The Foundry: Last week, government watchdog Judicial Watch issued a report that showed the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) abandoning ordinary background checks due to a surge in amnesty applications as a result of President Obama’s executive action last year.
If DHS cannot manage a few hundred thousand temporary amnesty applications, it is scary to think about how it will handle 10 million or more amnesty applications that would occur as a result of the Senate’s immigration reform bill.
Based on e-mails and documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Judicial Watch’s report revealed that DHS agents were operating under irregular and inconsistent orders on how to manage Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) applications. This resulted in DHS moving in September 2012 to a “lean and light” system of background checks, with only a few randomly selected applications being processed.
Then on November 9, 2012—three days after the re-election of President Obama—the entire agency was told to “put all DACA work on hold until further notice.” Judicial Watch received no other documents indicating how or when DHS resumed background checks—if they have even resumed at all.
Under the Senate’s immigration bill, S. 744, the vast majority of the estimated 11.5 million unlawful immigrants would be given registered provisional immigrant status after passing a background check. This is supposed to ensure that criminal aliens or national security threats are not being allowed to remain in the U.S. DHS, however, would only have six months to prepare for this flood of amnesty applications and background checks.
This is in addition to the many other things that DHS would have to do, including launching new border security plans and enforcement systems, creating and executing a biometric exit system, administering new visas, overseeing new agricultural worker programs, and implementing a brand new employment verification program.
Then add to that the ways in which the executive branch could use its discretion to distort the system. Judicial Watch’s FOIA requests also uncovered the former Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis, actively urging unlawful immigrants to pursue employment. She told workers that “federal laws are very clear and protect all workers equally, whether or not they have papers.” The former Secretary needs a lesson on U.S. immigration and labor laws, because that’s not the way it works.
President Obama’s DACA, Solis’s statement, and countless other actions show that this Administration will enforce immigration laws the way it wants to. Together with the sheer volume of work DHS has to do under S. 744, it doesn’t leave a lot of hope for real background checks.