Immigration Law Be Enforced?
Two Years after 9/11, Many Still Answer 'No'
Panel Discussion Transcript
September 26, 2003
The National Press Club
Mark Krikorian, Executive Director at the Center for Immigration
former Senior Special Agent at the New York District Office of the INS
former Foreign Service officer and Senior Policy Analyst at CIS
Director of Friends of Immigration Law Enforcement (FILE)
MARK KRIKORIAN: Good morning. My name is
Mark Krikorian. I am executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies, a
think tank here in town that examines and critiques the impact of immigration on
the United States. All our work, by the way, is online at our website, cis.org.
The backgrounders that you have in the packets are there in their entirety, as
well as everything else that weíve done.
The second anniversary of 9/11, this month, plus the so-called Immigrant Workers
Freedom Ride, which is scheduled to arrive here next week, plus the circus in
California, including the illegal alien drivers license issue that has figured
so prominently, should prompt us to step back and ask what should be the first
question in considering this matter: is it possible to enforce the immigration
laws? Is there any way to prevent the establishment of a large illegal alien
population, which is now estimated to be at about 9 million people?
Supporters of amnesties and guest worker programs and the looser immigration
laws in general base their policy proposals on the basic assumption that the
flow of people into the United States is an unstoppable force of nature, like
the weather, so that the only path left to us is to lie back and pretend to
enjoy it, to accommodate it as best we can. This is the intellectual premise of
all the various sundry proposals in this area, not only The Wall Street
Journalís repeated calls for a constitutional amendment to abolish Americaís
borders Ė Iím not making that up Ė but even the less ambitious, though still
vast, guest worker amnesty bill that Senator McCain and Congressman Kolbe and
Flake have introduced, or the smaller farm worker amnesty, devised more recently
by Senators Craig and Kennedy and Congressman Cannon.
Experience, however, shows us something very different, that even though it has
indeed been difficult to enforce immigration law, the reason has been political
obstacles, not any practical reason that it canít be done. With a will to
enforce the law present, we know perfectly well what to do, we know how to do
it, and we can be certain that measures that we would take will yield
The panel that we have convened today will examine this issue of immigration
enforcement: can it be done, how has it been impeded in the past, what has
worked, and what still needs to be done? And I was actually quite pleased that
we were able to get such an expert panel on this.
The first speaker will be Michael Cutler. Heís a 30-year veteran of what, when
he was in it, was called the Immigration and Naturalization Service. He started
out as an inspector, became an examiner, actually processing forms, and then
later what is now called a special agent Ė a criminal investigator at the time Ė
and has done a whole variety of immigration enforcement functions in his 30
years at INS, mostly in New York City. Has testified before Congress on this
issue a couple of times, and actually may have to step out early to testify
before the 9/11 Commission later this morning.
Our second speaker is Jessica Vaughan. She is a former consular officer with the
Foreign Service, dealing with visas among other things, and now a senior policy
analyst at the center, and author of one of the backgrounders in your packet
about the three-year/10-year bar that Congress included in the 1996 Immigration
Law, and how itís fared in reality once it was administered, or not implemented,
as the case may be.
Our third speaker is Craig Nelsen. Heís a director of a group called Friends of
Immigration Law Enforcement, FILE, which is a network of people Ė law
enforcement officers, prosecutors, state legislators and others Ė who are
dedicated to re-establishing the rule of law over immigration in the United
States. His organization prepared a backgrounder, thatís also in your packet, an
alternative means of immigration enforcement that Congress provided before 1996,
allowing competitors of companies fined for hiring illegals to sue them under
civil RICO in order to get compensation for their unjust practices and
inappropriate competitive methods.
And then finally Iíll wrap it up with some comments of my own about the issue
and then weíll have Q&A. So letís start with Mike.
MICHAEL CUTLER: Good morning. We come here
today to discuss if immigration law enforcement is possible. If we as a nation
ultimately decide that the immigration laws are impossible to enforce, then
perhaps we should simply declare anyone born on the planet Earth to be a citizen
of the United States. The downside of that is that if we did that, the United
States would rapidly cease to exist as we know it today.
That our leaders should even question whether or not we should seek to enforce
the laws that govern the entry of aliens into our country, as well as their
continued presence here, should be as disconcerting to you as it is to me. Just
over two years ago our nation suffered a brutal heinous attack that is
unparalleled in the history of the United States. Three-thousand innocent people
lost their lives for engaging in mundane activities that were no more serous
than going to work, or visiting their office, or taking a trip. The attackers
were all aliens who managed to enter this country through ports of entry,
appearing as innocuous as any other visitor, but apparently all the while
seeking to wreak havoc on us.
A country without sovereign borders can no more stand than can a house without
walls. We need to ensure that we maintain the sovereignty of our borders to
secure the safety of our nation. As horrific as the attacks of September 11th
were, I want you to consider another fact. From 1988 until 1992, I was the
assigned INS representative to the Unified Intelligence Division of DEA in New
York City. In that position I worked in cooperation with law enforcement
personnel from virtually every federal law enforcement agency, as well as state,
local, and other law enforcement personnel from other countries.
While I was in that assignment, I did an analysis of DEA arrest records. This
analysis shows that some 60 percent of all individuals arrested in New York by
DEA were identified as foreign-born. Nationwide, about 30 percent of the people
arrested by DEA were identified as foreign-born. Those percentages remained
constant for about five years, and I suspect they wouldnít be much different
The violence that is attendant with the drug trade leads to the loss of many
more peopleís lives than the 3,000 people who perished on 9/11, and this is
because of the crimes that are carried out within the borders of our country by
drug traffickers. Thereís also a nexus that exists between drug traffickers and
terrorist organizations, as well as organized crime groups. And we also lose
American lives because of people involved with ethnic organized crime
organizations, and yet we have done very little to deter the criminal activities
of these people operating within our borders.
Immigration law enforcement, at least in the minds of most people, including our
political leaders, has been seen to be the sole domain of the Border Patrol.
Indeed, the men and women of the Border Patrol perform a vital and dangerous
service to our country. They are charged with the duty of standing watch along
our nationís thousands of miles of borders to attempt to interdict aliens who
enter the United States without being inspected by immigration inspectors. This
perspective concerning immigration law enforcement, however, is not accurate.
The Border Patrol is indeed a component of the immigration enforcement program,
but it constitutes only one-third of what I have come to refer to as the
immigration law enforcement tripod. A tripod stands on three legs. If we shorten
one of the legs or remove one of the legs, then the tripod falls over. To fully
understand immigration law enforcement, we must consider the other two legs of
this enforcement tripod. The inspectors who comprise another leg of this tripod
are trying to enforce the immigration laws at points of entry. And finally, the
special agents constitute the third leg of the tripod, and they back up the
other two operations and comprise the interior enforcement components of the
It is the interior enforcement program that has been ignored and neglected for
decades. There are currently approximately 10,000 Border Patrol agents working
for our government nationwide. Compare that number with the 2,000 special agents
who are employed by the government to enforce the immigration laws from within
the United States. Consider also the fact that it is currently estimated that of
the 8-12 million illegal aliens believed to be living in the United States
today, nearly half of them did not run the border but rather entered the United
States through ports of entry, as did the terrorists. These aliens could not
have been stopped by the Border Patrol because they were lawfully admitted into
the United States, meaning that only once they became deportable it was only the
special agents who had the authority and the wherewithal to go after them.
We also need to consider another important issue. Border Patrol agents have a
specific and narrow focus. They are responsible for the interdiction of aliens
attempting to run the border and to attempt to identify, investigate, and
apprehend alien smugglers. Special agents have many more missions to carry out
under their jurisdictions. They are supposed to seek out and apprehend aliens
who have been deported for committing serious felonies and have subsequently
illegally re-entered the United States. They are supposed to conduct
investigations into immigration fraud. They are supposed to conduct
investigations into alien smuggling. And they are also supposed to conduct
investigations involving employer sanctions.
