The Republican who could become chairman of the House Judiciary Committee in January says it's time for an "immediate accounting" of money spent on immigration enforcement.
Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), who is now the committee’s ranking GOP member, is expressing fresh interest in immigration enforcement after new allegations of waste. On Friday, the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security released a 90-page report (PDF) on the so-called 287(g) program, under which state and local authorities can enforce federal immigration laws. The report found, among other things, that immigration officials couldn’t explain all of their travel expenses.
For example, the report says, officials with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spent $6,329 per person for travel related to reviewing 287(g) agreements around the country. By the inspector general’s calculations, the travel should have cost about $2,300 per person, and immigration officials did not supply documentation for the higher number, the report says.
Smith said the situation is unacceptable. “It appears that ICE officials have abused their authority when it comes to 287(g) funds and an immediate accounting before Congress is necessary,” he said in a statement released late Monday.
He added that 287(g) programs are “critical” to immigration enforcement. “We must ensure that federal funds are not squandered by government agencies instead of being directed to law enforcement communities that can help enforce our immigration laws,” Smith said.
If Republicans win control of the U.S. House of Representatives in the Nov. 2 midterm elections, then Smith is likely to become chairman of the Judiciary Committee. Immigration falls within the committee’s jurisdiction, so oversight of the 287(g) program could quickly become a focus of the committee’s work.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security had no immediate reaction to Smith’s comments.