(CNSNews.com) – Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Thursday could not say whether $100-million in additional funding for a program that helps hungry and homeless people throughout the United States would be used to provide services to people who are in the country illegally.
The Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFSP), which is receiving $100 million in stimulus funds, is a nationwide social service program created by Congress in 1983.
"These monies get distributed to the Salvation Army, they get distributed to the Red Cross, they get distributed to various churches and faith-based organizations that provide services -- and so those are where the dollars go,” Napolitano told CNSNews.com when asked whether any protocol was in place to make sure the funds go to help U.S. citizens who have lost their jobs and are not distributed to illegal immigrants.
The economic stimulus bill -- formally known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act -- was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama on Feb. 17. Under the law, $787 billion will be distributed through various programs nationwide to help stimulate economic growth, the administration says.
Napolitano presented a “check” for the money to Brian Gallagher, president and CEO of United Way of America, in Arlington, Va., on Thursday. They appeared at a call center that is part of a nationwide 2-1-1 program that connects people with resources, including some of the stimulus money.
“Congress over the past has appropriated $200,000,000 a year to (the) Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help with these sorts of emergency needs that are distributed through the Emergency Food and Shelter Program through United Way to agencies across the country,” Napolitano said at the check passing ceremony.
“This year, with the stimulus bill, the Congress saw fit to add to those monies.”
She said the money would provide “short-term help” to people who have lost their job.
“And so, it’s my pleasure today, we have printed up here a little check – you’ve already got the first $200,000,000, right?” Napolitano said. “So we’d like to add another $100,000,000 million to the Emergency Food and Shelter National Board Program for distribution across the United States.”
When asked by CNSNews.com if the money would help people displaced by a natural disaster such as a hurricane or flooding, Napolitano said this money was specifically for people affected by the struggling U.S. economy.
"There’ll be other monies available,” Napolitano said. “When there’s a natural disaster we have other monies for FEMA to deal with those recovery issues. This is really more for this purpose and this purpose alone.”
Napolitano also was asked about the promise she made during her confirmation hearing before Congress to crack down on employers who hire illegal immigrants, given recent requests by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus for an end to workplace raids.
“Well, there are lots of ways and we are very close to issuing guidance to the field, prioritizing within the worksite enforcement,” Napolitano told CNSNews.com. “But let me begin from the beginning. A lot of the illegal immigration we’ve seen is economic in nature. People came for jobs.”
“They’re not coming in as great a number right now because the jobs simply aren’t here,” she said.
“But nonetheless, we have many employers who are intentionally hiring illegal labor,” Napolitano said. “They are using that to underpay workers and not pay fair wages and all the rest. And so, what we have said is we’re going to continue worksite enforcement.”
“You’ve got to deal with the demand side as well as the supply side,” she said. “But we want to make sure we are preparing cases that will allow us to prosecute employers who intentionally and knowingly violate our nation’s immigration laws.”
“And there are lots of ways to assemble that evidence – arrest and deportation of workers is one. I-9 (“right to work” compliance forms) audits are another,” Napolitano said.
“There’s a whole host of things that can be done to put those cases together, but it seems to me that when we are talking about enforcement of our immigration laws at the worksite that we really ought to have some focus on those who are making money off of illegal immigration,” said Napolitano.
Gallagher said that the stimulus funds would be distributed through the United Way and its national partners around the country, including Catholic Charities USA, American Red Cross, Salvation Army, United Jewish Communities, and the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA.
He said 2-1-1 call centers fielded 14 million calls in 2008 and that call volume had increased 44 percent over the previous year.
Napolitano called for unity and praised the Democratic-led Congress and President Barack Obama.
“We’re all in this together, so let’s lock our arms and get through this together,” she said. “We’re all grateful to the Congress, to the president for making sure that this kind of money got included in the stimulus bill.”