Legislative Update: 2/21/2017
By Shari Rendall
Last week, federal immigration officials arrested 680 illegal aliens across 11 states. (New York Times, Feb. 13, 2017) More than 75 percent of those arrested were criminal aliens charged with crimes ranging from homicide to sexual assault, according to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary John Kelly. (See DHS Press Release, Feb. 13, 2017) Other individuals arrested included those illegally reentering the country after being removed and immigration fugitives ordered removed by federal immigration judges. (Id.)
In the wake of the enforcement action, President Trump tweeted “The crackdown on illegal criminals is merely the keeping of my campaign promise. Gang members, drug dealers & others are being removed!” (President Trump’s Twitter, Feb. 12, 2017) His tweet led immigration activists to claim that the targeted enforcement measures were “raids” and an aggressive push by the Trump administration to implement his January 25 executive order “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States” that established new enforcement priorities. (See FAIR Summary, Jan. 26, 2017)
However, these types of enforcement operations have occurred regularly for many years. In written responses to inquiries from a May 2016 hearing, an Obama administrator told the Senate Judiciary Committee, “We investigate priority aliens and target our arrest efforts toward specific individuals who have exhausted the immigration process. ICE strongly disagrees with the characterization of its targeted enforcement actions as ‘raids,’ which implies a broad, non-targeted effort.” (QFR Responses to Senate Judiciary Committee Re May 2016 Hearing, Feb. 2017) In fact, David Marin, Director of Enforcement and Removal Operations for Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Los Angeles, said “the actions taken this week were planned before Trump took office.” (Los Angeles Times, Feb. 10, 2017) According to Director Marin, most of the people arrested in the enforcement actions had been targeted for removal based on past criminal activity. (Id.) A few were detained because they were found to be in the country unlawfully while the other arrests were being carried out. (Id.)
One of the illegal aliens not specifically targeted but detained in the enforcement actions was Daniel Ramirez Medina who had twice been given President Obama’s unconstitutional amnesty Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Under DACA, more than 750,000 illegal aliens were granted “deferred action” and provided work authorization. (See FAIR Legislative Update, June 19, 2012) Importantly, even the Obama administration pointed out that DACA lacks lawful immigration status and is revocable.
Ramirez Medina’s arrest caused uproar among immigration activists who claimed that his DACA status should have precluded his arrest. While not common, ICE has arrested DACA recipients in the past during enforcement operations because they were considered enforcement priorities because of criminal convictions or affiliations. (Bloomberg BNA, Feb. 15, 2017) According to ICE spokesperson Rose Richeson, Ramirez Medina was taken into custody because he admitted gang affiliation. (Id.) He was arrested at a home in Washington State during an ICE operation targeting his father, an illegal alien felon who had previously been deported. (Id.)
Lawyers for Ramirez Medina filed a claim that his “constitutional rights” have been violated. Attorney Ethan Dettmer said, “The law is really clear” that “anybody within the United States,” regardless of status, is “entitled to constitutional protections” (Id.) While all persons within the U.S., including illegal aliens, are granted some constitutional protections, the claim that Ramirez Medina has a guaranteed right to remain in the U.S. for the duration of his DACA status is meritless. Moreover, the fact that an alleged gang member was twice able to receive DACA status highlights the insufficient vetting standards established by the Obama administration. Ramirez Medina has been placed in removal proceedings by ICE and he awaits his appearance before an immigration judge.
Stay tuned to FAIR as details emerge…
Sanctuary Cities Receive At Least $27 Billion Per Year in Taxpayer Money
By: Robert Law
A new report by American Transparency has determined that sanctuary cities received $26.74 billion in taxpayer dollars during Fiscal Year 2016. (American Transparency, Federal Funding of America's Sanctuary Cities, February 2017) The report only analyzes the federal funds received by 106 sanctuary cities compared to over 300 sanctuary jurisdictions (cities, localities, entire states) that defy federal immigration law nationwide. (Id.; see FAIR's Sanctuary Policies Across America, January 2017) American Transparency crunched the numbers in response to President Donald Trump’s executive order, “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States,” that denies federal dollars to sanctuary jurisdictions to see how much money is a stake. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Jan. 31, 2017)
Using publicly available data on federal funds distributed to localities, the report’s authors uncovered that sanctuary cities received nearly $27 billion last fiscal year. They determined that approximately 46.2 million residents live in sanctuary cities and the cost of lost federal funding for a family of four is $1,810, or $454 per person. (American Transparency, Federal Funding of America's Sanctuary Cities, February 2017) Adam Andrzejewski, one of the report’s authors, said sanctuary cities are “essentially imposing a defiance tax on local residents.” (Forbes, Feb. 2, 2017) The report identified Washington, D.C. and Chicago, Illinois as having the most to lose if they continue their “sanctuary” status. On a per capita basis, the D.C. municipal government received the highest amount of federal funds: $3,228 per person and $2.09 billion total. (American Transparency, Federal Funding of America's Sanctuary Cities, February 2017) Chicago is the second highest per capita level at $1,942 per person and $5.3 billion total. (Id.) The report also pointed out that approximately 20% of the illegal alien population lives in just 12 major cities that received $15.983 billion in taxpayer funds last fiscal year. (Id.)
