Legislation

FAIR Legislative Update May 2, 2011


After Last-Minute Negotiations, Indiana Passes Immigration Enforcement Bill

In a last-minute rush, the Indiana Legislature acted Friday to pass SB 590, significant immigration enforcement legislation.  (Inside Indiana Business, May 2, 2011) Although Senator Mike Delph had introduced the bill in January, differing amendments in the House and Senate forced legislators into a conference committee to reach an agreement on final language as time ran out on the 2011 session.  (Action List SB 590; See FAIR Legislative Update, Apr. 25, 2011) 

Although the Senators were able to replace some of the provisions that the House had stripped during conference committee, the final report reveals that the bill is more similar to the pared-down version passed by the Indiana House.  (Conference Committee Report)   For example, the conference committee did not restore a crucial provision which would allow law enforcement to verify the immigration status of individuals lawfully stopped.  (Id.) In addition, while the committee left intact the E-Verify provision that requires state agencies, political subdivisions, public contractors and certain subcontractors to use E-Verify, the final report added language that ensures the E-Verify requirement only applies to state contracts entered into or renewed after June 30, 2011.  (Id.)  However, the Senate was able to reinstate the original requirement that only English by used in public documents and official communications, with an exception added for teaching and parents of students.  (Id.

In order to eliminate sanctuary cities, the final bill also includes a provision prohibiting governmental bodies from limiting the full enforcement of federal immigration laws and gives Indiana residents the right to file suit against a governmental body that does so.  (§2)  The two chambers also agreed to keep the original bill’s language which prohibits employers from claiming tax deductions for wages paid to illegal aliens, unless the employer participates in the E-Verify program.  (§§4-7) 

Governor Mitch Daniels (R) originally encouraged the House to delete some of the more forceful provisions of the Senate version of the immigration bill.  (Indy Star, Apr. 13, 2011; SB 590; See FAIR Legislative Update, Apr. 25, 2011) Whether this is related to speculation that that Governor Daniels is contemplating a presidential run in 2012 is unclear. (See Indy Star, Apr. 13, 2011)  FAIR’s sources indicate that Governor Daniels is likely to sign the bill.

Obama Hosts Celebrity Amnesty Meeting; Continues to Push DREAM Act

Last Thursday, President Obama held a meeting in the White House’s Roosevelt Room with celebrities from the Hispanic community to discuss “comprehensive immigration reform.” (Washington Post, Apr. 28, 2011)  Notable attendees included actresses Eva Longoria and America Ferrera, television hosts Jose Diaz-Balart of Telemundo (the brother of U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL)) and Maria Elena Salinas of Univision, Emilio Estefan (husband to singer Gloria Estefan), and Voto Latino Executive Director Maria Teresa Kumar.  (Los Angeles Times, Apr. 28, 2011; Politico, Apr. 28, 2011) Senior White House aides Valerie Jarrett and David Plouffe also attended the meeting.  (USA Today, Apr. 28, 2011)

Following the closed-press discussion, actress Eva Longoria spoke to reporters and indicated the meeting focused heavily on the DREAM Act.  “We will be reintroducing that next week and hopefully get it to pass,” she said of the legislation aimed at granting amnesty to roughly two million illegal aliens.  (Politico, Apr. 28, 2011; See also FAIR Website on DREAM Act)  White House comments on the meeting also confirm that the DREAM Act was front and center during the talks: “The President reiterated his deep disappointment that Congressional action on immigration reform has stalled and that the DREAM Act failed to pass in the U.S. Senate….” (Politico, Apr. 28, 2011) “The President reiterated his concern that we educate the best and brightest but then ship that talent overseas or expel talented young people who have grown up as Americans and want to further their education or serve in our military,” the statement continued. (Id.)

Paul Babeu, Sheriff of Pinal County, Arizona, questioned why only pro-amnesty Hispanic celebrities—and not officials from border-states such as Arizona—were invited to the meeting. “Why wasn't the governor [Jan Brewer] invited?” Babeu asked. (KTAR, Apr. 28, 2011) “Why aren't we sitting down at the table to represent truly the diverse opinion in America on this issue that's so important to our country as we move forward?” (Id.) “We went through this before in '86 and it's failed,” he continued. (Id.) “You can't give amnesty or some form of amnesty to illegals because all you do is reward that culture that has broken the law.” (Id.)

One day after the celebrity meeting, President Obama continued to push for the DREAM Act while delivering the commencement address at Miami Dade College in Florida. (Politico, Apr. 30, 2011) He told the audience, “I know that several young people here have recently identified themselves as undocumented….And I will keep fighting alongside many of you to make the DREAM Act the law of the land.” (Id.) “Whether your ancestors came here on the Mayflower or a slave ship; whether they signed in at Ellis Island or they crossed the Rio Grande—we are one people,” he said. (Id.)

Utah Takes Center-Stage at Annual DC Immigration Conference

The Migration Policy Institute and Catholic Legal Immigration Network co-sponsored their Eighth Annual Immigration Law and Policy Conference last week at Georgetown University Law Center. Featuring an array of open-border lobby panelists, the Conference began with opening remarks—entitled “The Utah Experience”—from Utah’s pro-amnesty Attorney General, Mark Shurtleff.  Calling on the federal government to develop a Utah-inspired “America’s Compact,” Shurtleff described the U.S. as the world’s “golden door” and demanded that lawmakers deal with the problem of illegal immigration in a way that is “uniquely American.”  He denounced current efforts by state legislators to enforce provisions in the Illegal Immigration and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 that prohibit states from granting in-state tuition to illegal aliens, saying that it “takes the hope away” from the children of those here illegally. (See 8 U.S.C. § 1623) He also called for amnesty to bring illegal aliens out of the dark so that they do not have to steal the identities of others.

