Could Security Worsen with Temp Worker Program?

“The systems that exist right now wouldn’t be able to handle it.”

That’s what current Citizenship and Immigration Services director Emilio Gonzalez said of President Bush’s proposed temporary guest worker program.

He said it last October, before he was confirmed as CIS head. Now he’s got a different line — something out of George Bush’s old cheerleading days. “Can we do it? Yes we can,” he told reporters earlier this month about the administration’s proposal.

There are reasons to doubt his new enthusiasm. Many of them came from Michael Maxwell, Gonzalez’s former chief of investigations, who became so disgusted by the rampant security problems at CIS that he quit his post and blew the whistle to Congress.

Why would Gonzalez strike back? Maxwell had some pretty startling revelations. Among them:– Many immigration officials can’t check national security databases to ensure green card applicants have a criminal history or are tagged on a terrorist watch list.

– CIS has a backlog of over 2,700 internal affairs complaints, over 400 of which are criminal “on their face.”

– One of those complaints was lodged against an attorney the the CIS general counsel’s office — who was asked to write an opinion on whether the complaint against him and others merited attention by investigators.

Those are holes in security big enough to drive a truck through, and that’s just a partial list of what Grassley’s investigators have found. A temporary guest worker program would require CIS to implement a massive system to issue and track visas for millions of part-time residents — and that includes conducting background checks and enforcement.

Remember, CIS is a part of the Department of Homeland Security. Its priority mission is protecting the United States from foreign terrorists and criminals. Has Gonzalez acted on Maxwell’s concerns? He’s asked the DHS Inspector General to look into it. With that kind of urgency, I’d bet he even sent the letter priority mail.

Over at TPM, Josh has raised eloquent questions of whether a temporary guest worker program would fit within our greater national ideals. But given Maxwell’s issues — and the concerns that even the CIS director recently shared — how could such a program work without compromising national security even further?