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Washington — Chairman Ron Johnson held his second Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC) hearing on Wednesday, Feb. 4, titled “Deferred Action on Immigration: Implications and Unanswered Questions.”

“This hearing is really trying to, in a very honest, very forthright way, lay out the problem ­­­— and what we need to do to try and grapple with the problem,” said Johnson in his opening remarks. “Let me say, to me, the problem starts with the fact that we do not have secure borders.”

“As a result of those borders that are not secure,” Johnson said, “we have literally allowed, we’ve almost enticed people to come into this country illegally.… That’s not good for our national security, for public health and safety, and it certainly does not promote a functioning legal immigration system.”

Referencing President Obama’s executive actions and memorandums that have deferred enforcement of immigration laws, Chairman Johnson asked, “Are those going to help the problem, or is it going to exacerbate the problem?”

Chairman Johnson went on to say he is concerned that the president’s deferred action might actually incentivize illegal immigration, citing the decrease in the proportion of unaccompanied minors who are sent back to their countries of origin after they’re caught trying to enter the United States. “That’s declined from 21.4 and 21.7 percent in 2009, 2010 to only 2.2 percent in the last year, 2014,” Johnson said. “It’s my concern that President Obama’s deferred action now, in this latest round of memorandums, could create that same dynamic: actually increase the incentives for illegal immigration.” 

Witnesses at the hearing were Stephen C. Goss, chief actuary of the Social Security Administration, Eileen J. O’Connor, who previously had prosecuted tax fraud at the U.S. Department of Justice, Luke Bellocchi, the former deputy ombudsman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Shawn Moran, the vice president of the National Border Patrol Council, and Bo Cooper, former general counsel at the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Chairman Johnson later questioned witnesses at the hearing, asking about the extent to which illegal immigrants already are paying taxes and the possibility of document fraud in the president’s deferred action programs. Regarding a key benefit granted to illegal immigrants under the president’s executive actions, he asked, “Why would the administration be issuing permanent Social Security cards for a temporary deferred action program, and what are the implications of those permanent Social Security cards?”

“I find it completely perplexing,” said Eileen O’Connor, whose background is in prosecuting tax fraud for the U.S. Department of Justice. “I have no explanation.” Stephen C. Goss, the chief actuary of the Social Security Administration, noted that as long as the temporary programs remained in force, illegal immigrants granted Social Security numbers under the programs could go on using them.

Chairman Johnson also asked Shawn Moran, an official of the National Border Patrol Council, which represents border agents, about the preparations illegal immigrants in last summer’s surge showed for being granted the ability to stay. “They know the loopholes they can exploit,” said Moran. During the surge, he said, “We had people we had apprehended that had scripts on them. They would recite it and say they had ‘credible fear.’” Those words, said Moran, result in most illegal immigrants being able to stay, at least for a while. “Their end goal of what they wanted, which was to come to America, is now fulfilled at taxpayer expense,” he said. 

Video of  the full hearing here. 

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