FAIR Legislative Update July 22, 2013
Pro-amnesty and business lobbies have planned an aggressive campaign during Congress's annual August recess to push House Members into supporting comprehensive immigration reform. (Politico, July 18, 2013)
Pressed by members of the Senate Gang of Eight who have witnessed support for their mass guest worker amnesty bill plummet since its passage, pro-amnesty and business lobbyists have been tasked with convincing vulnerable House Members to support legislation that will get them to conference committee. "Here's the fact: We're not winning, so we've got to wage a campaign," said long-time amnesty supporter and Gang of Eight member Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). "There are many members of the House that don't want to take up any bill at all... What our job is, we want to convince them to at least pass legislation, so that we can go to conference and work together." (Huffington Post, July 19, 2013)
If the House passes any immigration legislation, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) can decide to take it to conference committee, where a group of House and Senate Members — selected entirely at the discretion of leadership — will negotiate the differences between House legislation and the Senate Gang of Eight's 1,200 page amnesty bill, S. 744.
Gang of Eight Member Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) underscored the critical nature of the August recess in convincing House Republicans to support their legislation. "August is a month in which either legislative proposals die, or they survive," he said urging the pro-amnesty and business lobbies to flex their muscles during the recess. "[I]f we do that, we'll be well positioned for the fall in the House. If we don't, then we run a risk." (Huffington Post, July 19, 2013)
Democrats have identified a list of GOP Members in the House who are perceived as vulnerable and/or have a particularly high percentage of Latino constituents in their district. (See Washington Post, July 8, 2013) A coalition of business, union, faith leaders, and pro-amnesty groups now plan to contact these Members and lobby for more guest workers and a path to citizenship for illegal aliens.
One pro-amnesty Senate aide summarized the special interests working behind the scenes. "Republicans will begin to hear from farmers in their districts who are unable to plant their full amount of crops because of uncertainty that the labor is going to be there for them." (Washington Post, July 19, 2013) "There are tech companies in some of the suburbs represented by Republicans that are poised to grow but are looking to hire talent from abroad. The H-1 visa provision would be extremely helpful to them." Such business owners, according to the aide, will tell their Members: "I could be hiring more people. This is extremely important to me." (Id). According to a second aide, recruiting local faith leaders will be critical to facilitating the push for amnesty. "It's important for Members in conservative districts to hear from their local faith leaders, who are able to make the case that there is a moral imperative to providing a pathway for people out of the shadows — for `caring for the stranger in their midst,'" the aide argued. (Id.)
In addition, one of the nation's largest unions, the Service Employee's International Union (SEIU) has planned a Spanish language ad campaign to run during August that targets Republican congressional districts with large number of Latino constituents. Another group, called the "Libre Intitiative", will also be airing Spanish language ads. (Politic365.com, July 21, 2013)
Some GOP leaders are joining the cause, conducting an "immigration tour" in New York State this weekend to promote and convince voters of the need for amnesty and more guest workers. (brietbart.com, July 18, 2013) There, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) will be flanked by New York Republican Rep. Michael Grimm, Gang of Seven Leader Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Fred Upton (R-MI), and former commerce Secretary under George W. Bush, Carlos Gutierrez. They will be joined by numerous Democrats, including Reps. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Jim McGovern (D-MA), Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ), Joe Crowley (D-NY), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Susan Davis (D-CA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), and Lois Capps (D-CA). (Politico, July 17, 2013)
Last week, a House aide leaked more details on the House Gang of Seven's bill to legalize the 12 million illegal aliens in the country. According to the aide, illegal aliens will have three different paths to "earn" citizenship.
The first two categories of amnesty are for illegal aliens married to U.S. citizens and those with employers willing to sponsor them for green cards. Specifically, the House plan would waive federal law, which normally requires illegal aliens to depart the U.S. for three or 10 years depending on how long they have been in the country unlawfully, before they can apply for a visa to return legally. (Immigration and Nationality Act 212(a)(9)(B); CQ Today, July 16, 2013) By waiving this three and 10 year bar to admission, the Gang of Seven's maneuver allows eligible illegal aliens to utilize the family-based and employment-based green card process currently available to aliens looking to enter the country legally. (Id.)
If illegal aliens do not have family or employer sponsors, the House plan allows them to utilize a 15 year path for citizenship. The House plan grants illegal aliens "probationary" status which means immediate legalization and work authorization, similar to the Senate bill. (Washington Post, July 17, 2013) The probationary period lasts five years and requires illegal aliens to admit they broke U.S. immigration laws. (Id.)
