Rogers Opening Statement on ICE FY 2011 Budget
Mar 18, 2010 -
Thank you, Mr. Chairman and welcome back to Assistant Secretary Morton.
As I review ICE’s body of work over the past year as well as the agency’s budget request for fiscal year 2011, I see a rather disturbing trend.
On one hand, ICE has laudably stepped up its efforts on criminal aliens, illicit trade, and Southwest Border enforcement.
But, on the other hand, ICE has noticeably curtailed its enforcement actions on illegal immigration under the guise of “prioritizing” criminal aliens and what the Administration calls its “smart, tough” enforcement policies.
So, the way I see it, Assistant Secretary Morton, it looks as though you are an enforcer trapped in a poorly veiled administrative effort at so-called “immigration reform”.
But, last I checked, our immigration laws have not changed. Minding our borders and the people who enter our nation very much matters to our homeland security.
First and foremost, ICE’s principle mission is to target the people, money, and materials that support terrorism.
Secondly, immigration matters to our economy. At a time of painfully high unemployment, how can we allow illegal immigrants to take jobs away from Americans who need them?
- Look no further than the 19, 9/11 hijackers – none of which could have been categorized as “criminal aliens”. Rather, all of the 9/11 terrorists exploited the legal immigration system and several were here illegally.
- And then, just this past year, we’ve seen three, serious terrorism cases that involved individuals who could not be categorized as “criminal aliens” and who all exploited the legal immigration system as well: the Zazi case in Denver and New York; the Smadi case in Dallas; and the Christmas Day attack over Detroit.
- In fact, the Smadi case in Dallas involved a Jordanian who had over-stayed his tourist visa and was, therefore, here illegally.
- So, we cannot allow a preoccupation with criminal aliens to obscure other critical ICE missions; namely, those missions pertaining to what should be an unrelenting effort to disrupt and interdict terrorists.
Finally, immigration matters to the disruption of criminal activity.
- The stats don’t lie: from FY08 to FY09, ICE’s non-criminal, administrative arrests during worksite enforcement operations declined by more than 68% and trickled down to just 24 administrative arrests this past January.
- Furthermore, current detention bed space capacity is not being fully utilized. Out of the 33,400 detention beds ICE is currently funded to use in FY10, only 29,192 beds are filled.
- What these facts tell me is that ICE is not vigorously enforcing our immigration laws or fully using all the tools at its disposal to deter illegal aliens.
- In our hearing on Southwest Border Enforcement last fall, our witness testified that ICE needs to use its administrative authorities to apprehend and deport dangerous individuals affiliated with criminal gangs and illicit trade – individuals who may not be “criminal aliens” by the Administration’s definition, but are extremely dangerous individuals nonetheless.
In summary, when I look at the shift in ICE’s focus over the past year I’m deeply concerned.
- At best, it appears as though immigration enforcement is being shelved and the Administration is attempting to enact some sort of selective amnesty under the cover of “prioritization”.
- At worst, however, the Administration’s apathy towards robust immigration enforcement is perhaps making it easier for terrorists and hardened criminals to embed themselves in our communities.
- Either way, I, for one, won’t stand for it.
Assistant Secretary Morton, I know you have a tough job.
- And, I think it is getting made tougher by the Department’s lack of planning on SBInet and proposed cuts to the Coast Guard’s drug interdiction capabilities – two things that will only put more pressure upon the border.
So, what we need to know here today is that ICE is using every tool at its disposal to fulfill its mandates and improve our homeland security. Far too much is at stake to fail.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.