FAIR Legislative Update October 15, 2012
Number of Backdoor Amnesty Beneficiaries Grows Drastically as Administration Rushes Application Process
Just weeks before the presidential election, the Obama Administration released data revealing it has granted deferred action to over 4,500 illegal aliens under the President's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. (See USCIS Data, Oct. 12, 2012) This number is exponentially higher than the 29 cases the Administration claimed to have completed or otherwise approved just one month ago. (See USCIS Data, Sept. 14, 2012) Such a drastic increase in approvals in just one-month's period suggests the Administration is either failing to fully investigate the deferred action applicants, or if the Administration is doing so, it is at the expense of immigration enforcement.
So far the Administration has refused to answer the countless requests made by members of congress to explain the applicant vetting process. Just this last week the Administration missed a deadline for an information request made by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) asking what forms of documentation the applicants are required to show, and what level of background check DHS will conduct on them. (Read letter here; see FAIR Legislative Update, Oct. 9, 2012) Moreover, the Administration has made it clear time-and-time again it intends to use its resources for amnesty initiatives rather than immigration enforcement. (See Morton Memos; see also DHS Budget in Brief FY2013)
Remarkably, the latest USCIS data also fails to state whether the Administration has actually denied any applicants. In fact, an email exchange between DHS officials uncovered by Sen. Grassley and Rep. Smith's offices reveal the Administration has put in place a policy requiring adjudicators who process DACA applications to "to hold [Requests for Evidence] and denials," saying all such cases must be sent for supervisory review. (Read exchange here) This policy comports with the Administration's "get-to-yes" culture, forcing immigration officers to rubberstamp benefits applications as exposed by the Inspector General earlier this year. (See OIG Report 12-24, Jan. 2012; see also FAIR Legislative Update, Jan. 9, 2012)
Last week, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) refused to deport Mr. Jose Antonio Vargas, an admitted illegal alien and felon. The Minnesota State Patrol pulled over Mr. Vargas, who was in Minnesota to give a lecture, for wearing earphones while driving. (Star Tribune, Oct. 6, 2012) When Vargas presented law enforcement with a Washington State driver's license that had been canceled due to possible fraudulent activity, the State Patrol arrested him and called ICE. (Id.) After his arrest, police took Vargas to the Hennepin County jail, where ICE agents questioned him. He walked out a free man. (New York Times, Oct. 8, 2012)
Mr. Vargas first made headlines in June 2011 for his story in The New York Times Magazine, in which he described his life as an illegal alien in the United States. (New York Times Magazine, June 22, 2011) In that article, he admits not only that he is an illegal alien, but that he has committed multiple crimes in order to stay and work in the United States as a reporter for several well-known newspapers.
Audaciously, a year later, Mr. Vargas authored a story for Time Magazine, entitled "Not Legal Not Leaving." (Time Magazine, June 25, 2012) In this article, he expresses pride in the fact that his actions have encouraged other illegal aliens to publicly admit their illegal status. Regarding the fact that he has not yet been deported, he boasts, "coming out didn't endanger me; it  protected me." (Id.)
Indeed, Mr. Vargas's story presents astonishing evidence that the Obama Administration intends to pick and choose which immigration laws it enforces and when. This becomes only to clear when one considers the fact that Mr. Vargas, in his original article, admits to committing the following offenses:
- Knowingly altering a document prescribed by statute as evidence of authorized employment in the United States, or using or possessing such document, knowing it to be forged or altered: a felony punishable by up to 15 years imprisonment under 18 U.S.C. 1546(a). This violation also makes the crime an "aggravated felony" under 8 U.S.C. 101(a)(43)(P).
- Using —
- an identification document, knowing (or having reason to know) that the document was not issued lawfully for the use of the possessor,
- an identification document knowing (or having reason to know) that the document is false, and
- a false attestation,
for the purpose of establishing work authorization: all of which are felonies punishable by up to 5 years imprisonment under 18 U.S.C. 1546(b).
Remarkably, instead of being embarrassed when asked why the law enforcement agency did not detain and begin removal proceedings on Vargas, ICE showed defiance. "Mr. Vargas was not arrested by ICE, nor did the agency issue a detainer," said an ICE spokeswoman in a statement. (Politico, Oct. 8, 2012) "ICE is focused on smart, effective immigration enforcement that prioritizes the removal of public safety threats, recent border crossers and egregious immigration law violators, such as those who have been previously removed from the United States." (Id.)
Not only does ICE's statement regarding Mr. Vargas demonstrate complete distain for the rule of law, it raises the serious question of whether ICE is even following its own policies on the detention and removal of illegal aliens. The agency's policy memo on deportation priorities clearly points out that ICE's first priority for removal is placed on aliens who are a threat to public safety, including terrorists and criminal aliens — and in the latter case felons and aggravated felons in particular. Yet, ICE may still try to claim it is following agency policy as Mr. Vargas was never prosecuted for or convicted of the above crimes. Such an argument, however, leads to no other conclusion that ICE — our nation's immigration law enforcement agency — intends to turn a blind eye to confessed criminals. Mr. Vargas not only admitted to the entire world that he was an illegal alien and had committed additional serious crimes, he even admitted he knew he was breaking the law when he committed the acts themselves. He wrote that, like most Americans, even he expected the federal government to deport him. However, to-date the Obama Administration has done nothing.