Additionally, the special agents are also supposed to work with such
organizations as the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, where I spent
10 years of my career, and the Joint Terrorism Task Force. Now, Congress has
additionally mandated that we are supposed to also track foreign students in the
United States to make certain that they go to the schools that theyíve been
admitted to attend, and to implement a meaningful departure control program to
make certain that people that are here for a limited time leave when theyíre
Now, additionally, itís been announced that the new Bureau of Immigration and
Customs Enforcement will also provide agents to serve as air marshals, and also
back up the United States Secret Service protecting the President, the vice
president, and visiting foreign dignitaries. And all this is going to be done
with what will now become a force of 5,500 agents when we merge Customs in with
the immigration agents. The thing that you need to realize also, though, is that
when they merge Customs with immigration, youíre going to also be doubling the
area of responsibility because now all these agents will need to enforce the
customs statutes as well as the immigration statutes.
The only laws that I am aware of that are immutable are the laws of nature. Much
as NASA might want to, I donít know of anyone who has found a way to violate the
law of gravity. The laws of man are very different, however. Mankind is
imperfect, and consequently our efforts at crafting and enforcing laws fall far
short from natureís perfect example. Consequently, no law enforcement agency can
hope to approach a success rate of 100 percent in enforcing the laws under their
jurisdiction. Law enforcement, therefore, is most effective when it acts as a
deterrent to would-be law violators. It is far better to prevent the crime than
to solve the crime. If a law enforcement agency is to be effective as a
deterrent to criminals who would violate the laws that come under the purview of
that agency, then that agency must develop a reputation for being effective and
motivated to do a consistent job of enforcing the law.
The reputation that the former INS garnered has deterred few criminal aliens
from coming to the United States. What is truly unbelievable is that year after
year the INS muddled along, showing little initiative to attempt to change its
effectiveness or the publicís perspective of it. Many agents used to say that
the INS had a condition that was 100 years old and unaffected by progress. At
the INS, fraud ran rampant. The GAO recently reported that the fraud rate of the
INS processing centers was running at about 90 percent. Criminal aliens ran
rampant, and at the INS nothing changed except for the faces of the new agents
who were recruited and trained at great expense and then left for more
satisfying careers in other agencies.
Today, perhaps in part because of the abysmal track record, and also because of
the politicization of the entire immigration system, politicians talk about
creating another amnesty as a way to bring the massive illegal alien population
out of the shadows, notwithstanding that this approach was tried before. World
War I was supposed to have been the war that would end all wars, and the
immigration amnesty program of 1986 was supposed to be the best way of getting
illegal aliens out of the shadows and restoring a measure of credibility to the
thoroughly dysfunctional administration and enforcement of immigration laws.
With the benefit of 20-20 hindsight, we now know that World War I led to World
War II, and we know that the 1986 amnesty led to perhaps one of the largest
influxes of illegal aliens into the United States. And yet there are people
today calling for yet another amnesty.
At any other agency, efforts would be made to figure out how to turn the
situation around, but at the INS it seems that the defeatists were willing to
break out the white flag and surrender. We need to learn from our mistakes. The
problem is that we seem to be incapable of that. We seem to be more concerned
with encouraging aliens to come to our country than we are safeguarding our
nation and our citizens. Currently there is a visa waiver program in place that
allows aliens from 27 different countries to enter the United States without
first obtaining a visa, so that consular officers working for the State
Department overseas would have an opportunity to more thoroughly screen those
aliens who seek to come here.
When I was an immigration inspector in the mid-1970s, all aliens were required
to obtain visas before coming to the United States, with the exception of
citizens of Canada, Bermuda, and the United Kingdom, where the citizens of
United Kingdom had landed immigrant status in Canada. We seem unwilling to
inconvenience alien visitors who have no inherent right to be here, but yet when
it comes to our own citizens, in the name of security weíre often forced to wait
behind long lines of cars, trucks, and buses while security searches are
conducted during times of elevated threat levels.
No one seems to be concerned about inconveniencing our own citizens within their
hometowns, but we seem determined to speed the flow of aliens into our country,
even if it compromises our security. The halfway measure requiring that aliens
from these 27 visa-waiver countries first acquire machine-readable passports
containing biometric identifiers has incredibly been postponed yet another year.
We need to bring the visa waiver program to an immediate end so that we can more
effectively vet aliens seeking to enter our country.
I cannot think of anyone who would open the door of their home to a visitor
without first looking through the peephole to determine if the visitor should be
allowed in. The United States should do the same in deciding on whether or not
to admit somebody.
The government of Mexico is now engaged in a program of issuing documents known
as matricula consular documents to enable illegal aliens to obtain drivers
licenses, open bank accounts, and do all of those things that would normally be
reserved for United States citizens and aliens who are living lawfully within
the United States. That the Mexican government is doing this is no surprise.
What is very surprising is that the aliens who have possession of these
documents are being allowed to use them within our country, notwithstanding the
fact that anyone carrying such a document is in effect conceding that they are
living illegally in the United States. One of the goals of deterrence is to
deprive anyone who is violating the law the feeling of security if he acts in a
fashion that violates the law. The acceptance of these documents runs contrary
to this basic principle of law enforcement.
I want to make one thing clear. Iím not a xenophobe. I am in fact the son of an
immigrant. My mother came to the United States before the onslaught of the
Holocaust. Had the United States not opened its doors to her, more than likely
she would have perished along with my grandmother, who in fact did die. In fact,
Iím named for her. I have no problem with aliens who come to the United States
in accordance with law to share in the American dream. I do have a problem,
however, with aliens who come to the United States in violation of law and are
helping to create Americaís nightmare.
Thank you for your time.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Thanks, Mike. Next is
JESSICA VAUGHAN: Thanks. Iím going to focus
my remarks on a different kind of immigration law enforcement than Mike was
describing, although it shares many of the same characteristics. Iím going to
focus my remarks on the immigration benefits law enforcement. Itís similar, and
that is visas, green cards, and the dispensing of Ė if you really want to
embrace the current DHS parlance, you would call them our immigration products,
as they do. And itís similar in that the people who are responsible for this
kind of enforcement are trying to identify those who are entitled and those who
are not entitled to receive those benefits. Itís also similar in that to be
really successful, what you want to do is try and not necessarily catch
everybody, but to deter fraud and to encourage people to make the right choices,
One of the main differences is that many of the officials who are charged with
this responsibility are trained to not actually think of themselves as having an
enforcement mission, but rather having a service-providing mission. So that
sometimes makes it difficult to accomplish what you want to accomplish in terms
Iím going to tell the story of two different enforcement efforts, one of which,
the 3-year/10-year bar, the subject of a backgrounder that I wrote recently, is
a policy thatís still in effect technically but has been almost a complete
failure. The other is a policy that was started a few years back, that in fact
was every effective, and thatís why it got canceled. I think there are a number
of other enforcement efforts now that weíre undertaking that do show some
promise. Then at the end Iíll try and mention a few things, a few ingredients
that are necessary to successful immigration benefits law enforcement efforts.
On the 3-year/10-year bar, which was instituted back in 1996 as part of a big
piece of immigration legislation, Congress decided for the first time to
actually impose a penalty for being here illegally. The goal was to deter people
from coming here illegally who had reason to believe that they would eventually
qualify for a green card. They wanted to encourage people to wait their turn
overseas and do this through the legal way instead of just jumping in line. The
idea was to impose a bar on eligibility of either 3 years or 10 years, depending
on how long youíd been here illegally. At the time people feared that this would
apply to millions and millions of people; at the time there were about six
million illegal aliens living in the country.
