FAIR Legislative Update May 6, 2013
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has allowed additional hearings on S. 744, the Gang of Eight's "comprehensive immigration reform" bill. First, the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on the border security provisions in the bill Tuesday, May 7 at 10:30 a.m., and will feature five witnesses from the Department of Homeland Security. (See HSGAC Committee Website) The other hearing will be held by the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation on Wednesday, May 8 at 2:30 p.m. entitled "The Role of Immigrants in America's Innovation Economy." (See Commerce, Science, and Transportation Website) That hearing will focus on "implications for the U.S. technology sector and universities offering science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) degrees," and is expected to be used to shore up support for the legislation's provisions increasing the number of H-1B visas and STEM green cards.
Despite the addition of these two last-minute hearings, the Judiciary Committee still intends to begin amending the roughly 850-page bill the morning of Thursday, May 9 at 9:30 a.m. (See Senate Judiciary Committee Website) Stay tuned to FAIR for details....
As the public outcry against the Gang of Eight's amnesty legislation grows, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who once called the group's 844-page bill the "toughest immigration bill in U.S. history," is now admitting it may not be so tough after all.
On talk radio last week, Sen. Rubio conceded that the bill needs improvements and is unlikely to pass Congress in its current form. "I think this [bill] is a starting point…we can and should improve [it]," Sen. Rubio told host Mike Gallagher. (See Rubio interview, Apr. 30, 2013) He then admitted, "The bill that's in place right now probably can't pass the House; it will have to be adjusted because people are very suspicious about the willingness of the government to enforce the laws now — and in the future — given our experiences with immigration in the past." (Id.; see also Politico, May 1, 2013)
Then the next day on the Sean Hannity radio show, Sen. Rubio further acknowledged the bill's border security provisions were inadequate. Without going into detail, Sen. Rubio admitted, "The part we still have to do some work on is this border stuff." (See The Daily Caller, May 2, 2013) He continued, "[C]learly what we have in there now is not good enough for too many people so we got to make it better…So what I tell people that don't like what we're doing on the border is to send us ideas." (Id.)
Sen. Rubio also attempted to quell concerns that the Secretary of Homeland Security, who already has a track record of non-enforcement, is ceded too much unchecked authority under the legislation. "If in fact, somehow in the drafting the unintended consequence is that the Secretary is given too much discretion, we can fix that...." said Sen. Rubio (See Rubio interview, Apr. 30, 2013) "[O]therwise, what we have in place now is the ultimate waiver...." (Id.) Despite this acknowledgement, the bill neither contains, nor has Sen. Rubio or any member of the Gang of Eight proposed, putting an end to President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program or any other prosecutorial discretion initiative employed by the Administration.
Rather, Sen. Rubio and his fellow Gang members have deliberately ignored the concerns of officers charged with enforcing U.S. immigration law. In fact, they ignored repeated requests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) union president Chris Crane to provide input over the bill's enforcement provisions. "Almost one month ago, we asked for a meeting with the Gang of Eight to discuss law enforcement concerns," Mr. Crane said at a mid-April press conference held by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL). (breitbart.com, Apr. 27, 2013) "[The Gang] told us they weren't taking meetings but they were meeting all along with special interests and pro-amnesty groups." said Crane. (Id.)
Although, Sen. Rubio finally met with Mr. Crane a day before the Gang introduced its bill, the meeting lasted just over an hour and none of his concerns were taken into account. (Id.) To the contrary, Mr. Crane was escorted out of the Gang of Eight press conference following the bill's introduction for attempting to ask a question. (See video of Chris Crane discussing incident; see also The Daily Caller, Apr. 18, 2013)
The high-tech industry has significantly increased its lobbying in 2013 to influence "comprehensive" immigration reform. In the first three months of the year, seven technology companies and a software association spent a combined $13.8 million lobbying Congress, with each entity spending at least $1 million individually. (USA Today, Apr. 29, 2013) By comparison, the pro-amnesty National Council of La Raza spent $80,000 lobbying during the same timeframe. (Id.)
The increase in social networking giant Facebook's lobbying presence has coincided with the Gang of Eight's amnesty push. Although lobbying reports do not require companies to disclose how much it spends per issue, Facebook spent $2.45 million lobbying during the first three months of 2013, compared to $650,000 during the same period last year. (Id.) Additionally, Facebook is now represented by 38 federal lobbyists compared to only two lobbyists in 2009. (Id.)
The Gang of Eight rewarded the tech industry's lobbying effort by removing any caps on the number of green cards allotted to foreign workers in the technology sector. Currently, the EB-2 visa category, the primary category for tech workers, accounts for almost half of the approximately 13 percent of green cards issued based on employment. (Department of Homeland Security, Annual Flow Report: U.S. Legal Permanent Residents: 2011) Under the Gang of Eight's bill, aliens with advanced degrees in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) field are exempt from the green card cap despite an oversupply of American STEM workers. (S. 744 sec. 2307(b)(1); see Columbia Journalism Review, May 1, 2013) Additionally, employers sponsoring STEM workers are exempt from the labor certification requirement. (INA sec. 212(a)(5); S. 744 sec. 2307(b)(2) The Gang of Eight also significantly increased the number of nonimmigrant visas available to the technology companies. Specifically, S. 744 increases the number of H-1B temporary visas awarded to "high-skilled" foreign workers from 65,000 to 110,000, with the potential to reach 180,000 based on certain factors. (See FAIR S. 744 H-1B Summary) The bill also increases the additional allotment of H-1Bs for individuals with advanced degrees from U.S. universities from 20,000 to 25,000 but limits them to the STEM fields. (Id.)
