Enforcing our laws against illegal immigration is a subject of great concern for many in the Sixth District and nationwide. According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), 11.5 million illegal aliens resided in the United States as of 2011. The illegal alien population continues to grow, costing taxpayers billions of dollars and placing a significant burden on our schools, health care facilities, and law enforcement.
However, efforts by state and local governments to assist in enforcing our federal immigration laws have recently been dealt a huge blow. Following the Supreme Court's ruling in June upholding portions of Arizona's immigration law, the DHS brazenly moved to cancel seven 287(g) task-force agreements with law enforcement agencies in Arizona.
Section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act authorizes the federal government to enter into agreements with state and local law enforcement agencies to train officers to assist in identifying those individuals who are in the country illegally. More than 279,311 illegal aliens have been identified for possible deportation through the program since 2006. The 287(g) program has grown in popularity with law enforcement in the Commonwealth -- including the Sixth District. It is one of the most successful tools available to help keep our communities safe from criminal illegal aliens. Unfortunately, the Administration continues to weaken the 287(g) program and deny new applications, including the Virginia State Police earlier this year.
Recently, during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on "Oversight of the Department of Homeland Security," I asked Secretary Janet Napolitano about the Administration's mixed signals regarding the 287(g) program. In direct contradiction to Secretary Napolitano's claims that the 287(g) program doesn't work, I asked her why the DHS website continued to tout success stories of the program. Before the hearing adjourned, she ordered that supportive information be removed from the department's website.
Despite Secretary Napolitano's claims otherwise, I believe the program is under attack because it goes against the Administration's desire to grant amnesty to illegal aliens. Attempts to dismantle the 287(g) program highlight the need for a new federal law that expressly grants the authority to states to help enforce immigration laws. That is why I am a strong supporter of the CLEAR Act, which amends federal immigration law to specifically grant state and local law enforcement this authority.
America is a land of great opportunity and promise built upon the strength and diversity of our immigrant heritage. However, our nation was also founded upon a set of principles, among them the rule of law and fairness. The failure by the Obama Administration to enforce immigration laws is contrary to these very principles and threatens to move us backwards in the fight against illegal immigration. I will continue working closely with my colleagues in Congress to pass much-needed reforms to grant local and state agencies authority to enforce the law and crack down on illegal immigration.