In fact, even after four years of the program, as it turned out, only about
12,000 people actually were barred or were affected by this legislation, and at
the same time Ė and this is a conservative estimate Ė at least 600,000 illegal
aliens were able to obtain green cards. In the meantime, the illegal population
grew by over 2 million people.
So what went wrong? First of all, this was an initiative that came courtesy of
Congress, which has a long history of enacting legislation that sounds really
tough but turns out to not actually be that tough. Thatís what happened in this
case. In fact, they decided that this bar would only apply to people who
actually left the United States Ė who were here legally and then left for some
reason. So that actually encouraged people who were here illegally and who
wanted to obtain a green card to stay instead of to leave.
Then, once Congress realized what it had done, it became horrified that this
might actually apply to a lot of people, so they decided to enact a series of
amnesties that allowed literally millions of people to escape the reach of this
legislation. Iím referring to 245(i) and then later the LIFE Act of 2000. At the
same time, senior INS management decided that it wanted to be as generous as
possible in administering the amnesties, so that pretty much anybody could
benefit from them regardless of the strength of their claim to eventually
qualify for a green card.
So, the result was that so many people applied for these amnesties that the INS
just became completely swamped in the number of applications and petitions that
it received, millions and millions of them, to the point that they are still
paralyzed by this workload that they brought on themselves and that Congress
handed them with these amnesties. If you look at the workload statistics now,
there are something like 5 million pending cases of applications and petitions
for immigration benefits. Not all of those are for green cards. I think itís
more like two to three million in the backlog. And the result is that you have
all these people who are in this sort of limbo-like status of are they illegal
or are they legal? They donít have their green card yet, but on the other hand
they might get one some day. So nobody knows really what to do with them in
terms of enforcement. So that complicates matters.
The other example that Iíd like to talk about is something that came about not
as a statute enacted by Congress, but was the idea of a brand-new junior officer
in the Foreign Service who was stationed in Paris in the mid-1990s. Itís a
different kind of a program but still interesting and has a lot of lessons.
One of the things about immigration benefits is that itís sometimes really hard
to figure out, in the limited period of time that you have available, who
actually is qualified to receive the visa or the green card. And now itís
probably easier to identify known terrorists because we track them on databases,
but there are a lot of other reasons why you would not qualify for a green card;
for example, if you have been dependent on social services. This fellow working
in Paris realized that he was having a really hard time figuring out whether
people were ineligible for reasons like that. So he decided to start calling
social service agencies in the United States. He started with California. He
found out that the state of California was very happy to provide him with this
information, which was very relevant to his adjudication of the application.
Then this person went on in his next tour to serve in Manila, which is a much
higher volume post in the Philippines. Itís known as a visa mill because of the
number of applications that they process every year, and lots and lots of them
are going to California, and lots and lots of the applicants have spent time in
California. So he really got a lot of great information from California, MediCal
officials in particular. Instead of just using it to do green card applications,
he also started checking on people who were applying for temporary visitorsí
visas, and uncovered tons and tons of fraud, including one notorious case of a
Philippine Airlines pilot who was basically bringing his child over for regular
leukemia treatments in the California hospitals, completely free.
So this was working so well that all these other posts found out about the
program and thought it was a great idea. There were three posts in Mexico which
worked out an arrangement with the state of California to get this information.
Then word kind of got out among people who were applying for green cards that
the embassy was actually going to check to see if you had access to services to
which you were not entitled, and people started deciding to pay back the amount
of the services that theyíd received, so all these checks started flowing in to
the California treasury from all these people who really did want their green
card and they didnít want to be found ineligible. So all this money starts
flowing in and California is really loving the program. The governor at the time
went and visited the consulate in Manila and went around and shook everybody's
hand because he loved it so much.
Then Texas decided that it wanted to sign up because it was working so well for
California. At about that time, the front office of Consular Affairs got wind of
it and pretty quickly sent out a cable to all posts saying, youíve got to stop
this now. And the reason that they gave was that it was taking too much time to
do these checks. This was in spite of the fact that the state of California had
actually offered to pay for the positions for people to sit and do the
background checks. Then the Department of Health and Human Services got involved
and said, you know, this is kind of a violation of peopleís privacy to be
checking on what services that theyíve obtained. So the program was, as I said,
working so well that it ended, even though tens of thousands of people had been
found ineligible and all the consular officers really liked it a lot.
I hope that some of the other programs that weíve instituted recently, like NCRS
and SEVIS, where weíre already starting to see some good results, do not go down
the same road of being found so effective that they have to be canceled.
Now, what can we learn from these examples? I think that there are a few things,
a few necessary ingredients for successful enforcement programs, and one of them
is of course access to relevant information. Youíve got to give the people, the
line officers, access to factual information that will help them adjudicate
their cases. That can be done very easily now with technology. The other thing
you have to have is some kind of human involvement in the process, so that
basically that amounts to an interview in those cases. Youíd be surprised at how
infrequent that is in some application processes, particularly people who are
applying from within the United States.
The other thing thatís necessary to have, that we learned from the successful
asylum reforms in the mid-90s, was that youíve got to have swift processing. You
cannot allow the backlogs to grow because then you end up with this huge
population of people in limbo that you donít know what to do with. Youíve got to
have cooperation of other government agencies, especially state and local
governments, and youíve got to give field officers freedom to experiment and
figure out what works in the unique situations in which they find themselves
adjudicating benefits. And of course most important, youíve got to have a strong
culture of enforcement that comes straight from the leadership that encourages
people to try things that are going to work.
Things that get in the way every time, of course, are policies like amnesties,
that will completely undercut all of your efforts by removing certain people
from the reach of the law, and the other thing of course is allowing for these
vague definitions of illegal, or illegal or temporary, that muddy the
enforcement waters. You always need resources and people, of course, but there
are things that can be done that are relatively low-tech that work pretty well.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Thank you, Jessica. And Craig
will be next.
CRAIG NELSEN: Thank you. For 40 years polls
have shown Americans significantly opposed to current levels of mass
immigration. Theyíve also shown strong support for firm enforcement of our
immigration laws. Recent polls have shown citizen support for immigration law
enforcement is as strong as ever. In 2001, a Zogby International Poll found that
76 percent of likely voters said the government was not doing enough to control
the U.S. border. In a 2002 poll for the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, 70
percent of Americans interviewed said that controlling and reducing illegal
immigration should be a, quote, ďvery important,Ē end quote, policy goal.
Seventy percent, which is, by the way, as opposed to only 22 percent of our
nationís elites; elites being defined as leaders from Congress, business, labor,
religious and academic groups.
In 2003, a Roper ASW poll found that Americans agree, 85 percent, that illegal
immigration is a serious problem. Eighty-three percent support mandatory
detention and forfeiture of property, followed by deportation for anyone here
illegally. And 88 percent agree that Congress should pass a law requiring state
and local government agencies to notify both the Immigration and Naturalization
Service, which is now called ICE, and their local law enforcement agency, when
they determine that a person is here illegally or has presented a false
identification document. Eight-eight percent Ė itís hard to think of a public
policy issue where thereís so much support for one side of an issue. Clearly
enforcement of U.S. immigration laws has the overwhelming support of the
Yet in spite of all this public support, there seems to be a widespread
disregard for immigration law and relatively very little enforcement activity.
As a way of illustrating this, not too long ago a young man in Denver was
featured on the front page of The Denver Post Ė he and his illegal alien family.
The Denver Post ran this story as a very sympathetic story about how this young
man needs in-state tuition for college, a local college. But they actually
printed, in the paper, the familyís home address. The local Congressman,
Congressman Tancredo, called the INS office in Denver, asking them what they
were going to do about these illegal aliens outed in The Denver Post. The INS
told him that they didnít have the resources to go track down this family, even
though the address had been printed in the paper. Of course, instead of the
local media and commentators being outraged that our immigration laws were not
being enforced, Congressman Tancredo was attacked as a bully, a xenophobe, a
nativist, et cetera, mean-spirited.
