FAIR Legislative Update March 25, 2013
In a stunning admission, officials in the Obama Administration admitted to The New York Times they resisted producing a metric to determine whether the border is secure because President Obama did not want any hurdles placed between illegal aliens and a pathway to citizenship. (The New York Times, Mar. 21, 2013) The admission was made to the New York Times Thursday, a day after Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials shocked Members of Congress by announcing that despite promises to develop one, they still have no official way to measure whether the border is secure. (Id.) (Hearing video clip; Mar. 20, 2013)
In 2011, the Obama Administration abandoned the metric of "operational control" and it planned to develop a new "holistic" measure, called the Border Condition Index (BCI) to measure border security. Indeed, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano herself told Congress in October 2011 that this index would be able to provide "the big picture" for measuring progress at the border and that it would be ready the second quarter of Fiscal Year 2012. (Napolitano Testimony, Oct. 25, 2011; See FAIR Legislative Update, Mar. 4, 2013, for more background information.)
But testifying Wednesday before the House Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security, Mark Borkowski, Assistant Commissioner of the U.S. Border Patrol, told Members of Congress that not only was the BCI not yet developed, but that the BCI was never intended to be an overall measure of border security. (Hearing video clip; Mar. 20, 2013) "First of all," Borkowski said to Chairwoman Candice Miller (R-MI), "I don't believe that we intend, at least at this point, that the BCI would be a tool for the measurement that you're suggest[ing]...I need to start there." (Bloomberg transcript, Mar. 20, 2013) He continued, "The BCI is part of a set of information that advises us on where we are and, most importantly, what the trends are and that's what it's designed for. So it is not our intent, at least not immediately, that it would be the Measure you're talking about."
Visibly irked, Chairwoman Miller warned the Homeland Security officials before her that the inability to measure border security could derail efforts to pass amnesty legislation. (Id.) Even pro-amnesty Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) seemed surprised. She quipped, "And I would say to the department: You've got to get in the game. And what I'm hearing here is not really a definitive game strategy." (Id.)
Upon learning the Obama Administration delayed developing a border security metric to protect a pathway to citizenship for illegal aliens, FAIR sharply criticized both the Administration and those in Congress who are trying to ram a mass amnesty bill through Congress. "The American people need to understand that the current administration has no intention of honoring any enforcement commitments that might be included in an amnesty bill. Both the administration and leading lawmakers are making it clear that enforcement will either be delayed endlessly or ignored altogether," said FAIR's President Dan Stein. "Moreover, how can Congress possibly consider passing mass amnesty legislation when the Department of Homeland Security admits it has no way of measuring whether the border is secure, and when Obama Administration officials say they don't want one?" he concluded. (FAIR Press Release, Mar. 22, 2013)
In a telling vote early Saturday morning, the Senate rejected an amendment (#614) by true immigration reformer Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) to the Senate's 2014 budget bill that would deny illegal aliens ObamaCare and Medicaid in the event Congress passes an amnesty bill later this year. (The Hill, Mar. 23, 2013)
"My amendment would simply say if you are here illegally and then get lawful status, you do not qualify for ObamaCare and Medicaid," explained Sen. Sessions ahead of the vote. (The Hill, Mar. 23, 2013) Long-time pro-amnesty Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), a member of the Senate "Gang of Eight" who was recently investigated for hiring an illegal alien intern, argued against the Sessions' amendment, saying "current law already explicitly excludes undocumented people from receiving benefits." (Id.)
Although illegal aliens are prohibited from receiving subsidized healthcare under ObamaCare, non-immigrants and immigrants (green card holders) are allowed coverage. This means that if Congress grants amnesty to the 11-12 million illegal aliens currently in the U.S., those aliens will be eligible for subsidized healthcare from day one of legalization. So far, the Senate "Gang of Eight" proposal does nothing to prohibit illegal aliens from receiving these benefits.
Republican Senators Susan Collins (ME) and Lisa Murkowski (AK) voted with the Democrat majority to deny the sensible reform measure 43 to 56. To see whether your Senators voted to support subsidized healthcare for amnestied aliens, check the vote here. To find your Members of Congress to tell them to oppose Obamacare and other benefits for amnestied aliens, click here.