The American people, including Hispanics, support President Trump’s efforts to defund sanctuary jurisdictions. A recent McLaughlin and Associates poll found that Hispanic voters favor cutting off funds 46% to 43%. (McLaughlin & Associates Poll, Feb. 13, 2017) In total, 59% of American voters surveyed support the defunding effort compared to only 29% who oppose. (Id.) The support for holding sanctuary cities accountable falls along partisan lines with Republicans favor defunding 86% to 8% and Independents 55% to 29%. (Id.) On the other hand, a plurality of Democrats, 47%, oppose defunding sanctuary cities while 37% support the policy. (Id.)
Representatives Seek to Close Tax Loopholes for Illegal Aliens
By: RJ Hauman
Representatives Doug Collins (R-GA) and Luke Messer (R-IN) recently filed bills to close tax loopholes that allow billions of dollars in tax credits to be paid out to illegal aliens. The Collins legislation closes a loophole that made illegal aliens eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), while the Messer bill addresses the similarly abused Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC). FAIR supports both bills.
H.R. 363 – Child Tax Credit Integrity Preservation Act
Messer’s proposal, H.R. 363, would ensure that only taxpayers with a valid Social Security Number (SSN) are able to claim the ACTC, which gives families $1,000 per child as a federal tax benefit.Currently, the IRS only requires individuals provide an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), which the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) indiscriminately hands out to illegal aliens, to receive the ACTC.
In 2015 alone, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration estimated that $5.7 billion in taxpayer dollars were paid to illegal aliens through the ACTC. (See TIGTA Report, April 27, 2016; FAIR Legislative Update, June 7, 2016) While these payments are primarily due to illegal aliens using ITINs, there are also issues with fraud. For example, a report by a television station in Messer’s home state of Indiana found that four illegal aliens alone, sharing a small trailer, received $29,608 from the IRS by claiming tax credits for 20 nieces and nephews who live in Mexico. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Mar. 22, 2016) Investigators even identified one address in Atlanta where 23,994 ITIN-related tax refunds were sent, including 8,393 refunds deposited into a single bank account. (Id.) Further, the Washington Times found the use of the tax credit by illegal aliens jumped from 796,000 in 2005 to 1.5 million in 2008 and 2.3 million in 2010. (Id.)
“Our broken tax and immigration systems continue to incentivize immigrants to come here illegally,” Messer said in a statement following the introduction of his bill. (Messer Press Release, Jan. 11, 2017) “Closing this loophole will steer us back to rule of law, ensure tax benefits like this are reserved for American citizens and save us billions of dollars.” (Id.)
H.R. 363 has been referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means and awaits further action.
H.R. 819 – The Tax Credit Accountability Act
H.R. 819, introduced by Collins, would ensure that Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) amnesty recipients are ineligible for the EITC. The EITC is a tax credit for lower income tax filers but requires a valid SSN in order to claim it. If the EITC is larger than the tax filer's tax liability, the difference is paid out directly to the filer. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Mar. 3, 2015).
While it used to be more difficult for illegal aliens to claim the EITC because they lack SSNs, the Obama administration’s yet to be rescinded DACA amnesty has contributed to increased fraudulent payments. Specifically, DACA rewards qualifying illegal aliens with an SSN, which has directly led to the significant number of illegal aliens potentially eligible to receive the EITC.
Outrageously, once eligible for EITC, current tax law allows a person to amend their tax returns from the past three years to claim the credits — even if that person was ineligible during those years. The Congressional Research Service — the nonpartisan policy research arm for lawmakers — confirmed that each amnestied illegal alien is eligible for more than $24,000 in tax credits through the EITC. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Feb. 10, 2015)
“I introduced the Tax Credit Accountability Act in order to prevent those living and working here unlawfully from receiving EITC and thereby encouraging others to flout the immigration and labor statutes designed to protect our communities,” said Collins in a press release. (Collins Press Release, Feb. 2, 2017) “Under no circumstances should our system allow illegal immigrants to glean benefits at the expense of American taxpayers, and this bill calls for us to examine the rule of law and enforce it fairly.” (Id.)
H.R. 819 has been referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means and awaits further action.
Trump Administration to Issue Revised Travel Freeze Order
By: Robert Law
The Trump administration announced that it will revoke and replace the immigration executive order issued January 27 that imposed a temporary freeze on admitting people from seven countries that are hotbeds for terrorism. (The Hill, Feb. 16, 2017) The decision comes after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an activist judge’s temporary restraining order (TRO) that blocked the administration from implementing the travel freeze. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Feb. 14, 2017) In a brief to the Ninth Circuit, the Justice Department wrote, “Rather than continuing this litigation, the President intends in the near future to rescind the Order and replace it with a new, substantially revised Executive Order to eliminate what the panel erroneously thought were constitutional concerns.” (The Hill, Feb. 16, 2017) “In so doing, the President will clear the way for immediately protecting the country rather than pursuing further, potentially time-consuming litigation.” (Id.) During a press conference last week, President Trump said, “We are issuing a new executive action next week that will comprehensively protect our country.” (Id.) “[The new executive order is] being tailored to the decision we got down from [the] court,” he explained. (Id.)
Stay tuned to FAIR as details emerge…