Legislative Update: 8/11/2015 
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Legislative Update: 8/11/2015


Republican Candidates Weigh in on Immigration

Last Thursday night, Fox News aired the first debates between the Republican presidential candidates, which were divided into a primetime debate between the top ten candidates based on pre-debate polls and an earlier debate between the remaining seven. (See Primetime Debate Transcript, Aug. 6, 2015; Undercard Debate Transcript, Aug. 6, 2015) During the debates, many of the candidates appeared eager to stress immigration enforcement more than they had in the past. (Id.; see Immigration Reform, Aug. 7, 2015) The discussion of immigration during the primetime debate occurred largely in the first half of the debate, when the moderators asked Jeb Bush, John Kasich, Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, and Ted Cruz about immigration. (Primetime Debate Transcript, Aug. 6, 2015)

The first candidate who weighed in on immigration was former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, when Fox News Anchor Chris Wallace asked him if he would reaffirm his support for amnesty and stand by his prior statement that illegally entering the U.S. is an "an act of love." (Id.) Bush affirmed that he would. (Id.) In fact, Bush told Wallace and the audience that "the great majority" of illegal aliens who "want to provide for their family" have "no other option" but to move to the United States illegally. (Id.) However, he quickly added that the U.S. "need[s] to control our border… it's our responsibility to pick and choose who comes in." (Id.)

Next, Wallace asked Donald Trump to share "proof" that the Mexican government is sending criminals across the border. (Id.) In response, Trump said "the fact is" that "many killings, murders, crime, drugs," are "pouring across the border." (Id.) He also said his solution was "a wall," but that the wall would have "a big beautiful door" so that "people can come into this country legally." (Id.) Wallace, in response, asked for "specific evidence" that the Mexican government is sending criminals across the border. (Id.) Trump answered that the Border Patrol had told him so, and that "our leaders are stupid." (Id.)

Wallace then asked Ohio Governor John Kasich to respond to Trump's comments. (Id.) In his answer, Kasich sidestepped the issue of what he himself would do about immigration, but said that Donald Trump is "hitting a nerve" because people are "frustrated" and, generally, don't think "the government is "working for them." (Id.)

Wallace tried a similar question on Florida Senator Marco Rubio, asking if the situation was "as simple" as our leaders being "stupid," and if "all of these illegals coming over are criminals." (Id.) Rubio, a member of the Senate Gang of Eight, did not provide a direct answer, and he also did not state whether or not he now supports amnesty. (Id.) Rather, he said he supported a fence, E-Verify, and an entry-exit system. (Id.) He also said that he receives calls at his office from would be legal immigrants who are waiting to get in and wondering if they should come illegally. (Id.)

In contrast, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, the next to be asked about immigration, stated that he does not support amnesty and wants a legal immigration system "that gives priority to American working families and wages." (Id.) Noting that Walker had supported amnesty from 2002 to 2013, Wallace asked him what other than "politics" had made him change his mind. (Id.) Walker said that the reason he changed his mind was because he had "actually listened to the American people." (Id.) He also said that he had talked to border state governors and watched how President Obama had "messed up the immigration system in this country." (Id.)

The final candidate to answer questions about immigration was Texas Senator Ted Cruz, with a question about "Kate's Law," providing for a mandatory five year sentence for deportees who have re-crossed the border, and defunding sanctuary cities. Cruz stated that he "absolutely" supported such laws, and he also said that he had "never supported amnesty," unlike "a majority" of the other candidates. (Id.) He emphasized that he had fought attempts by party leaders to pass an amnesty bill. (Id.) Our leaders "don't want to enforce the immigration laws," he said. (Id.) "[T]here are far too many in the Washington cartel that support amnesty." (Id.) He also said that too much illegal immigration coupled with amnesty would "fundamentally change this country" because there are "7 billion people across the face of the globe" and many of them want to immigrate here. (Id.)

