TESTIMONY OF MICHAEL W. CUTLER
FOR THE HEARING TO BE HELD ON
BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON IMMIGRATION,
BORDER SECURITY AND CLAIMS
Chairman Hostettler, Ranking Member Jackson Lee, distinguished members of the committee, ladies and gentlemen. I want out to start our by commending Chairman Hostettler’s courageous leadership in the vital area of immigration law enforcement. It is my belief that nothing will have a greater impact on the future of our nation than the way in which we handle this critical issue; consequently I am honored at having been invited to participate in this hearing.
The issue of immigration law enforcement is one that I have been involved with for some 30 years, the length of my tenure at the former INS. I began my career an immigration inspector, was detailed as an immigration examiner- now known as an adjudications officer and then, in 1975 I became a Special Agent.
I am a New Yorker. On
The sights I have mentioned and the smells of the fires that burned for quite some time after the attack will never leave my memory- they will never leave my heart. The look of rage, sadness, fear and pain etched on my neighbors’ faces will stay with me for the rest of my life. The sight of the location we used to refer to as the World Trade Center that we now call, “Ground Zero” continues to trigger in me, and my fellow New Yorkers, a profound sense of loss and grief and anger.
We are constantly reminded that we are in a state of war. Many of our nation’s valiant men and women, many of them scarcely old enough to vote, go in harm’s way as members of our armed services, to help wage a war on terrorism, some of whom return home seriously injured or worse. I laud their bravery. The war effort is also costly in financial terms as well as human terms. But we must match the efforts of our soldiers fighting in distant lands with a commensurate effort within our own borders. The men and women who are responsible for enforcing our immigration laws need to have the resources to do an effective job.
Of late we have heard some people question if the
immigration laws can be enforced. They say that we have tried to enforce the
laws but even with the additional Border Patrol agents now standing watch on
our nation’s borders we still have many millions of illegal aliens living and
working in the
Before the merger of the Immigration and Naturalization
Service with the U.S. Customs Service there were some 2,000 INS Special Agents
enforcing the immigration laws within the interior of the
While only a small percentage of aliens become involved in
serious criminal activity, a large percentage of our criminal population is,
indeed, comprised of aliens. In addition
to terrorists, our nation is plagued by criminal aliens who are involved in
narcotics trafficking, ethnic organized crime organizations, and other areas of criminal activities whose actions result in
many more lives being lost each and every year than were lost in the horrific
attacks of September 11. Half of the
illegal aliens in the
We need many more Border Patrol agents to properly patrol the thousands of miles of borders. As I am sure Mr. Bonner will attest, the job of a Border Patrol Agent is frustrating, and that our agents are put in harm’s way often, only to arrest recidivists repeatedly.
We also need many more adjudications officers and
immigration inspectors to do a more effective job of ensuring that
applications are correctly adjudicated in a timely manner. I have been told that each adjudications
officer is expected to process some 40 applications for benefits each
and every day to get a passing grade on their evaluations. I have also been told that the average
naturalization examiner is expected to process between 20 to 25 applications
Immigration inspectors are expected to determine the
admissibility of an alien applying for admission to the
Consider that Richard Reid, the so-called “shoe bomber” was
traveling on a British passport and would have been exempted from the
requirement of obtaining a visa before applying for entry into the
For years the former INS was plagued by an incredibly high attrition rate. Funds that might have been put to far better use were squandered on a veritable revolving door in which the agency continually recruited and trained qualified young men and women who came to the INS highly motivated to serve their country but who quickly became disillusioned by the inept leadership of the agency and resigned so that they could pursue satisfying careers at other agencies. No one at the INS seemed to care that so many talented and motivated employees were fleeing to other agencies. If we are to run a more cost effective agency, management at ICE, CIS and CBP must be made accountable for the attrition rate of the respective offices to which they are assigned. This would save significant money and result in a more effective and motivated workforce.
Law enforcement relies on the principle of deterrence to provide the most “bang for the buck.” The abysmal reputation that our nation has gained over the past several decades in terms of our ability and determination to enforce the immigration laws deters few if any aliens who would come here, either in violation of our laws or with the intention of violating our laws after they enter our country. It is said you get only one opportunity to make a first impression. The way that we enforce and administer the immigration laws serves as the first impression many people throughout the world have of our nation’s resolve to enforce our laws.
We must do better.
I welcome your questions.