Legislative Update: 3/15/2016 
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Legislative Update: 3/15/2016

Obama Administration Finalizes Rule Harming American STEM Workers

The Obama administration released its final rule that makes it easier for the technology industry to utilize cheap foreign labor for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) jobs rather than hire American graduates. Under the rule, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will allow foreign STEM degree-holders to remain in the country and work on their student visas for up to three years after they graduate. The finalized rule involves extending the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program – a DHS creation to keep foreign “students” in the country – from 12 months after graduation to 36 months for those in the STEM field.

The new rule comes seven months after a federal judge struck down the 2008 OPT extension for foreign STEM graduates that increased the authorized stay from 12 months to 29 months. FAIR’s legal affiliate the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) brought that case, Washington Alliance of Technology Workers (WashTech) v. DHS, on behalf of American STEM workers. (See IRLI's WashTech v. DHS Resources) Last August, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia struck down the 2008 STEM OPT expansion, holding that DHS did not comply with the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) when it bypassed the public notice and comment process. (Id.) Disappointingly, the court delayed vacating the rule to give DHS time to implement a new rule that complies with the APA. (Id.)

Despite the fact that there is not a shortage of qualified American STEM workers, the Obama administration doubled down on the STEM jobs giveaway. Last October, DHS issued a notice of the revised rule and accepted public comments until November 18, 2015. Both FAIR and IRLI submitted detailed comments in opposition to the rule, arguing that STEM OPT is unlawful, serves no legitimate interest, and harms American workers. (See FAIR Comment; IRLI Comment) Similarly, many of FAIR’s members filed comments urging DHS to protect American STEM workers and scrap the new STEM OPT rule.

In a clear message that the Obama administration is more interested in providing the tech industry with greater access to foreign workers, DHS ignored the American people and finalized the 36 month STEM OPT extension which goes into effect in May. IRLI’s challenge of OPT in the WashTech case is currently on appeal before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. (IRLI's WashTech v. DHS Resources)



Arizona Sheriff: Border Patrol “Handcuffed” by Obama Administration

Speaking at a joint press conference with Border Patrol agents and union leaders, Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu criticized the Obama administration’s attempt to reduce the number of border agents as part of its non-enforcement agenda. (AZFamily.com, Mar. 8, 2016) According to Babeu, the number of illegal aliens crossing the border is up 25 percent in the first four months of the current fiscal year. (Id.) He also noted that the number of unaccompanied alien minors (UACs) crossing the border has increased 102 percent this year. (Id.) “What we see from this administration is an actual reduction [in Border Patrol agents] at a time we should be providing more support to secure our border,” Babeu said. (Id.)

The reductions referenced by Babeu were included in the Obama administration’s FY 2017 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) budget request. (See DHS FY 2017 Budget Request) The request calls for an onboard Border Patrol agent target of 21,070 – 300 agents lower than the target provided in the FY 2016 Enacted appropriation. (Id.) Babeu also pointed out that the Border Patrol is already operating 1,500 agents under the level mandated by a 2010 border security bill that President Obama signed into law. (AZFamily.com, Mar. 8, 2016; see Reuters, Aug. 13, 2010) “That is approaching almost 10% of our border patrol that is not being added, which is not on our border protecting guarding and defending America,” he said. (AZFamily.com, Mar. 8, 2016)

As House and Senate appropriators consider the Obama administration’s budget request and craft their respective DHS appropriations bills, FAIR will continue to be a voice on Capitol Hill against reductions in Border Patrol manpower that would jeopardize the agency’s enforcement mission.



Murder Suspect Had Prior Deportation and Run-Ins With The Law

Pablo Serrano-Vitorino, who allegedly shot and killed five individuals across Kansas and Missouri, is an illegal alien with a prior deportation and several run-ins with the law under his belt. (New York Times, Mar. 9, 2016) In a one-year period, he was arrested three times and should have been deported but was allowed to go free because of procedural errors. (Id.)

The violence perpetrated by Serrano-Vitorino clearly demonstrates the dangers a porous border poses to the American people. Serrano-Vitorino was deported back to his home country of Mexico in 2004 after he was convicted of a felony terror threat in Los Angeles, California.  (Id.) Yet, Serrano-Vitorino successfully snuck back into the country and neither Border Patrol nor Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) know how long he has been in the U.S. unlawfully before he allegedly went on this killing spree. (Id.)

Outrageously, ICE had several opportunities to put Serrano-Vitorino in federal custody over recent years but failed to do so. First, in November 2014 he was convicted of DUI in Coffey County, Kansas. (Kansas City Star, Mar. 8, 2015) However, ICE missed that opportunity to issue a detainer, claiming it did not act at that point because they were not notified that Serrano-Vitorino was fingerprinted. (Associated Press, Mar. 10, 2016) Then, in June 2015 officials from a Kansas county where Serrano-Vitorino faced misdemeanor domestic battery charges queried federal immigration officials about him because he was born outside the country. (Id.) Remarkably, ICE failed to respond in a timely fashion so the county let him go. (Id.) Finally, in September 2015, Serrano-Vitorino was fingerprinted at the Overland Park Municipal Court after being cited for traffic violations, triggering an ICE order to have him detained. (Id.) Yet, he was able to avoid federal immigration custody again because ICE sent the order to the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office instead of to the Overland Park Municipal Court. (Id.)

