordinate services among many federal agencies in order to better assist the minors apprehended at the border. The Office of Management and Budget says it will cost $2.28 billion next year to deal with minors caught at the southern border. This is more than the $868 million requested by the Obama Administration in March. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, along with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has urged cooperation between the United States, Mexico and several Central American countries on the issue of migrant children. Cuellar’s letter was sent to U.S. Rep. Harold Rogers, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, and U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey, ranking member of the same committee. It was also sent to U.S. Rep. John Carter, chairman of the Subcommittee on Homeland Security, and U.S. Rep. David Price, ranking member of the same committee. Cuellar’s letter was sent also to U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, chairman of the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science, and U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, ranking member of the same committee. It was also sent to U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, chairman of the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, ranking member of the same committee. Here is Cuellar’s letter in full: June 2, 2014 In recent weeks, the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas has experienced an unprecedented influx of undocumented immigrant apprehensions and detentions, many of which are unaccompanied minors from countries other than Mexico. These crossings have created a resource crisis in the Rio Grande Valley that demands immediate attention from the federal government and the Appropriations Committee. Since the beginning of this year, over 145,000 undocumented immigrants have been apprehended in the Rio Grande Valley sector, a more than 65 percent increase over the same period of Fiscal Year 2013. If current rates continue, the Rio Grande Valley is expected to have over 240,000 apprehensions for Fiscal Year 2014. On average, over 70 percent of apprehensions are Other Than Mexicans (OTM) and a large percentage of them are Unaccompanied Children (UAC). Currently, the Rio Grande Valley is apprehending approximately 300 UACs on a daily basis. I represent much of this area in the 28th District of Texas, which stretches from San Antonio in the north to Laredo and the much of the upper Rio Grande Valley. I have had extensive personal conversations with the men and women of Border Patrol in the past few weeks about this ongoing issue and they have laid out the issues straining the resources and personnel of Border Patrol. Every undocumented immigrant that is apprehended while attempting to cross the border must be processed by Border Patrol. With this unprecedented surge in crossings, the Rio Grande Valley is currently at more than 190 percent of its temporary detention capacity. Those that are detained are then transferred to the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Many others are released with a notice to appear before an immigration judge at a future date. This resource crisis requires a multi-agency response involving the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Justice. Because of the massive influx of immigrants being apprehended at the border, it is necessary to create a central location in which all elements of the adjudication process can be completed. We need to do a better job taking care of the children who are crossing the southern border unaccompanied and we must act immediately to avert a potential humanitarian crisis along the border. I am committed to working with Chairwoman Kay Granger, Ranking Member David Price, and the State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations Subcommittee to work with our partners in Mexico and other Central American countries. Thank you for your consideration. If you require further information, do not hesitate to contact me, my legislative director Megan Swearingen, or my legislative assistant Wendell White at 225-1640. Sincerely, Henry Cuellar, PhD U.S. Congressman Texas District 28

Friday, May 23, 2014

Indigenous Texans Want UN Support Against Border Fence

Texas Tribune
May 23, 2014
by Julian Aguilar

EL CALABOZ, Texas — Eloisa Tamez remembers the exact day five years ago when she said it took the federal government just 24 hours to seize and plow through a parcel of land that had been in her Lipan Apache family for generations.

Following two years of courtroom battles with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the agency got the go-ahead in 2009 to extend its controversial border fence across her land. Since then, roughly 75 percent of her formerly three-acre lot has been behind a steel barrier, land that's now the property of the federal government.

Tamez isn’t alone in her opposition to the fence, which was erected to stop undocumented immigrants, human smugglers and drug traffickers from breaching the U.S. border. But her family's allegations that the fence discriminates against Native American tribes with land along the border has added a complicated new layer to the debate.

In partnership with the Human Rights Clinic at the University of Texas School of Law, Tamez and other Lipan Apaches are seeking relief from the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. They allege that the fence has “blocked access to sacred sites and deprives the Lipan Apache of their First Amendment right to express their religious freedoms at certain traditional ceremonies," according to a news release issued when the clinic submitted its report to the U.N. in February. (That report is a supplement to earlier reports the Lipan Apaches and the UT law clinic have submitted to federal and U.N. officials.)

A spokesman for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Rio Grande Valley sector, whose jurisdiction includes El Calaboz in Cameron County, did not respond to a request for comment on the report. The agency would only say that it usually does not comment on pending legal issues.

The federal government has argued that the fence, combined with technology and manpower, is essential to border security. And some border residents have lauded its arrival, saying their land was overrun with trespassers before its construction.

