WASHINGTON – The U.S. congressman said his trip to the border showed him the mind-boggling nature of the problem in a nutshell.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, described to a hearing held by the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday morning how he saw illegal immigrants arrive on the border, claim asylum, and then be given a court date as far in the future as 2020.
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"Meanwhile they get a work permit to compete against those legally and lawfully here."
Chaffetz said there is a proper place for asylum but the current system is being abused in great numbers, and it's all the fault of President Obama for not enforcing the immigration laws.
"The president owns this issue," declared the congressman.
Referring to the approximately 60,000 children who have recently entered the country illegally, mostly from Central America, Chaffetz asked rhetorically, "Do we do any background checks on who we are giving these minors to? No. This administration does not do that. It is fundamentally wrong."
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WND confirmed that over the weekend, when Senior Staff Writer Jerome Corsi accompanied Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas, to the border near McAllen, Texas.
"How do you know if you are releasing these kids to people who are truly family members in the United States or to pedophiles or other criminals posing as family members?” the congressman asked a Border Patrol supervisor.
“We only know who these children are by what they tell us,” the supervisor admitted. “Truthfully, we don’t really have any idea who they might be or where they came from other than what we can observe from questioning them. You’re right. If they give us false information, we have no way to know it or to follow it up without biometrics.”
Tuesday's hearing was the first chance for Leon Rodriguez, the new Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, or USCIS, to testify before Congress in his new post.
It occurred just as Obama is widely thought to be poised to grant amnesty to as many as six million illegal immigrants by executive order, bypassing Congress.
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Republicans are wary of Rodriguez, who was confirmed as USCIS chief just one month ago.
In fact, they believe they have reason to believe the head of immigration not only believes in amnesty for all illegal immigrants, but open borders, as well.
In opposing his nomination, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, noted that Rodriguez was a member of the board of directors of Casa de Maryland from 2005-2007, a group, he said, that believes no illegal immigrants should be deported, and works to promote that goal.
Grassley described how Casa de Maryland uses taxpayer dollars to aid illegal immigrants in finding employment and helps them to gain legal status.
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He pointed out, that did not bode well for the person tasked with ensuring the integrity of the nation's immigration programs and benefits.
In his opening statement, Rodriguez gave an update on the approximately 60,000 illegal immigrant children who have flooded across the border recently.
As WND reported, they have overwhelmingly been telling Border Patrol agents the prospect of amnesty is what is driving them here.
Rodriguez testified that as of June, USCIS has received more than 1,500 asylum claims from children. And that only 163 of those claims have come from children apprehended in the current fiscal year. That's because, he said most kids wait nearly a year in the U.S. before seeking asylum status.
The asylum application rate, historically, has been about 50 percent. Apparently, the remainder are never heard from again, and just stay in the country illegally.
The director also updated the numbers on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, or DACA. The GOP claims that policy of no longer deporting illegal minors is responsible for the huge surge in children crossing the border.
Rodriguez said approximately 700,000 illegal immigrants have avoided deportation under DACA, so far.
After the hearing, a collegial Rep. Steve King extended a warn congratulations to Rodriguez on his confirmation, but the congressman also issued a serious warning, based on what he learned on his weekend trip to the border, chronicled by WND.
"Everyone we met down there told us this (the flood of illegal immigrants crossing the border) will not stop until we start sending them back," King told the director.
Rodriguez appeared to warmly appreciate the insights King shared about his trip, which was in some contrast to sharp questioning by the congressman earlier.
"I think the administration already has made the decision to grant amnesty to up to 5 million illegal immigrants while this Congress is out of session. How do you respond to that?" King had sternly demanded of the director.
Rodriguez literally did not respond, choosing instead to answer a previous question, before King's time expired.
Republicans fear that one way Obama might grant amnesty to 5-to-6 million illegal immigrants is to simply remove the age requirement from DACA.
That is likely why Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, asked Rodriguez, "Do you think expanding DACA is legal or not?"
He replied he believed it would be.
Poe asked, "Is there a limit" to how many people could qualify for DCA?
"Yes, of course, it's whatever the laws allow," replied the director.
"Technically, it could allow everybody," Poe observed.
Rodriguez didn't think that was in he cards.
"But you're not saying its against the law," the congressman reiterated.
No, Rodriguez admitted, saying it was his belief "there is broad prosecutorial discretion."
Rep. Chaffetz picked up on that line of questioning by asking, even though DACA requires a person to have entered the country as a minor to be eligible, was there an age limit for people to apply for DACA, and deferment from deportation?
Rodriguez conceded, there is no age limit.