Importantly, even if ICE had detained Serrano-Vitorino prior to the killings, he would have been released under President Obama’s Priority Enforcement guidelines. As part of the November 2014 executive actions on immigration, President Obama established new enforcement priorities that significantly reduced the number of illegal aliens his administration was willing to deport. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Nov. 24, 2014) Indeed, Serrano-Vitorino’s illegal re-entry (a felony), DUI, and misdemeanour domestic battery fall outside of the new “enforcement” priorities. (Id.) The National Border Patrol Council highlighted this in a press release, noting that “not until [Serrano-Vitorino] committed the heinous murders of five people, would he have been a candidate for deportation.” (National Border Patrol Council Press Release, Mar. 9, 2016) Brandon Judd, the Border Patrol union’s president, blasted President Obama’s non-enforcement agenda. “[T]he number one priority of any administration is to protect the well-being of its citizens. Here is another case where the Administration’s actions demonstrate a willingness to sacrifice the safety of our neighbors and our families at the altar of amnesty.” (Id.)

Serrano-Vitorino has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder in Kansas City, Kansas and first degree murder in Missouri.



FAIR Highlights Several Federal Immigration Bills

FAIR's Government Relations team recently released summaries of several key House and Senate immigration bills. We encourage all of our members to review these summaries and learn more about legislative attempts that would affect the nation’s immigration policies.

S. 79 – Remittance Status Verification Act of 2015 (Wire Act)

S. 79, introduced by Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) on January 7, 2015, would amend the Electronic Fund Transfer Act to impose a fine on remittances sent out of the country by individuals unable to verify their lawful immigration status. The bill has been referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs and awaits further action. FAIR supports the Wire Act and our bill summary can be found here.

S. 2538 – ICE Agent Support Act of 2016

S. 2538, introduced by Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Jeff Sessions (R-AL) on February 10, 2016, would ensure that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents have the funding and resources necessary to enforce the law as required by Congress. The companion bill in the House (H.R. 4597) was introduced by Congressman Mo Brooks (R-AL). The bill has been referred to the Committee on the Judiciary and awaits further action. FAIR supports S. 2538 and H.R. 4597 and our bill summary can be found here.

H.R. 1149 – Protection of Children Act

H.R. 1149, introduced by Rep. John Carter (R-TX) on February 27, 2015, would close the loophole in the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA) that prevents the prompt return of unaccompanied alien minors (UACs) who illegally cross the border. The companion bill in the Senate (S. 2561) was introduced by Sens. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Ron Johnson (R-WI). The bill was reported by the House Judiciary Committee on March 4, 2015 and awaits consideration on the House floor. FAIR supports the Protection of Children Act and our summary can be found here.

H.R. 4720 – Expedited Family Reunification Act of 2016

H.R. 4720, introduced by Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) on March 7, 2016, would establish the same removal process for unaccompanied alien minors (UACs) from contiguous countries and Central America. The bill has been referred to House Foreign Affairs Committee and awaits further action. FAIR’s summary can be found here.



Mississippi Senate Passes Anti-Sanctuary Bill

The Mississippi Senate passed Senate Bill (SB) 2306 on Thursday, March 3, to support the rule of law by prohibiting localities in the state from instituting sanctuary policies that impede federal immigration enforcement. (Jackson Free Press, Mar. 11, 2016) The Senate approved SB 2306 by a 36 to 14 vote. (Id.)

SB 2306 strengthens immigration enforcement by prohibiting any official or governing authority of a municipality of Mississippi from limiting or restricting the enforcement of immigration law to less than the full extent permitted by federal law. (SB 2306) In addition, all law enforcement officers in Mississippi are required to assist federal agencies in the enforcement of immigration law. (Id.) SB 2306 requires law enforcement officers to fully honor any detainer request placed by federal immigration officials upon a person who is not legally present in the United States. (Id.) The measure also requires law enforcement officers to notify the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) immediately upon release of custody of an illegal alien convicted of a violation of state or local law. (Id.)

 “I think in Mississippi we could do more to enforce immigration laws, and that’s the point [of the bill],” commented Senator Sean Tindell (R-49), sponsor of SB 2306. (Jackson Free Press, Mar. 11, 2016) “I don’t think anyone can argue that there’s been an illegal immigration problem in this country for quite some time,” Tindell added. (Id.)

Mississippi is not the only state supporting immigration enforcement this year. Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Virginia, and Wisconsin have also advanced legislation this session to ban sanctuary cities in their communities, while other states have introduced similar measures. (FAIR Legislative Update, Mar. 8, 2016) Recent media coverage of crimes committed by illegal aliens reignited public outrage against sanctuary policies and motivated state legislators to introduce legislation to promote enforcement and cooperation. When state and local law enforcement fail to contact federal immigration officials, criminal aliens are able to reenter communities and engage in further criminal activity at the expense and safety of citizens and lawful aliens.

The House of Representatives must approve SB 2306 before it can be sent to Governor Phil Bryant for signature. Governor Bryant indicated support for the measure last week when he released a statement on his Twitter account. (Jackson Free Press, Mar. 11, 2016) “Doing everything we possibly can to stop illegal immigration is a moral obligation not only to Mississippians, but to those who legally immigrate here. I commend the Mississippi Senate for passing legislation that prohibits Sanctuary Cities and hope the House will do the same.” (Id.)