But other border residents, immigrants, environmentalists and human rights groups have not seen the fence in such a positive light. They argue that it sends the wrong message to the U.S.'s southern neighbor and is a waste of resources that hasn’t stopped the flow of illegal migration.

Tamez, who was compensated about $58,000 for her land, said she took the federal money in protest, and used it to fund scholarships for nursing students at the University of Texas at Brownsville.
“I am not going to personally use the money that the government has given me due to this injustice; I want it to live forever in my parents' name,” she said. “They are the ones who worked hard on this land to give us a life.”

Margo Tamez, Eloisa’s daughter and a professor of indigenous studies at the University of British Columbia, said the Lipan Apaches never surrendered their land to the federal government and, under current treaty obligations, still have a right to craft their own cultural, educational and governmental practices. Without access to all of their land, she said, those rights are curtailed, hindering the tribe's ability to maintain its culture.

“The indigenous people such as the Lipan Apaches are vulnerable and threatened,” she said. “They have already been subject to assimilation.”

The latest report filed with U.N. officials argues that seizure of Native American land requires consent, and that there is legal precedent for it.

“Indigenous communities have a right to be previously consulted in deciding any measures that affect their territory,” the report states.

The Tamez family wants the border wall to come down, an unlikely scenario.

But Ariel Dulitzky, the director of UT Law's Human Rights Clinic, said other positive outcomes are possible, including financial compensation for the Lipan Apaches or at least a recommendation for more consultation with affected populations in the future.

“The [U.N.] could recommend that the U.S. adopt a measure to take into consideration the rights of the Lipan Apaches — for instance, how the Border Patrol carries out activities in the Lipan Apache areas,” he said.

Dulitzky said he expects a response this summer. The timing could be crucial as the government considers further expanding the border fence. If the U.S. Congress passes immigration reform, it is likely that border security triggers will be included in the legislation. Several Republican lawmakers have said additional fencing is a key element to heightening security.

“New legislation is expected to double and triple the border wall fencing and presence of border patrol agents,” the report states. “If the [U.S. government] is not held to account for the legacy of colonization and the border wall’s discriminatory effects, critical traditional knowledge will be lost.”

Thursday, May 8, 2014

New Tucson center aims to ID migrants who die on trek north

Los Angeles Times
May 4, 2014
by Cindy Carcamo

Every year thousands of migrants cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally into Arizona. Some make it to their destination. Others get picked up by authorities.

Hundreds more perish in the Sonoran desert. Some bodies are never identified and families of the missing can languish for years without word of their loved ones.

A new Tucson-based organization is hoping to change that.

On Saturday, the Colibri Center for Human Rights officially launched, hoping to address what its organizers call a “very serious human rights crisis on the border.”  The center, which is supported by the Ford Foundation and others, is an expansion of an earlier effort known as the Missing Migrant Project.

That project had already collected, organized and centralized information for what is regarded as the most comprehensive database in the nation on missing and unidentified migrants.

Since 2006, the group has made 100 matches in collaboration with the Pima County Medical Examiner’s office.
Colibri, headed by executive director Robin Reineke, still helps people find their loved ones and track information on the dead and missing, but now also aims to educate people on the high number of deaths and disappearances along the southern border through research and storytelling.
For example, families of the missing will be able to post testimonials, detailing their struggle on the organization’s website. There’s also a section that shows the personal items carried by more than 2,400 migrants who died in the last 14 years during their attempt to cross the US-Mexico border.

Since 2006, about 2,000 people have filed missing person reports for those who have disappeared crossing the southern border. Most were last known to have passed through the Arizona corridor.

“The way we approach the project is the way a forensic scientists have approached mass disasters,” Reineke said. “There is a high number of missing individuals and high number of unidentified individuals. We do everything we can … and try to make a match.”

In Arizona alone, there are at least 900 unidentified remains, according to Pima County Medical Examiner data. Most of the migrants are from Mexico or Central America.

Although illegal immigration along the southern border has decreased in the last couple of years, deaths along the border are still numerous. About 165 people die every year crossing illegally into Arizona.

In places like Brooks County, Texas, deaths have drastically increased in the last couple of years, Reineke said. Colibri is also collaborating with officials there to help them with the issue.

The launch of the new organization coincided with the Tucson premiere of “Who is Dayani Cristal?” The film, a documentary about the journey to identify a man who crossed the border illegally into Arizona from Mexico, features the Pima County Office, Reineke and the work that eventually developed into Colibri.

