Things are going from bad to worse at the Bush Department of Homeland Security.
Do not be fooled by DHS chief Michael Chertoff's tough-sounding rhetoric. While the Washington muckety-mucks pay lip service to reforming the nation's broken detention and deportation system, catch-and-release of immigration lawbreakers remains the order of the day -- not only at the border, but all across the country's interior.
The rudderless and overwhelmed U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency still does not have a new chief. Which is just as well since Bush nominee Julie Myers (a nice Bush lawyer with virtually no immigration or customs enforcement experience who happens to be the niece of recently retired chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers/wife of Chertoff's chief of staff/former employee of Chertoff and former colleague of outgoing ICE head Michael Garcia) would provide as much leadership and morale-boosting ability as a pair of junior high pom-poms. Her nomination is still pending.
Meanwhile, as illegal immigration continues unabated, the White House has seen fit to honor the chief of the Border Patrol, David Aguilar, with a presidential "Meritorious Executive" award, which comes with a cash bonus, for his outstanding performance. I kid you not.
It's not much better over at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which administers all immigration benefits, from citizenship applications to asylum requests to work permits, and is responsible for overseeing all amnesty, student visa and marriage visa applicants. The head of the agency, a nice banker named Eduardo Aguirre whose only experience in immigration law was his own personal background as a Cuban refugee, left in June after two years in office to become ambassador to Spain. Aguirre's biography says that under his "leadership," CIS "made significant and measurable progress towards eliminating the immigration benefit application backlog, improving customer service, and enhancing national security."
Mission accomplished? Don't make me laugh.
A new report by the DHS inspector general's office showed that Aguirre's agency has failed miserably to crack down on the estimated 4 million to 8 million foreigners who have overstayed their visas -- a supposed priority in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, which highlighted how lax enforcement against visa overstayers has enabled many al Qaeda operatives to stay in the country.
Of the 301,046 leads the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency received in 2004 on possible visa violators, the inspector general found, only 4,164 were formally pursued, resulting in just 671 apprehensions -- few of which will actually result in deportation.