The Senate Judiciary Committee kicked off its immigration hearings Tuesday. Chairman Patrick Leahy, who has earned a career F grade (1989-2013) for his immigration advocacy, called two star witness, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and infamous illegal immigrant Jose Antonio Vargas. Leahy and other supporters would like you to believe Vargas represents a typical case study for why aliens should be awarded amnesty.
Napolitano led off. To no one’s surprise, the former Arizona governor insisted that the border has never been more secure. Accordingly, there’s no need to “bind” amnesty to border security. Napolitano’s testimony, and that of National Council of La Raza president Janet Murguia who followed later in the day, was an incredibly tedious rehashing of all the hackneyed phrases used thousands if not millions of times by pro-immigration lobbyists: “nation of immigrants,” “our immigration system is outdated and much in need of reform,” etc. But since 2009 Napolitano’s job has been to secure the border, she cannot reasonably be expected to testify that it’s not secure—even if she weren’t already solidly aligned with the immigration advocates. Read Napolitano’s testimony here; Murguia here.
Vargas’ illegal immigrant resume includes his stint at the Washington Post during which he was part of a journalism team that won a Pulitzer Prize for its 2008 coverage of the Virginia Tech shootings. In 2011 when Vargas wrote a New York Times Magazine feature piece wherein he admitted his alien status, he gained celebrity status within the pro-immigration crowd. Despite what the Senate Judiciary Committee wants you to think, Vargas is by no means typical. Vargas has graduated from college but the high school dropout rate for Hispanics is nearly 31 percent. About than two-thirds of later (age 16-18) Hispanic high school enrollees have limited English skills, according to a Migration Policy Institute study. (Note: Vargas is Filipino but Hispanics would be the biggest beneficiary of amnesty or DREAM Act legislation; watch his testimony here.)
Those of us who would like to see a common sense immigration policy were well represented. Chris Crane, president of the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council 188, detailed the ICE agents' daily frustrations of trying to enforce immigration laws but being actively prevented by from doing so. As a result, according to an internal survey, ICE morale ranked 279th out of 291 federal agencies. Little wonder that morale is low since, Crane testified, “Pressure from special interest groups prevents ICE from making street arrests." Crane’s testimony is here.
Jessica Vaughn, Center for Immigration Studies’ Director of Policy Studies, also weighed in for enforcement. Vaughn made the important point that President Obama’s often-touted deportation statistics—usually referred to as the highest on record—are grossly inflated. Obama administration officials have pointed to 409,000 removed in 2012. The peak of 1.6 million actually occurred in 1996. Additionally, the numbers of aliens who ignore deportation orders has increased, In 2012, 850,000 aliens ordered removed were still at large; in 2008, the total was 558,000. Read Vaughn’s testimony here.
Three senators challenged Napolitano. Texas Senator John Cornyn said that the United States has “a long, long way to go” on border security. Ranking Judiciary Committee Republican, Jeff Sessions (R-ALA) also contradicted Napolitano on security and chastised her for her remark that Republicans are using border security as an “excuse” to delay amnesty. [Senate Opens Immigration Hearings with Republicans Grilling Napolitano on Border Security, Associated Press, February 13, 2013]
And in a surprise, California Senator Dianne Feinstein pressed Napolitano on the failed exit/entry and visa waiver programs. Feinstein also suggested that if amnesty passes, chain migration should end.