Border Fence Still Dividing Communities

FOX 29 News
May 5, 2104
by Grace White

It's a controversial part of the border, the section between the fence in America and the Rio Grande bordering Mexico that some call 'No Man's Land.'

"This is home, this is America," said Pamela Taylor, who lives across the fence.

It looks like any other neighborhood.

"We know most of the guys," she said.

There's a sense of pride.

You could call it a gated community, except that this isn't a gate, traffic comes right through.

This isn't the residents' idea of protection, it's the U.S. Government's idea of border security.

"We are the last (house)," said Taylor.

She has lived in her home just outside Brownsville for decades.

"It's been known as no man's land," said Taylor.

There's only a handful of homeowners on the other side of the fence and most have been fighting the government for years.

Some claim they've been cut-off from their country and others say they now have limited access to their homes.

The fence cuts right through Rusty Monsees' property.

"It doesn't work, there's no way it can work," said Monsees, who lives near the fence.

"No matter what happens on this side of the fence we have absolutely no control over it," said Taylor.

Border patrol agents walked us onto the other side to prove they do.

"A lot of people have the misconception that southside of the fence is 'No Man's Land,' but it by no means is that," said Danny Tirado, spokesman for U.S. Border Patrol.

Agents also took us on this ride-a-long to show us why the fence wasn't built on the actual border.

There's simply too many twists and turns on the Rio Grande to justify the cost

Even though the fence in places is a half mile north... "We have detection capabilities out there, between the river and the fence," said Tirado.

"I think they probably see it as the unofficial border," said Chris Cabrera, a spokesman for the Border Patrol Union.

Union representatives say while it does provide protection, the fence also creates challenges.

"In the not to distant past we've had some guys attacked, pretty bad, pretty bloody. Couple of guys reached for guns and tried to disarm our agents," said Cabrera.

The union says there's been talks of requiring agents to work in pairs.

"We have some agents that have been assaulted, it's not uncommon for a border patrol agent to arrest 17-20 people at a time by himself," said Cabrera.

"All this money that they've spent on this could have been better spent to improve and bring more border patrolmen," said Monsees.

Border Patrol is increasing manpower in the Rio Grande Valley because the number of people being caught coming across increased significantly from last year.

"Well they ask, well if it's so dangerous, why don't you move. Well why should I? I haven't done anything wrong," said Taylor.

So, Taylor makes the most of it, leaving sodas and water out for people passing through.

But don't mistake her generosity as an endorsement, she says what's happening on this side of the fence should concern every American.

"Whatever comes over this border they are going up north," said Taylor.

Brownsville Congressman Filemon Vela says, "Simply, I believe the border fence has been a waste of money and needs to be torn down." 

However, some argue the fence works.

The Border Patrol is catching more people as they cross over.

In 2012, the number was around 95,000.

Last year, it was 150,000.Border Fence Still Dividing Communities

Border fence extension remains in Congressional limbo

KSAT San Antonio
May 8, 2014
by Jesse Degollado

MCALLEN, Texas - 
Funded by the Secure Fence Act of 2006, plans to extend the border fence, part of immigration reform, remain in Congressional limbo.

Critics of the fence in south Texas question spending more taxpayer dollars on a barrier that they said has had little effect.
“A border fence is a 14th century solution to a 21st century problem," said Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Dist. 28).
Cuellar, who serves on the Homeland Security Appropriations subcommittee, said he supports “smart border security,” using technology.
“The wall here was $12 million a mile,” said Scott Nicol, one of its early opponents and founder of “It can be completely defeated by a couple of dollars worth of scrap wood."
Nicol has photographed makeshift ladders left behind by undocumented immigrants. He said most are seized by U.S. Border Patrol.

He also said the fence has done little to slow, much less stop, the current surge of Central Americans into the Rio Grande Valley.

“The walls are up and apprehensions are rising again, so I don’t see the wall doing a lot,” Nicol said.
William Alber, a retired General Motors worker from Michigan and a full-time winter Texan, said he agrees.
Alber said he watched the fence going up from his front yard at a mobile home park near McAllen.
“The wall didn’t do any good. They just come over the top of the wall,” Alber said.
He said they also often run across his driveway, but he’s never been threatened.
“It’s elderly ladies. It’s girls. I’ve seen little kids, 7, 8 years old running with them,” Alber said. “There’s no doubt in my mind they’re desperate.”
Alber said if Border Patrol is not there watching, many others simply go around the fence where it abruptly ends.
According to Customs and Border Protection, only 650 miles of fencing exists along the 2,000-mile southern border.

