FAIR Legislative Update July 1, 2013 
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FAIR Legislative Update July 1, 2013

Senate Passes 1,200 Page Amnesty Legislation Full of Kickbacks and Carve-Outs

The Senate passed 68 to 32 Thursday the Gang of Eight's massive amnesty bill, S. 744. What began as an 844-page bill grew to nearly 1,200 pages in the final days before passage, thanks to a substitute amendment introduced by Sens. Bob Corker (R-TN) and John Hoeven (R-ND).

While touting it as the toughest border security provisions ever passed by the Senate, the deal was nothing more than the same old promises of future border security filled with kickbacks and carve-outs to secure key votes. (See The Corker-Hoeven Amendment is a Mirage; see also FAIR Legislative Update, June 24, 2013)  "[W]e did incorporate some other issues that needed to be dealt with," Corker told reporters in response to inquiries about the various kickbacks in his amendment. (National Review Online, June 24, 2013)

The "issues" that apparently needed to be dealt with include:

  • Murkowski and Begich's Crabhusker Kickback.  This carve-out to secure the votes of Alaska Senators Lisa Murkowski (R) and Mark Begich (D) classifies seafood processing positions in Alaska as "shortage occupations," thus allowing the industry to bring in more cheap foreign labor to do those jobs. (Sec. 4701(d)(4), p. 1043) It also allows employers to bring in non-immigrants under a summer program to work in seafood processing positions, overturning a ban the Obama Administration put in place last year to protect foreign exchange students from jobs the U.S. government deems dangerous. (Sec. 4408, p. 982)
  • The Northern Exposure. This carve-out for Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jon Tester (D-MT) eliminates a requirement that at least 90% of funding for a law-enforcement program along U.S. borders be devoted to the southwest border, freeing up more money for Northern border states. (Sec. 1104, p. 73)
  • Sanders' Surrender. This carve-out for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) creates a slush "Youth Jobs Fund" for FY 2014-2015 funded using $1.5 billion from the U.S. Treasury.  Until the Gang of Eight added the kickback, Sen. Sanders was an outspoken critic of the bill for taking jobs away from Americans. He has since been silent. (Title V, p. 1169)
  • Kirk's Kickback. This carve-out to gain Sen. Mark Kirk's (R-IL) support allows a person who has served in the military and received an honorable discharge and certain combat medals to become a citizen without meeting key naturalization criteria under current law. This includes waiving the requirement an alien understand the English language, waiving the requirement the alien has knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of the history and of the principles and form of the U.S. government, and waiving the requirement an alien is of good moral character. (Sec. 2555, p. 502)
  • Heller's Hotels. Tucked away in the Corker-Hoeven amendment is a kickback for Las Vegas hotel and casino chains. The provision permanently gives $100,000,000 annually to the tourism industry under the Travel Promotion Fund, posing a win for Nevada Senators Dean Heller and Harry Reid. The funding was set to expire in 2015, but the provision extended it indefinitely. (Sec. 1102(f), p. 66)

To read more about the kickbacks, carve-outs, and buy-offs that made it into the final bill, click here.

The bill now goes to the House of Representatives, where Speaker Boehner has said he would not bring up any piece of legislation that does not have the support of the majority of House Republicans.  Republicans are meeting July 10 to discuss the future of immigration in their chamber.

Senators Ignore the Will of their Constituents in Amnesty Vote

Last Thursday, the Senate voted 68-32 to pass the Gang of Eight's "comprehensive" immigration reform bill. Remarkably, at least 16 Senators disregarded their constituents' clear opposition to the bill, S. 744, and voted for amnesty. According to Pulse Opinion polling done on behalf of FAIR, the following Senators voted against their constituents:

