FAIR Legislative Update August 28, 2013
The Obama Administration has once again used the summer months to issue new policy that circumvents Congress and further expands its prosecutorial discretion policy, which encourages Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to ignore immigration violations by classes of individuals.
This time, the Obama Administration has narrowed the scope of its enforcement activities by ordering ICE agents to refrain from taking into custody illegal aliens who are parents or legal guardians of a minor. (Washington Times, Aug. 23, 2013) Like other prosecutorial discretion directives before it, the latest one came in the form of a policy memorandum, quietly issued Friday by acting ICE Director John Sandweg. (See Morton Memos)
Putting illegal aliens ahead of the safety of the American people, the memorandum states that "ICE personnel should ensure that the agency's immigration enforcement activities do not unnecessarily disrupt the parental rights of both alien parents or legal guardians of minor children." (See ICE memorandum, Facilitating Parental Interests in the Course of Civil Immigration Enforcement Activities, Aug. 23, 2013)
In doing so, the memorandum instructs ICE personnel that in deciding whether to grant prosecutorial discretion, they should pay particular attention to immigration enforcement activities involving three subsets of the illegal alien population:
- parents or legal guardians who are primary caretakers of minor aliens (including minors in the country illegally);
- parents or legal guardians who have a direct interest in family or child welfare proceedings; and
- parents or legal guardians whose minor children are physically present in the U.S. and are citizens or legal permanent residents. (Id.)
If an alien fits into one of the above categories, then ICE personnel are to reevaluate any custody determinations made about the alien and, under certain circumstances, refrain from detaining the alien all together. (Id.) If an alien is detained, then the agency is to ensure they have the ability to communicate and visit with family, and are able to attend "family court or child welfare proceedings." (Id.) In some cases, the agency may facilitate the return into the country of a previously deported alien to attend such proceedings. (Id.)
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) criticized the new policy, calling it an abuse of the President's authority. "President Obama has once again abused his authority and unilaterally refused to enforce our current immigration laws by directing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents to stop removing broad categories of unlawful immigrants," Goodlatte said in a statement released Friday afternoon. "The primary reason why our immigration system is broken today is because our immigration laws have largely been ignored by past and present administrations." (The Hill, Aug. 24, 2013)
On August 16, the Republican National Committee (RNC) passed a resolution officially supporting amnesty and work permits for the 12 million illegal aliens in the country.
The RNC resolution advocates for a special legal status for so-called "DREAMers," illegal aliens who claim to have been brought to the U.S. as minors. Under the proposal (which does not have an age limit for eligibility similar to the version of the DREAM Act contained in the Senate bill), illegal alien minors would receive five-year renewable work permits. (Time, Aug. 16, 2013) The only condition for renewal of this legalized status is "proof of employment or attendance in school." (Id.)
The resolution also calls on Congress to create a two-year renewable work permit for the remainder of the illegal alien population. (Id.) The only eligibility requirements are that illegal aliens register with the government and "have not violated any other laws." (Id.) For renewal, amnestied illegal aliens must demonstrate that they have not been convicted of a crime and maintained continuous employment, defined as no more than two months unemployed during the two year permit period. (Id.)
Read the entire resolution here.
The same day the RNC approved the amnesty resolution, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus insulted true immigration reformers by claiming that a policy of encouraging illegal aliens to voluntarily leave the country, known as "self-deportation," is "horrific." (Business Insider, Aug. 16, 2013) FAIR's president Dan Stein quickly blasted Priebus for his complete abandonment of the rule of law. "Chairman Priebus's assertion that efforts to get people to comply with U.S. immigration laws are ‘horrific' further erodes his credibility as the leader of a national political party," Stein said in a press release. (FAIR Press Release, Aug. 16, 2013) "The only thing that is ‘horrific' about our immigration policy is the abject failure of our political leaders to put the interests of the American people ahead of narrow political and economic interests. Chairman Priebus's statement only reinforces the perception on the part of the American public that the political elite are out of touch with their concerns." (Id.)
Organizing for Action (OFA), the activist spinoff group of President Obama's campaign arm, is ramping up its push for "comprehensive" immigration reform in an unusual way this summer.
With House leadership vowing to only vote on immigration bills that have the support of the majority of House Republicans (known as the Hastert rule after a former House Speaker), OFA is now rallying support at the district offices of pro-amnesty Republicans. (Washington Post, Aug. 20, 2013)
According to the Washington Post, OFA activists have started local rallies in support of several GOP Representatives who support granting some form of legal status to illegal aliens. These include Reps. Paul Ryan (WI), Jeff Denham (CA), Joe Heck (NV), Dave Reichert (WA), Aaron Schock (IL), and Dan Webster (FL). (Id.)
Thus far, House leadership has declared the Senate bill a non-starter but they have yet to reveal which, if any, piecemeal bills that have passed out of the House Judiciary and Homeland Security committees will be brought to the House floor for a vote. Stay tuned to FAIR as details emerge...
Over the summer, Newark, New Jersey and New Orleans, Louisiana have joined an alarming number of recalcitrant cities and states that refuse to cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in the enforcement of federal immigration laws.
On July 24, Newark Police Director Samuel DeMaio signed a directive ordering City police to no longer comply with ICE detainer requests to hold suspects accused of minor crimes. Steve Lonegan, Republican U.S. Senate candidate and opponent of Democratic Newark Mayor Cory Booker, bravely objected to the new sanctuary policy. He said the policy will lead to higher crime by sending a signal. "If you shoplift and vandalize you're okay. ... You can come to the country illegally, you can shoplift, you can vandalize but it's all right. We're going to make sure you're safe. It's a great message to our kids." (New Jersey.com, Aug. 15, 2013)
Last week, Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman announced his office will no longer hold suspected illegal aliens for ICE unless the detainee is charged with certain violent crimes which include first- or second-degree murder, aggravated rape, aggravated kidnapping, treason or armed robbery with a firearm. If charges against a detainee are dismissed for any reason, the suspected illegal aliens would be released back into the community. Even worse, the New Orleans policy goes so far as to prevent its law enforcement officers from initiating an investigation into a detainee's immigration status or providing ICE with the detainee's release date or address. (WDSU News, Aug. 13, 2013)
Newark and New Orleans have joined a growing list of cities and states that are ignoring federal ICE detainers and releasing illegal aliens from custody. New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, and Connecticut have all adopted similar policies within the past two years. In addition, California is considering a bill (AB 4) that would prohibit law enforcement officers state-wide from complying with ICE detainers.
Policies that require law enforcement to ignore ICE detainers pose a serious threat to public safety not only to the cities and states in which they are enacted, but nationwide. Criminals released by one jurisdiction can, and often do, victimize people in other parts of the country.
Objecting to the new sanctuary policy in New Orleans, U.S. Senator David Vitter of Louisiana said the priority should be to enforce preexisting immigration laws. Instead, commented Sen. Vitter, New Orleans' policy will "directly threaten federal authority to detain dangerous criminals who are also illegal immigrants, as well as the safety of Louisiana families. This Orleans Parish policy is pointing to New Orleans as a sanctuary city and giving Louisiana a bad name." (Statement by Senator Vitter, Aug. 13, 2013)
Vitter, chairman of the U.S. Senate Border Security Caucus, has introduced legislation to prohibit federal funds from being distributed to cities that encourage and provide safe harbor for illegal aliens.