Another example of lack of law enforcement is the matricula consular card I
believe Mike mentioned earlier. Local newspapers will run photographs of huge
lines of self-admitted illegal aliens lining up at Mexican consulates across the
country getting identification cards from Mexico, and the local INS office is
completely indifferent to it, even though they are admitted illegal aliens. In
fact, one incident in San Diego, a family of illegal aliens was arrested near a
Mexican consulate on their way to get a matricula ID card, and there was an
outrage Ė the Mexican government lodged a formal complaint and the local INS
office actually issued an edict to stop arresting people near Mexican
consulates, which was thankfully later overturned thanks to public outrage.
But itís not just the most basic of immigration laws and deportation that are
not being enforced. Hosts of immigration laws are being ignored. Jessica
mentioned the public charge issue. Itís illegal in this country for someone to
come here and use our welfare system. The laws have been strongly on the books
for many, many years. However, statistics show that there is a very high usage
rate of welfare in this country by foreign nationals. In spite of this, since
1980 only 12 people have been denied entry into this country based on the public
Employer sanctions. I think everybody in the room here probably understands that
there is widespread disregard for the laws against hiring illegal aliens. Not
only are the laws not being enforced, but thanks to our sanctuary policies and
amnesties, there is almost an aggressive refusal not to enforce our immigration
laws. Weíve got cities and states and municipalities and localities across the
nation with policies in place that specifically forbid enforcement of U.S.
federal immigration law.
The question before us, I guess, is why are we not enforcing the laws? As Mark
mentioned earlier, the atmosphere in the country seems to be Ė or the climate
seems to be that, well, we canít; itís just like this force of nature that is
impossible to stop. Yet a recent example in the wake of 9/11, when young male
immigrants from terrorist-sponsoring countries were required to register at the
INS Ė which is, by the way, something they were already required to do, that all
immigrants are required to do Ė just the threat of this registration was enough
to cause huge numbers of illegal aliens from this country to leave on their own.
So I think a lesson we can draw from this is that even this small step, this
little effort, can have an enormous impact.
So itís not really that we canít enforce our immigration laws; I think we have
to conclude that we wonít. And the question there is, why not? Is it the cynical
politics of Karl Rove and Gray Davis and ethnic pandering? Is it the corporate
Wall Street Journal cheap labor crowd that sees everything in terms of money?
And these are questions that are difficult to answer. But in any case, we can
conclude that the executive branch in this country and its agencies are not
living up to their constitutional duty to execute the peopleís laws.
Thankfully Congress provided a remedy not too long ago through RICO Ė the
Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organizations Act. RICO is a federal, criminal,
and civil statute that the U.S. Congress enacted in 1970 in order to combat
racketeering activity. Congress included a civil provision in the statute which
gives anyone who has been injured by recent racketeering activity the right to
sue in appropriate U.S. District Court. Congress included this right in order to
enlist, quote, ďprivate attorneys general,Ē end quote, in the fight against
By USC 18 Section 1964, RICO allows private plaintiffs to seek compensation from
any citizen or entity that causes injury to his business or property by
engagement in a pattern of specific criminal acts called predicate offenses.
Now, this is an extremely powerful tool, and itís probably Ė as far as I know
itís the only law that allows private citizens to bring a suit in which the
defendant can end up in jail. Itís a very strong weapon.
In 1996, Congress added violations of the Immigration and Naturalization Act to
the RICO predicates and to RICOís racketeering statutes. By Section 1961 of the
USC 18, certain violations of the INA were considered predicate offenses,
including smuggling illegal aliens, harboring them, hiring them, or encouraging
them to remain illegally in the country. Now, part of the legislative intent of
the RICO laws in general was to afford private citizens a remedy for lawbreaking
when authorities normally charged with such enforcement become derelict in their
duties. And I think this is clearly the case with immigration law today. The
authorities who are charged with enforcing the law are clearly derelict in their
duty, which is well illustrated by lines of illegal aliens standing in full view
of our law enforcement officers outside of Mexican embassies, getting ID cards
that will allow them to remain more easily illegally in the country.
This is precisely why the RICO acts were first implemented in 1996. Congressí
inclusion of violations of the Immigration and Naturalization Act showed a
legislative intent is clearly here to allow private enforcement of the
Recently, thereís an attorney up in Chicago with a firm called Johnson & Bell,
which has begun to bring, for the first time in the country, private suits under
these new statutes, and heís meeting with great success. Two cases, one called
Commercial Cleaning Services v. Colin Service Systems, and another called
Mendoza v. Zirkle Fruit Company, have shown two aspects in which the RICO laws
may be used to enforce immigration laws. In Commercial Cleaning, one employer
was in competition with another cleaning service which employed illegal aliens.
Obviously the illegal aliens can work for less or do work for less than
Americans, so one cleaning company had a clear competitive advantage by
violating immigration laws. This suit was brought by Mr. Howard Foster and
worked its way through the courts, overcame some challenges, some motions to
dismiss, and finally the defendant successfully settled the suit out of court in
the plaintiffís favor.
The second is another kind of aspect here involving the hiring of illegal
aliens, in which a woman named Ė I forget her first name Ė Ms. Mendoza, whoís a
legal worker in the United States, her salary is being driven down because her
employer was hiring illegal aliens, and she successfully, and some other workers
Ė so far successfully; this oneís still in the court Ė has brought suit. And
this suit, too, has survived some motions to dismiss, and the 9th Circuit just
recently overturned the District Court. Itís gone back into the District Court
and it looks very promising. And Mr. Foster tells me that there are other suits
coming up that youíll be probably hearing about soon that are also looking good.
So in other words, the RICO statutes are available to competitors, employees,
banks that for example donít open bank accounts for illegal aliens could
possibly bring RICO suits against banks that do open bank accounts for illegal
aliens, and so on and so forth.
But the inclusion of the INA violations as RICO predicate acts in the 1996
immigration format was clearly an attempt by Congress to provide private
citizens with recourse in the face of widespread disregard for immigration laws.
If the intent of Congress bears fruit, the results could represent a drastic
change in immigration law enforcement in the United States based on private
interests as opposed to government enforcement. By providing a strong incentive
for employers and businesses to stop engaging in illegal hiring and
encouragement of illegal immigration for financial gain, there is hope to
significantly reduce illegal immigration in the United States simply by working
through the U.S. courts.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Thank you, Craig. I wanted to
just sort of wrap up and kind of put in context what weíre talking about. The
issue of immigration enforcement is often presented as a Hobbesian choice:
either we amnesty illegal immigrants in whatever form that amnesty takes, or we
have to round up nine million people and drive them through the desert in the
middle of the night and throw them out of the country. Neither one of those
things is advisable or even feasible. Frankly, thereís a middle ground, and
thatís what points us to the real solution, which is enforcement and attrition;
in other words, squeezing the illegal alien populations so that more illegals
who are here leave and fewer new ones come.
When we look at the numbers of the flow of illegal immigrants, we can see the
beginnings of a realistic policy. Each year some 400,000 settled resident
illegal aliens leave the illegal population. Some of them get green cards,
because our legal immigration system even now is a kind of rolling amnesty for
illegal aliens, but many of them leave voluntarily, go home. Others are
deported. A small number pass away. So these 400,000 illegal aliens stop being
illegal aliens, however that happens. The problem is that that is swamped by the
fact that at least 700,000 new illegal aliens move and settle in the United
States so that the population continues to increase.
So the solution is, increase the number of people leaving, whether itís
voluntarily or involuntarily, and decrease the number of new people coming in.