  • Senators Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) voted for S.744 despite an overwhelming 72% of West Virginia voters opposing the Gang of Eight's bill.
  • Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Bob Corker (R-TN) voted for S.744 despite the 66% of Tennessee voters opposing Gang of Eight's bill.
  • Senators John Hoeven (R-ND) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) voted for S.744 despite the 64% of North Dakota voters opposing the Gang of Eight's bill.
  • Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) voted for S.744 despite the 61% of Louisiana voters opposing the Gang of Eight's bill.
  • Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR) voted for S.744 despite the 60% of Arkansas voters opposing the Gang of Eight's bill.
  • Senator Joe Donnelly (D-IN) voted for S.744 despite the 59% of Hoosier voters opposing the Gang of Eight's bill.
  • Senators Max Baucus (D-MT) and Jon Tester (D-MT) voted for S.744 despite the 57% of Montana voters opposing the Gang of Eight's bill.
  • Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) voted for S.744 despite the 56% of Ohio voters opposing the Gang of Eight's bill.
  • Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC) voted for S.744 despite the 52% of North Carolina voters opposing the Gang of Eight's bill.
  • Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) voted for S.744 despite the plurality of New Hampshire voters who oppose the Gang of Eight's bill.
  • Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) voted for S.744 despite the plurality of Wisconsin voters who oppose the Gang of Eight immigration bill.

Several of these Senators just won reelection or were first elected to their seats in 2012, making it easier for them to buck the wishes of their constituents. These include: Sens. Manchin, Corker, Heitkamp, Donnelly, Tester, Brown, and Baldwin.  Senators Alexander, Landrieu, Pryor, and Hagan all face reelection in 2014, and Sens. Baucus and Rockefeller are retiring.

GOP Voters Unlikely to Support Pro-Amnesty Lawmakers

Last week, National Journal and United Technologies released a poll showing that Republican lawmakers who vote for a "pathway to citizenship" for illegal aliens will face great scrutiny in upcoming elections.

Specifically, the poll asked whether a voter would be more or less likely to support their Members of Congress if they voted for a pathway to citizenship for those currently in the country illegally. In response, almost half of registered GOP voters (49%) said they would be less likely to vote for that Member.  Similarly, 45% of all blue-collar, non-Hispanic workers stated that if their lawmaker voted to give amnesty to illegal aliens, they would be less likely to vote for him or her.

The poll comes amidst a push by a wing of the Republican Party, including the Republican National Committee, to convince GOP politicians that supporting amnesty is necessary for the Party to win national elections. However, only 15% of registered GOP voters said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who had voted for a pathway to citizenship. Thirty percent said it would not make a difference.

Independents also closely sided with Republicans on the issue. Thirty-five percent said they would be less likely to vote for a lawmaker who votes for amnesty.

While Gang of Eight member Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) recently claimed that the Republican Party is in a "demographic death spiral," the National Journal poll illustrates that voting for amnesty will only serve to alienate registered members of the GOP, suggesting Republicans will lose more votes of once-Party faithfuls than they could ever gain by pandering to specific demographic groups through amnesty legislation.

Speaker Boehner Claims He Will Follow Majority of GOP Wishes

Now that the Senate has passed amnesty legislation, attention shifts to House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to see if he will keep his word by not taking up the 1,200 page Senate bill.  

With House Republicans planning to meet on July 10 to discuss immigration, Boehner has attempted to shore up conservative support by finally insisting he will not move a bill that lacks the support of a majority of Republicans in the House — known as the "Hastert rule" after a former House Speaker.

Importantly, Speaker Boehner said he would maintain the Hastert rule for legislation the two chambers may "conference" together. "For any legislation — including the conference report — to pass the House it's going to have to be a bill that has the support of the majority of our members," Boehner insisted. (Politico, Jun. 27, 2013)  When the House and Senate pass different bills, they must go to what's referred to as a "conference committee" to hash out the differences in the legislation. Following an agreement on final bill language during the conference committee, the newly-agreed upon legislation goes back to each chamber for passage. His comments are an attempt to allay GOP fears that while the Speaker may not take up the Senate legislation, the House may pass a smaller package of bills that is later combined with provisions in the Senate bill and is then forced back upon them for a vote anyway.

