Legislative Update: 12/23/2013
Deportations Drop in 2013
As Washington, D.C. closed its doors for the holidays, the Obama Administration quietly released its 2013 year-end removal numbers.
While Administration officials and the amnesty lobby continue to claim that deportation numbers are at record highs, the statistics released Thursday revealed a 10 percent drop in removals over the last year. In 2012, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) reported removing 409,849 aliens. (See ICE Press Release, Dec. 21, 2012) This year's report, however, shows ICE removed only 368,644 aliens. (See 2013 ICE Removals Report)
Not only do the statistics show a drop in deportations, they also underscore the Administration's continued efforts to pad removal numbers. Both the Border Patrol (which has jurisdiction at the border) and ICE (which has jurisdiction in the interior) have the authority to return aliens to their home countries, depending on several variables. However, by shifting custody of aliens caught by the Border Patrol, many of whom would normally be returned by the Border Patrol, to ICE for removal, the Obama Administration has engaged in a multi-year effort to make ICE look like it is actually enforcing the law, when it is really taking credit for work normally done by the Border Patrol. For example, the 2013 data show that nearly 64% of the aliens ICE removed in 2013 (235,093 out of 368,644) were apprehended at the border and then transferred from the Border Patrol to ICE. Meanwhile, ICE only removed 133,551 illegal aliens in the interior of the United States, showing the administrations wholesale abandonment of its responsibility to enforce the immigration laws against those already in the country.
FAIR President Dan Stein blasted the latest removal numbers as evidence of the Obama administration's unwillingness to enforce our immigration laws, cautioning against any future amnesties. "The 2013 removal numbers should effectively halt consideration of the president's immigration agenda in the House of Representatives. It is clear that the Obama administration's enforcement claims are misleading, at best, and that Congress and the American people should have no confidence that new enforcement promises would be kept." (FAIR Press Release, Dec. 20, 2013)
Senator Sessions Fights to Stop Fraudulent Benefits for Illegal Aliens
On Tuesday, true immigration reformer Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) proposed an amendment to the budget bill that would stop the improper payment of the additional child tax credit (ACTC) to illegal aliens. (Fox News, Dec. 17, 2013) If the amendment had been adopted, it would have recovered more than enough revenue to save the $6 billion in veterans' pensions cut included in the budget deal brokered by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). (Id.)
The ACTC allows low income earners to receive a credit of $1,000 per child; if filers owe no taxes, they get that $1,000 per child paid to them. Illegal aliens are eligible to receive the tax credit because Congress has yet to close the loophole in federal law that allows taxpayers to claim the credit with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) rather than a Social Security number. The IRS freely gives out ITINs to illegal aliens so that they can comply with U.S. tax laws (even if they are violating immigration laws).
In a 2011 report, the Inspector General for the IRS found that illegal aliens improperly received $4.2 billion refundable credits in 2010. The Inspector General recommended that Congress bar taxpayers from using individual taxpayer identification numbers to file for the ACTC. (Treasury Inspector General Report, July 2011). The IRS is expected to issue some $7.4 billion in ACTC payouts this year. (AL.com, Dec. 17, 2013)
Sessions' amendment would have adopted a legislative fix recommended by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, barring the use of the ITIN to claim the ACTC. It would have then used the savings to restore the cuts made to veterans' pension benefits. Arguing on behalf of his amendment, Senator Sessions said, "Removing this unbalanced treatment of our military retirees ought to be one of the key actions we should take before this legislation moves forward. In fact, greater savings than this can be achieved by passing a legislative fix recommended by the Inspector General of the U.S. Treasury that would stop the IRS from improperly providing tax credits to illegal aliens." (Daily Caller, Dec. 17, 2013)
However, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) quickly stopped any consideration of the Sessions amendment. Through a process called "filling the amendment tree," Reid essentially barred additional amendments to the budget bill. (Powerline, Dec. 17, 2013) Sessions offered a motion to clear the amendment tree, which would allow the Senate to vote on his amendment. (Id.) Unfortunately, Sessions' motion failed by a vote of 46 to 54, and the Senate passed the Murray-Ryan budget deal without blocking illegal aliens from receiving ACTC benefits. (Id.)
On Friday, the Senate confirmed current U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Alejandro Mayorkas to be the next deputy secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). (Roll Call Vote #286) The Senate approved Mayorkas for the number two position at DHS in spite of an investigation pending against him by the DHS Inspector General for impropriety relating to the EB-5 investor visa program.
The investigation of Mayorkas initially began as a survey of the EB-5 visa program, which grants foreign investors a green card if they invest between $500,000 and $1 million into a new business that creates a certain number of jobs for U.S. workers. (See INA 203(b)(5); see also USCIS Website, July 3, 2012) Mayorkas was named by the Inspector General's office as a target in the investigation involving the USCIS run program, according to an email sent to lawmakers in July. (Associated Press, July 23, 2013) The FBI was told about the investigation in June after it inquired about Mayorkas as part of the White House background investigation for his nomination as Deputy DHS Secretary. (Id.) According to the Associated Press, the FBI has been concerned about the investor visa program and the projects funded by foreign sources since at least March. (Id.)
Not only is Mayorkas under investigation by the Inspector General's office, the agency he previously led has suffered from low morale, raising additional questions about his qualifications. Though USCIS ranked 76th out of 300 federal agencies in the latest "Best Places to Work" survey, further analysis demonstrates agency personnel had little confidence in his leadership. (Federal Government 2013 "Best Places to Work" Survey) In the broader category of "effective leadership," USCIS ranked 168. (Id.) The subcategory of "empowerment" which measures "how satisfied [employees] are with their involvement in decisions that affect their work" ranked only 179. (Id.) Even worse, the subcategory of "fairness," which measures "whether employees believe arbitrary action and personal favoritism are tolerated and if employees feel comfortable reporting illegal activity without fear of reprisal," came in at 210th. (Id.)