And this can work. As Craig suggested, this isnít just idle speculation of
policy wonks. In the special registration program that took place earlier this
year, where people from certain Middle Eastern countries had to register with
the Immigration Service, the country on the list of countries that had the most
illegal aliens here was Pakistan. The Immigration Service had estimated that in
2000 there were some 26,000 Pakistani illegals. Once it became clear that the
government was actually serious about enforcing the immigration law, at least
with regard to these people if not anyone else, Pakistani illegal aliens, most
of them visa over-stayers, started streaming out of the United States. They went
to Canada. They went to Europe. They went back to Pakistan.
The Pakistani embassy, for instance, estimated that some 15,000 illegals left.
So we sort of have a rough guesstimate that maybe half the illegal aliens from
Pakistan in the United States deported themselves, left on their own once it was
clear that there was even this minimal effort to start enforcing the immigration
law. The Washington Post reported Ė the adjective they used was the
ďdisquietingĒ fact that the little Pakistan neighborhood in Brooklyn was
emptying out, that business was down, the mosque was one-third empty, there were
fewer want ads in the Urdu language newspaper, and for-rent signs were sprouting
up everywhere because the illegal aliens were leaving. I wouldnít use the
adjective ďdisquieting,Ē but clearly it can work. I mean, this is not fantasy.
This really points to the idea of using the broken-windows policing concept with
regard to immigration. When the sense that the government is no longer enforcing
order begins to spread, you get more and more lawbreaking. And the reverse of
that is what we saw under Rudy Giuliani in New York, which is enforcing the
sense of control even in minor matters Ė jumping subway turnstiles, graffiti,
that sort of thing Ė does two things. First, it actually gets real bad guys
because murderers and rapists are also going to jump the turnstiles, but it more
importantly spreads a sense of order, that the government is in fact in charge,
that the law is something that needs to be taken seriously.
To take only one example of where this isnít happening and could, something that
I saw just a few weeks ago. The Border Patrol in the mid-1990s unveiled a new
digital fingerprint system so that everybody they arrested on the southern
border would be fingerprinted. The point of it was to track repeat crossers. The
problem of course was that the U.S. attorneyís offices along the border that
would be prosecuting the repeat crossers kept raising the number of times you
had to be apprehended before you would be prosecuted so as not to end up with
anybody that they would prosecute. They kept getting illegal aliens that had
crossed five and 10 times. Well, then they kept raising it to six or 11 times
before you would be prosecuted. Essentially this effort has not yielded the
results that it needs to yield.
Itís hard to exaggerate the demoralizing effect such disregard to the law has on
the staff of the Homeland Security Department, the immigration staff. And the
opposite is true as well. I recently met with some deportation officers in Los
Angeles formed into whatís called a fugitive operations team, where they
actually were tasked with going after bad guys who were eluding the INS. They
had some gripes, as everybody does, but overall they were actually excited about
coming to work in the morning because they had political support. It was very
clear to them from their superiors Ė it was made clear to them that what they
were doing was important, was worthwhile, and when they captured the people that
they were supposed to capture, they werenít going to get in trouble for it, that
they werenít going to be punished for doing their jobs. And the results showed.
The team that I met with had apprehended three of the 10 Most Wanted aliens list
that was initially released in May by the Homeland Security Department.
The initiative that would yield the most bang for the buck, as several people
have mentioned, is enforcement of the ban of hiring illegal aliens; employer
sanctions is the jargon term for it. Ideally, we need a verification system so
that employers can use a Web-based system to determine whether their new hire is
legally here or not. Thatís going to take some time to develop. The Immigration
Service has some pilot programs to this end. They actually seem to work pretty
well, but rolling out a national system is going to take time and is going to
meet some speed bumps, especially since the Homeland Security Department is
already dealing with developing a system to track entrants and Ė entries and
exits at airports, assisting to track foreign students, so the immigration
authorities have a lot of work ahead of them.
But in the meantime, thereís no reason to let the perfect be the enemy of the
good. There are a lot of other things that can be done to enforce employer
sanctions that donít require the installation of new computer systems. For
instance, the Social Security system sent out about 1 million no-match letters
last year; in other words, letters to employers who had submitted Social
Security numbers for employees that didnít match other information. For the most
part, those were illegal aliens. There are going to be a few people where there
are mistakes and such, but basically these are letters to employers telling them
that this person is an illegal alien that you hired.
It actually worked pretty well. Employers were saying, well, prove to me youíre
not an illegal alien because the Social Security Administration has told me that
you are, and they ended up laying off large numbers of illegal aliens. It was
actually serving its purpose. And as Jessica suggested, for precisely that
reason it has been essentially discontinued, and this year the Social Security
Administration is going to send out a radically smaller number of these no-match
Another example was just in the newspaper yesterday or the day before. The
Internal Revenue Service has announced that itís looking into sharing
information from tax returns, specifically from people who file using whatís
called the individual identification number, which is in place of a Social
Security number, largely used by illegal aliens, though not necessarily, and
sharing that information with the Homeland Security Department.
If past experience is any guide, it will work and then it will be stopped,
precisely because it succeeds in deterring illegal aliens from working. The same
principle needs to be applied to other procedures. For instance getting a
drivers license ought to require proof of legal status. Registering a car,
opening a bank account, getting a car loan or mortgage loan, enrolling in higher
education, getting a business and occupational license. There are a variety of
other measures that are relatively simple, relatively low tech that would result
in enormous bang for the buck.
But really, listing the possible tactics almost is beside the point because itís
the will to control immigration that has been lacking, even at this late date,
and it will be unfortunate if the lives of more of our countrymen are
sacrificed, not to mention continuing harm to the public and to unskilled
American workers before we muster the will to do what we have in our power to do
With that I will open the floor to questions. If you would please identify first
yourself, and then also if you have a specific person you want to direct the
Q: Steve -- (inaudible). A question for
Jessica on benefits. I know earlier in the year and earlier this month there was
a hearing about the administrationís idea of totalization of Social Security
benefits with the government of Mexico. I was wondering if you would comment on
MS. VAUGHAN: Well, I havenít looked into it
in great detail, although at first blush it sounds horrifying to think about the
number of people who could potentially qualify under some of the proposals that
have been circulated. We do have these agreements with a lot of other countries,
but the migration relationship with those has been completely different. There
is no case in which there have been so many people who could potentially qualify
and so many people who were living and working in the United States illegally
who could potentially qualify for that.
Again, I havenít looked at the programs in great detail, but I think the GAO did
and decided that nobody had really done their homework and figured out what the
true cost of that would be. So it certainly needs a little bit more study before
we can even contemplate signing something like that.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Bob.
Q: Bob Lake of the Nixon Center. Iíd like
the panelists to comment on whether there is a contradiction between
counter-terrorism, national security, and immigration control. Several of you
have mentioned NCRS and some special registration program. If we have the
immigration officers focusing on an entry-exit system, or in the case of special
registration, itís been recommended here Ė suggested here that the by-product
was immigration control. But a number of people went in Ė the real purpose of
the special registration was to try to get information from these immigrants
from terror-sponsoring countries in order to pursue counter-terrorist
In California, Los Angeles, a number of them were Iranians who had actually fled
the Khomeini regime were arrested and detained because they were in this limbo
of 245(i). And a backlash Ė the left and civil rights organizations organized
against this. The implication in the press was that this was going to deter
immigrants from coming forward, or coming in for registration, and therefore it
would limit the access of the INS and other law enforcement authorities to
information about terrorism.
