Republicans criticize Napolitano for providing “amnesty” to undocumented youth
House Republicans criticized Napolitano for her department’s handling of immigration issues.
By EMILY DERUY
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano sparred with Republican lawmakers in an exhaustive three-hour hearing that ultimately boiled down to whether or not the Department of Homeland Security is allowed to prioritize some immigration cases over others.
Republicans on Thursday dismissed the Obama administration’s effort to prioritize the deportations of criminal undocumented immigrants as a ploy to get around enforcing immigration laws, calling the stance purely political. Napolitano countered that her department has the right, considering limited resources, to prioritize certain cases over others using prosecutorial discretion.
“Immigration removals have been at an all-time high. Just short of 400,000 last year. And what’s more impressive is the makeup of those numbers. For the first time ever, persons with criminal convictions made up more than half of those removals,” Napolitano told members of the House Judiciary oversight subcommittee.
“That completely and totally destroys the constitutional framework of our government,” argued Ben Quayle (R-Ariz.).
According to Napolitano, the department has focused on apprehending and deporting people with criminal records, repeat offenders, and those who have just crossed over the border illegally.
The debate grew heated, at times, with Republicans criticizing Napolitano and the Obama administration for not vetting those admitted to flight training and for offering “amnesty” and “advanced parole” to people who entered the country illegally.
“It’s not amnesty,” Napolitano said. “It’s how do we clear a backlog of non-priority cases, to focus on criminals.”
Ranking member of the committee John Conyers (D-Mich.) touted the idea as a great success.
“The DREAM Act, a conservative-created idea which I support, has been very effective,” Napolitano said, “and young people brought into this country through no fault of their own — and this is popularly accepted among our citizenry — are given…a special way to achieve their dream of citizenship,” he said.
Napolitano said that her department’s decision to focused on working with local, state and tribal officials on enforcing immigration laws has resulted in record numbers of criminals being deported.
“Pursuing removal of young people who came to this country and have called no other country home” should not be a priority, she said.
Napolitano said applications for deferred action — which will allow some undocumented youth to stay in the country — will be accepted beginning August 15. Once the department acknowledges that they have received the completed application, deportation proceedings, Napolitano said, will be halted pending review of the application. More information on applying for deferred action and two-year renewable work permits will be available on August 1.
Republicans criticized her department for saying the southwest border is more secure than it’s been in decades while failing to apprehend a single gun related to the Fast and Furious scandal, and for letting undocumented workers take jobs from American wage earners.
“There are lots of ways to stimulate job creation,” Napolitano said. “But we shouldn’t balance the American economy on the backs of children who were brought here through no fault of their own.”
Democrats came to Napolitano’s defense and espoused the benefits of letting undocumented youth who were raised and educated in the United States stay in the country.
“They were educated here,” Mel Watt (D-N.C.) said. “The notion that we would invest all this money in them and then send them back to a country they have no connection to seems to me to be absolute folly.”
(Photo: screenshot/C-SPAN 3)