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Hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Subject: A DHS Status Report

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Location: Washington, DC


HEARING OF THE SENATE HOMELAND SECURITY AND GOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS COMMITTEE
SUBJECT: A DHS STATUS REPORT: ASSESSING CHALLENGES AND MEASURING PROGRESS

SEN. MCCASKILL: I also want to briefly ask questions about access issues. I notice you didn't include access issues in your summary, Mr. Walker, but in the report on Page 206, you talked about delays and issues as it relates to access. Could you address that briefly for us?

MR. WALKER: Two things: One, we made a conscious decision not to prioritize in part because of what you said. Secondly, we have had continued challenges over a period of time to differing degrees with the Department of Homeland Security in getting timely access to information. Now in fairness to them, they've got a lot of requests; they've got a lot of things to do. At the same point in time, the process that they have used historically, and hopefully it's changing, has involved -- you know, the lawyers to a greater extent than I believe it should. And Undersecretary Schneider and I have met on this. I also had, I believe, one conversation with the secretary on this at one point in time as well. They both pledged to do better. We are doing better. We're still not doing well enough, but we are doing better.

And interestingly, when we got to the point where they saw our preliminary assessment here, we had well over 1,000 pages of information that came our way pretty quickly. Sometimes that happens when the assessments aren't necessarily coming out the way that people want and therefore you want to make sure we're fully considering everything that's out there, you know, but it really shouldn't have to be that way. I mean, we really need to figure out a more streamlined way for us to get information.

And the only thing I would say to the department to close this out is, look, we're doing work for the whole Congress. And to the extent that they can cooperate with us -- and frankly, it's going to save them time over time because we can try to consolidate requests of many committees and we share our work broadly. And so while our work may cost them some time, it may actually save them time over time.

SEN. MCCASKILL: Well, I'm glad to hear that the problem's improving, that we're getting better on access issues.

Let me hone in on a part of the report that I think should be a priority and that's workplace enforcement in the area of illegal immigration. I was interested to see that one of the things you talked about in June 2006 were the decline in numbers of enforcement personnel, the decline in number of enforcement actions. The thing that I'm frankly mildly critical of the audit about, and I think it may have to do with the performance expectation as to how it's been written, but shouldn't we be separating out criminal investigations and sanctions against the workers and the employers? I mean, to me these are two different issues. One is a magnet that is drawing the illegal immigrant over the border; the other is the immigrant who is coming across the border trying to feed their family.

And I have not been able to determine from this audit report, or frankly from much that's come out of ICE, as to any kind of delineation as to -- I keep reading about the sweeps they're doing. I never read about a criminal conviction or a jail sentence for an employer. They talk about -- you talk about in this audit, you talk about "egregious violations" by employers. Is -- have they defined what egregious is? What does it take, for gosh sakes, to be egregious as an employer in terms of hiring illegal immigrants?

MR. WALKER: Well, let me say several things, and I'll provide some more for the record on details. One, I think while there's been a recent increase in the enforcement of hiring of illegal workers, that's a still serious problem. I think we have to recognize reality that a vast majority of illegal immigration is for economic reasons.

In Mexico, for example, you know, the average daily wage for an unskilled worker is less than $5 a day. They're going to come here, and they're going to come here as long as they can get jobs here. And so unless we end up enforcing the laws against hiring illegal workers aggressively, you know, then we're not going to stem the tide. We're just not going to do it, all right, and I think we have to recognize that reality. And they've allocated some additional resources. I think it's still an issue, and I do think there's a difference -- clearly a difference between the employer and the individual.

SEN. MCCASKILL: I'm out of time, but I'll probably stick around. You know me. (Laughs.)

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

SEN. MCCASKILL: Thank you.

Great segue way because the audit says there are no outcome goals or measures for workplace enforcement. Do you disagree with that, Mr. Schneider?

MR. SCHNEIDER: We have metrics that we use and I'd be glad to provide it in terms of the number of aliens removed, criminal arrests, criminal fines and forfeitures.

SEN. MCCASKILL: No, I'm talking about workplace enforcement; I'm not talking about how many aliens were arrested.

