Chairman Smith: This morning we welcome Secretary Janet Napolitano to the Committee for an oversight hearing on the Department of Homeland Security.
The Department of Homeland Security ("DHS") was created to protect our country from terrorist attacks, enforce federal immigration laws and provide disaster response and assistance. DHS also performs important law enforcement functions related to intellectual property and child pornography.
As we begin today's hearing I'd like to pose two questions. First, how effectively has DHS secured our borders?
The non-partisan Government Accountability Office ("GAO") has found that only 44% of the Southwest border is under the "operational control" of the Border Patrol.
Nearly 450,000 illegal immigrants enter the U.S. each year. Meanwhile, Mexican drug cartels are out of control and the violence threatens to spill over into the U.S. The administration needs to do more to secure the borders and protect the American people.
Some have claimed what are supposedly "the largest number" of removals in history. However, even President Obama has said the statistics put out by DHS are "a little deceptive." The Washington Post has found that administration has inflated its removal numbers by including voluntary returns.
My second question is how effectively has DHS protected jobs for American workers? With the unemployment rate over 9%, jobs are scarce and millions of American families have been hurt.
According to the Pew Hispanic Center, seven million people are working in the U.S. illegally. These jobs should go to legal workers. And securing these jobs for American workers and legal immigrants should be a priority of the federal government.
Each time DHS arrests, detains or deports an illegal worker, it creates a job opportunity for an American worker. Worksite enforcement actions open up jobs for unemployed American workers.
Unfortunately, worksite enforcement has plummeted under this administration. Administrative arrests fell by 77% from 2008 to 2010. Criminal arrests fell by 60%. Criminal indictments fell by 57% and criminal convictions fell by 66%.
With millions of Americans unemployed, it is hard to imagine a worse time to cut worksite enforcement efforts by more than half.
It is true that DHS has increased the number of audits of companies' employment eligibility verification forms. However, these audits are of questionable benefit.
The GAO has found that:
"ICE officials told us that because fine amounts are so low, the fines do not provide a meaningful deterrent. . . . The amount of . . . fines may be, in the opinion of some ICE officials, so low that they believe that employers view the fines as a cost of doing business, making the fines an ineffective deterrent . . . ."
And what happens to illegal workers when ICE declines to arrest them? They go down the street and knock on the door of the next employer, and take jobs away from American workers.
DHS has also signaled that it may grant administrative amnesty to potentially hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants currently in removal proceedings and to many others who have yet to be placed in proceedings.
But we know that when this administration issues "deferred action" to illegal immigrants, it routinely grants 90% of them work authorization.
How can DHS justify granting work authorization to illegal immigrants when so many American citizens don't have jobs?
Twenty-three million Americans who are unemployed or can't find full-time work must wonder why this administration puts illegal immigrants ahead of them. Citizens and legal immigrants should not be forced to compete with illegal workers for scarce jobs. The administration should put the interests of American workers first.