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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
Secretary Napolitano: Well, thank you, and it's a delight to be here today. And I'll make a presentation here in just a minute. But I do want to say something.
This, what we are doing, is supporting an emergency food and shelter program that actually gets distributed through state boards across the country, with the auspices of the United Way to local agencies, charities, faith-based organizations, that help people with their basic needs. It can be food. It can be a utility bill. It can be a one-time housing payment—all sorts of things to help people who just need a bit of assistance to get through this very economically tough time. And we know the demand is up because the economy is down. And so there's a cause-and-effect relationship there.
So the Congress, over the past, has appropriated $200 million a year to FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] to help with these sorts of emergency needs that are distributed through the emergency food and shelter program to United Way, to agencies across the country. This year in the stimulus bill, the Congress saw fit to add monies to that, recognizing that these funds go primarily to areas that have higher unemployment than you would otherwise think. And of course, people who have suddenly lost their job and didn't expect to, obviously they particularly may need—may need, like I said, some bridge help, some short-term help to get them through a very tough time.
And so it's my pleasure today—we have printed up here a little check. They've already got the first 200 [$200 million].
Mr. Gallagher: That's right. That's right.
Secretary Napolitano: So we'd like to add another $100 million—
Mr. Gallagher: Excellent.
Secretary Napolitano: —to the Emergency Food and Shelter National Board Program for distribution across the United States to help people who, as you said, Brian, many of them now have never needed help before and don't even know how to ask for help.
Mr. Gallagher: Exactly.
Secretary Napolitano: And so that's where the 2-1-1 centers come in so handy because it's easy to remember 2-1-1.
Mr. Gallagher: Exactly.
Secretary Napolitano: And then 2-1-1 centers themselves have extensive linkages throughout the various communities that they serve, and can help people get to where they need to go. So—this isn't the real check, by the way.
Mr. Gallagher: I can't take this to my ATM?
Secretary Napolitano: No, no. But you can hang it up. And I know that at the United Way, which is an umbrella organization which provides such great work in so many different areas, will really make sure those monies are spent wisely. So thank you.
Mr. Gallagher: Right. We will. Thank you, Secretary. We really appreciate it. Thank you. And I think we're open for any questions.
Question: Will any of this money be available if there is a natural disaster such as a hurricane or tornadoes or flooding?
Secretary Napolitano: There will be other monies available. We have—when there's a natural disaster like that, we have other monies to FEMA to deal with those recovery issues. So this is really for this purpose and this purpose alone.
Question: Do you have any numbers, any statistics on how the need, this need, has increased nationwide, and maybe any states that have been hit harder?
Secretary Napolitano: Well, I think—I think the best statistic is the demand on the call centers. It's up—what did you say, 40-some-odd—
Mr. Gallagher: Forty-four. Forty-four percent.
Secretary Napolitano: Forty-four percent. And we moved here recently from the West; I can say that that would not surprise me. That's not atypical. So it's substantial. And everything we can do to help, we're all in this together. So let's, you know, lock our arms and get through this together. And we're all grateful to the Congress and the President for making sure that this kind of money got included in the stimulus bill.
Mr. Gallagher: I think the other thing that we're seeing across the country is it's—kind of the breadth of folks who are calling has expanded, that this is—however we would define middle income, middle class, so many more people across the country are now dealing with issues that they haven't dealt with before. So the increase is up dramatically in call volume. But it's everywhere from, I can't make the next rent payment, and that might be a family living in poverty or close to poverty, to middle income folks who can't make the next mortgage payment, and for the first time having to—having to struggle with that.
So the demand is certainly up, and I think kind of the breadth of the issue has expanded, that, you know, people are—more and more people are hurting across all kind of bands, if you will.
Question: Are there any insurance that this money is going to be here to help American citizens who have lost their jobs rather than people who are here illegally?
Secretary Napolitano: These monies get distributed out. They 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.
Question: Talking about immigration, do you have any comments on the article in the New York Times this morning about the President possibly starting to seek a way to immigration reform as soon as this summer?
Secretary Napolitano: Well, I think, you know, when the—the President and the Congress, I think both of them have in mind at the appropriate time to take up the issue of immigration. So in the Department of Homeland Security, of course, all the immigration enforcement agencies are there, and we continue to work to enforce the law in a smart way, an effective way. But we also will have some material, some knowledge to share with the President and the Congress when they're ready to take it up.
Question: During your confirmation hearing, you said that one of your ways that you would deal with illegal immigration was through workplace enforcement.
Secretary Napolitano: Uh-huh.
Question: But there's also a movement out there to stop any kind of workplace raids. How would you crack down on workplace employers if not using the raids?
Secretary Napolitano: Well, there are lots of ways, and we're, you know, very close to issuing guidance to the field—prioritizing within the worksite enforcement—but let me begin from the beginning.
A lot of the illegal immigration we've seen is economic in nature. People came for jobs. Now, they're not coming in as great numbers right now because the jobs simply aren't here. But nonetheless, we have—we have many employers who are intentionally hiring illegal labor. They're 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. But we want to make sure we're 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 the workers is one. I-9 audits are another. There's a whole host of things that can be done to put those cases together.
But it seems to me that when we're 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 the illegal immigration.
All right. Thank you all very much.