Legislative Update: 2/07/2017 
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Legislative Update: 2/07/2017

Judge Halts Trump’s National Security Executive Order

By: Robert Law

An activist federal judge in Seattle temporarily blocked the Trump administration from implementing its short-term freeze on admitting people from 7 dangerous countries. The States of Washington and Minnesota sued last week, claiming that President Trump’s executive order to temporarily ban the entry (for 90 days) of individuals from countries that are hotbeds for terrorism is unconstitutional and economically harms the states. (See The Hill, Feb. 3, 2017; FAIR Legislative Update, Jan. 31, 2017) In a Friday ruling, District Judge James Robart issued a nationwide temporary restraining order (TRO) against enforcing the executive order, meaning the Trump administration cannot deny the entry of individuals from these dangerous countries. (See The Hill, Feb. 3, 2017) “The executive order adversely affects the states’ residents in areas of employment, education, business, family relations and freedom to travel,” Judge Robart claimed in his ruling. (See Washington Times, Feb. 4, 2017; Judge Robart's TRO Ruling, Feb. 3, 2017) Curiously, Judge Robart’s ruling does not provide any legal analysis on why the executive order is unconstitutional even though the plaintiff states’ alleged 10 violations of law in the complaint. The TRO also prevents the White House from suspending the refugee resettlement program for 120 days. (Id.; see FAIR Legislative Update, Jan. 31, 2017)

The Department of Justice (DOJ) immediately appealed the decision. In a statement Friday night, the White House said, “At the earliest possible time, the Department of Justice intends to file an emergency stay of this order and defend the executive order of the President, which we believe is lawful and appropriate.” (See The Hill, Feb. 3, 2017) The statement continued, “The president’s order is intended to protect the homeland and he has the constitutional authority and responsibility to protect the American people.” (Id.) Over the weekend, the DOJ asked the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals for an emergency stay of the TRO but it was denied. (Ninth Circuit Order, Feb. 4, 2017; DOJ Emergency Stay Motion, Feb. 4, 2017) However, the Ninth Circuit is still considering the full motion to stay the TRO—meaning overturn it—and requested both parties provide briefs on the TRO by Monday afternoon. (Ninth Circuit Order, Feb. 4, 2017)

Despite strongly disagreeing with the legitimacy of Judge Robart’s ruling, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is complying with the TRO while the issues are litigated. In a statement, DHS announced that it has suspended “any and all actions implementing the affected sections” of President Trump’s executive order. (DHS Press Release, Feb. 4, 2017) “This includes actions to suspend passenger system rules that flag travelers for operational action subject to the Executive Order. DHS personnel will resume inspection of travelers in accordance with standard policy and procedure.” (Id.)

Stay tuned to FAIR as details emerge…

House Judiciary Chair Outlines Immigration Priorities

By: Shari Rendall

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) rolled out his agenda for the Judiciary Committee in a speech last week at the National Press Club, highlighting several immigration issues he sees as top priorities during the 115th Congress. (Chairman Goodlatte’s Speech, Feb. 1, 2017) Chairman Goodlatte praised President Trump for “rolling back abusive and overreaching actions” of the Obama administration while noting that “Congress also has an important role to play” to “remove the ability of any President to unilaterally shut down immigration enforcement.” (Id.)

According to Chairman Goodlatte, President Obama’s failure to “fully enforce our nation’s immigration laws” and “unilaterally rewriting the law… violated the Constitution, allowed criminal aliens to evade the law, made our communities less safe, punish legal immigrants and encouraged more illegal immigration.” (Id.) Recognizing the need to bolster interior enforcement that was decimated during the Obama administration, Chairman Goodlatte emphasized the Committee will focus on detaining and deporting criminal aliens, ending dangerous sanctuary city policies, reforming the asylum system, and making sure that unaccompanied alien minors (UAMs) that “make the dangerous trek to the United states are safely returned home.” (Id.) 

Last Congress, the House Judiciary Committee passed five strong enforcement bills focusing on the priorities outlined by Chairman Goodlatte, including Rep. Lamar Smith’s (R-TX) Legal Workforce Act, requiring mandatory E-Verify, and Rep. Trey Gowdy’s (R-SC) Davis-Oliver Act. The Davis-Oliver Act is the primary interior enforcement bill providing local law enforcement the resources they need to be part of the solution to illegal immigration, while imposing meaningful penalties against local governments that persist in obstructing immigration enforcement. (See FAIR Statement, June 23, 2015) With Chairman Goodlatte and President Trump prioritizing interior enforcement, these bills should all receive a vote by the entire House this Congress.