Nonetheless, Democrats are increasing the pressure on Speaker Boehner to violate the Hastert rule on immigration, something he has done on other issues in the past. "Mr. Boehner, you are on the clock," declared long-time amnesty advocate Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) (The Hill, Jun. 28, 2013) A Democratic aide speculated that Boehner has to say he will not break the Hastert rule "up until the moment he does it." (CQ Today, Jun. 27, 2013)

California Bills to Benefit Illegal Aliens in Final Stages

While most of the country is focused on immigration at the federal level, the California State legislature is busy working on a number of immigration bills of their own, most of which benefit illegal aliens. The following bills have all passed their respective houses of origin and some are on their final steps before passage:

Assembly Bill 4Prohibits Law Enforcement from Complying with ICE Detainer Requests

AB 4, also known "the Trust Act" which is an acronym for "Transparency and Responsibility Using State Tools," prohibits state and local officers from honoring some federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement ("ICE") detainer requests. An ICE detainer request serves to advise another law enforcement agency that ICE seeks custody of an alien presently in the custody of that agency for the purpose of arresting and removing the alien. Under federal regulation, ICE can request state and local law enforcement agencies to maintain custody of an alien for up to 48 hours to allow ICE agents time to arrange pick-up. Under AB 4, state and local law enforcement agencies are forced to ignore ICE detainer requests unless the illegal alien has been convicted of a serious crime.

ICE Director John Morton wrote in a letter to FAIR that states and localities that ignore ICE detainer requests "are undermining public safety in their communities" and such policies "may also violate federal law." (Letter to FAIR's Executive Director, Aug. 23, 2012). And according to its website, "ICE relies on the cooperation of [] state and local law enforcement partners in this effort" to identify and remove criminal aliens who are in state or local custody. (ICE Detainers, FAQ). 

AB 4 passed the Assembly on May 16, 2013 by a vote of 44-22. (Assembly Vote). It has since moved to the Senate where it is currently pending in the Public Safety Committee and set for a July 2 hearing. A similar version (AB 1081) of the bill passed in 2012, but was vetoed by Governor Brown. (Gov. Brown Veto Message).

Assembly Bill 60Provides Driver's Licenses to Illegal Aliens

AB 60 allows illegal aliens who don't qualify for a Social Security number to apply for a state driver's license and prohibits law enforcement officers from detaining or arresting a person for driving without a license unless the person is under the age of 16. AB 60 allows illegal aliens to prove their identity to obtain the license by any document that the Department of Motor Vehicles finds appropriate, which certainly will include foreign issued documents such as consular IDs, birth certificates and passports. (LA Times, May 29, 2013). Just last year, California enacted a law granting driver's license to illegal alien DACA recipients. (AB 2189 (2012) http://www.scpr.org/blogs/multiamerican/2013/01/02/11812/calif-drivers-license-law-daca-recipients-takes-ef/).

Granting driver's licenses or ID cards to illegal aliens is fiscally unwise, rewards lawbreakers, conflicts with and frustrates the purposes and objectives of federal immigration law, will not significantly impact road safety or guarantee more insured drivers, and creates adverse consequences in other states. (See FAIR, Illegal Alien Driver's Licenses).

AB 60 passed the Assembly on May 29 by a vote of 55-20. (Assembly Vote). It has since moved to the Senate where it is currently pending in the Transportation and Housing Committee and set for a July 2 hearing.

Assembly Bill 263Prohibits Employers from Firing Employees for Providing False Personal Information

AB 263 prohibits an employer from discharging an employee or any manner discriminating, retaliating, or taking an adverse action against an employee because the employee updates or attempts to update his or her personal information, unless the changes are directly related to the skill set, qualifications, or knowledge required for the job. This provision was obviously drafted in anticipation of Congress passing an amnesty bill. It would insulate an illegal alien from termination if they inform their employer that they provided false information (such as name or Social Security Number) to obtain the job. The provision also insulates illegal alien DACA recipients from the same fate.

AB 263 passed the Assembly on May 29 by a vote of 52-23. (Assembly Vote). It has since moved to the Senate where it is currently pending in the Judiciary Committee and set for a July 2 hearing.