MR. SCHNEIDER: I'm talking about the worksite enforcement. We track criminal arrests, administrative arrests and criminal fines and forfeitures, and those are worksite enforcement issues. I'd kind of like to follow on to that discussion. I'm not sure, frankly, what else we track. I happen to know that we track this at a pretty high level, but whatever -- I don't know if we have any other details.

SEN. MCCASKILL: ICE reported in the audit that additional time is needed to afford its programs the opportunity to mature into an outcome-based system. In other words, they're doing data collection now, but there is no outcome goals and measures that are there. And we can avoid the argument over the blue chart if all of the departments in Homeland Security had outcome-based goals and measures. Then, the auditor's job becomes relatively straightforward and simple. We know what your outcome goals and measures are and we look to see if you're achieving them. If they are, success; if they aren't, why not and what is the underlying reasons why they're not being achieved? And it specifically says in here that basically the department is admitting that they have not done outcome goals and measures for workplace enforcement.

MR. SCHNEIDER: Well, I think this -- yes, Senator, and I think also that has been one of the comptroller general's major complaints across the entire department.

SEN. MCCASKILL: Right.

MR. SCHNEIDER: And that's where Senator Voinovich has been --

SEN. MCCASKILL: Right.

MR. SCHNEIDER: -- very aggressive in trying to help us, if you will, establish our strategic plan so we have these types of metrics that can be used. And we have a long way to go.

SEN. MCCASKILL: In the criminal arrests in the data that you provided to GAO, you said there had been 716 criminal arrests in fiscal year '06. Was there any indication in those arrests how many of those arrests were for -- and maybe you can provide this to the committee; I certainly would be interested in knowing -- how many of those arrests are for employers and how many of those criminal arrests are for illegal immigrants working in this country?

MR. SCHNEIDER: I'll provide that. I'll also try and -- I know the number of administrative arrests, which are nearly 4,000. I'll see if I can break that down into some details, categories as well as the over 30 million (dollars) in fines and forfeitures. I'll see if we can provide some granularity on that.

SEN. MCCASKILL: And then in regards to the ICE mutual agreement between government and employers, it's -- from reading the audit, you have nine members. Is there a goal as to how many members -- how many employers that would participate in that program that you would consider -- I mean, I'm glad there are nine, but nine in the whole country, I don't think it's, you know, that's something that we should be crowing about at this point. Is there a number? Is there an outcome goal or measure in that area as to how many employers you are targeting to participate in the mutual agreement between government and employers?

MR. SCHNEIDER: I'll have to get back to you on that.

SEN. MCCASKILL: Okay. And while you're doing that, one of the things that was most troubling to me is that we have nine, but the problem we have is that there is a weakness in one of the key requirements. For the program to work, you have to have employment eligibility verification program. And so if we get too far down the road in this mutual agreement and these employers are busy patting themselves on the back that they're participating, I don't think you're going to get the finding from GAO you want until you tackle the ability to identify document fraud.

And whatever outcome goals or measures that have been set in that area, I would certainly like a follow-up in that regard also.

MR. SCHNEIDER: Sure.

SEN. MCCASKILL: I don't want to take too much time on the other area because I know who's going to question next, and this is -- she has done an incredible job, Senator Landrieu, fighting for the people of her state as it regards to the mistakes and problems that occurred with Hurricane Katrina.

I would say that -- just very briefly in the minute and a half I have left -- that the specifics that are in the summary of findings, particularly in "ensure the capacity and readiness for disaster response teams," and then secondly, the specifics that are in the summary of findings about developing the capacity to provide needed emergency assistances and services in a timely manner, the actual words that are in those two sections should really be a cause for concern. Essentially, those two sections of this audit say that there is not the documentation available to reassure the American public that it wouldn't happen again.

And I bring your attention to those two sections. I'm not going to dwell on them because I know that my colleague is going to be the one that will go into this in some detail, and I know of her great concerns in that area. But there were many times in this report I stopped for my highlighter. Those were two places that I stopped for my highlighter. And I think that it's something that as we talk about the priorities and the metrics, clearly the demonstrated ability to respond in a timely manner in a way that is appropriate to the level of the emergency is probably I think one of the most important things that we expect out of FEMA.

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.


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