FAIR Legislative Update September 4, 2013
Refusing to take up an immigration bill before Congress' annual August recess, House Leadership left the American people wondering when it would bring legislation to the floor for a vote. However, recent comments from GOP leadership aides indicate Republicans are now considering bringing immigration-related legislation to the House floor this fall. (CQ Roll Call, Aug. 28, 2013) Indeed, an aide to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) told reporters last week that GOP leaders "hope to consider [immigration] legislation" in October. The aide's remarks appear to confirm statements made by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), a leading amnesty proponent, who told constituents at a town hall in late-July that House leaders planned to take up immigration in October. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, July 27, 2013; see also FAIR Legislative Update, July 30, 2013) This surprised some, as House Leadership had been evasive in setting a timetable. In fact, when specifically questioned about Ryan's timeline a week later on Fox News Sunday, Leader Cantor dodged the question, telling host Chris Wallace, "We will have a vote on a series of bills at some point..." (See Fox News Sunday Transcript, Aug. 4, 2013)
However, despite the Majority Leader's Office's sudden willingness to confirm an October vote, the growing number of issues that the House must also address this fall is already threatening the recently announced timeline. These priority legislative items include the need to pass a budget for the new fiscal year (the current fiscal year ends September 30), the pending debt ceiling debate (last Week Treasury Secretary Jack Lew told Congress the U.S. would reach the limit of its borrowing authority in mid-October), and possible resolutions on whether to take military action in Syria.
Underscoring the possibility that these items may push immigration to the sidelines, Speaker Boehner told reporters last week that the President would be in for a "whale of a fight" over the debt limit. (The Hill, Aug. 27, 2013) "If we have to deal with the debt limit earlier, it doesn't change the overall dynamics of the debate, but — just in terms of timing — it might make it harder to find time for immigration bills in October," confirmed one House Republican leadership aide. (Politico, Aug. 28, 2013) Indeed, the House is in session only 14-days that month, and less than 40 House working days remain before the year ends. (Id.)
Because 2014 is an election year, many see the end of the 2013 calendar year as the unofficial deadline for Congress to pass an amnesty. As the calendar moves closer to Election Day, political observers predict that legislative leaders will not have the appetite for such a divisive debate.
Even so, GOP Leaders in the House still suggest they intend to vote on at least one immigration bill in an effort to conference with the Senate amnesty legislation. For example, House GOP Policy Chair James Lankford (R-OK) told reporters he was convinced that his fellow Republicans were prepared to vote down any piece of legislation emerging from conference committee with which they did not agree, insinuating that a House-Senate conference committee was a done deal. (Newsmax, July 11, 2013; see also Speaker Boehner's comments as reported in The Hill) When the Senate and House pass different bills, they must resolve the differences in the legislation through a "conference committee." After the conference committee reaches agreement on identical bill language, the newly-agreed upon legislation goes back to each chamber to vote for final passage.
According to FAIR's sources, whenever House leaders decide to bring up immigration, they will lead with "border security" and enforcement-style legislation. However, the "border security" bill currently making its way through the House, the Border Security Results Act (H.R. 1417) authored by Homeland Security Committee Chair Michael McCaul (R-TX) is nothing more than a repeat of the Senate amnesty bill's weak border provisions. (See FAIR Summary of H.R. 1417) H.R. 1417 does not require that DHS actually obtain situational awareness or operational control of any part of the border; it merely requires DHS to submit a plan for doing so. (Id.)
Long-time amnesty advocate and Gang of Seven leader Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) is frustrated that "comprehensive" immigration reform has stalled in the House of Representatives. "I was hopeful we would be in a better place today," Gutierrez conceded to reporters during a town hall event in House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte's (R-VA) district last week. (The Hill, Aug. 29, 2013)
After four years of behind-the-scenes negotiations, the bipartisan group has yet to release an amnesty bill. While Gutierrez claims the group has drafted a 500-page "comprehensive" bill, he is unable to articulate the path to final passage because the Gang's three GOP members have not yet officially endorsed the legislation. "I will be very clear and succinct: I have already signed off," Gutierrez stated. (Id.) "It is now time for my Republican colleagues to step forward and to announce a date. If they give me a date, I'll be there and we'll present legislation and present it to the public." (Id.)
Gutierrez casts the blame for the Gang's inability to produce a bill squarely on House leadership. "I think it is very, very important to understand, that unlike the Senate, the group has not received any support," Gutierrez said. (Id.) "In the Senate," he continued, "it was clear that the group of eight was going to have the support [of leadership], and that there would be hearings and theirs was going to be the main bill." (Id.)
In a desperate attempt to guilt the House into passing amnesty legislation, Gutierrez has resorted to fear mongering. "[S]omeone's going to lose a finger, a hand, an eye, a life today because an unscrupulous employer is going to put them in harm's way, someone's going to die; there's a woman that's going to be raped in a field somewhere in America today" because the House has not passed the Senate's massive amnesty bill, Gutierrez audaciously declared at an event in Rep. Frank Wolf's (R-VA) district. (National Review, Aug. 27, 2013.)
Both Reps. Goodlatte and Wolf declined to appear with Gutierrez at the Virginia event, citing scheduling conflicts. However, video of Gutierrez's comments can be seen below.
California Legislature Approves Bill to Allow Legal Permanent Residents to Serve as Jurors and Poll Workers
On August 22, the California Legislature passed AB 1401, a bill that will allow legal permanent residents of California to serve as jurors. The bill passed by a vote along party lines of 48 to 28.
Currently, California law requires all jurors to be U.S. citizens. However, if Governor Jerry Brown signs AB 1401, "lawful permanent immigrants" will be permitted to serve on juries. In fact, more than 3 million legal permanent residents in California would be eligible for jury duty under AB 1401. (Los Angeles Times, Aug. 28, 2013)
The sponsor, Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, claims the goal of the legislation is to make jury pools more inclusive. (Id.) But opponents argue that allowing noncitizens to serve on juries threatens the integrity of our judicial system. Assemblyman Rocky Chavez pointed out that some people migrate from countries in which suspects are presumed to be guilty until proven innocent unlike the American judicial system which presumes a suspect to be innocent until proven guilty. (United Press International, Aug. 29, 2013) AB 1401 is currently pending Governor Brown's signature.
A companion bill, AB 817, signed by Governor Brown last Tuesday, allows legal permanent residents to serve as poll workers during elections. Under the bill, election officials can appoint up to five legal permanent resident workers at each polling place.