After his opening remarks, Shurtleff sat on the Conference’s discussion panel on states in immigration enforcement and policymaking, where criticized true immigration reformers rather than put forth viable solutions. He began by ridiculing FAIR’s President, Dan Stein, for comments he made on NPR’s Diane Rehm show weeks earlier that Utah lawmakers will likely pay a political price for supporting Utah’s guest worker-amnesty bill.  In doing so, Shurtleff ignored calls by activists urging Utah county Republican Party committees to recall legislators, comments by Utah Governor Gary Herbert (who signed the immigration bills into law) that he expects a primary challenger to use the bills as a platform against him in the next election, and the ousting of Utah’s former U.S. Senator Robert Bennett due in-part to his pro-amnesty stance.  (LA Times, Mar. 19, 2011; Reuters, Apr. 3, 2011)

Attorney General Shurtleff also criticized U.S. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX) for demanding that the Justice Department sue Utah over its guest worker-amnesty bill, saying Rep. Smith had no right to send it since Congress had yet to fix the immigration problem itself and comparing Rep. Smith to a child fighting over a sandbox.  (See Letter from Rep. Smith to AG Eric Holder) Finally, Shurtleff resorted to diminutive name-calling, declaring that Utah State Representative Stephen Sandstrom (R-58) was a “Russell Pearce puppy-dog” for sponsoring the Arizona-style enforcement legislation (H.B. 497) that was signed into law along with the amnesty bills.

The Utah Attorney General’s appearance at the MPI conference came a day after he met with U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) officials for another round of talks regarding a potential lawsuit over the Utah immigration law package.  To the press, Shurtleff said that Justice officials “made no threats and made no promises.”  (Fox 13, Apr. 26, 2011) At the Conference, however, Shurtleff told the audience he had convinced the DOJ not to sue the state over its law for at least two more years (absent a federal waiver, the law is scheduled to go into effect 2013). Omar Jadwat, an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) staff attorney who has helped the organization challenge Arizona’s S.B. 1070 and the Hazelton, Pennsylvania local enforcement measures, questioned the Obama Administration’s sincerity in its preemption arguments against Arizona in light of the DOJ’s inaction against Utah.  “It really makes you wonder if they [DOJ] meant what it said in Arizona,” he stated.  The ACLU is currently considering suing the State of Utah over Rep. Sandstrom’s enforcement legislation.  (The Spectrum, Apr. 21) Stay tuned to FAIR for updates on potential challenges to Utah’s law.

State Department Expands Warning about Travel to Mexico

Last week, the U.S. State Department issued an updated travel warning which extended the areas of danger to U.S. citizens traveling to Mexico.  (Travel Warning, Apr. 22, 2011)  This increased alarm for the safety of Americans traveling comes as the number of U.S. citizens reported murdered in Mexico has jumped from 35 in 2007 to 111 in 2010.  (Reuters, Apr. 26, 2011)

The travel warning tells travelers that Mexico’s “security situation poses serious risks for U.S. citizens…” and urges U.S. citizens to avoid all non-essential travel to ten states in northern and central Mexico due to ongoing violence and security concerns.  (Travel Warning, Apr. 22, 2011)  The Department of State warned travelers that violence along Mexican roads and highways has been a particular concern in the northern border region.  (Id.)  Most recently, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent Jaime Zapata was brutally shot while in his vehicle on a Mexican highway even after identifying himself as a diplomat.  (See FAIR Legislative Update, Feb. 22, 2011)  It is especially alarming that the danger increases with proximity to the U.S. – more than a third of all U.S. citizens killed in Mexico in 2010 were killed in the U.S. border cities of Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana.  (Travel Warning, Apr. 22, 2011)

In its release the State Department noted that “resort areas and tourist destinations in Mexico generally do not see the level of drug-related violence and crime reported in the border region and in areas along major trafficking routes.”  (Id.)   Though it might be rarer for U.S. citizens to be attacked, violence in resort areas is occurring.  Just last weekend, authorities discovered the bodies of four women and a 14 year-old girl who had their throats slashed at a resort’s beauty salon in Acapulco.  (Reuters, Apr. 23, 2010) 

Since 2006, Mexican President Felipe Calderon has led the Mexican government in an extensive effort to crackdown on the transnational criminal and drug organizations operating in Mexico.  According to the Mexican government’s reports, 34,612 people have been killed in drug-related violence in Mexico since 2006.  (Id.)  Even more alarming is that over 15,000 of those murders occurred in 2010 alone—evidence of the rapidly increasing violence used by the drug cartels.  (Id.) 

Earlier this month, Mexican authorities discovered two more mass graves in the northern Mexico desert.  In one clandestine grave more than 183 bodies have been found, while in another grave farther west, also uncovered this month, 96 bodies have been uncovered.  (Los Angeles Times, Apr. 27, 2011)  Although few of the bodies have been identified, drug war experts believe many of the dead, at least in the larger grave found in the area of Tamaulipas, Mexico, were migrant workers who refused to cooperate with the narcotics cartels’ demands.  (Reuters, Apr. 27, 2011)