- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 27, 2006

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) still isn’t ready to handle a massive guest-worker program, even though President Bush and the Senate are pushing for one to be part of any immigration-enforcement bill, a former agency official will tell lawmakers today.

“An administrative and national-security nightmare already exists at USCIS,” Michael Maxwell, who until this year ran the agency’s internal affairs division, will testify, according to a copy of his prepared statement obtained by The Washington Times. “Implementation of the Senate bill would codify the nightmare and ensure that the criminals, terrorists and foreign intelligence operatives who have already gamed our immigration system are issued legal immigration documents and allowed to stay permanently.”

Mr. Maxwell will appear before the House Judiciary Committee’s immigration subcommittee, which is examining whether terrorists would be able to exploit a guest-worker program run by USCIS.

House Republican leaders are using committee hearings to poke holes in the Senate’s immigration bill, and today will announce 19 more hearings for August and early September, staged throughout the country. The hearings are designed to examine the problems with current enforcement and look at whether the Senate bill would overload health care systems in the Southwest, cause state and local budgets to balloon and repeat mistakes that everyone agrees were made in the 1986 amnesty.

House leaders hope the hearings boost chamber Republicans’ preferred approach, which says the borders should be secured and interior enforcement stepped up before a guest-worker program can be considered and illegal aliens granted citizenship.

“Border security is an issue of national security,” said House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican. “The Democrats support a plan for open borders and amnesty. Their plan is just plain unacceptable.”

Today’s hearing before the immigration subcommittee will also look at whether USCIS can handle the additional workload that the Senate bill would place on it. The subcommittee says the Senate bill would force the agency to process 10 million applications from illegal aliens seeking legal status within 90 days.

Mr. Maxwell will testify that USCIS also is subject to rampant corruption and puts customer service at a higher priority than national security.

USCIS Director Emilio T. Gonzalez, who was sworn in at the beginning of this year, has disputed Mr. Maxwell’s charges, saying he has put a new emphasis on national security at the agency. He also says the agency is working to evaluate the rate of fraud and to correct problems.

Mr. Gonzalez has acknowledged that the Senate bill’s 90-day period for registering illegal aliens for legal status doesn’t give his agency enough time to get ready.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff will also testify before the House Appropriations Committee today on border security.

c Charles Hurt contributed to this report.

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