Homeland Security Chairman to PJM on Immigration: First Step Is Admitting You Have a Problem

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said the Obama administration should process the millions of applications submitted by legal immigrants before reviewing those filed by illegal immigrants.

According to the State Department, there are 4.42 million legal immigrants waiting for United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to process their applications.

“Our committee’s top priority is looking at the immigration issue starting with border security. We’ve had our sixth hearing. I think we’ve had about three different roundtables really trying to lay out, again, the first step to solving any problem is admit you have one, which first involves laying out the reality and properly defining the problem,” Johnson told PJ Media during a discussion about the Heritage Foundation’s Red Tape Rising report.

“This is an incredibly complex issue, specifically with what you’re talking about, it puts a finger on a big part of the problem – because we have so many illegal immigrants, because we have a president that knows no constitutional constraints, putting in front of legal immigrants, processing benefits and those types of things for illegal immigrants, I mean, just understand how grossly unfair that is,” he added.

The Obama administration has requested the U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans lift a lower-court order preventing the president’s executive actions to grant legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants from taking effect.

Johnson said the Obama administration has declared it will not consider any immigration reform that does not include a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants. He also mentioned that Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson informed the committee that DHS does not have full “situational awareness” of the border.

Johnson explained that he supports a step-by-step approach to immigration reform, which would include processing the backlog of legal immigration applications.

“I understand the reality of the situation. I know how complex it is but based on that reality would you at least then work with us on a step-by-step basis -- I mean, I come from a manufacturing background, I understand about continuous improvement, I’ll take the step-by-step improvement in our process, that would be a really good first step – let’s process legal immigrants first, it’s only fair to do so,” he said.

“But again, we have very little control other than holding hearings, highlighting the issue, again, you’ve done a very good job of highlighting how grossly unfair that is, to create the political pressure to really force the administration to respond.”

Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), a member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, agreed with Johnson.

“We should always process legal applications before we process illegal ones,” he said. “Those that are in the queue need to be processed.”

According to the Heritage Foundation’s Red Tape Rising report, the Bush administration put new regulations in place that totaled $30.7 billion annually, while the Obama administration has imposed new regulations that cost $78.9 billion annually.

Johnson said the healthcare bill was roughly 80,000 words when it passed out of Congress, but as of last year the law’s regulations totaled 12 million words.

“It kind of gives you a sense of the problem we are in,” he said.

In Johnson’s view, the increase in regulations is a bipartisan problem driven by a desire to grow government whenever a problem arises.

“Private sector verses government: it has the same motivation. The private sector wants to grow and so does government. The difference is in the private sector you actually have to succeed,” he said. “You have to produce a product and service that people value at a cost less than you can sell it – again, hard to do but in government, think about it, failure makes you grow. Just never quite fixed that problem? Just keep demanding more money and government continues to grow.”

Lankford told the audience Congress has to take back their responsibility to legislate from the regulatory agencies.

Lankford said he heard a Democratic congressman argue that more regulations are good for the economy since they require companies to hire compliance officers.

“I thought I have left the planet and have traveled to a new planet where I am a stranger in a foreign land,” he told the audience.

Johnson pointed out that a number of studies have concluded that annual regulatory compliance costs are near $2 trillion.

“Let me put it in perspective for you, only 10 economies in the world are larger than $2 trillion,” he said. “That’s what we are burdening job creators with in this nation.”