So thatís just an example, but is there a tradeoff here between the rule of law
MR. CUTLER: Well, you know, everything is a
trade-off. Nothing is 100 percent. As I said, only the laws of nature are
immutable. And certainly when you start to require people to come in, some of
your bad guys are going to take off and hide, and thatís why we have special
agents, so thatís why weíre supposed to have special agents. But you will also
get people that will come in and think they can still stay under the radar by
coming in and registering and being a good boy, so to speak, and this way you
Iíve given talks at my kidsí schools Ė and they always like to have me come down
and talk to the children. I always like to ask them, what does a bad guy look
like? What does a terrorist look like? The problem is that terrorists arenít
only people that hijack airplanes. I have worked on an investigation a number of
years ago, 20 years ago, and what we were finding were that people from Arabic
countries were coming to New York, buying bodegas, cashing in coupons, whether
it was for soap or dog food or whatever, doing it fraudulently, and mailing the
money back the Middle East to terror organizations. And when they got tired of
doing that, they would torch their stores and take the insurance money and mail
it out of the country. And in some cases people perished in these midnight
fires. I was working with the New York police department, with people from ATF
and with people from the fire marshalís office.
So I would expand what we mean by a terrorist. Anybody who aids, abets, raises
money Ė you know, nothing happens in this world without money. You and I may
have the best idea in the world to build a new car, and it might be a great
idea, but without seed money that car isnít going to get built, and that goes
for a lot of things. It goes for terrorism also. What we need to understand is
that the people who support terrorism within our borders are far more numerous
than the 19 people who attacked us on 9/11. So on the one hand, requiring them
to come in may force some of them to go underground. On the other hand, youíre
going to get people coming in thinking, Iíll just pretend Iím just one of the
guys and maybe they wonít pay special attention to me.
And Iím going to make one other point that sort of answers your question and
goes into one other area. Everyone is talking about drivers licenses. Drivers
licenses de facto are Americaís national ID card. You canít get on the train, a
plane, you canít make a significant purchase with your own credit card or pay by
check. It is our national ID card. And what blows my mind is how many times as
an agent Iíve arrested people with multiple drivers licenses in their pockets.
The smart thing that we need to do Ė and I called for this in Ď97 when I did my
first congressional hearing. I horrified INS because I always said that in
government the truth will set you free. But we need to link biometrics to those
drivers licenses. And then what we also need to do is to have a national
clearinghouse for all 50 states. Drivers licenses are a states rights issue
because if you go back to how cars first were used, you know, you would drive 20
miles and it was a big adventure. But thereís an FAA that regulates pilots, and
thatís nationwide. Well, cars are used nationwide in the same way today. So at
the very least there ought to be a national clearinghouse where you link drivers
licenses with Social Security numbers, with fingerprints, or retina scans, so
you donít get a license in New York and another one in Oregon and another one in
And again, we come back to making the environment less hospitable for the people
that try to evade registration efforts, which, by the way, used to be required.
We used to say, you know, February is alien registration month. So all weíre
doing is going back to what we used to require and weíre making people
accountable. And if by being made accountable people want to jump up and down,
thatís fine, but this is a commonsense approach, and it would help us to
identify terrorists, it would help us to identify people that are supporting
terrorism within our borders. So, you know, thereís a tradeoff but I donít see
any real alternative. I hope Iíve answered your question.
MR. KIRKORIAN: I actually had a few thoughts
on this as well. First of all, we looked at the al Qaeda terrorists, not just
the hijackers, but from 1993, 48 people through the 9/11 attacks, and we know
that close to half of them had violated the immigration law at some point, and
probably the majority had violated it because the paperwork is not very good, at
least that we could find. So immigration law enforcement, if nothing else,
interrupts, or has the potential to disrupt, large conspiracies. I mean, the
idea that of the 19 hijackers we didnít grab at least two of them beforehand and
give them the third degree and find out what was going on and try to unravel the
conspiracy is astonishing.
But the tradeoff idea assumes that leaving large communities of illegal aliens
relatively unregulated is worth the information that weíre going to get from
them is a plausible suggestion, I suppose, but the information that weíve gotten
from immigrant communities about known terrorists has been relatively minimal,
at least from the outside. Two of the 9/11 hijackers lived in San Diego, were
given jobs by the local immigrant community, the local immigrant community found
them apartments, and they were all completely surprised. You know, wow, they
seemed like nice boys, they were loners, they kept to themselves, that sort of
thing. The Lackawanna Six, itís proven, theyíve all pled guilty to be involved
in terrorist organizations, and all we hear from the local community that
supposedly is going to be feeding Homeland Security or the FBI information is
that oh, this isnít possible, this canít be, they were all nice boys.
So the idea that immigrant communities are bursting with people waiting to give
us information about bad guys just doesnít strike me as very plausible, quite
frankly, so although there is this tradeoff idea, I donít think itís that much
of a tradeoff.
MR. NELSEN: Could I just make a little
MR. KRIKORIAN: Yeah.
MR. NELSON: In the case of Lackawanna, the
information that the FBI got came from the community, came from Lackawanna. So
that certainly worked.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Anyone else?
MS. VAUGHAN: I just would like to add that
even the very minimal attempts that weíve made to enforce the laws that we have
still have helped because there were prospective terrorists who didnít get in
because they had to submit to an interview in a consulate. The fellow who
applied in Germany actually got refused legitimately. And we also know that many
Saudi Arabians were chosen specifically because everyone knew that it was very
easy to get a visa in Riyadh. We know what we have to do, and we know that it
does work some and that we just need to do more of it.
So I donít see much of a downside to national security efforts from actually
enforcing immigration laws in the United States. I think thatís one of the main
reasons you do it.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Yes, sir, in the back.
Q: Iím Vin OíNeill with the Institute of
Electrical and Electronics Engineers. First of all, I want to assure you that
our members are working on some gee-whiz technology that will enable law
enforcement officers to tell the good guys from the bad guys. But seriously, it
really does seem that the problem is a societal lack of will. I mean, if 85 or
88 percent of the people surveyed want fewer immigrants coming in, or want more
enforcement of the laws, it seems like really the buck settles on Congress.
Congress passes a law but then doesnít provide the resources that are needed to
enforce it. In a sense they get off the hook by saying, look, weíve done this,
weíve done that, but then they blame the bureaucracy for not being able to
enforce it. Neither the will nor the resources seem to be there, from my point
MR. CUTLER: Iíll make a fast comment. Weíre
dealing with the administration, with the executive branch also, and I can tell
you, having spent 30 years working for the INS, that there was no will to do the
job at INS either. We often said that anything we accomplished we accomplished
in spite of our bosses, not with the encouragement of our bosses. Sound
familiar? And you know, I think if I had gone to the movies, I wouldnít have
gotten into any problems. My problems came from doing the job. You made waves Ė
they wanted people to make omelets without breaking the eggs. It doesnít work
We had an attrition rate that was in the stratosphere, and in a 10-year period
in New York, somewhere between 100 and 150 special agents went out the door,
left, gone, good-bye. It costs over $100,000 to recruit and train each new
special agent. It takes a minimum of five years from the day you hire somebody
to be an agent to the day that that person is really proficient at his job. So
you have these people coming and going, and nobody at headquarters seemed to
care about it. They had to know they were losing people. They had to know they
were running people through the academy. They had to know that they werenít
paying salaries to the people who disappeared. And nobody cared.
Now, if they were really serious about getting the job done, these are the
warning signs. You go to a doctor, you say, doc, I donít feel good. Well, the
first thing he says to you is, do you have a fever? In an organization, you
donít have a fever, you have an attrition rate Ė the same thing as a high fever.
It was clear that nobody wanted the job done. Thatís why Iím talking about the
lack of a meaningful interior enforcement program. There was none. There still
is none. Thereís no coherence.
Youíre running a 90 percent fraud rate. If an alien gets married to a citizen,
he stands an excellent chance of getting residency and citizenship because
thereís no one there to knock on the door. I was doing it. I did 30 interviews,
and it was rampant. We were locking up lawyers, for gosh sakes.