"So you can be 30?"
"So you come here illegally, you apply for DACA and you get a work permit. How does the agency verify that person entered the country as a child?"
The director said that was based on what they learned in interviews.
When Chaffetz asked how long the interviews were, Rodriguez said about an hour.
The congressman said the testimony they received was that it was more like 15-to-20 minutes.
When Rodriguez disagreed, Chaffetz told him, "I believe the record will correct you on that."
Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., bluntly told Rodriguez, "Lets just cut to the chase. The president is not enforcing the law."
The congressman described how the committee had heard testimony from representatives of Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, who have conducted thousands on interviews, and they said the surge in immigrants was unquestionably caused by the president's policies.
Forbes noted that gang members do not carry badges or ID cards, so he asked Rodriguez if they were asking immigrants if they belong to a gang.
When the director replied that he did not know, Forbes raised his voice, saying, "See, that's what frightens me about this process. When you don't even know if are asking that question, that gives me cause for concern."
He added, "Can you understand that answers like 'not knowing' is why the public is so upset with this administration?"
Conservatives aren't just wary of the Obama administration on immigration, they are concerned about the plan fashioned by GOP House leaders to solve the border crisis.
Rep. King believes it is an attempt to pass so-called Comprehensive Immigration Reform by another name because, not only does it not address the issue of amnesty, it would leave the door wide open for President Obama to extend amnesty to many more millions of illegal immigrants.
Another big problem in King's eyes is that the revised plan that came out of a GOP House meeting on Friday is a "package," or collection of many different ideas.
And, he told WND, "A package has no chance at becoming law and has every chance of coming back to us with who-knows-what hung on it. All it becomes is an excuse for us to say we did something."
Instead, the congressman offered his simplified plan to fix the border crisis in less than a week.
- "Monday, I would pass a resolution that was Rep. Trent Frank's (R-Ariz.) idea, that says, 'These are all the things the president did to cause this (crisis), and this is what he needs to do to fix it.' The National Guard should be called up by all the border state governors."
- "Tuesday, I would send the Senate a fix to the 2008 bill (that requires all minors from Central America have lengthy judicial hearings before any deportation) as a stand-alone bill. That would take the fig leaf away from the president and the Democrats. Even though it's not the cause of this problem (he believes the prospect of amnesty is luring the immigrants), it will take away the excuse."
- "Wednesday, I would send the Senate a stand-alone appropriations bill that gives funds directly to the states to send the National Guard to secure the border."
- "Thursday, I'd put the other good ideas that have been suggested into a much-smaller package bill and send it to the Senate."
Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, had released her draft of the House leaders' plan on Wednesday, which contained a litany of proposals but nothing addressing amnesty.
However, after a meeting of GOP House members on Friday morning in which conservatives had a chance to register their input, she said the plan had been pared-down to "bare-bones suggestions," primarily: revising the 2008 law; allowing Border Patrol agents to access federal lands; deploying National Guard troops; assigning more immigration judges; and a call for greater cooperation with Central American countries to repatriate unaccompanied children.
What she called "bare-bones," King still saw as an over-ambitious attempt to cobble together too many plans in one package.
King said if the House simply passed his four proposals, Congress would have done everything it could and "removed some of the tools people are using to play politics. "
Otherwise, he said, Congress will have subscribed to the president's agenda for the rest of his term, which is "open borders."
WND asked King if he thinks Obama is even interested in securing the border.
Not mincing words, the adamant Iowan said, "This president will not secure the border. He's more likely to build the Keystone XL Pipeline twice than he is to secure the border."
And that's why King believes the House plan is so risky. The congressman told WND he is afraid Obama will tweak his policy called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, to extend amnesty to more illegal immigrants.
Obama implemented DACA on June 15, 2012, to unilaterally extend amnesty to illegal immigrants who arrived as children after Congress refused to pass the DREAM Act.
Now, King is concerned "the president will just take a couple of components of DACA and erase them, such as the date you had to be here by, and one's age. If he does that, its like an amnesty for everyone."
So, WND asked, would the House package bill just open the door for Obama to pick and choose what he wants and make up the rest?
King said yes, because Obama has demonstrated he will do that, over and over again.
He said the solution to the border crisis lies not with the president, but with the states.
"We have to send a strong message that the only way, the only way, we're going to secure the borders is if the border-state governors do so with the National Guard and their other law enforcement services," the congressman insisted.
"And the only way we in Congress can help is to appropriate funding directly to them. Because this president will misappropriate any money that we say should go to the border states. That's just how it is with this administration."