The tech lobby lauded the Gang of Eight legislation. According to Facebook spokeswoman Jodi Seth, the tech industry "needs a modernized, high-skilled immigration system in order to keep growing… and the Senate bill moves us in the right direction." (USA Today, Apr. 29, 2013) Notably, Facebook is a major beneficiary of a new loophole that exempts them from paying significant fees imposed on "H-1B-dependent employers," meaning employers whose H-1B workers comprise greater than 15 percent of the business's workforce. (See FAIR S. 744 H-1B Summary)
Apparently Facebook exceeded the 15 percent threshold, so the bill exempts so-called "intending immigrants" (H-1B workers that an employer sponsors for a green card) when determining whether an employer is an H-1B-dependent employer. (S. 744 sec. 4211; see FAIR S. 744 H-1B Summary) This so-called "Facebook rule" is another prime example of the Gang of Eight rewarding special interests at the expense of the American worker. It circumvents the intent of the H-1B-dependent employer classification, guarantees employers have access to cheaper high-tech during the green card sponsorship process, and introduces additional hurdles for experienced U.S. workers in STEM fields to find employment.
Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testified that HHS has its "hands full" with implementing Obamacare and is unprepared for the Senate "comprehensive" immigration reform bill's impact on health insurance costs. (PJ Media, Apr. 12, 2013)
During a House Ways and Means Committee hearing on April 12, Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-TX) asked Sebelius, "Has HHS made any preparation for how to meet the added cost of providing care for the potential 10 or 12 million [illegal aliens] that might gain permanent resident status under any kind of an immigration bill?" (Id.) "Sir, we don't do anything about what the Congress may or may not do in the future. No sir," replied Sebelius. (Id.) "So, there's been no preparation made whatsoever for that large group of people," pressed Marchant. (Id.) Sebelius declared, "We are working with the law as it is right now and, believe me, have our hands full to try and make sure that the law of the land is carried out." (Id.)
Under the Gang of Eight's bill, amnestied illegal aliens can adjust to legal permanent resident status in 10 years, at which point they become eligible for Obamacare. (See FAIR S. 744 Amnesty Summary) And, illegal aliens who qualify for amnesty through the DREAM Act or as agricultural workers can apply for green cards in only five years. (Id.) The Republican staff of the Senate Budget Committee estimates that the long-term cost of amnesty could cost taxpayers trillions of dollars. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Apr. 15, 2013)
On Wednesday, May 1, Governor Kitzhaber signed SB 833, a law that provides four-year, modified Oregon driver's licenses, a so-called "driver's card," to illegal aliens that have lived in Oregon for at least one year. Effective on January, 1, 2014, SB 833 will provide "tens of thousands" of illegal aliens living in Oregon four-year driver's cards. (The Associated Press, May 2, 2013). In order to be eligible for a driver's card, an illegal alien must:
- meet the requirements of the driver's license or permit but will be exempt from having to prove legal presence in the U.S.,
- provide proof of identity and date of birth which may be established by a foreign passport, consular ID or other document,
- prove residence in Oregon of at least one year,
- provide a Social Security number or a written statement saying that he/she has not been assigned a Social Security Number, and
- pay licensing fees. (Section 2(3)(a)-(e)).
The new law represents a reversal from the previous Administration's crack down on driver's licenses for illegal aliens. In November 2007, former Governor Kulongoski signed Executive Order 07-22, requiring applicants to present "a valid Social Security number as well as acceptable documentation to prove name and date of birth."
A year later, Oregon passed a law to further tighten documentation and identity verification requirements for the issuance, replacement and renewal of Oregon driver's licenses, permits, and ID cards. (SB 1080, Mar. 11, 2008 Supplemental Session). The 2008 law required an applicant to provide documents proving legal presence, a valid Social Security number and their full legal name. (Section 2(1)). It also required verification of legal presence using the federal Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) program and required the issuance of limited term cards that expire when immigration documents expire.
Supporters of SB 833 argue that the roads in Oregon will be safer if illegal aliens have driver's licenses, while opponents argue that the law will only attract more illegal aliens to Oregon. (See SB 833 Witness Testimony). FAIR estimates 170,000 illegal aliens were living in the state of Oregon in 2010, costing the state an estimated $704 million . (FAIR Oregon Immigration Facts).
Oregonians for Immigration Reform, one of the most influential groups opposed to the new law, has expressed its intention to submit the law to a vote by Veto Referendum, a process that allows voters to approve or reject legislation adopted by the Oregon Legislature. (Oregonians for Immigration Reform, May 1, 2013). The group must collect 58,142 signatures by September 26 in order for the referendum to be placed on the November 2014 ballot. To offer assistance or donate toward this cause, click here.
SB 833 was introduced and passed in less than a month. (See Measure History). At the May 1 signing of the law, Governor Kitzhaber told the crowd that "[t]his bill is a part of a larger vision where all Oregonians deserve and get their shot at the American dream." (The Associated Press, May 2, 2013). Supporters carried signs stating, "Thank you. Now I can drive my kids to school." Passage of SB 833 comes less than a month after Governor Kitzhaber signed legislation allowing illegal aliens to pay in-state tuition rates, effective July 1, 2013. (HB 2787, Apr. 2, 2013).