Mexican President Vincente Fox has said he wants it. Democrat lawmakers on Capitol Hill have said they want it. Even some labor unions have said they want it: amnesty for millions of illegal aliens who have been working in the United States for five years or more, in violation of virtually every immigration statute on the books.
So far, the White House has not said how President Bush will respond to the expected overture from Fox when Bush embarks on his first foreign trip today. A senior administration official, briefing reporters at the White House before the trip, said the president was “looking at a whole range of issues,” including amnesty and expanding the guest-worker program.
But on Capitol Hill, Democrats led by Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez of Illinois have laid the legislative bed for a sweeping new amnesty by introducing a bill on Feb. 7 that would benefit illegals who “have shown a true commitment to this country and are likely to have made a considerable contribution to this country.” Gutierrez chairs the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Task Force on Immigration.
Anti-immigration groups claim that as many as seven million illegals are currently “hiding out” in the United States and could potentially benefit from the amnesty.
“Amnesty means open borders,” said Joan L. Hueter, chairman of the American Council for Immigration Reform. “Open borders spell disaster.”
A flood of new green cards and naturalizations would overwhelm an Immigration and Naturalization Service that is already stretched thin, racked by bureaucratic mismanagement — and that stands accused in a damning new report by its own inspector general of minting new citizens on the direct orders of the Clinton-Gore White House in reckless disregard of the law.
The 684-page INS inspector general report was released with little fanfare during a congressional hearing in September. Its most stunning allegation — that the Clinton-Gore White House had hijacked the INS for partisan political purposes in what amounted to massive voter fraud — never emerged as a campaign issue until after election day, when it became evident that Al Gore owed his near-victory in Florida to hundreds of thousands of newly-minted citizens in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.
According to the IG report, many of those new voters should never have been granted citizenship.
Some were convicted felons. Others had overstayed tourist visas and were working illegally. Close to 200,000 never underwent any background check, so INS does not know to this day whether they were eligible for citizenship. Few passed an English language and citizenship test worthy of the name. Some could not understand their own swearing-in, because the ceremony was conducted in English.
And yet, Bush White House officials point to campaign pledges by President Bush to treat immigration “not [as] a problem to be solved, but [as] the sign of a successful nation,” and to speed the naturalization process even further. To accomplish that goal, aides say, Bush plans to split the INS into two separate agencies, one that processes green cards and citizenship applications and a second that polices America’s borders.
But before he gets that far, Bush will have to deal with the thorny issue of fraud, and the political hijacking of the INS.
‘A pro-Democrat voter mill’
The investigation into INS shenanigans began with a May 1996 report in the Washington Times about an INS whistleblower who criticized the acceleration of the naturalization process under Clinton-Gore. It quoted other INS employees who revealed the existence of a program known as Citizenship USA, and questioned the motives behind it.
Citizenship USA was an initiative of Vice President Al Gore that was ostensibly part of his National Performance Review to “reinvent” government. Internal White House memos, obtained by the House Judiciary Committee in 1997, showed that the vice president was well aware that the effort could be perceived as a “pro-Democrat voter mill.”
On March 28, 1996, White House aide Doug Farbrother e-mailed Gore detailing his efforts to get INS to waive fingerprinting and background checks “to make me confident they could produce a million new citizens before Election Day.”
Gore then wrote Clinton: “You asked us to expedite the naturalization of nearly a million legal aliens who have applied to become citizens.” The risk, Gore warned, was that “we might be publicly criticized for running a pro-Democrat voter mill and even risk having Congress stop us.”
Congress did complain — but only after the election.
In response to those complaints, the Joint Management Division of the Department of Justice hired KPMG Peat Marwick to review the Citizenship USA program, which ran from Aug. 31, 1995 through Sept. 30, 1996. They found that of the 1,049,867 aliens naturalized under the program, INS never did fingerprint checks on 180,000 persons.
“Applicants who were ineligible because of criminal records, or because they fraudulently obtained green cards, were granted citizenship because the INS was moving too fast to check their records,” says Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, who chaired the House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on the IG report last September.
In addition to those 180,000, Smith said, “more than 80,000 aliens had fingerprint checks that generated criminal records, but they were naturalized anyway.”
The initial review by KPMG Peat Marwick led to a temporary slowdown in the numbers of new citizens. But not for long.
By 1999, the numbers shot up once again, with 872,485 aliens granted citizenship, according to INS statistics made available to the Western Journalism Center. And during its final year in office, the Clinton-Gore administration used streamlined naturalization procedures to mine yet another 898,315 new citizens, just in time for voter registration deadlines last October.
INS officials said in interviews that they received 1.3 million applications during the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. Some 400,000 of those applying for citizenship were rejected.
By contrast, fewer than 250,000 aliens were naturalized during FY 1992, the final year of the first Bush administration. “Naturalizations were averaging between 200,000 to 300,000 per year before then,” said INS spokesperson Elaine Komis.
In other words, despite hearings in 1997 that roundly condemned the administration’s naturalization program, and promises from the INS to reform its own procedures, it was back to the Democratic voter mill — just in time for the 2000 election.
According to the newly released inspector general’s report, the latest rush of naturalizations took place without any significant changes to the flawed procedures that led to the abuses found during the Citizenship USA program in 1995-1996. Hundreds of thousands more persons were granted U.S. citizenship without any background checks just prior to November 2000.
In presenting his report before Lamar Smith’s subcommittee on Sept. 7, Deputy Inspector General Robert L. Ashbaugh noted that repeated requests for interviews to the vice president’s office had been denied. Similarly, top presidential advisers Harold Ickes and Rahm Emanuel — identified as having played key roles in hijacking the INS for political purposes — refused to answer questions.
At the Bush Justice Department, it is still too early to start looking at voter fraud.
“We’ve just been on the job for two weeks,” said spokesperson Mindy Tucker. Attorney Gen. John Ashcroft has not yet reviewed the inspector general report, she added.
White House sources said the president was planning to announce his choice to head up the Immigration and Naturalization Service soon, perhaps as early as next week. Immigration-reform groups are pushing for a tough enforcer to head INS.
Kenneth Timmerman, a veteran journalist whose work has appeared in Newsweek, Time, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, is currently working on a special series of investigative reports for the Western Journalism Center on vote fraud.
Editor’s note: The Western Journalism Center is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization that sponsors independent investigative reporting projects into government fraud, waste, corruption and abuse. The charity was founded by Joseph Farah, now editor and chief executive officer of WorldNetDaily.com, but is an entirely autonomous company.
If you would like to support Kenneth Timmerman’s series on vote fraud and other similar investigative projects with tax-deductible contributions, you can do so by calling 1-800-952-5595, by writing to the center at P.O. Box 2450, Fair Oaks, CA 95628, or by making your donation online.