Two Republican House members, both former prosecutors, said at a Capitol Hill hearing Thursday that White House immigration policies are contributing to low morale at Homeland Security.
The comments came as Reps. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina and Ken Buck of Colorado questioned federal officials at a House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Government Operations hearing titled "The Worst Places to Work in the Federal Government." Lawmakers were going over the results of a recent federal employee survey that ranked worker satisfaction at all government agencies. Homeland Security, with 240,000 employees, ranked last, 19th out of 19, in the category of largest federal agencies.
Buck asked Catherine Emerson, the chief human capital officer for the agency, if administration policies that require law enforcement professionals to ignore immigration law contributes to low morale.
"I have worked with a number of immigration agents," said Buck, a former Weld County district attorney, "and they feel like they are a racehorse that is being kept in the stable. They never get out to engage."
Gowdy, himself a former district attorney and federal prosecutor, echoed the Colorado freshman's comments.
"I can tell you every time I go home, and I talk to the women and men who are still in law enforcement, nothing would diminish their morale quite like being asked to do the opposite of what they signed up to do."
Republicans have argued since the president announced late last year his executive actions on immigration — including the deferment of deportations of illegal immigrants — that the White House actions are an unconstitutional.
Democrats have defended the president's action as a necessary and inevitable response to Congress' inability to move legislation addressing the nation's broken immigration system.
The president's point man on immigration, Homeland Security Director Jeh Johnson, did not appear before the subcommittee, but the hearing's provocative title apparently caught his eye, and he was on Capital Hill Thursday meeting with lawmakers on the morale issue.
"When I see subcommittee hearings entitled 'Worst Places to Work,' at which one of my people is called as a witness, I want to personally get in there and say we are on an aggressive campaign to improve morale," the secretary told Politico .