In addition to the Committee’s focus on illegal immigration, it will also work to improve the legal immigration system. During his speech laying out the Committee’s agenda, Chairman Goodlatte highlighted that the United States “selects less than 12 percent of immigrants on the basis of the education and skills they can bring to America” and “it’s only 5 percent if you exclude their accompanying family members.” (See Chairman Goodlatte’s Speech, Feb. 1, 2017) He compared the United States with countries like Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia that select over 60 percent of their immigrant based on job skills, emphasizing that if the United States wants to remain competitive in the global economy Congress needs to make changes. (Id.) FAIR has long espoused support for changing the composition of legal immigration and openly supported the recommendations of the U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform to reduce family sponsored immigration and unskilled immigration, eliminate the visa lottery, increase the share of employment-based immigration, as well as lower overall immigrant admissions. (See FAIR’s Characteristics of Legal Immigrants, July 2013)

While FAIR supports much of the Committee’s agenda that Chairman Goodlatte laid out, his goal of a “workable agricultural guestworker system” could be problematic. (Chairman Goodlatte’s Speech, Feb. 1, 2017) Specifically, Chairman Goodlatte has previously authored legislation that grants amnesty to illegal aliens willing to perform agricultural work while significantly expanding the scope and duration of “temporary” agricultural work. (See FAIR Summary of the Agricultural Guestworker Act, September 2013) This type of “reform” is counterproductive and contrary to the national interest. Instead, the Committee should focus on why agricultural companies underutilize the current H-2A guest worker program (which is uncapped) rather than find ways to increase immigration and reward illegal aliens.

Overall, Chairman Goodlatte’s immigration agenda seeks to restore integrity to our immigration system and make American communities much stronger. FAIR looks forward to working with Chairman Goodlatte and the Committee during the 115th Congress to advance true immigration reform bills. 

President Trump Moves to Fill Key Leadership Roles at DHS

By: RJ Hauman

Last week, President Donald Trump took important steps to fill key leadership posts at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Trump appointed Thomas Homan to be acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and named Ronald Vitiello chief of the U.S. Border Patrol. (Law360, Jan. 31, 2017) Neither position requires Senate confirmation so they both immediately began working in their new roles. President Trump also announced his intent to nominate Elaine Duke as deputy secretary of Homeland Security, the number two post at DHS. (Id.) Duke will require Senate confirmation for her position, likely beginning with a confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in the near future.

More information on Homan, Vitello, and Duke can be found below.

Thomas Homan, ICE Director

Thomas Homan is a 33-year veteran of law enforcement and has nearly 30 years of immigration enforcement experience. (DHS Press Release, Jan. 30, 2017) He has served as an NYPD officer; a U.S. Border Patrol agent; a special agent with the former U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service; as well as supervisory special agent and deputy assistant director for investigations at ICE. (Id.)

Since 2013, Homan has served as the executive associate director of ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO). (Id.) In this capacity, he led ICE’s efforts to identify, arrest, detain, and remove illegal aliens, including those who present a danger to national security or are a risk to public safety, as well as those who enter the United States illegally or otherwise undermine the integrity of federal immigration laws and border control efforts. (Id.)

Homan replaces Daniel Ragsdale, who will resume his former position of deputy director. (Fox News, Jan. 31, 2017) Ragsdale had served in that capacity since May 2012 before his temporary appointment as acting director following Trump's inauguration. (Id.) While Ragsdale repeatedly made excuses for the Obama administration’s non-enforcement policies in several appearances before Congress, Homan shed light on the constraints put on his agents. (Breitbart, July 14, 2016) In a hearing last May, Homan acknowledged that deportation numbers were down due to policies that told ICE not to deport whole categories of people here unlawfully. (Daily Caller, May 19, 2016)

DHS Secretary John Kelly lauded President Trump’s appointment of Homan. (DHS Press Release, Jan. 30, 2017) "I am confident that [Homan] will continue to serve as a strong, effective leader for the men and women of ICE,” Kelly said. (Id.) “I look forward to working alongside him to ensure that we enforce our immigration laws in the interior of the United States consistent with the national interest.” (Id.)

Ronald Vitiello, Border Patrol Chief

Ronald Vitiello has more than 30 years of Border Patrol experience, including a stint as Acting Chief from December 1, 2015 until July 20, 2016, when he was appointed Executive Assistant Commissioner for Operations Support. (CBP Statement, Jan. 31, 2017)

Throughout his distinguished career, Vitiello has held numerous leadership positions, including Supervisory Border Patrol Agent; Special Operations Supervisor; Assistant Patrol Agent in Charge; Chief Patrol Agent for the Swanton (Vermont) and Rio Grande Valley Sectors; Assistant Chief Patrol Agent; and Senior Associate Chief. (Id.) Vitiello participated in Special Response Team operations and was instrumental in formulating the Laredo Sector Criminal Alien Program. (Id.) He also oversaw the regional implementation of Operation Rio Grande in 1997, and he worked extensively in the Tucson Sector Community Relations Office. (Id.)

