Congress Is Not Entitled to Its Own Facts

These days there is much noise in Congress about immigration issues, but little listening to the real problems from informed sources.  For instance, the new chair of the House’s Homeland Security Committee, New York’s Peter King, held hearings last week on the so-called radicalization of American Muslims.  Absent, however, was any substantive testimony to prove such a trend.  Instead what we heard was antidotal bloviating, the kind that wouldn’t pass inspection in a high school research paper.

So who aren’t our politicians listening to?  Number one is our own law enforcement officials, including the Police Executive Research Forum which surveyed top police chiefs and sheriffs from Miami to Salt Lake City.  Police Chief Thomas Manger, like many other administrators at ground zero, realizes that unreported crimes in our communities will increase if local law enforcers are tasked with the work of Border Patrol agents; further, witnesses will not testify in court if immigrants do not trust local police and sheriffs. (Julia Preston, “Police Chiefs Wary of Immigration Role”, The New York Times, March 3, 2011.)

Then there is the growing problem of graft and corruption within law enforcement itself that Congress continues to ignore.  James M. Woolsey, recently fired from his position as assistant director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), is, along with several other agents, the subject of an internal investigation.  Mr. Woolsey has been replaced by James M. Chaparro who was himself recently identified as leaking an agency memo in which he outlined a quota strategy after taking over ICE’s detention and removal operations. (Andrew Becker, “Former ICE Intelligence Chief Is among Immigration Agents under Investigation, The Washington Post, Feb. 23, 2011).

This all comes at about the same time as the inspector general for Homeland Security reported that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has developed a computerized paperwork system that easily can be tampered with by employees from within the organization.  (Aliva Sternstein, “IG: Program to Automate Immigration Processing is Vulnerable to Insider Threats”, 02/25/2011,http://www.nextgov.com/nextgov/ng_20110225_1584.php) Under the new computer system in place, employees could grant citizenship or legal residency to potential terrorists.

Given this state of affairs, never more timely is Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s observation that, “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts.” The same applies to Congress. Congressman King should be reminded that repeatedly mouthing personal opinions, and calling selected witnesses who also repeat these same opinions, will never turn these personal opinions into facts.

A Congress driven less by ideology and more by data would not waste its time on so-called radicalized American Muslims, but focus instead upon the wisdom and expertise of police executives throughout the land, real signs of corruption within ICE, and the vulnerability of USCIS computer systems. And let’s not forget Boeing’s corporate greed in constructing the border virtual wall.

Peter King’s committee is wasting its time while legislation to pragmatically resolve our many real immigration issues has not been proposed.  Except, it now appears, in Utah.

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