WASHINGTON–Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., Thursday applauded the Senate’s approval of an amendment to stop the privatization of 1,100 Immigration Information Officers at the Department of Homeland Security. The amendment to the 2005 Homeland Security Appropriations bill – introduced by Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and co-sponsored by Lieberman – was approved by a vote of 49-to-47 Wednesday evening. The House has passed the same provision.
“This is a victory for more than 1,000 hard-working federal employees who could have been out of their jobs and replaced by private contractors for no good reason,” Lieberman said. “I do not oppose contracting out federal work in some cases, but these employees conduct work essential to core governmental functions and vital to our national security.” The Immigration Information Officers conduct criminal background checks and screen immigration applications for fraud. In June, Lieberman led other ranking Democrats – including Leahy; Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Ranking Member Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.; and Appropriations Ranking Member Robert Byrd, D- W.Va. – in presenting Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge with evidence that plans to subject the Immigration Information Officers’ jobs to competition were ill considered. Documents obtained from DHS and other evidence showed that officials of the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services determined the competition should not be held while the department and the immigration services agency were undergoing major reorganizations. BCIS officials also determined the competition would not lead to greater efficiency, and that the job functions of the information officers had not been properly classified for possible privatization. “The concerns of the Department’s experienced immigration agency officials were rejected by DHS leadership,” the Senators wrote. “Evidence indicates that their focus may instead have been at least partly on achieving numerical government-wide quotas which Congress had expressly prohibited.” Last September, Lieberman authored a letter to Ridge signed by Leahy, Kennedy, Byrd and 30 other Senators opposing the competition, suggesting it was designed to fulfill the Administration’s drive to privatize work performed by federal employees. The Senators said the competition could potentially compromise the nation’s security and cause yet more delays in the immigration process. In a separate letter dated October 22, Lieberman, Leahy, Kennedy and Byrd questioned Ridge on the Department’s reliance on outside consultants in structuring the competition.