Vitiello played a key role in standing up U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) as the nation’s unified border agency in 2003, having been assigned to the Operations Division of the former Border and Transportation Security Directorate. (Id.) Vitiello came to CBP headquarters in 2010 when he was named Deputy Chief. (Id.) He previously served as Chief of the Rio Grande Valley Sector – one of the largest, high-traffic Border Patrol Sectors in the country.  (Id.)

Vitiello replaces Mark Morgan, who resigned at the request of the new administration. Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council, the union which represents Border Patrol agents, said Morgan never had the support of the rank and file. (ABC News, Feb. 1, 2017) "[Vitiello] and I do not see eye to eye on a great, great many things but we were always able to keep it respectful, always," Judd said. (Id.) "Morgan and I have not been able to do that." (Id.) Judd went on to note that Vitiello’s experience will be invaluable for executing Trump’s plans to secure the border. (Id.) "The previous administration's attempts to treat the Border Patrol like any law enforcement agency resulted in leadership that was reactive and in constant crisis," he said. (Id.)

Elaine Duke, DHS Deputy Secretary Nominee

Elaine Duke has had a 30-year career with the federal government, most recently as undersecretary for management at DHS – a position she held until April 1, 2010. (DHS Press Release, Jan. 30, 2017) As the undersecretary, she was responsible for managing the Department's business lines and corresponding $47 billion budget. (Id.) Prior to her appointment, she served as the agency’s deputy undersecretary for management and was also chief procurement officer, leading DHS's $17 billion acquisition program. (Id.) She also served as deputy assistant administrator for acquisition at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), delivering an acquisition program that met the post 9/11 legislative mandate to federalize passenger and baggage screening at U.S. airports. (Id.) Prior to her service at DHS, Duke held various positions with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). (Id.)

In a statement, DHS Secretary Kelly said he could not be more pleased by the president’s selection of the career bureaucrat. (Id.) [Duke’s] unparalleled knowledge of the Department coupled with the overwhelmingly positive response I receive from everyone who hears her name prove she is the right person for the job,” Kelly said. (Id.) “I look forward to working with her to fulfill the Department’s critical mission of protecting the homeland.” (Id.)

Sessions Confirmation Expected This Week

By: RJ Hauman

Last Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced the nomination of Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) for attorney general in a party-line vote. (CNN, Feb. 1, 2017) All 11 Republicans on the committee backed Sessions, while all nine Democrats opposed him. (Id.) The full Senate is expected to vote today on the nomination of Betsy DeVos for Education Secretary, with a vote on Sessions next in the queue. While the exact date and time of the vote is still unknown, it is expected to be this week.

Stay tuned to FAIR for additional updates…

Texas Gov. Abbott Cuts funding from Austin over Sanctuary Policy

By: State & Local Government Relations

Texas Governor Greg Abbott is staying true to his promise to cut funding from Texas localities that obstruct the enforcement of immigration law. (Fox News, Feb. 2, 2017) On Wednesday, Governor Abbott cut state funding from Travis County, which includes the City of Austin, after Sheriff Sally Hernandez announced that the county jail would not comply with detainer requests issued by the federal government. (Id.)

The funding cuts are estimated to cost Austin approximately $1.5 million in grant funds earmarked for law enforcement purposes. (Id.) “Today I cut funding to Travis County because of its Sanctuary City policy. Stiffer penalties coming soon,” announced Gov. Abbott on Wednesday. (Twitter, Feb. 1, 2017)

Governor Abbott made clear that one of his priorities this year is to eliminate sanctuary cities in the state. (KSLA, Jan. 31, 2017) Texas has been on the front lines of the illegal immigration issue, including the recent border surge of unaccompanied alien minors and family units from Central America. (FAIR Legislative Update, July 5, 2016) The Obama administration's proactive dismantling of immigration enforcement nationwide over the past eight years has forced many states to take action to discourage illegal immigration to their regions. (See FAIR Legislative Update, June 28, 2016) 

In addition to cutting funding from sanctuary cities, Gov. Abbott has thrown his support behind anti-sanctuary legislation currently being considered in the Texas Legislature. (KSLA, Jan. 31, 2017) The Governor has specifically supported Senate Bill 4 (SB 4). (Fox News, Jan. 26, 2017) The measure, which was sponsored by Senator Charles Perry, prohibits Texas localities and campuses from implementing sanctuary policies, requires law enforcement to comply with ICE detainers, and imposes liability on localities that release aliens from custody in defiance of a detainer request. (SB 4)

The Senate Committee on State Affairs held a hearing last Thursday to consider promoting the measure. (Committee Report) The committee voted, 7-2, to support the bill and allow it to progress to the full Senate for a vote. (Id.) Lieutenant Gov. Dan Patrick affirmed SB 4 as a priority. (Statesman, Jan. 31, 2017) “We will ... act on that bill this Thursday in committee and hope to pass it on the floor next week,” Patrick said. (Id.)