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The Honorable Asa Hutchinson
February 12, 2004
Testimony of Asa Hutchinson
On January 7, the President announced his proposal for a new temporary worker program. In his announcement, the President set out several basic principles for the program. The three principles related to immigration enforcement are:
Let me address these from an enforcement perspective:
I. PROTECTING THE HOMELAND BY CONTROLLING OUR BORDERS
A sensible immigration policy begins with security at our nation's borders. The President's proposed Temporary Worker Program is a bold step, aimed at reforming our immigration laws, matching willing workers with willing employers, and securing our Homeland. The President's proposal holds the promise of strengthening our control over U.S. borders and, in turn, improving homeland security. It is also a continuation of efforts to control our borders that intensified in the wake of the 9/11 attacks on our homeland.
Illegal entry across our borders makes more difficult the urgent task of securing the homeland. Our homeland will be more secure when we can better account for those who enter our country, instead of the current situation in which millions of people are unknown. With a temporary worker program in place, law enforcement will face fewer problems with unlawful workers and will be better able to focus on other threats to our nation from criminals and terrorists.
In order for a temporary worker program to work effectively, border enforcement will be critical. It is important to recognize that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has set the stage for an effective program. Since September 11, 2001, the Border Patrol has increased the number of agents from 9,788 to 10,835 as of December 1, 2003. Between the ports of entry on the northern border, the size of the Border Patrol has tripled to more than 1,000 agents. In addition, the Border Patrol is continuing installation of monitoring devices along the borders to detect illegal activity. Moreover, since March 1, 2003, all CBP officers have received antiterrorism training.
We believe the program should link efforts to control our border through agreements with countries whose nationals participate in, and benefit from, the program. We are currently negotiating interior repatriation agreements with Mexico that would help break the cycle of alien smuggling by returning aliens closer to their home in the interior of their country. Cooperation from the Mexican government will be especially critical, including possibly greater Mexican efforts to control the flow of Mexican migrants not qualified under the temporary worker program to the U.S. border and greater Mexican efforts to combat human smuggling organizations. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will continue its Integrated Border Enforcement Team (IBET) operations on the Canadian border and continue its cooperative efforts with both the governments of Canada and Mexico.
A critical function of the Border Patrol is to save lives. A temporary worker program that permits participants to cross through our ports of entry freely, decreases the number of aliens who will desperately attempt to cross our border through desert land in dangerous conditions, thereby saving lives.
The Border Patrol is also adding sensors and other technology that assist in detecting illegal crossings along both our northern and southern borders, including Remote Video Surveillance (RVS) systems. These RVS systems are real-time remotely controlled force enhancement camera systems, which provide coverage along the northern and southern land borders of the United States, 24 hours per day, 7 days a week. The RVS system significantly enhances the Border Patrol's ability to detect, identify, and respond to border intrusions, and it has a deterrent value as well. There are currently 269 completed Remote Video Surveillance (RVS) sites in operation; 200 along the southwest border and 69 along the northern border. An additional 216 installations are in progress.
CBP pursues many initiatives in the ongoing effort to ensure a balance of two critical DHS objectives: (1) increasing security; and (2) facilitating legitimate trade and travel. These initiatives include the use of advance information, risk management, and technology, and partnering with other nations and with the private sector. Using these principles, CBP understands that security and facilitation are not mutually exclusive. Since 9/11, we have developed strategies and initiatives that make our borders more secure while simultaneously ensuring a more efficient flow of legitimate trade and travel. For example, CBP has continued to implement a variety of programs to both protect and facilitate trade and travel on our land borders, including NEXUS and FAST, which speed the cross-border movement of trusted and vetted travelers and cargo.
In improving our nation's homeland security, CBP has created "One Face at the Border." This includes designating one Port Director at each port of entry and instituting a single, unified chain of command for all CBP Officers at all of our ports of entry and all our inspectors - whether they be legacy customs, immigration, or agriculture employees. CBP has also developed specialized immigration and customs antiterrorism response teams and consolidated its passenger analytical targeting units. These units coordinate with CBP's National Targeting Center, which serves as the interagency focal point for obtaining manifests and passenger information for flights of concern.
A Temporary Worker Program will not change CBP's mission. Unauthorized entry into the United States will still be illegal, and CBP will continue to improve our Homeland Security by gaining greater control over our borders and more effectively and efficiently inspecting and screening arriving passengers, vehicles, and conveyances. For this reason, as reflected in the President's 2005 Budget, it will be more important than ever to ensure that the Border Patrol has adequate funding for the personnel, infrastructure, equipment and technology to continue to adopt its tactics and deploy its resources to meet its priority anti-terrorism mission.
