Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano testified at the Senate Judiciary Committee's oversight hearing of the Department of Homeland Security on May 6, 2009. Part of the Department's overall strategy includes securing the borders and enforcing immigration laws, both of which are important immigration issues. Following are the highlights of Secretary Napolitano's testimony on these important immigration issues.
EB-5 Investor Visa: Senator Leahy asked the Secretary if she would support legislation making the EB-5 Regional Center Program permanent. Napolitano said she would support the principle of making the legislation permanent but would want to see the actual legislation. Because investment dollars leads to jobs and stability, "That approach would make sense," she said.
Bellingham Raid: Senator Sessions brought up the February raid of a manufacturing plant in Bellingham, WA. At the time, Napolitano had ordered a full review of the raid that ended with the arrests of 28 undocumented workers. During today's hearing, Napolitano explained that the existing communication process had not occurred so she had not been made aware of the raid before it happened. She took some heat from Sen. Sessions who said that Napolitano's comments and actions sent a message to her agents that they should not do workplace raids in the future. Napolitano said this wasn't what she had intended, that she simply wanted the agents to follow existing protocols and make the proper notifications.
Immigration System Overhaul: Senator Kohl asked the Secretary her opinion of the basic principles that should guide the overhaul of the immigration system. Napolitano offered three:
- A strong and effective enforcement strategy that is sustained over time, which is not just at the border but includes the country's interior;
- A need to re-examine the entire visa system: how we award visas, criteria, how long or how many or granted; and
- Congress needs to address the undocumented people already in the United States, many of whom have been here for a number of years.
Visa Waiver Program: Senator Feinstein asked Napolitano what steps are she is taking to track those who enter the United States through the visa waiver program, and if they have left or overstayed. The Secretary explained that ESTA has been implemented to deal with the issue from an air travel standpoint. A number of carriers are already using it and it is increasing weekly and the process will only get better. Land travel, however, remains an issue. Napolitano directed the question back to Senator Feinstein asking, "What can we do as a nation to solve that problem?"
The DREAM Act: Senator Durbin asked Secretary Napolitano her opinion of the DREAM Act. She pointed out that she supported the DREAM Act as governor of Arizona and supports it now. She told the committee that one of the most moving things that she has been able to do as Secretary is administer the Oath of Citizenship. Napolitano believes that the DREAM Act is a good piece of legislation and a good idea.
The full hearing can be viewed on the Committee's website via archived webcast.