Last Friday, at the U.S. Conference of Mayors , Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson claimed that President Obama’s version of “immigration reform,” that is, amnesty, increased immigration, and promises of future enforcement, is crucial to homeland security. If such promises to secure the border were not just a pretense, the security aspects of an immigration bill might have some positive effect. But on Friday, Johnson claimed that the process of amnesty itself, not just the proposed enforcement measures, would benefit security, because illegal aliens would come “out of the shadows” to become legal. Considering that many acts of terrorism have been carried out by those who were not even “in the shadows,” such as the Tsarnaev brothers, the Times Square bomber, the shooter at the El Al ticket counter at LAX, and the thwarted Fort Dix attackers, to name only a few, the claim that homeland security could be improved in this way is implausible from every perspective.
While he was unclear about how precisely bringing illegal aliens “out of the shadows” would enhance homeland security, most likely Johnson meant to imply this process would allow the government to conduct background checks on the illegal population. However, this expectation falls apart upon scrutiny. First, illegal aliens who pose serious security risks through terrorism or crime are unlikely to step forward if they might be caught by doing so. Any investigations during an amnesty would therefore be at the discretion of the illegal alien, as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has no idea how many there are. Amnesty would only let us find and check those who are willing to be found.
Secondly, in the event of a large scale amnesty, DHS will not be able to conduct a proper background check on the ones who do come forward to be investigated. Federal agencies are already struggling to conduct sufficient background checks necessary for their ordinary operations. Just two days before Johnson’s comments, the Department of Justice (DOJ) demonstrated that the government is failing this struggle when it joined a lawsuit first filed by whistleblowers against U.S. Investigations Services Inc. (USIS). USIS is the federal government’s largest security background checker, used by many federal agencies, including DHS. In their complaint, the DOJ alleged that USIS, the contractor that checked NSA leaker Edward Snowden and the Navy Yard shooter, had defrauded the government of millions of dollars by filing more than 660,000 flawed background checks. USIS allegedly released incomplete background cases to the government and represented them as complete in order to increase their profits. How could a government that allowed such an alarmingly massive security breach to occur be trusted to maintain any semblance of integrity over the background check process in the event of an amnesty for millions of illegal aliens?
Only enforcement will improve homeland security, not legalization of illegal aliens. Johnson in his speech defined DHS’s five core missions as: “guarding against terrorism, securing our borders, enforcing our nation’s immigration laws, safeguarding cyberspace and critical infrastructure in partnership with the private sector, and supporting emergency preparedness and response efforts at every level.” Though he tried, Johnson cannot make a coherent case that amnestying illegal aliens will serve any one of these five missions.
Unfortunately, Johnson also revealed during his speech that he is motivated by considerations other than DHS’s mission. He believes that illegal aliens by their (illegal) presence have “earned the right to be citizens.” DHS could start doing its job of by working on these core missions now, without waiting for an amnesty, if the Administration had the will to do so. As important as the core functions of DHS are, Johnson will continue to hold them hostage until he can grant illegal aliens the benefits he believes they have come to deserve by breaking the law. He should stop adding insult to injury by pretending he wants to do so for the benefit of the American people.