The immigration service isn’t sending enough illegal arrivals home, congressional Republicans complained Thursday, charging that the agency’s $140 million budget increase hasn’t translated into improvement.
While the nation harbors more than 4 million illegal immigrants, with 300,000 to 400,000 more coming in annually, only 50,000 were removed last year.
The Immigration and Naturalization Service expects to remove 62,000 undocumented immigrants this year - an increase of 23 percent.
But House immigration subcommittee chairman Lamar Smith, at a hastily-called hearing of his panel, expressed impatience with the gains. “The problem is getting bigger than our progress,” the Texas Republican said.
He likened the nation’s fight against illegal immigration to “moving steadily backward on a fast-moving treadmill.”
INS general counsel David Martin said the impact of the $140 million increase in his agency’s detention and deportation budget won’t be fully felt until next year, when 1,000 new immigration agents have completed training and are on the job.
Just hours before the subcommittee hearing, INS Commissioner Doris Meissner held a news conference to trumpet her service’s summer worksite enforcement raids at 487 businesses in 13 states.
The raids resulted in the apprehension of 3,679 undocumented immigrants, most of whom were immediately returned to their country of origin.
“We believe that employer enforcement is the critical companion to an effective border enforcement effort,” said Meissner. “You have to try to deter illegal entry at the border, but you must back it up with reducing the job magnet that exists in the United States.”