Obama: Illegal Immigrant Scourge?
By: Stephen Dinan and Audrey Hudson
Washington Times | Monday, February 02, 2009
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano pledged Thursday to create a database network aimed at deporting immigrant criminals after their jail time rather then releasing them onto U.S. streets, though the administration also put off implementing a Bush-era effort to crack down on illegal-immigrant workers.
An estimated 450,000 U.S. jail inmates were in the country illegally when they committed crimes, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), but no communication system alerts federal officials when these criminals are released, so they can be picked up on immigration charges or housed until they can be deported. The long-term plan is to create a communication system between federal immigration officials and state and local detention centers.
"That sounds very simple, but it's historically not been done," Miss Napolitano told the Associated Press and senior ICE officials Thursday.
Miss Napolitano's intentions drew praise from the National Immigration Forum, which advocates for stronger border controls.
"Napolitano´s job is to keep America safe, which includes deporting serious criminals, and she´s right to make sure that there is a fair process for determining who should get deported. It's a tough balance and we´re glad she wants to get it right," said Douglas G. Rivlin, the forum's spokesman.
Miss Napolitano also said she will examine existing rules to ensure taxpayers are getting what they pay for in terms of immigration enforcement.
However, the Obama administration also Thursday delayed putting into effect the E-Verify program, which will require federal contractors to check their employees' legal work status against a government database - a key element in President Bush's border-security plans.
Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, questioned the timing of the decision, as lawmakers are grappling with a stimulus package on Capitol Hill to secure new jobs for Americans.
"It is ironic that at the same time President Obama was pushing for passage of the stimulus package to help the unemployed, his administration delayed implementation of a rule designed to protect jobs for U.S. citizens and legal workers: the requirement that federal contractors use E-Verify," Mr. Smith said.
"U.S. citizens and legal immigrant workers should not have to compete with illegal immigrants for employment," Mr. Smith said. "We should preserve these increasingly scarce jobs for them. Anything else is an affront to U.S. citizens and legal immigrant workers."
After failing to win a broad immigration agreement, Mr. Bush signed an executive order requiring federal contractors to use E-Verify, the computerized Social Security number database that businesses can query to see whether their workers are authorized to work in the U.S.
The decision pushes the deadline for contractors to use the system back from Feb. 20 to May 21.
Bill Wright, Citizenship and Immigration Services spokesman, which operates the system, said the Obama administration wanted to review the rule before it goes into effect.
"The Department of Homeland Security remains committed to implementing the E-Verify electronic employment verification system, which is free, voluntary, and represents the best means available for determining employment eligibility of new hires and the validity of their Social Security numbers," Mr. Wright said.
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