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Customs commissioner neglected to file forms on household employees

By Ed O'Keefe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 14, 2010; A14

Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Alan D. Bersin said Thursday he didn't know he's required by law to file paperwork verifying that his household employees were authorized to work in the United States.

Bersin told senators that he and his wife tracked the immigration status of a nanny, house cleaners and babysitters "on a piece of paper that was on file in our home."

"No employee ineligible to work in the United States has ever worked in our household," Bersin said. "No employee who has worked in our household has not had taxes paid for."

According to a memo by the Senate Finance Committee, Bersin has employed 10 household employees since 1993 and failed to complete I-9 forms for all of them. The I-9 form is issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which shares immigration enforcement responsibilities with CBP and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

President Obama nominated Bersin in September and issued a recess appointment for him and 14 other nominees in March. Obama said all of the nominees would remain in the Senate for confirmation.

The Finance Committee considered Bersin's nomination Thursday, but Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) told Bersin that his failure to file the paperwork was "unacceptable."

"Part of the agency's responsibilities is to secure our borders. To credibly enforce the law, you must first follow the law," Baucus said, adding later that Bersin's term "will expire at the end of the next session." Nominees installed during a congressional recess serve until the end of the next congressional session, meaning Bersin's term will expire in late 2011 if the Senate does not confirm him.

Bersin previously served as Obama's U.S.-Mexico border czar, advising Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on border security matters. The former California education secretary, San Diego schools superintendent and private-practice lawyer also served as a U.S. attorney during the Clinton administration. He maintains the full support of the White House.

"Mr. Bersin has responded honestly and candidly to all questions from Committee staff," White House spokesman Nicholas Shapiro said in an e-mail. "He has displayed the integrity and forthrightness that have been hallmarks of his career in government, academia, and the private sector."

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