Sessions: DHS hiding immigration-enforcement data; Update: Comments open

With the Obama White House deep in cover-up mode on the terrorist attack on our consulate in Benghazi, it’s easy to forget that they’re not exactly transparent on the domestic-policy front, either. Senator Jeff Sessions blasted Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano yesterday for ignoring several demands for data on how the administration enforces immigration law.  After Napolitano ignored the latest in a series of deadlines for providing the information, Sessions and three other Republican Senators accused the White House of hiding its willful failure to enforce the law:

Senate Budget Committee ranking member Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said on Tuesday said that the repeated failure of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to provide Congress with information about whether U.S. immigration laws are being adequately enforced is leading him to conclude that DHS is purposefully hiding details about its relaxed enforcement of these laws. …

Sessions and Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) wrote to DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano in August and again in September to provide information about whether this legal requirement is being carried out. In September, they gave her a new deadline of Oct. 1 to reply, but that date came and went on Monday without any response from DHS.

“Given what we already know, and the otherwise inexplicable refusal for DHS to reply to such a simple inquiry, it necessarily suggests that the executive branch is trying to prevent the public from discovering its failure to follow U.S. immigration and welfare law,” Sessions said Tuesday.

This fight began over the summer, when Barack Obama unilaterally decided to stop enforcing immigration law in certain cases that matched up with the aim of his stalled DREAM Act.  Republicans reacted angrily, insisting that the executive branch couldn’t just decide to stop enforcing statutory law passed by Congress on its own whims.  Reports immediately began arising that DHS had simply stopped enforcing immigration law altogether, not just in Obama’s DREAM circumstances, but that’s not the big issue here.  Sessions and the other Senators want to know whether DHS was encouraging visa applicants to enroll in food-stamp and other federal aid programs, which would violate the Immigration and Nationality Act, which forbids immigrants to enter the US if they are likely to become a “public charge” — welfare dependents, in other words.

In August, Republicans demanded data on a broad range of enforcement questions.  Napolitano has stonewalled the Senators for two months, but they have collected information on their own. The Hill spoke to a Sessions aide, who informed them that there doesn’t seem to be any enforcement happening in DHS at all:

This aide told The Hill on Tuesday that the GOP has also learned from the State Department that there were 10 million visa applications in fiscal 2011, and that only 7,000 were denied under the public charge rules. That amounts to a rejection rate of just 0.07 percent, which the aide said seems small given estimates that there are two million visa holders using federal aid programs.

The GOP is also noting a study by the Center for Immigration Studies that said in 2010, 36 percent of “immigrant-headed households” used at least one federal welfare program, significantly more than the 23 percent for citizen-headed households that used these programs. Taken together, Republicans believe that DHS has the data to show that it is allowing people to enter the United States who are likely to use federal programs, but is not sharing it.

With the skyrocketing costs of providing entitlement programs to American citizens, why is DHS encouraging immigrants to stay in the US and enroll in any number of federal-aid programs?  Until Napolitano provides answers to Sessions, we won’t know.

Update: Must have had a stray mouse click turn off the comments; I’ve fixed it now.

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