Jeb Bush Unveils Amnesty Plan

Ahead of the first GOP presidential debate, pro-amnesty Jeb Bush released his immigration plan based on a large-scale amnesty for the 12 million illegal aliens in the country. It also includes three points on border security and three points on interior enforcement. (Jeb Bush Immigration Plan)

Jeb Bush, who only last week re-affirmed his statement that illegal immigration is an "act of love," denies that his plan to legalize most of the 12 million illegal aliens in the U.S. is amnesty. (See Wall Street Journal, Jan. 24, 2013) Yet, to qualify under this proposal, Bush is proposing a legalization program with nearly the exact same eligibility criteria of the Gang of Eight amnesty bill from the last Congress. Bush said:

[W]e need to put in place a rigorous path that requires individuals to pass a thorough criminal background check, pay fines, pay taxes, learn English, obtain a provisional work permit and work, not receive federal government assistance, and over an extended period of time earn legal status.
(Jeb Bush Immigration Plan)

Moreover, like the Gang of Eight bill, Bush's plan imposes relatively small fines on illegal aliens (with numerous exemptions), does not require illegal aliens to pay back taxes, and does not require them learn English. (See FAIR's Resources on S. 744

Regarding border security, Bush's plan lacks detail. Rather than advocating for a double-layered fence along the Southern border, Bush merely calls for "fencing or other barriers" and fencing should only be built "where appropriate." (Jeb Bush Immigration Plan) Additionally, Bush calls for the use of drones, improved roads, and "forward operating bases" near the border—a practice to which the Border Patrol Union strongly objects and has called "an enormous waste of taxpayer money." (Id.; see FAIR Legislative Update, Jan. 27, 2015)

Bush's interior enforcement provisions are similarly vague. Rather than insisting on mandatory E-Verify for all employers, Bush merely advocates for a "strong E-Verify system to ensure that American businesses are not hiring illegal immigrants." (Jeb Bush Immigration Plan) Although Bush does call for the "rapid implementation" of a biometric exit system, he does not specify whether it should be implemented at all ports of entry. (Id.) Finally, Bush proposes withholding federal law enforcement funds from sanctuary cities and reinstating 287(g) agreements with State and local law enforcement. (Id.)

In pitching his plan to the American public, Bush stated: "These six proposals, combined with a rigorous path to earned legal status, would realistically and honestly address the status of the 11 million people here illegally today and protect against future illegal immigration." (Id.)

Texas Lt. Governor Vows to Rid State of Sanctuary Cities in Next Session

On Wednesday, Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick pledged to make local cooperation with federal immigration authorities a priority for the state's next legislative session. (Fox 7 Austin, Aug. 5, 2015)
The announcement was made at a press conference at the state capitol, where Lt. Gov. Patrick and four county sheriffs, representing the Sheriffs' Association of Texas, announced their opposition to the Obama administration's new Priority Enforcement Program. (Dallas Morning News, Aug. 6, 2015)

The Priority Enforcement Program, also known as "PEP," was created by the Obama administration to replace Secure Communities, as a part of the Obama administration's executive amnesty. (FAIR Legislative Update, Nov. 24, 2015) The Priority Enforcement Program further narrows federal government's immigration enforcement priorities and only allows law enforcement to target the most serious criminal aliens. (Id.) At the press conference, Lieutenant Governor Patrick and the sheriffs protested the program, saying they believe it will allow more criminal aliens to remain in the United States despite contact with law enforcement. (Dallas Morning News, Aug. 6, 2015)

Sanctuary policies have gained more attention since the murder of Kate Steinle allegedly by an illegal alien in San Francisco, California. (FAIR Legislative Update, July 8, 2015) Kate Steinle's murder ignited public outrage at the city's sanctuary policy which prohibits jails from turning over most criminal aliens to Immigration and Customs Enforcement for deportation. The accused murderer, Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, had been in the custody of the Border Patrol and would have been deported for the sixth time had San Francisco not requested that the Border Patrol send Lopez-Sanchez to San Francisco to face a 20-year-old drug charge. (Pleasanton Patch, July 22, 2015) When the charge was thrown out by the San Francisco District Attorney's Office, the San Francisco Sheriff's Department refused to honor a detainer request to transfer Lopez-Sanchez to ICE. (Id.) Instead, the Sheriff's Department, pursuant to its own sanctuary policy, released Lopez-Sanchez back into the community. (Id.)

State Senator Charles Perry introduced a bill in Texas' 2015 legislative session to ban sanctuary policies in the state. (S.B. 185) While it passed the Senate Veteran Affairs and Military Installations Committee, the bill was ultimately unsuccessful in the full Senate. "I'm totally confident that we now have the votes," Lt. Gov. Patrick said. (Dallas Morning News, Aug. 6, 2015) "I'm totally confident that one of the first measures we will pass in 2017, when we come back, will be to ban sanctuary cities in Texas." (Id.)

The Texas Legislature meets every two years and will reconvene January 2017.