By Rep. David Price (D-NC)
June 6, 2007 (H6268)
[The DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2008] addresses a major immigration vulnerability that exists today. It requires that ICE contact correctional facilities throughout the U.S. on a monthly basis to identify incarcerated immigrants who are subject to deportation. Although ICE deports some number of these individuals now, it is not systematically identifying and deporting them. There is simply no excuse for failing to identify every deportable alien and deporting them immediately upon their release from prison.
These are undocumented individuals who have served time in jail for committing crimes, and we are now, unfortunately, releasing them all too often back into the population. So asking prisons for information about these individuals so they can be deported should be among the first priorities in our illegal immigration enforcement strategy. This bill provides the direction and the funding to ICE to make this happen.
The bill funds the Secure Border Initiative at the requested level of $1 billion, while requiring the Department to clearly justify how it plans to use these funds to achieve operational control of our borders. For each border segment, the Department will have to produce an analysis comparing its selected approach to alternatives based on total cost, on level of control achieved, impact on affected communities, and other factors.
We are also requiring the Department to seek the advice and support of each local community affected by a border infrastructure project. I want to be clear that this does not give border communities a veto on border projects and it will not result in any project delays if the Department efficiently carries out its responsibilities. The provision simply requires the Department to actively and faithfully consult affected communities to ensure that our border security efforts minimize adverse community impacts. That is reasonable to ask of the Department, and the Department agrees that such consultation is appropriate.
We are also directing the Department to increase by over 40 percent the number of Border Patrol agents on the northern border to comply with the levels called for in the Intelligence Reform Act. In addition, the bill addresses a Customs and Border Protection staffing problem that we heard about on a February congressional delegation to the southwest border.
Because CBP officers are not considered law enforcement officers, despite the increasing role of law enforcement in their duties, they don’t receive the same benefits as DHS personnel who are considered law enforcement officers. This has made it extremely difficult to hold on to CBP officers. In a nutshell, the bill would allow eligible CBP officers to transition to law enforcement status beginning in fiscal 2008.
The Transportation Security Administration’s loss of the personal data of thousands of its employees is only the most recent example of the privacy problems plaguing the Department. The bill withholds funding for certain DHS programs until the proper privacy protections are in place because security and privacy can and should go hand in hand.
In conclusion, let me mention a few other provisions, Mr. Chairman. First, the bill includes language mandating that stricter State and local chemical security laws and regulations cannot be preempted by the Federal Government. Secondly, the bill mandates that all grant and contract funds comply with Davis-Bacon prevailing wage requirements. Thirdly, the $101 million in the bill for the new DHS campus facility at St. Elizabeth’s will not be available until the Department submits an explosive detection equipment spending plan and promulgates long overdue regulations on U-Visas for victims of domestic violence, rape, and involuntary servitude.
This withholding of funds should not be interpreted as a signal of lukewarm support for the development of the St. Elizabeth’s campus. On the contrary, the Department and the country would be better served by colocating most of its headquarters components onto this single campus. This is simply our way of signaling that any further delay on an explosive detection plan or on the overdue U-Visa rule is completely unacceptable.
By Rep. Harold “Hal” Rogers (R-KY)
June 12, 2007 (H6269-H6270)
[DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2008] includes a bold mandate for ICE to contact every correctional facility in the country, over 5,000 of them, at least once a month to identify incarcerated aliens and initiate deportation proceedings against them. That is a laudable goal, and I support the policy and the goal. But, Mr. Chairman, it is going to be very, very difficult to do mechanically and it is unfunded.
We are going to be asking the States and localities to pay, assumedly, for the review of who is in their jails.
Number two, they don’t have the authority nor the capability to determine whether or not Joe Blow in cell 18 is an undocumented alien or not. It’s not their job, and they don’t have the capability to do that. So I don’t know what will be the result of this mandate. It is unfunded, and it is going to be very difficult to put in practice. The Department already surveys routinely the most probable jails where the most probable criminal aliens are being held anyway.
Despite the requirement for ICE to report on the resources needed to carry out this unfunded mandate, I am concerned that the bill presupposes ICE can simply transfer or reprioritize monies from other sources within their budget, for example, the fugitive apprehension program. They are out there trying to catch the criminals on the streets that are loose. It seems to me they are a bigger danger than those incarcerated in the jails.
These enforcement activities involve many duties, duties that include tracking down at-large criminals, investigating smuggling networks, preventing child pornography, preventing the exploit of sensitive national security technology, and taking down employers who are exploiting illegal immigrants to the point of abuse.
From which of these critical missions should ICE take monies in order to comb the Nation’s jails and correctional facilities, most of which never have any criminal aliens in them anyway? So to suggest that ICE should refocus its resources almost exclusively on jailed illegal aliens at the expense of trying to catch fugitives on the street who are raping and plundering seems to me as short-sighted as it is potentially very dangerous.
There must be a balance among ICE’s many critical missions. And I am concerned this bill falls short in that regard. I am hopeful the Chairman will work with me and others to develop a more realistic implementation of this policy as we move forward.
I have other concerns as well. Any immigration policy starts out with securing the border. If we can’t control who crosses our Nation’s borders, all other possible immigration initiatives will fail. To address this critical issue, Congress has authorized and appropriated for substantial infrastructure on the southwest border. But the bill contains a number of onerous restrictions on funding for fencing and other tactical infrastructure along our borders until the Department performs certain actions.
At first glance, these individual fencing and tactical infrastructure requirements appear to be based upon sound policy. However, added together, they are a series of obstacles that can potentially impede installation of critical border security systems. I fear that securing the border will be greatly deterred.
By Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA)
June 12, 2007 (H6272)
One of the things Mr. Rogers mentioned that I would like to just disagree with, all of our local law enforcement say that the biggest problem they are having is they arrest people who don’t have papers and then they release them because nobody from INS will come around and check it out. Everybody on the committee was concerned about the fact that there wasn’t enough effort put into what they call “jail checks,” and this committee bill addresses that.