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DHS Oversight Hearing Likely to Be Contentious

In advance of a Senate Judiciary Committee oversight hearing on the Department of Homeland Security Wednesday morning, Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) has released a statement announcing his disapproval with DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano’s immigration policies and enforcement. “As many as twenty million individuals live here illegally, enjoying many of the same benefits as those who have followed the rules, paid taxes, and waited patiently to become full and legal citizens,” Sessions said in his statement. He continued:

For far too long, America failed to secure its borders. As a result, people failed to respect those borders and millions of illegal immigrants swept across. But efforts in recent years to restore the rule of law—such as building barriers and increasing prosecutions—are sending a clear message to the world. As a result, illegal border crossings are down. Statistics show that border apprehensions fell from over 1.6 million at the beginning of the decade to around 550,000 last year. This is a promising development, but the task of securing America’s borders is far from complete.

Actually, migration experts attribute the slowing if illegal immigration to the United States not to new barriers and prosecutions but to the recession, which has slowed the demand for workers. Still, prosecutions for immigration violations have reached record levels in the past few years. Napolitano’s pledge to focus worksite enforcement on employers who knowingly hire illegal workers rather than on the workers themselves has, however, disappointed Sessions.

Unfortunately, on the crucial policy of worksite enforcement, the administration is moving in the opposite direction. They have effectively signaled to our law enforcement officers that they should turn a blind eye to clear violations of the law. The no-match rule—a commonsense policy that required employers to take action if notified that their employees did not have legal status—has been brushed aside in favor of much more lenient administrative audits. Perhaps most perplexing, worksite raids no longer result in deportation, meaning that even if discovered, illegal aliens are allowed to walk free and seek employment elsewhere. This lax approach is particularly troubling at a time when so many American citizens are struggling to find jobs.

It’s not at all clear that DHS has not been deporting illegal immigrants arrested in workplace raids. Although Napolitano did say she’d focus her efforts on employers, as did the Bush administration, workers are still arrested during “workplace enforcement actions,” as Immigration and Customs Enforcement likes to call them. Some of those workers may be allowed to remain in the United States temporarily to act as witnesses against the employer, however, if the government plans to prosecute. That happened in the case of workers at the Yamato Engine Specialists Ltd. plant in Bellingham, Wash., for example. They are now again facing deportation.

Regardless, Sessions made clear that the treatment of illegal immigrant workers in the United States is sure to be a point of contention at Wednesday’s Senate hearing.

Secretary Napolitano is America’s top immigration enforcement official, and I look forward to discussing with her these and other important immigration issues. Her recent comments that our progress on border security opens the door to consideration of new amnesty policies are disturbing. That faulty view will be a focus of the hearing.

That should make this morning’s hearing interesting. I’ll be following it and will report back.

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