A key House member Thursday morning challenged officials of the Department of Homeland Security for recently catching 28 “known, confirmed illegal immigrants using false documents” during a raid in Washington state and then awarding 24 of them with work permits.
“Questionable enforcement practices such as these send a decidedly mixed message and effectively put illegal immigrants at the front of the employment line,” said Rep. Hal Rogers, Kentucky Republican and ranking minority member of the House Appropriations subcommittee on homeland security.
The raid last month at a Yamato Engine plant in Bellingham, Wash., was conducted by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers, and a review of the raid was ordered by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.
The Bellingham Herald reported that the majority of the illegal immigrants were released with documents advising them “that per the assistant United States attorney assigned to this case, all persons involved with the Yamato Engine Specialists … should be afforded the benefit of deferred action and an employment authorization document, valid for the duration of this case.”
However, Rep. David Price, North Carolina Democrat and chairman of the panel, said in his prepared remarks for the hearing that ICE officials have informed him that this is not a new policy.
“As part of its investigation, ICE has employed a long-standing law enforcement tactic by granting ‘temporary immigration status’ to certain individuals, which does not permanently change the status of these immigrants; it is a tactic utilized in many past investigations and does not represent any change in work-site enforcement policy,” Mr. Price said.
“One of our ICE witnesses, Director Marcy Forman, will address these issues further in her testimony. However, I want to make it clear we must be careful not to compromise an on-going investigation by drawing unnecessary attention to an authorized and routine DHS law enforcement tactic,” Mr. Price said.
Ms. Forman is director of ICE investigations. Also testifying at this morning’s hearing is David Venturella, executive director of the ICE Secure Communities program.
Mr. Rogers did not accept the agency’s response that such tactics are standard methods of operation for immigration officials.
“This doesn’t make it any less alarming, and needless to say, I have several concerns with this approach. This policy affects every law-abiding citizen in America and is an apparent slap in the face for those who are struggling every day in this economic downturn,” Mr. Rogers said.
“And, in the midst of a turbulent economic downturn, perhaps now is the absolute worst time to relax any effort that protect American workers from fraud — be it illegal imports or a job unlawfully filled,” Mr. Rogers said.