McCaskill Questions DHS Nominee on Agency's Poor Record on Employer Enforcement
With hundreds of millions of dollars being spent in an unsuccessful effort to stop the flow of illegal immigrants, U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill today raised serious questions regarding the enforcement of immigration policies on those who employ undocumented workers. At a Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs hearing on a high level nomination at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, McCaskill asked what he would do to make cracking down on employers who are skirting immigrations laws an agency priority.
"The walls aren't going to do it, the border fences aren't going to do it. As long as immigrants think they can come and feed their families in this country and get a job, they are going to come," McCaskill said today. "They are going to come because they care more about feeding their families than they do about whether they are going to be shipped back in 6 months. On the other hand, if they come over and can't get a job, they aren't going to come over. I don't understand why there isn't a sense of urgency."
As a former prosecutor, McCaskill has been outspoken about the government's failure to prosecute employers who break federal immigration laws by hiring people illegally living in the United States. She has argued that immigrants are entering the United States illegally because they feel confident employers will hire them. In fact, in recent years, employers ignoring federal law by hiring illegal immigrants have faced few criminal charges or sanctions, while a never-ending supply of new or returning illegal workers has Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) spinning its wheels with ongoing and proportionately insignificant arrests of illegal workers. McCaskill today offered her prosecutorial advice to use the workers to take down the illegal employers.
"Just start following the evidence. It's called turning the witnesses against the bad guys and it's how law enforcement works in this country. It's how we get the big whales instead of the little fish," McCaskill said. "All we are doing in immigration right now is getting the little fish, but nobody has their scope on the big whales. Until we land a couple of those big whales, we are going to continue to spend more money than we need to spend and we are going to continue to be more inefficient than we should be in clamping down on illegal immigration."
Today's hearing focused on the nomination of Paul A. Schneider to be Deputy Secretary at the Department of Homeland Security, a position that serves as the agency's chief operating officer and manages their day-to-day operations. As Deputy Secretary, Schneider would play a key role in establishing high-level DHS policy and the role of employer enforcement within the agency. Last year, McCaskill was highly critical of President Bush's re-nomination of Julie Myers to head up the ICE despite a poor record on employer enforcement under her leadership. During Myers' confirmation process, McCaskill requested that a vote be delayed until ICE provided records on their prosecution of those employing illegal aliens.
After ICE failed to differentiate in their records between the prosecution of workers and employers, McCaskill's office requested and obtained the names of the 716 people prosecuted in order to begin their own investigation. Just hours before the scheduled vote on Myers' nomination, McCaskill finally received the records she had requested..
McCaskill also questioned Schneider today on her ongoing concerns about Myers's lack of wise judgment related to several controversial photographs taken at an ICE Halloween party in 2007. Photos showed Myers, a judge in the costume competition, standing alongside one of the winners, who was wearing a racially offense costume. McCaskill voted against Myers' re-nomination based on the bad judgment displayed related to employer enforcement and the Halloween incident.