On Wednesday, Mississippi became the first state to challenge the Obama Administration's backdoor amnesty initiative when Gov. Phil Bryant joined a lawsuit filed by several U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers. (Fox News, Oct. 10, 2012) The lawsuit, filed in August, challenges Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano's June 15 memorandum granting deferred action to illegal aliens up to the age of 31 who meet the criteria of the failed DREAM Act, as well as ICE Director John Morton's series of memoranda instructing agents to ignore the vast majority of illegal aliens not convicted of a crime. (See Amended Complaint, No. 3:12-cv-03247-O filed Oct. 10, 2012)
Adding his claim to the original complaint, Gov. Bryant argued that the Obama Administration's unilateral decision to grant deferred action will force Mississippi to bear the fiscal burden of illegal aliens the Administration refuses to deport. (Id.; see also FAIR Legislative Update, Aug. 27, 2012) "The illegal alien beneficiaries of the [memoranda] that remain in the State of Mississippi will impose a net fiscal cost on the State that is foreseeable, estimable, and significant," the complaint reads. (See Amended Cmplt. at ¶ 66) According to Bryant, these costs include: educating illegal aliens in the State's K-12 system; uncompensated healthcare provided by State agencies, hospitals, and clinics; costs associated with arresting, prosecuting, and incarcerating illegal aliens; and lost tax revenues and economic losses related to illegal aliens who avoid paying taxes. (Id.)
To quantify this fiscal impact, Gov. Bryant drew from data in a report he issued in 2006 while serving as State Auditor analyzing the cost of illegal immigration to Mississippians. (Id. at ¶ 61) Taking into consideration the tax contributions paid by illegal aliens, the report nonetheless revealed the net fiscal impact of illegal aliens in the State of Mississippi was at least $25 million annually. (Id. at ¶ 62) In its own study, FAIR estimates the cost of illegal aliens to Mississippi taxpayers is roughly $106 million. (See FAIR Cost-Study, Table 15, 2010)
"States must protect their borders while the federal government continues to ignore this growing problem," Gov. Bryant declared. (Gov. Bryant Press Release, Oct. 10, 2012) "I believe this action by the Obama administration is unconstitutional and circumvents Congress's authority. The fact remains that illegal immigration is a real issue with real consequences, and ignoring the rule of law is irresponsible. As governor, I cannot turn a blind eye to the problem of illegal immigration and its costs to Mississippi," he concluded. (Id.)
Last week, President Obama pandered to Latino voters by releasing a new Spanish language campaign ad praising illegal alien minors who fit the criteria of the failed DREAM Act. (Fox News Latino, Oct. 9, 2012)
The ad, entitled "Buen Ejemplo" (or "Good Example"), portrays the so-called "DREAMers" as a population characterized by youthful innocence who are categorically hard working and law-abiding. The ad states:
In the young people known as DREAMers, I see the same qualities Michelle and I try to instill in our daughters. They respect their parents, they study for a better life, and they want to give back to the only country they know and love. As a father, they inspire me. And as President, their courage reminds me that no obstacle is too great. No road too long. (View the ad here)
Yet, the versions of the DREAM Act introduced in Congress — and the Obama Administration's own backdoor amnesty policies — are so broad that the reality of this population is vastly different from that portrayed by the Obama campaign. In reality, under the President's backdoor amnesty program (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), these "DREAMers" consist of illegal aliens up to the age of 31, who are enrolled in as little of a program as to prepare them to take a GED exam or vocational school, and they can even possess a criminal record. Nonetheless, these illegal aliens are eligible to remain in the country and receive work authorization. (See USCIS Website; see also FAIR Legislative Update June 19, 2012)
Despite the Obama campaign's pandering to the Latino community — particularly to those in mixed-status families who have a personal stake in the President's amnesty agenda — immigration is still low on the list of issues important to Latinos. The latest Gallup/USA Today poll reveals Latinos rank immigration as third in their list of important election issues. (Gallup, June 25, 2012)
Today FAIR is releasing its Voting Report for the 112th Congress to provide our supporters insight into how their Members of Congress have voted on immigration over the last two years. FAIR's Government Relations Department issues this report every two years as the legislative session comes to a close by analyzing the bills voted on in each chamber and choosing a sampling to present a picture of each Member's position on immigration.
While no amnesty votes were taken, this year's report reveals a stark lack of leadership on this critical issue. In particular, Congressional Leadership refused to allow for votes on enforcement-related bills at a time when the President and his Administration is unilaterally dismantling enforcement programs. Indeed, the only enforcement-related measures to receive votes were amendments to appropriations bills in the House. While many of these amendments represented good policy, they never had an opportunity to become law because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) blocked them from reaching the Senate floor. Nonetheless, Senator Reid insisted on a vote to increase immigration.
We encourage all of our supporters to review the new Voting Report and learn more about how their lawmakers are representing them. To view how your Representative voted, click here. To view how your Senators voted, click here.