The requirement that illegal immigrants must come forward and subject themselves to background checks to attain legal status as required under various amnesty proposals likely would not catch criminals, the Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson acknowledged Wednesday.
Speaking before the House Homeland Security Committee, Johnson conceded, under pressure from Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA), that criminals in the country illegally would not voluntarily undergo background checks.
Barletta questioned the DHS secretary about the Obama administration’s pursuit of amnesty in the wake of ongoing concerns about terrorism in the United States and used the convicted 1993 World Trade Center bomber Mahmud Abouhalima as as example of a terrorist who received amnesty in 1986 by claiming to be an agricultural worker.
“I am very focused on knowing as much as we can about individuals who are undocumented in this country and I believe that if an earned path to citizenship were to become law, that would encourage people to come forward and submit to a background check so that they can get on the books,” Johnson said.
Barletta responded by questioning the likelihood that a criminal or terrorist would actually submit to a background check.
Barletta: Do we honestly believe that any would-be terrorist, or criminal, or drug dealer is going to come forward to have a criminal background check done on them? Or are they going to continue to remain underground? Nobody with a criminal record is going to come forward.
Johnson: The more I can learn about the undocumented population in this country, the better. The more effectively we can use our removal resources against the type of person you just described, the better. And so I’m interested in going after public safety, national security threats, in terms of our removal resources. And I want to have a system that more effectively gets to that population.
Barletta: Do you believe that Mahmud Abouhalima would have come forward for a criminal background check in 1993?
Johnson: Most criminals do not subject themselves to criminal background checks. I agree with that.