Last week Congress passed H.R. 933, a continuing resolution to fund the government through the end of fiscal year 2013 (September 30). The bill largely maintains FY 2012 Homeland Security Department (DHS) appropriations levels, allowing it to avoid making 5% sequestration cuts. Thus, the funding legislation eliminates the Administration's cover for releasing criminal illegal aliens back onto the streets and furloughing border patrol agents. (Id. at Division D; see also Homeland Security Today, Mar. 22, 2013)
Notably, in response to the Administration's reckless handling of the sequestration, the legislation maintains the requirement in current law that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) maintain no fewer than 34,000 detention beds. The bill also requires U.S. Border Patrol to maintain an active duty presence of no less than 21,370 agents, also consistent with current law.
In addition, the measure funds several enforcement programs, including:
- $324,099,000 for border security fencing, infrastructure, and technology, a decrease from $400 million last year;
- $5,400,000 for the state and local cooperative 287(g) program, the same as last year; and
- $111,924,000 for E-Verify, an increase from just over $102 million last year.
"This legislation provides funding for essential federal programs and services, helps maintain our national security, and takes a potential shutdown off the table," said House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) after the legislation passed the House Thursday. (House Appropriations Press Release, Mar. 21, 2013)
H.R. 933 now awaits President Obama's signature.
The Senate "Gang of Eight" negotiations broke down on Friday as labor and big business once again clashed on terms of a new guest worker program that Senators want to include in their mass amnesty bill expected to be released in April. (Politico, Mar. 22, 2013) Hill sources said that the AFL-CIO had made a proposal for an unskilled guest worker program, and while Republicans in the Gang appeared to agree to it, the Chamber of Commerce balked. (Id.) That forced the Senators to re-open the negotiations.
The upheaval in negotiations over a new guest worker program Friday is just the latest example of how labor and big business have clashed over guest worker programs. The central argument between the parties is how many more guest workers should the U.S. import, if any, when unemployment is still high. The Chamber of Commerce has been pushing for a guest worker program that would admit at least 400,000 unskilled guest workers every year (on top of the amnesty); the AFL-CIO argues 10,000 is a more appropriate number. (CQ Roll Call, Mar. 21, 2013)
Earlier in the week, the strain between labor and business was evident as construction unions flat out rejected any guest worker program that covers the construction industry. "In the construction industry, there is no need for temporary workers. Period," said the Laborers' International Union of North America (LIUNA). (The Hill, Mar. 20, 2013) Sean McGarvey, president of the Building and Construction Trades Department (AFL-CIO) also blasted the notion of importing construction workers when unemployment in the industry is at 15.7 percent, more than twice the national average. (Id.) "It's hard to pass the smell test..." McGarvey said. "400,000 visas for any occupation that doesn't require a bachelor's degree is hard to explain." (Id.)
Meanwhile, the Chamber of Commerce and the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) said they would likely reject any guest worker bill that did not include the construction trades. (CQ Roll Call, Mar. 21, 2013; The Hill, Mar. 20, 2013) Some Republicans are already beginning to blame the unions for threatening the entire mass amnesty bill. "It's the labor unions that are standing in the way of immigration reform," said Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID). "The labor unions do not want a guest worker program that is viable, that is functional." (CQ Roll Call, Mar. 21, 2013) Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), a member of the Gang of Eight, said: "There's no secret that the broader labor movement, with some exceptions, would rather not even have an immigration bill." And, he warned, "I'm not going to be part of a bill that doesn't create a process whereby people can come to this country temporarily in the future if we need them." (Bloomberg, Mar. 22, 2013)
The breakdown in negotiations means that the Senate Gang of Eight has missed its self-imposed deadline to reach a deal on amnesty legislation before Congress begins the Easter recess this week. And despite the fact that a guest worker program is considered a key component of "comprehensive" immigration reform, some members remained optimistic about reaching a deal soon. "We're close," said Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) Friday morning. "Nothing is ever agreed to until it's all agreed to, but we're close." (Politico, Mar. 22, 2013) On Thursday, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) told Hispanic media that "about 90 percent of the issues, including the path to citizenship, are settled." (Id.) Members of the Senate Gang of Eight say they are likely to introduce their mass amnesty legislation the week of April 8th when Congress returns from the Easter recess.
Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) became the latest Republican to support amnesty for the 11-12 million illegal aliens in the country. The Tea Party Senator announced his immigration plan last Tuesday during a speech at the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. (Politico, Mar. 19, 2013)
The first component of the plan is immediate legalization with an eventual pathway to citizenship through "probationary" work visas. Despite arguing that "we should not be unfair to those who came to our country legally," the plan allows "those who came illegally [to] become legal through a probationary period." (Rand Paul Speech, Mar. 19, 2013) An unspecified "bipartisan" panel determines the number of probationary visas issued each year with priority given to high tech and entrepreneur immigrants. (Id.) The proposal is devoid of a timeline for granting the newly amnestied aliens green cards and the only apparent qualification for receiving a probationary visa is a "willing[ness] to work." "If you wish to work, if you wish to live and work in America, then we will find a place for you," announced Paul. (Id.)
According to Paul, the pathway to citizenship is conditioned on securing the borders, which Sen. Paul calls "Trust but Verify." (Id.) It is "absolutely vital" that we "finally secure our borders," declared Paul. (Id.) Although Sen. Paul did not mention a specific metric for measuring border security during the speech, he subsequently called for obtaining "operational control" of the borders. (Paul Press Release, Mar. 21, 2013) Under the plan, the Border Patrol and an Inspector General must certify that the border is secure and submit the report for Congressional approval. (Rand Paul Speech, Mar. 19, 2013) Then, Congress must vote to approve the certification "to ensure it has been accomplished" for each of the first five years after enactment. (Id.)
Additionally, Sen. Paul calls for increasing legal immigration, presumably to shorten the "line" to get the newly amnestied aliens on a quicker path to a green card and eventual citizenship. "The Republican Party must embrace more legal immigration," advocated Paul. (Id.)
While the border security, path to "earned" citizenship, and increased green card aspects are similar to the plans released by the Gang of Eight and President Obama, Sen. Paul considers his proposal a "middle ground." (Id.) "As we move forward on immigration reform, I for one will work to find a solution that both adheres to the rule of law and makes room for compassion," said Paul. (Id.) Senator Paul evens adopts the language of the pro-amnesty lobby, stating his goal is "bringing these workers out of the shadows and into being taxpaying members of society." (Id.) Audaciously, Sen. Paul declared "My plan will not grant amnesty or move anyone to the front of the line." (Id.)
However, Sen. Paul's plan significantly differs from the other proposals on workplace enforcement. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Feb. 4, 2013; FAIR Legislative Update, Jan. 28, 2013) "My plan will not impose a national ID card or mandatory E-Verify, forcing businesses to become policemen." (Rand Paul Speech, Mar. 19, 2013) Even though businesses that voluntarily use E-Verify overwhelmingly express satisfaction with the program, Sen. Paul argues that making it mandatory would "force business owners to become immigration inspectors." (Id.)
Senator Paul's embrace of comprehensive immigration reform stems from his belief that amnesty will garner votes for Republicans. "Hispanics should be a natural and sizable part of the Republican base," argued Paul. (Id.) "The vast majority of Latino voters agree with us on these issues but Republicans have pushed them away with harsh rhetoric over immigration," he continued. (Id.) "Republicans need to become parents of a new future with Latino voters or we will need to resign ourselves to permanent minority status." (Id.) However, numerous polls indicate that Hispanics overwhelmingly identify with the Democratic platform. (See Pew Hispanic Poll; Hispanic Decisions Poll)
The Senator's plan is already receiving support from conservative House Members who previously voiced opposition to amnesty legislation. "We write to offer you support, encouragement, and assistance as we work together to identify the principles that must guide our nation's thinking on immigration reform," wrote Reps. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC), Justin Amash (R-MI), Thomas Massie (R-KY), Jeff Duncan (R-SC), Trey Radel (R-FL), and Mark Meadows (R-NC). (Talking Points Memo, Mar. 21, 2013)
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy (D-VT) expressed frustration last week with the Gang of Eight's failure to produce amnesty bill before Congress leaves on Easter recess.
