Newsweek asked me to do a piece looking at the current state of the political debate over border security. The request turned out to be well-timed, because it coincided with the release of the latest annual figures on the number of apprehensions at the border, which remains the best measure we have of how many people are trying to enter the United States illegally.Is the border secure yet? If not, it’s getting awfully close. Yet the political debate remains focused almost entirely on further ramping up border enforcement.
The Government Accountability Office report on the Department of Homeland Security’s 287(g) program was the equivalent of a gang-banger drive-by shooting. The House Homeland Security Committee used the report to hold a hearing for brow beating the department’s program which facilitates cooperation between Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and state and local law enforcement on immigration-related criminal and terrorism investigations (as well as working with prisons and jails to ensure convicted felony aliens are deported).
Julie Myers Wood, a Security Debrief contributor and the former head of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, spoke with Mickey McCarter of Homeland Security Today to discuss making the E-Verify employment eligibility program permanent before it expires in May.
As the honeymoon period for the new Administration fades, so too does the ability to avoid the proverbial third rail called immigration. The decision to further postpone implementation of the E-Verify rule marks one of the first decisions regarding immigration that the Obama Administration has taken.
One of the most misunderstood programs at DHS has been the US-VISIT program. In some ways, US-VISIT has been a victim of its own success. It is now facing new opposition as the program attempts to expand the program. Where US-VISIT has drawn the most criticism, however, is usually a result of some aspect of the original blueprint going unfunded or getting bogged down by Congressional pushback. Thus the idea of a single “person-centric” biometric database for all visitors visiting or working in the U.S. remains unfulfilled.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection plans on having 20 airports operational by the end of 2009. However, despite the solid nature of the program, enrollment numbers have been quite low – around 5000 at last count. To CBP’s great credit, they have recognized that bringing in one traveler at a time to the CBP offices in the basement of airports is not a way to grow the program quickly.
While much attention has been paid to the imploding U.S. economy, DHS’ Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) applied its own version of inflation to the ‘cost of the doing business’ by seeking for the first time the debarment of seven companies from federal contracting opportunities. The Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) provide that contractors may be considered for debarment if they have been found to have either knowingly hire an unauthorized worker or to continue to employ an alien who is or becomes unauthorized.
If there was any lingering doubts on whether DHS and ICE were committed to aggressively enforcing immigration laws at the workplace, ICE’s worksite enforcement operation at Howard Industries resulting in almost 600 arrests should eliminate them. The 600 arrests marks the largest historical arrest total at a single worksite, exceeding the recent record of 400 set at Agriprocessors in Iowa just three month ago.
The ongoing bipolar inconsistency of the U.S. Congress — that institution responsible for drafting our laws on immigration, among other things — was once again on display this past week. Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey kicked it off with a harangue in which he accused federal immigration agents of everything from racism to general rudeness. Why? For enforcing the laws that Congress passed.
Much has been written and discussed in the past few weeks regarding the medical care of detainees held in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody. I don’t know how to avoid coming off as an insensitive, cold and heartless human being in coming to the defense of ICE and the management of its detainee health care program but I’ll give it a try.