So if you want to just blame Congress Ė I blame everybody and then I blame the
taxpayers. The reason that I have been heard Ė I was just a field agent; I was a
senior special agent, and I went to my congressman and I screamed, and I went to
different people and I screamed. And I made myself heard. I have four young
kids. I worry about their future, I worry about our countryís future. The
squeaky wheel gets the grease. Everyone says, ďBoy, this is terrible,Ē and then
I say, ďWell, whoís your congressman?Ē ďI donít know.Ē
They need to hear from everybody. Sitting around saying, boy, this is awful,
doesnít solve the problem. And the bottom line is if a Republican looks at the
flow of aliens across the border, he sees cheap labor. If a Democrat sees that
flow, he sees new voters. (Laughter.) So what they need to see are the
constituents threatening mutiny. Let them not feel secure that they can vote
that way and still have their jobs because for them job one is getting
MR. KRIKORIAN: Mike makes a basic point.
Congress is the problem, administrations are the problem, but they behave the
way they do because they can get away with it. Even though poll data show that,
as Craig referred to, there is a huge gap between the elite and public opinion
on immigration. The problem is that itís not very salient for most people.
Public has an opinion but doesnít usually vote on it because other things are
higher priority. I mean, thatís just sort of politically or sociologically the
explanation of why we have this, and frankly, the reason immigration control
isnít a higher priority for most people, even though they want it, is because
even on the part of the public thereís a certain amount of ambivalence about the
We want to be able to have our cake and eat it to. We want to be able to talk
about our tradition as a nation of immigrants and the Statue of Liberty and the
immigrant kid whoís the valedictorian, and yadda, yadda, yadda. It makes us feel
good. But at the same time we want borders enforced and these are essentially
sort of contradictory ideas held simultaneously by frankly most of our fellow
countrymen. Thatís why weíre in the pickle weíre in today.
Q: (Off mike.) As for the problem of getting
the cooperation of undocumented, illegal immigrants who may have useful
information for law enforcement or anti-terrorism, arenít there S visas that
would actually, if you have useful information for law enforcement, be available
to people who have that kind of information Ė
MR. KRIKORIAN: Yes, theyíre very limited,
though. Yeah, only a handful of those have been used. The point is the
information you give has to be something worthwhile, but yes, there is a vehicle
for that for people who are illegal aliens but really do have something
valuable, as far as information goes, to offer. And very few of those have been
used in the couple of years theyíve been in existence.
MR. NELSEN: I donít think itís 100 a year.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Not even that.
Q: Adele Stan, the Government Standard. Mr.
Cutler mentioned the terrible shape of the interior enforcement problem, and
also talked about the tripod. So Iím wondering where in all of that Ė I mean,
thereís plans afoot now to privatize the jobs Ė contract out the jobs of 1,100
immigration information officers. Where do they fit into that whole nexus, and
would any of you have comment as to whether or not you think that would have an
impact on the current dilemma?
MR. CUTLER: I get goosebumps thinking about
privatizing. And the reason I get goosebumps over it Ė you know, we had a
program called Citizenship USA under the prior administration. We naturalized
tens of thousands of criminal aliens. We had one guy I was investigating in
conjunction with an FBI drug investigation. He had committed naturalization
fraud. And what he did was, they asked him all these great questions Ė have you
sold drugs, no; have you committed crimes, no, no, no Ė and of course he had not
only been found guilty of it, but he pleaded guilty, which meant he conceded it.
And we couldnít even get the U.S. attorney to prosecute.
You need dedicated employees who, A, are less likely to become corrupted. I
mean, youíve got to deal with the real world and there is a corruption problem
at times. And I think that people who work at McDonalds flipping burgers this
week and next week theyíre going to hire them to do some work at INS, they
think, well, Iíll do this for a couple of weeks and then Iíll find a new gig and
someone offers them money. Itís like the problem Iím sure you encounter with the
local employees working at embassies and consular officers.
You donít want somebody who has access to secure situations who only sees this
as something Iím going to do for the next six months or a year. And the people
that are the information officers, from what Iíve been told, help to screen
people where it looks like thereís a questionable situation. Theyíre your early
warning system. And it also disturbs me that weíre thinking in terms of, well,
letís do this and maybe down the road we could privatize other jobs. I actually
heard a rumor that they were looking to privatize exams.
Now, what are we doing? There was a time when in order to be a naturalization
examiner you had to be a lawyer and you had to bring two witnesses, and it was a
very strictly controlled situation. Now weíre basically giving away citizenship
as quickly as we can, it seems. What was it, Groucho Marx, I think, who said he
wouldnít want to belong to an organization that would have him as a member. And
this is the way weíre approaching it: letís give it all away as quick as we can.
Thatís part of what happened to the enforcement program. We were seen as the bad
guys. Weíve stood between this giveaway program and what the administration
wanted, which was to do all this.
So if you privatize it I think youíre going to have integrity issues, I think
youíre going to have a lack of professionalism. Again, itís a matter of bringing
in a stable workforce that feels dedicated to the mission, and I think
privatization runs diametrically opposed to that.
MS. VAUGHN: I think there are some
circumstances in which privatization is appropriate tack, but in this case, when
you have people who are charged with making decisions that affect other peopleís
lives, I think it is important, that employer-employee bond is important. It is
already having an impact on morale. Two days ago a couple hundred DHS employees
were protesting up in Vermont because theyíre afraid that theyíre going to lose
their jobs, or if they get them back, they are not going to be paid as well or
working under the same conditions, or have the same kind of relationship with
their employer. Of course the contractor is always trying to cut costs in
whatever way it can, and thatís what its mission is.
And so, you have to question what happens to the integrity of the process if all
the employees in this kind of job are working in that kind of environment.
Frankly, INS doesnít have a really good track record in terms of overseeing what
its contractors are doing. I can think of many, many instances in which thatís
MR. CUTLER: Or the letters that were mailed
to the dead terrorists.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Yeah, I would reinforce what
Jessica and Mike said. I mean, it was contractors who were shredding immigrantsí
applications. There were green card and other applications that were beginning
to build up, and so the contractor had given performance requirements to the
employees, and the employees met those workflow requirements by shredding the
applications and so they no longer had a backlog. Contracts at detention
facilities that the Immigration service contracted for have had a number of
And this kind of thing is going to happen. My point only is that, first of all,
there are support functions Ė food service, driving the bus to take detainees to
the detention center -- that are perfectly appropriate. There are others that
arenít. And my really basic concern is that this emphasis Ė in other words, one
of the first things that the administration is doing to address the problems is
essentially to blame the employees, that the employees are the problem. This is
a continuation of the idea that Congress isnít the problem, the White House
isnít the problem, itís the employees, the sort of dysfunctional bureaucrats who
are the problem so letís kick the bureaucrats and that will be the solution. And
itís deflecting attention from the real issue, which is top management in the
executive branch and Congress.
Anyone else? Yes.
Q: (Off mike.) I was wondering if the panel
would comment on the Patriot Act and its measures regarding immigration, and how
not only its passage has affected your efforts but also the efforts to amend it.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Well, just to take one little
piece of it that came up in the news recently, the Patriot Act was intended to
make banks more Ė be more attentive and stringent in identifying people who open
bank accounts. In drafting the regulations, the Treasury Department said, well,
this is what the law says, but the way we interpret it is that accepting
Mexicoís illegal alien ID card is not a violation of the law. In other words,
the Treasury Department gave an explicit green light to banks, and reinforced
that green light just the end of last week, that opening bank accounts to
illegal aliens is legitimate.
So again, this is another example of what Jessica referred to, laws that look
tough and then end up not only perhaps being not implemented but often maybe
even having the reverse effect of what Congress intended.
As far as the rest of the Patriot Act, much of it, the surveillance issues and
all that, really arenít immigration matters. I donít know if anybody else wanted
to comment on that.
MR. NELSEN: Yes. Essentially we havenít seen
any real change in enforcement efforts under the Patriot Act. The number of
interior enforcement agents is still the same today as they were before 9/11,
for example. These are the people who are responsible for tracking down
terrorists and so on in the country.
