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Public Statements

Hearing Of The Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Department of Homeland Security Oversight Hearing


Location: Washington, DC

Homeland Security Oversight Hearing Statement

Prepared Statement of Senator Chuck Grassley

Senate Committee on the Judiciary

Department of Homeland Security Oversight Hearing

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Chairman Leahy, thank you for calling this important hearing on oversight of the Department of Homeland Security. It's been a little over a year since the Judiciary Committee last held an oversight hearing with the Department of Homeland Security and it's the first time we've had Secretary Napolitano before us. I believe that these oversight hearings are an essential part of our duty to oversee the executive branch. I welcome the opportunity to ask Secretary Napolitano some tough questions about immigration, law enforcement cooperation, and some other outstanding issues I have with the department.

During our last hearing I stated that oversight of the Department of Homeland Security is of the utmost importance. I'm concerned that nearly seven years after the creation of the department, difficult issues still remain in coordinating the various agencies merged into one. This coordination is more complicated given the challenging issues the department faces, be it the tough task of enforcing our nation's immigration laws, securing our borders and ports, and ensuring that our nation's infrastructure is protected to name a few.

First off, I'd like to talk to the secretary about immigration. As a senator from an interior state, I take enforcement of our immigration laws very serious. That includes apprehending, detaining, and deporting aliens who are living and working illegally in the United States. Interior enforcement of our immigration laws is just as important as border security. We cannot ignore those who successfully evaded our border agents, bypassed the inspection process, or overstayed a visa. We must deal with these individuals, and I'd like to see the Department of Homeland Security use the tools at their disposal to get the job done.

I'm very interested in hearing from Secretary Napolitano about the worksite enforcement guidelines, particularly a commitment to deal with illegal aliens as well as employers. I'd like to hear from the secretary about the department's plans for E-Verify, including a commitment to enforce a rule requiring contractors of the federal government to use the program. I hope Secretary Napolitano will consider the needs of state and local law enforcement and continue to use the 287g program. Lastly, on immigration, I'd like to see efforts from the administration to reduce fraud and abuse in our visa programs, particularly the H-1b and L visa programs.

Another issue I'd like to discuss relates to my long standing interest in ensuring that federal law enforcement agencies are working in a cooperative manner. It's hard to believe that nearly 8 years after the tragic events of 9/11 we even need to talk about law enforcement cooperation and information sharing. In fact, the creation of the department was viewed by many of us as a step toward solving the problem of compartmentalization and turf wars by law enforcement agencies. However, a recently released Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that I requested in my capacity as the co-chairman of the Caucus on International Narcotics Control paints a different picture of federal law enforcement coordination—that of the pre-9/11 mentality of turf wars and information hoarding. I find this wholly unacceptable and will ask some tough questions about what Secretary Napolitano is doing to fix this problem.

I want to point out this GAO report to my colleagues and to Secretary Napolitano because I find the results of the GAO report to be shocking. Specifically, GAO noted that since 9/11 the Drug Enforcement Administration has improved its coordination with component Department of Justice law enforcement agencies. However, the Drug Enforcement Agency has less defined partnerships with Homeland Security Department entities—specifically Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection. GAO noted that long-standing jurisdictional disputes involving Immigration and Customs Enforcement's drug enforcement role and the Drug Enforcement Administration's oversight of Immigration and Custom Enforcement's drug related investigations. This authority to investigate drug cases, commonly referred to by its section of the US Code "Title 21", has become a serious problem.

Currently, the Drug Enforcement Administration has the statutory authority to investigate all narcotics investigations. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been delegated some authority to investigate drug related crimes provided they work under the Drug Enforcement Administration. For this purpose, the Drug Enforcement Administration cross-designates Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents with "Title 21" authority. The number of cross-designated Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents is capped by agreement around 1,400 agents. However, the controlling Memorandum of Understanding on this matter was signed in 1994 and this outdated process has led to significant problems in coordinating Title 21 investigations. One specific example of this problem relates to the law enforcement "Fusion Center" operated by the Department of Justice. The Justice Department has the participation of virtually every federal law enforcement agency with the exception of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Immigration and Customs Enforcement believes that the Justice Department has asked for information above and beyond what it asks of other agencies. Because of that, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has refused to participate. This is just one example of the many little turf battles that have been continuing for nearly 30 years. Unfortunately, these disputes could lead to dire consequences.

The most shocking result of the GAO report is that absent an updated Memorandum of Understanding between the agencies, there is "potential for duplicative investigative efforts and concern that officer safety could be compromised". This is simply unbelievable. Essentially, the GAO has found that the relationship between Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Drug Enforcement Administration is so bad that agents could be unnecessarily hurt or killed. This needs to be addressed right away.

To that end, I wrote to Secretary Napolitano and Attorney General Holder on April 21, asking for them to immediately implement the recommendations GAO made to help resolve this long standing jurisdictional dispute. These recommendations are simple, rework the Memorandums of Understanding, have Immigration and Customs Enforcement begin participating in the Fusion Center, and set up a process to periodically review the Memorandums of Understanding. This isn't rocket science, it's simple leadership and agency management. Sadly, I need to report to the committee that to date I have not received a response to my letter from either office. I want to see common sense leadership from both Secretary Napolitano and Attorney General Holder on this issue immediately.

I asked similar questions to representatives from Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Drug Enforcement Administration at a hearing before the Crime and Drug Subcommittee a few months back and I've yet to hear a good answer to how to solve this. I'm not going to stop fighting to get this fixed and I really want some answers. I expect Secretary Napolitano to provide some answers on how to fix this in short order. I expect the same of Attorney General Holder and will bring it up whenever I see him next. The American taxpayers deserve law enforcement agencies that work cooperatively and efficiently, not those that continue unproductive turf battles that could threaten the safety of law enforcement officers and impact the security of our country.

I hope that Secretary Napolitano will provide answers to these important questions and commit to getting me the answers I'm seeking.

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