In an opening statement placed in the record at a Senate hearing on immigration Wednesday, Chairman Leahy warned that the Gang's failure to produce a bill would delay floor debate. "Because we do not yet have legislative language to debate, the Senate Judiciary Committee will not be able to report a comprehensive immigration bill by the end of April, which was my goal," Leahy vented. (Leahy Statement, Mar. 20, 2013) "Without legislative language, there is nothing for the Judiciary Committee to consider this week at our mark up. The upcoming recess period would have allowed all Members of the Committee and the American people to review the legislation. Now that process and our work will be delayed at least a month," Leahy remarked. (Id.)
While Leahy announced in January that amnesty legislation was the Committee's top legislative priority, he has deferred thus far to the Gang of Eight to draft legislation. The Gang had a self-imposed deadline of introducing a bill in March, a deadline that has come and gone. "For months I have urged the President to send his proposal for comprehensive immigration reform to the Senate. I understand he has delayed releasing it at the request of a few Senators who are engaged in secret, closed door discussions on their own proposal and who committed to completing it by the beginning of March. That deadline and others have come and gone." (Id.)
The pro-amnesty Chairman also seemed sensitive to charges he intended to ram a bill through committee before it is fully vetted. "I have favored an open and transparent process during which all 18 Senators serving on the Senate Judiciary Committee will have the opportunity to participate and to propose or oppose ideas for reform," stated Leahy. (Id.) "This process will take time. It will not be easy." (Id.)
Leahy's statement came the day after six Republican Judiciary members wrote the Chairman urging him to uphold his commitment of moving immigration legislation through regular order. (Letter to Leahy, Mar. 19, 2013) "If we are serious about protecting our national interest and the best interests of American workers, we must provide all members of the Senate, and, most importantly, the public, a full and fair opportunity to become adequately informed," wrote Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Jeff Sessions (R-AL), John Cornyn (R-TX), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Ted Cruz (R-TX). "The last time Congress considered legislation of this magnitude that was written behind closed doors and passed with no process, it resulted in sweeping changes to our healthcare system, the negative consequences of which are only now coming to light," the six GOP Senators argued.
Despite delays in negotiations the Gang of Eight is expected to unveil its legislation the second week of April. Stay tuned to FAIR for details...
Last week, the Montana Senate passed House Bill 50 (HB 50) which prohibits local governments from enacting or enforcing sanctuary policies. A sanctuary policy bars local police from asking suspects about their immigration status or reporting them to immigration authorities. HB 50 now moves on to Governor Steve Bullock for signature.
The bill's author, Representative David Howard, stated that he drafted the bill to protect Montanans and discourage illegal aliens from making Montana their home. (Great Falls Tribune, Jan. 15, 2013). Howard also authored Legislative Referendum (LR) 121 which prohibits illegal aliens from receiving taxpayer funded state benefits. LB 121, was extraordinarily popular with Montanans, who approved the measure by almost 80 percent of the vote in November 2012.
Dan Stein, FAIR's President, applauded Howard's efforts. "Rep. Howard's bill ensures common sense state-federal enforcement practices for those of us who believe in the rule of law and the restoration of an immigration law that works. Americans are tired of paying for the same old political games designed to reward, promote and encourage illegal immigration." (Fox News, Jan. 16, 2013). In 2010, FAIR released a study entitled "The Fiscal Burden of Illegal Immigration on United States Taxpayers" that reported the annual state and local fiscal costs borne by Montana taxpayers resulting from illegal aliens and their U.S.-born children is $32 million. (2010 FAIR Study).
Recognizing that sanctuary policies are a growing impediment to combating the wave of illegal aliens residing in the country, in 1996 Congress barred local ordinances that prohibit employees from providing information on illegal aliens to federal officials. Nonetheless, cities have found a loophole by instituting sanctuary policies that prohibit the collection of immigration data in the first place. To name a few, these cities include Houston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Diego. HB 50 would prevent the same from occurring in Montana.
According to the latest Gallup poll, 138 million adults would permanently move to the U.S. if given the opportunity. The U.S. by far ranks the number one country to which people would like to migrate: the United Kingdom ranks second with 42 million adults, and Canada ranks third with 37 million. (Gallup, Mar. 21, 2013)
The countries from which the highest percentage would like to move to the U.S. include Liberia (37%), Sierra Leone (30%), and the Dominican Republic (28%). (Id.)
The findings are based on a rolling average of Gallup interviews with 501,366 adults in 154 countries between 2010 and 2012. The 154 countries represent more than 98% of the world's adult population. (Id.)