As I wrote last week, the Department of Homeland Security is almost certainly headed for a partial shutdown. The
funding that was authorized for the agency in December as part of the Cromnibus spending bill runs out at the end of the month. Restrictionist Republicans had thought they could leverage the DHS funding issue to kill President Obama's "executive amnesty" – their misleading term for a three-year reprieve from deportation for some undocumented aliens that does not lead to a path to legalization. But they have hit a Democratic wall. Three times last week, Dems used Senate filibuster rules to prevent even a procedural vote on the funding bill till Republicans stripped their "anti-executive amnesty" amendments from it. But the Republican leadership cannot get the restrictionists to knock it off without triggering a revolt against itself. And with Congress in recess all of next week, it gives Republicans less than eight days to get their act together, which they are in no way, shape or form close to doing.
But regardless of where anyone stands on Obama's use of his executive authority, many DHS functions and programs range from the ridiculous to the downright evil. And the longer they stay suspended, the more freedom-loving people should cheer.
Here are four in ascending order of awfulness.
One: Scaling Back DHS's Disastrous Disaster Preparation Efforts
As the Fiscal Times reported last November, this $$40 billion agency has not lacked for examples of fiscal mismanagement and lax oversight. It had cost overruns of "only" $1.5 billion on its new D.C. headquarters. It handed $8.7 million a year in unearned employee overtime
Worse, the agency's core disaster preparedness and recovery programs are riddled with waste and bloat. Two years ago, a GAO review found that DHS's FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) issues grants worth $20 billion through four programs to help states and municipalities recover quickly from a terrorist incident. But the problem, it said, was that these programs "share similar goals, fund similar projects, and provide funds in the same geographic regions." Further, "DHS's award process for some programs bases decisions on high-level, rather than specific, project information…and FEMA has not determined all of its specific data requirement. As FEMA determines these requirements, it will be important to collect the level of information needed to compare projects across grant programs."
Translation: FEMA doesn't know what the hell it is doing. It randomly throws billions of dollars at local communities without any effort at coordination between its various programs. Furthermore, it can't tell whether these programs are actually doing what they are supposed to – enhancing local security and response—and it has no way of finding out.
If DHS funding remains in suspension long enough, the agency might, just might, be prodded to rationalize its programs, eliminating at least some small amount of duplication and waste.
Two: Suspending "Voluntary" E-Verify
Restrictionist Republicans, who allegedly belong to a party that hates business-thwarting regulations and red tape, want to beef up "interior enforcement" by turning E-verify from a "voluntary" to a mandatory program. This would make it illegal for employers to hire anyone – foreigner or American – without first checking their work eligibility against a federal database that screws up 4 percent of the time.
But, ironically, by shutting down the DHS, restrictionists will temporarily suspend even "voluntary" E-verify—which would be just as well because the program is voluntary only in the sense that Tony Soprano's deal to offer you protection or burn down your house is voluntary given that businesses that don't use it risk federal workplace raids to hunt down undocumented workers.
Three: Harassing Fewer Non-Criminal Undocumented Workers
The DHS maintains 34,000 detention beds to house non-criminal undocumented workers pending their deportation at an annual cost of $2 billion to taxpayers. The conditions in these facilities are often abusive and deplorable. When sequester cuts two years ago slashed the agency's budget, it released several thousand of them to go and await deportation with their families. That's not only more humane but also more cost effective. But, of course, restrictionists were up-in-arms given that many released workers could disappear never to be caught again. However, anyone who believes that the government shouldn't be imprisoning people whose only sin is working for willing employers to produce cheap goods and services for Americans ought to celebrate.
Four: Halting the Spread of the Brutal Criminal Alien Removal Initiative (CARI)
Just as the War on Drugs is inimical to freedom, so is the escalating War on Immigrants. A restrictionist regime, just as a prohibitionist one, is simply incompatible with a free society because, inevitably, the need for ever-more aggressive policing and law enforcement would trump constitutional protections for individuals.
Nowhere is this more evident than with the DHS's new CARI program that has been rolled out in a few test communities. Under it, notes Prerna Lal, an immigration attorney, agents engage in rampant profiling of Latinos at grocery stores, parks, churches and other public places.
Here is how it works in New Orleans, one of the frontier communities for this brutal program that restrictionists aspire to make the national norm: ICE agents go and park themselves outside a Latino neighborhood or building and indiscriminately – without probable cause – start "stopping and frisking" people as they enter or exit. Any individual that poses the slightest resistance, talks back or refuses to answer ICE's questions is handcuffed and held in a police van as their fingerprints are run through a federal database. Sometimes the wait can run into hours. Anyone who turns out to be out-of-status is taken into custody and deportation proceedings launched. Immigrant communities in CARI-active areas live in constant fear of this Gestapo-like effort that ICE agents jokingly call "hunting."
So long as DHS funding remains suspended, Lal notes, the agency won't have money to expand this program. And for that alone, every day the agency stays shut is a boost for liberty – or at least less of a kick in its face!