The main difference between this plan and the Senate bill is that amnestied illegal aliens will supposedly lose their "probation" status — and revert to illegal status — if the electronic employee verification program known as E-Verify is not "fully operational" by the end of this five year period. (Id.) It is unclear who determines whether E-Verify is "fully operational." (Id.)
If the E-Verify trigger is met, amnestied illegal aliens enter a five year "temporary legal phase." (Id.) At the end of this phase, they would be eligible for a green card, and five years later, citizenship. (Id.) According to a Democratic aide, the Gang of Seven's bill "could be a starting point for coalescing Democrats and Republicans around moving forward" on passing amnesty. (CQ Today, July 16, 2013)
Additionally, the aide suggested the Gang was working on a path to citizenship for nonimmigrants that would not require family or employer sponsorship as required under current law. Rather, according to the aide, temporary aliens/nonimmigrants (most of which are required by law to have the intent to return to their home country upon applying) could also obtain citizenship through the 15 year process. (Id.)
Despite repeated claims that the Gang of Seven has reached an agreement, multiple sources told inside-the-beltway publication Politico that the bill will not be introduced until after the August recess. (Politico, July 17, 2013) Based on the article, the bipartisan group has yet to reach an agreement on whether amnestied illegal aliens must pay back taxes. (Id.) And, according to other sources, the group is still "haggling" over the border provisions because there are no border triggers in the bill's current form. (Washington Post, July 17, 2013) Gang Rep. John Carter (R-TX) reportedly wants additional helicopters as part of the border security measures. (Id.)
As the battle over immigration heats up in the House of Representatives, leading House Members are beginning to sound more and more like Senator Marco Rubio, who disavowed any special path to citizenship for illegal aliens.
On Thursday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) gave true immigration reformers hope that he would not fall into the same trap as Republicans in the Senate Gang of Eight who successfully fought to pass a massive amnesty bill in the Senate. "The American people have kind of had it with 1,300-page bills that no one's read," said Boehner. "Listen, the House is going to do its job, and we're going to do this in a common-sense, step-by-step way." But then, the Speaker voiced support for the DREAM Act while simultaneously claiming that Americans "expect that no one who broke our laws will get special treatment." (News Conference video, July 18, 2013)
The very same day, Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) said that Republicans are taking care not to "push" illegal immigrants into citizenship as part of any comprehensive immigration reform package. "Most people just want to have a legal status so they can work to provide for their families," he added. Ryan's spokesman added that Ryan does not feel the need "for a special pathway to citizenship to fix our immigration system." (Washington Examiner, July 19, 2013)
If these comments sound familiar, one need only remember how Gang of Eight Senator Marco Rubio justified sponsoring the largest immigration bill in American history. Appearing on CNN back in April, Senator Rubio insisted his legislation was not amnesty. "What I've never been for is a special pathway to citizenship," said Rubio. (CNN, March 19, 2013) "That's been my position, is not to have a special pathway to green cards, citizenship, or anything else because it's unfair to the people who are doing it the right way and it would incentivize illegal immigration in the future. That's been my position all along, is that we're not going to do any special pathways that would discourage people from doing it the right way."
Yet, when the Senate Gang of Eight introduced its bill (S.744), it included: (1) a blanket amnesty program full of loopholes and waivers of a number of laws that apply to lawful immigrants, (2) an agricultural amnesty program that granted green cards in five years, and (3) a version of the DREAM Act that had no age limit and granted citizenship in five years. Nevertheless, Senator Rubio still insisted that the legislation did not create "a special process" for illegal aliens. (C-Span, April 18, 2013)
Remarkably, Rubio distinguished the 1986 amnesty from his bill (S.744) by arguing the 1986 Act offered a "special" path to citizenship. On his website, Rubio states: The 1986 amnesty was just that — an amnesty. It created a special path to citizenship without enforcing security laws and without important reforms to modernize the legal immigration system...." Under his bill, he said, "No one gets amnesty. ... On day one, no undocumented immigrant is rewarded with anything."
Thus, despite the fact that key Republicans in the immigration debate are attempting to invoke Americans' sense of fairness by pledging no "special treatment" for illegal aliens, their definition of the term deserves special scrutiny. Senator Rubio and Rep. Paul Ryan have already committed to granting blanket amnesty to the 12 million illegal aliens currently in the U.S., while Speaker Boehner now supports the DREAM Act. But whether it's the DREAM Act or blanket amnesty, granting legal status to illegal aliens requires waiving dozens of laws currently on the books — laws that apply to aliens who follow the rules and seek to enter the U.S. legally.