The President's proposal for the temporary worker program requires the return of temporary workers to their home country after their period of work has concluded. The legal status granted by this program would last three years, be renewable, and would have an end. Returning home is made more desirable because during the temporary work period, workers would be permitted to come and go across the U.S. borders so the workers can maintain roots in their home country.
In addition, the Temporary Worker Program would offer additional incentives for these workers to return home, including portability of investments and the skills learned and education attained during their work experience in America.
III. WORKPLACE ENFORCEMENT OF IMMIGRATION LAWS
IV. FY 2005 BUDGET FOR IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT
In conjunction with the temporary worker program, the President is committed to enhancing immigration security and enforcement, as the FY 2005 budget illustrates. The FY 2005 budget seeks $4.0 billion for ICE, $302 million more than FY 2004, and $6.2 billion for CBP, an increase of $258 million over FY 2004.
A. ICE Budget Requests
Detention and Removal of illegal aliens present in the United States is critical to the enforcement of our immigration laws. An increase of $108 million in FY 2005 will expand ongoing fugitive apprehension efforts and the removal from the United States of jailed offenders, and support additional detention and removal capacity.
In FY 2003, ICE removed 76,604 criminal aliens. Under "Operation Predator," ICE identifies, investigates, and removes child predators from America's streets. From July 9, 2003, when Operation Predator began, through December 2003, ICE apprehended 1,694 predators. The FY 2005 budget requests an appropriated funding increase of $78 million to fund improvements in immigration enforcement both domestically and overseas, including a doubling of current worksite enforcement efforts. This funding will be used to detect and locate individuals in the United States who are in violation of immigration laws, or who are engaging in immigration-related fraud. Also, pursuant to section 428 of the Homeland Security Act, the Department of Homeland Security will improve visa security by working cooperatively with U.S. consular offices to evaluate visa applicants.
As part of its overall immigration enforcement strategy, ICE will continue to analyze data generated through the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) and US-VISIT program to detect individuals who are in violation of the Nation's immigration laws and pose a threat to homeland security. The FY 2005 budget's request of $16 million will increase the funding for ICE's SEVIS and US-VISIT compliance efforts by over 150 percent.
Pursuant to section 428 of the Homeland Security Act and the Memorandum of Understanding between the Departments of Homeland Security and State, ICE's FY 2005 budget request of $14 million includes an increase of $10 million to support a new Visa Security Unit (VSU). The VSU and DHS staff stationed at overseas posts, including Saudi Arabia, will work cooperatively with U.S. consular officials to promote homeland security in the visa process.
Immigration fraud poses a severe threat to national security and public safety because it enables terrorists, criminals, and illegal aliens to gain entry and remain in the United States. ICE's goal, in conjunction with CIS, is to detect, combat, and deter immigration fraud through aggressive, focused, and comprehensive investigations and prosecutions. The $25 million FY 2005 budget request will provide stable funding to ICE's benefits fraud program by replacing funding previously provided through the Examinations Fee Account.
The Institutional Removal Program is designed to ensure that aliens convicted of crimes in the U.S. are identified, processed, and, where possible, removed prior to their release from a correctional institution. The FY 2005 budget request of $30 million will further ICE's plans to expand the program nationally to all Federal, State, and local institutions that house criminal aliens, while ensuring more efficient processing and case management.
Fifty million dollars are requested to continue the implementation of the National Fugitive Operations Program, established in 2002, which seeks to eliminate the existing backlog and growth of the fugitive alien population over the next six years.
Eleven million dollars have been requested in the FY 2005 budget to establish non-traditional family and female detention settings and establish community supervision operations. The premise for this initiative is that the effective control of persons released into the community during immigration proceedings or while awaiting removal will stem the growth of the fugitive population.
From FY 2001 to FY 2002, the number of cases filed in Immigration Court increased by more than 8000. During that same period, the number of unresolved cases rose by nearly 40,000. To keep pace with the increased number of cases and help eliminate the backlog, additional attorneys and support staff are required. Six million dollars are sought in the FY 2005 budget to increase the program staffing and help address the increased workload.
Adequate detention space has long been considered a necessary tool to ensure effective removal operations. An increase in bed space to accommodate a higher volume of apprehended criminal aliens results in a significantly higher appearance rate at immigration proceedings. When final orders of removal are issued, this will result in a greater number of removals and fewer absconders. With the $5 million request, ICE will enhance its ability to remove illegal aliens from the United States.