Daniel Tirado, a spokesman for U.S. Border Patrol, said the 54 miles of fencing in the Rio Grande Valley was strategically placed to give its 5,000-plus agents the tactical advantage.
Tirado said the border fence helps shift illegal activity to less populated areas, “decreasing the smuggler’s ability to exploit easily accessible routes through communities, increasing the possibility of apprehension.”   
However, those living between the fence and the Rio Grande have said they’re in a no-man’s land used by smugglers.
Tirado said that is why agents often patrol those areas, assisted by other means of detection such as cameras and sensors.
He said Border Patrol relies on a combination of technology, infrastructure and personnel to secure the south Texas border.  

Texas lawmaker alleges wasteful spending by DHS at border

Brownsville Herald
May 8, 2014
by Ty Johnson

One Texan on the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Homeland Security questioned border fence construction Wednesday during the committee’s hearing on government waste within the Department of Homeland Security.
U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, spoke specifically about border security during the hearing, which was held about a week after the Government Account ability Office issued a report concerning DHS, which has been classified at “high risk” for government waste since the department’s creation in 2002.
While the unique missions of the department’s many components, including U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, make it difficult to create uniformity within the department, lawmakers have filed legislation to encourage DHS to get its house in order.
The agencies where risk was deemed highest include CBP, ICE, Coast Guard and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.O’Rourke noted two projects along t
he border that were receiving heavy capital investment even as complications were revealed.
“Generally, I thinkthat spending withinthe Department of Home-land Security is out of control,” he said Wednesday afternoon.

During the hearing, O’Rourke noted that his assessment is backed up by countless GAO reports that show DHS beginning expensive projects without knowing the full cost or having defined goals for the projects.
O’Rourke said the classic example of a border security boondoggle was SBINet, a part of the Secure Border Initiative that DHS launched in 2006.
The project cost ended up topping $1 billion before it ultimately was scrapped by then-Secretary Janet Napolitano in 2010, he said.
The project had intended to place technologically advanced towers along the border to help with border security, but ultimately the department had nothing to show for it.
“What is very concerning to me is I don’t know how much DHS has learned from that very costly solution,” he said.
O’Rourke said he sees similarities between SBINet and DHS’ current plan to place integrated fixed towers along Arizona’s border with Mexico to provide additional monitoring of activity. The price tag on that project is poised to top $500 million even though O’Rourke said there are no metrics or clear lifecycle costs for the project.O’Rourke also criticized a $5.5 million project to erect a half-mile stretch of border fencing at Hart’s Mill, a historic crossing point near El Paso.
The freshman congressman said crossings at that point have decreased recently and are now a fraction of what statistics indicated four years ago, but the project is still moving forward.
“Why fence a half-mile section when there’s no demonstrable need?” he asked, explaining that he brought that up with former DHS leaders and was told that the projects were too far along to be halted.
O’Rourke said while the El Paso fence project didn’t account for a large percentage of the department’s budget, the number of other projects along the border could end up costing taxpayers a lot to cut off land from the rest of the country.
“$5.5 million may not sound like a lot, but $5.5 million here, $5.5 million there — soon it adds up and becomes real money,” he said.
O’Rourke, like many Democrats in Congress who represent border districts, said fencing in and of itself is not a smart investment for the federal government.
“Whatever you think about a wall, the need is just not there,” he said, explaining that the costs of building and maintaining a fence along the border had little return on investment compared to other expenses.
“That money could go to hire customs officers, which we desperately need along the border,” he said.The full cost for hiring an additional customs officer, he said, is about $144,000, but the Commerce Department has found that single hire can help contribute an additional $2 million into the economy while creating another 33 jobs, many concentrated in border states like Texas.
O’Rourke said DHS should work to redistribute its assets, especially personnel, to meet the needs along the border and stop constructing fixed structures.
He said he thinks contractors are to blame for the runaway border spending, as the GAO report suggested that was the issue with SBINet.
“Ultimately the contractors were writing the scope of the contract,” he said. “The agency itself no longer had control, which is why it turned out to be such a fiasco.”
The DHS Acquisition Accountability and Efficiency Act, which aims to curtail spending within the department, has been placed on the House calendar and will be considered by the full House after its Committee on Homeland Security gave it a favorable recommendation last week.
U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela Jr., D-Brownsville, serves on the committee but was not present for Wednesday morning’s hearing.