House Hearing on Impact of Executive Amnesty

By Jessica M. Vaughan on December 3, 2014

A few interesting items from yesterday's House Homeland Security Committee hearing with DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson, entitled "Open Borders: The Impact of Presidential Amnesty on Border Security":

  • Johnson acknowledged under questioning from Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas) that DHS currently has no metrics to measure or evaluate the security of the border or his agencies' success in stemming illegal immigration. One obvious metric should be the size of the illegal alien population. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, the size of the illegal population peaked in 2007 at 12.2 million, declined to 11.3 million by 2009, and has budged little since then. In light of these trends, it's hard to argue that any progress has been made under the Obama administration.

  • Johnson said that illegal aliens who receive deferred action status under the president's order will have "lawful presence", but not "legal status". Therefore it's not an amnesty. Right.

  • Applicants for "lawful presence" will pay fees of $465 for a work permit and biometrics collection — but apparently they will pay nothing to have their deferred action application processed. In contrast, legal immigrants and sponsors usually must pay more than $1,000 in fees to obtain a green card or other benefits — in addition to the $465 for work permits and biometrics collection. Applicants in prior a legalization program paid $1,130 (the cost figure is explained here) plus work permit and biometrics fees. How will USCIS cover the cost of processing the new deferred action applications? Inevitably, fees collected from legal immigrants will help subsidize it; other vital USCIS programs such as fraud detection will be shortchanged; and/or there will be little actual review of the applications, so as to minimize the processing costs (think rubber stamp).

  • Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) questioned Johnson about the tens of thousands of criminal aliens released by ICE, including 36,000 released in 2013. Johnson said that ICE released 30,000 convicted criminal aliens from its custody in 2014, noting that it "should be lower". It may be a lower number, but this is not necessarily an improvement. The only reason ICE released fewer criminals is because ICE booked fewer criminal aliens into custody during 2014 — 20 percent fewer, according to ICE records. In fact, there are 22,000 more released criminal aliens at large now than there were at the end of 2013 — largely because of the continued expansion of so-called "prosecutorial discretion". Feel safer?

  • Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) questioned Johnson about four men affiliated with a terrorist group who were apprehended earlier this year after illegally crossing the southwest border, whom Johnson had led members of Congress to believe would be deported. Johnson said that two of the men were still detained, but two of the men had been ordered released by an immigration judge and had fled to Canada, so their whereabouts were unknown. He said that he never promised they would be deported, only that they would be "put into deportation proceedings" – like all the families and unaccompanied juveniles who illegally crossed the border last summer.

  • In response to Pennsylvania Rep. Lou Barletta's (R) concerns about the economic impact of issuing millions of work permits to illegal aliens, Johnson repeated the baseless assumption that, as a result of this amnesty, millions of illegal workers suddenly will stop working off the books and either get new and better jobs (perhaps with a new and better identity) or have their (scofflaw) employers put them on the books so that they can both begin to pay taxes to get right with the law. Will the administration step up worksite enforcement to hold everyone "accountable" and encourage employers to do this? How many employers gladly will start paying more for their legalized workers?