DHS Secretary Napolitano’s Statements Before the House Homeland Security Committee

On 02/25/09, the House Homeland Security Committee held a full committee hearing entitled "DHS: The Path Forward". Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, was the only scheduled witness at the hearing.

Below is an unofficial transcript of Secretary Napolitano's statements about ICE workplace enforcement raids in response to a question from Rep. Lofgren (D-CA):

"Lofgren: I want to raise one issue today and I don't expect that you will know the answer since I just found out about it and you may have not known about it either. Although immigration policy and non border enforcement are primarily the jurisdiction of the Judiciary Committee, I want to raise this today to avoid another appearance by you or someone else. The Constitution and Immigration and Nationality Act require that the government have a reasonable ground to suspect that a person is not in the US legally before that person is detained. There has been concern that this requirement has not always been adhered to in the past number years. Yesterday and I think this is first time in the Obama Administration, I am advised by reports as well as the Seattle Times that ICE agents raided a small company in Bellingham, WA. 75 ICE agents in riot gear at 9 am raided a plant and detained 126 workers mostly US citizens and held them for a number of hours. I am concerned- obviously we need to enforce our laws and no one disagrees but there is concern that Americans have been held in past years for many hours against their will and this doesn't seem to comport with the law or constitution. If you have something to say now or want to research it, I certainly understand. I want information on that specific instance and what our efforts have been to ensure that as we enforce the law, we work within law.

Napolitano: I was briefed early this morning about this and I didn't know about it beforehand. So, I've asked a number of questions about what was the predicate for this? There are a lot of allegations going around- were there 70 were there 40 was it 30? What were they wearing? Early allegations that helicopters were used and they were not. But I want to get to the bottom of this as well and I already issued those directives to get me some answers. Let me close with this: In my view, we have to do workplace enforcement and it needs to be focused on employers who intentionally and knowingly exploit the illegal labor market. That impacts American workers, has an impact on wage levels and often has an impact on the workers themselves. Our ICE efforts should be focused on those kinds of things. We should have thought through prosecutions that are going to result and deportations that result from any workplace action. That is the direction we seek to move."

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 09022572.