After months of debate on an omnibus immigration bill, HB 786, known as the "RECLAIM NC" Act, the North Carolina House amended the bill to require the state Department of Public Safety to study the impact of certain immigration-related measures and their potential effects on illegal immigration in the state.
As introduced, HB 786 would have, among other things, provided driver's licenses and identification cards to illegal aliens and all but gutted North Carolina's new E-Verify law. (HB 786, as introduced). However, last Tuesday the House cut the eleven section bill down to just two substantive sections. The first section requires the Department of Public Safety to study the potential impact on public safety, the economy, and illegal immigration if the state were to adopt the measures contained in the bill as introduced. The topics that the Department will be required to study include:
- increasing the penalties for false ID crimes;
- creating an assumption that an illegal alien who has committed a serious crime should be denied pretrial release;
- requiring a bond as a condition of pretrial release for an illegal alien who has committed a serious crime;
- requiring illegal aliens convicted of serious crimes to reimburse the state for the cost of their incarceration;
- establishing standards for immigration verification by law enforcement during a lawful stop, detention, or arrest;
- prohibiting the use of consular documents as a valid form of identity;
- providing driver's licenses to illegal aliens;
- adopting measures that have been approved by other states to combat illegal immigration.
The Department of Public Safety findings and recommendations are required to be submitted to a legislative oversight committee by March 2014 and will likely be considered during the legislature's next session beginning May 2014.
The second section of the bill prohibits a county, city, board or governing body of the State, institution of State government, or any political subdivision of the State from entering into a contract with a private entity unless the contractor and the contractor's subcontractors register and participate in E-Verify to verify the work authorization of new employees. The section also redefines the term "employee" for purposes of E-Verify to exclude new hires employed for less than nine months out of a year. Current law defines the term to only exclude new hires employed for less than ninety days out of a year. An amendment was filed on Wednesday to keep the ninety-day time period, but failed by a vote of 29-82. The bill subsequently passed the House by a vote of 85-28.
House Majority Leader Edgar Starnes (R-Caldwell) said the House GOP caucus was divided on the driver's license issue which caused the bill to be amended from the substantive provisions to the study version of the bill. Representative Starnes said he and his colleagues "have serious concerns of starting the precedent of giving a driver's license to someone who's here illegally." (WSOCTV, July 17, 2013).
Providing driver's licenses to illegal aliens is bad public policy and is extremely costly for the state. (See FAIR, Illegal Alien Driver's Licenses). According to the North Carolina Transportation Secretary, Tony Tata, by the October 1 enactment, as many as 150,000 people would have sought the driving privilege card through the original version of HB 786. (Id.)
HB 786 has passed its first reading in the Senate and was referred to the Committee on Rules and Operations. (Status). Representative Harry Warren (R-Rowan), a sponsor of HB 786, said he hopes to generate enough support to bring the full legislation back for consideration by the General Assembly next year. (Charlotte Observer, July 18, 2013).
Last Monday, hundreds of activists from across the nation converged on Capitol Hill and called on lawmakers to focus on unemployed Americans rather than grant amnesty to illegal aliens. The "March for Jobs" rally was organized by the Black American Leadership Alliance (BALA) to oppose the Senate-passed "comprehensive" immigration reform bill and draw attention to the plight of American workers. (Washington Times, July 15, 2013)
The main theme of the rally was the detrimental impact the influx of cheap, foreign labor would have on the already struggling black community. "We have come to ask [lawmakers] to not throw poor and black people under the bus in order to garner Hispanic votes," said opening speaking O'Neal Dozier. (Daily Caller, June 15, 2013) "This is the defining economic issue of our time. We are about to see the end, the evisceration of the black American community," added BALA member Tom Broadwater. (Id.) "When you think about what is happening with black unemployment... now we have a Senate, we have a president, we have people up here on Capitol Hill that think it is more important to reward people who came here illegally than to look to the inner cities, and ... strengthen the black community," declared former Rep. Allen West (R-FL). (Id.)
In addition, several Republican lawmakers participated in the rally and argued against "comprehensive" immigration reform. "If [the Senate] bill [becomes law], it will increase unemployment: it will increase African American unemployment, Hispanic unemployment, youth unemployment, and even legal immigrant unemployment," said Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). (Id.) "With all due respect to Karl Rove, Mark Zuckerberg and the Chamber of Commerce, there isn't a shortage of workers in American, there is a shortage of jobs," added Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), commenting on the special interests that helped craft the 1,200 page Senate bill behind closed doors. (Id.)