One of the things that -- Mark mentions was the matricula consular card and
Treasury Departmentís recent reinforcement of the rights of banks to open bank
accounts for illegal aliens. I mean, this is clearly another case of money
trumping national security and the will of the American people and the
enforcement of immigration laws. Banks weighed in, in addition to the Mexican
government, on this issue, and the Treasury Department, which is charged with
regulating banks, knuckled under to the people theyíre supposed to be
regulating, clearly for no other reason than flat-out profit. Itís as clear-cut
as it could possibly be.
This also goes Ė we see this over and over again in this issue. Someone brought
up earlier, whatís going on with Ė why is Congress or why is the administration
not enforcing this law? An example of whatís really going on was mentioned a
while ago in the state of Nebraska, something called Operation Vanguard, where
INS agents went out and started to go into meat packing plants, which are
overwhelmingly staffed by illegal aliens, everybody knows it, started looking
through their records and arresting people and deporting them. In other words,
just enforcing the law. This is precisely what the law is on the books. Well, by
the end of the day, not only the governor of Nebraska but both senators were on
the phone to INS saying, donít you ever do that again; we need this cheap labor.
And guess what? It didnít happen again. Those plants are still full of illegal
aliens, the lawís being ignored, and some people are making lots of money from
MR. KRIKORIAN: And the person who thought
that program up is now enjoying early retirement.
Q: Charles Showalter, vice president of the
Immigration and Naturalization Service Council, the union that represents INS
employees. First of all, I want to thank everybody for their support of INS
employees, sort of the legacy INS employees as we transition into Homeland
Iíd like to open this up to anybody on the panel. What are your feelings about
the continuation of and merging of jobs with special agents and the sky
marshals, or the immigration inspectors, the customs inspectors and the
agriculture inspectors? What are your feelings about the merger and dilution of
trade skills that result from this?
MR. KRIKORIAN: Do you want to Ė
MR. CUTLER: Yeah, Iíll do that.
I was an inspector for four years and the problems that we had is you get about
a minute to decide on somebodyís admissibility, and it was a tough enough job.
Thereís no crystal ball; you get a minute to check the passport, see that
everything is okay with that, check the database to make the determination if
the guy is wanted or otherwise excludable from the United States, and then you
might have your boss standing off on the side whining to you to move the
passengers. I always compared that job to Lucy at the bon-bon factory.
And then the boss would say, well, why donít you just resolve it in your booth;
limit them to two weeks? And Iíd say, well, thatís great; they want two minutes
on the other side of the doors with their sneakers on. And then I think about
imagine someone coming to your house and they knock on your door and you look
through the peephole and say, gee, this guy doesnít look too good. I know what
Iíll do. Hey, sir, if I let you in, will you promise youíll leave after 20
Would you do that? We do. Thatís with a pure immigration workforce. If you start
to dilute it and you have confusion as to what your priority really is, and
after all, everyone looks at their evaluation as the be-all and end-all, what my
worry is is that weíre going to water down the immigration side of it, or even
water down the customs side because this is all going to be compromised. I tell
people that a camel is a horse designed by a committee, and thatís what worries
me. I think we were better off when people had a clear mission.
You know, the only thing that customs and immigration has in common is that
theyíre both border agencies, but their area of responsibility and their area of
expertise are very different. Immigration worries about people coming in to the
country, or attempting to come in to the country; customs worries about things
being brought into the country and collecting duties and tariffs and that sort
of thing. So the idea of merging these two groups together Ė Iíll put it this
way real quick. I think if theyíre going to make this marriage work, itís going
to be a shotgun wedding and theyíre going to need a lot of marriage counseling.
And then I worry about the training that's going on as well. I worry because I
understand that the immigration people always had Spanish language training, for
obvious reasons. I understand thatís now been eliminated. If anything, we ought
to be getting more languages that are responsible. I canít tell you how many
times as an agent I have knocked on a door and the guy opens the door, whether
he means it or not, will say to you, ďNo habla Ingles, Senor,Ē and he figures
heís off the hook. And they get very disheartened when you say, ďno hay problemo,
senor; yo hablo Espanol.Ē And the guy looks at you and he goes, oh, my.
Well, imagine if we could have agents who speak Farsi and Arabic, Russian and
Chinese. So instead of going in that direction weíre going in the wrong
direction, saying, well, letís eliminate the language requirement because
customs people never needed it.
So do I have concerns? You bet. I hope I answered that.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Yes, I have to second what he
said. If somethingís going to give, itís going to be immigration, and the reason
is that keeping out people smuggling in illegal cash into the United States is
not something thatís going to get you a call from a congressmanís office saying,
stop it, whereas keeping out somebodyís grandma whoís already been stealing,
essentially, from Medicare and wants to come back and keep doing that, that will
get you a call from a congressmanís office. So which are you going to choose?
Itís sort of obvious.
The idea of cross training and the rest of it I think is healthy, but if people
and goods are essentially combined and both have to be screened by the same
people and the same standards, the screening of people is going to suffer,
MR. CUTLER: Only one other quick point I
want to make. We were talking about these other jobs they want to throw on them.
Whatís next? Having them change the oil on the car? I mean, we have almost
nobody to do the job now and these are distractions.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Agricultural screening, too.
MR. CUTLER: Yes, and sky marshal duty and
Secret Service. When youíre working a long-term investigation and the informant
says, hey, I can meet with the target tomorrow Ė oh, no, you canít do that, Iím
going to be on the airplane tomorrow. What happens to that case? If I was a bad
guy Ė and we used to have to get permission to do undercover operations that
will take weeks, especially at INS, where the cops or even the FBI could do it
in a matter of a day, with us it was the paper and the whole nonsense. If I was
a bad guy and I was trying to make a deal with somebody and the guys goes, yeah,
give me a week, Iíll think about it, immediately you know youíre dealing with an
INS agent Ė (laughter) Ė because if youíre a bad guy, you want the money. You
want to buy the dope? Sure, Iíll get the money for you. I mean, up at DEA we can
put the money together in hours. The guy calls up and says, Iíve got the dope;
the guy says, great. Within four hours theyíve got half a million dollars to
show. Try that at INS. You couldnít get a car in a half a day. (Laughter.) And
so understand what the problem is.
Thatís why a lot of people left, they were fed up, and now weíre going to have
them wear more hats. I donít know, I think weíre going to wind up with a
haberdashery shop. How many more hats can we put on today? I think itís a
prescription for a disaster. Thatís my personal feeling.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Letís take one last question
and then you can accost the speakers privately.
Q: Comments on the CLEAR Act.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Do you want to take that?
MR. NELSEN: Yeah. Lots of support for that.
They just announced theyíve got 100 sponsors now in 11 weeks.
MR. KRIKORIAN: Just explain briefly what it
MR. NELSEN: The CLEAR Act is a great bill
that would facilitate greatly the work and cooperation between local law
enforcement and federal authorities. Eighty-eight percent of the American
people, by the way, like I said earlier, support this. Itís got carrots and
sticks on both sides that would allow things like asset forfeiture from those
who profit from illegal immigration. So thereís lots of support for it not only
in the law enforcement community but also among the American public and
Congress. Itís gaining support fast and the media has already picked up on it.
So we have good hopes for it.
MR. KRIKORIAN: And just to fill in,
Congressman Charlie Norwood from Georgia is the lead sponsor in the House, and I
believe in the Senate thereís a bill thatís kind of cooking that hasnít been
dropped yet, and I think Senator Sessions is behind that.
Letís wrap it up here now; itís 11:00. And if the panelists donít want to be
accosted, because actually Mike needs to go to the 9/11 Commission, but the rest
of us you can accost. So thanks for coming, and hope to see you next time.