The Senate Judiciary Committee (SJC) is well into the markup process for the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Border Enforcement Act (S. 744). The committee has already held two meetings and voted on over 50 of the 250+ proposed amendments offered by committee members.
Predictably, the anti-immigrant movement is watching these markup meetings closely. NumbersUSA is live blogging the meetings and offering analysis for readers. Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) President, Dan Stein, made himself available for press comment after the SJC’s first meeting last week. The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) has made perhaps the most notable presence at the meeting. One of its staff members is serving as counsel to the SJC.
That staff member is Janice Kephart, former Director of National Security Policy at CIS. Since the beginning of the year, CIS has listed Kephart as a National Security Fellow on its website. Kephart is no stranger to the SJC or Congress. She has previously served as counsel to the SJC and testified before Congress many times in hearings on immigration. Most recently, she testified before the Committee on April 22 in a hearing on S. 744 alongside anti-immigrant colleagues Steven Camarota of CIS and ICE Union President Chris Crane. CIS Executive Director Mark Krikorian also testified before the SJC on a panel earlier in the day.
Kephart is currently serving as Special Counsel to the SJC on a “limited, special assignment.” Given her ties to anti-immigrant movement, it makes sense that she has most often been seen at the mark up meetings behind Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL). Video of the hearings has shown Kephart giving notes and speaking to the Alabama Senator either directly before or after he would launch into his rambling, obstructionist tactics to unnecessarily delay meeting proceedings. Sessions has drawn the frustration of many SJC members including Chairman Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT) who expressed his relief at one point during the May 14 meeting when Sessions stopped reading newspaper articles to the rest of the Committee that were only tangentially related to the topic at hand.
It was revealed that Kephart would be serving this role as counsel during a May 1 episode of Frank Gaffney’s anti-Islam/-Muslim Secure Freedom Radio. Gaffney’s ties to CIS and others in the anti-immigrant movement make it more believable that Kephart would be a source of his for immigration information. During the program, Kephart unsurprisingly continued to echo CIS’ deceptive data detailing a supposed 500% increase in border crossings and helped Gaffney reaffirm his beliefs that S. 744 – which calls for greatly increased border security measures – will in fact make America less secure.
It’s expected for an extremist like Frank Gaffney to get information from sources like Kephart. It should not, however, be acceptable for those sources to be influencing debate – even if only for a fringe member or two of Congress like Sessions – on legislation.
Fortunately, other members of the SJC seem to realize this as well. Sen. Sessions’ and his obstructionist efforts have wasted a lot of everyone’s time, but ultimately have “been pushed to the margins of the debate.”