FAIR Legislative Update February 13, 2012
In an effort to quell accusations by the open borders lobby that the Administration has not gone far enough with its administrative amnesty program, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced last week the creation of a new “public advocate” position for illegal aliens. Senior ICE Advisor Andrew Lorenzen-Strait, who was appointed as the new advocate, will serve as a point of contact for aliens in removal proceedings, community and advocacy groups, and others who have concerns, questions, recommendations or other issues they would like to raise about the Administration’s executive amnesty efforts. (ICE Press Release, Feb. 7, 2012)
The ICE announcement attempted to portray the creation of the Public Advocate position as part of the normal course of business. “The creation of the Public Advocate position is another milestone in ICE’s ongoing work to enact significant policy changes and improvements to focus the agency’s immigration enforcement resources on sensible priorities…” ICE stated in its press release. (Id.)
The new advocate will report directly to the Director of Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO), Gary Mead. According to the agency’s website, the public advocate’s role will entail:
- Assisting individuals and community stakeholders in resolving complaints and concerns with agency policies and operations;
- Proposing changes and recommendations to fix community-identified problems and concerns;
- Alerting agency leadership to potential community stakeholder concerns with current or proposed agency policies and/or operations; and
- Maintaining a collaborative and transparent dialogue with community stakeholders on the agency’s mission and core values. (See ICE Website, Feb. 11, 2012)
Ironically called a “public” advocate, ICE created the new role solely to placate amnesty advocates in an election year. Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), called the Administration’s creation of the new position outrageous. “This is just further proof that the Obama administration puts illegal immigrants ahead of the interests of Americans,” he further added in a press release. “The Obama administration’s lack of immigration enforcement allows illegal immigrants to steal jobs away from American workers and now their in-house lobbyist for illegal immigrants costs U.S. taxpayers more money.” (Rep. Smith Press Release, Feb. 7, 2012)
Last week, the New Mexico House of Representatives by a vote of 45-25 passed legislation that would bar illegal aliens from obtaining driver’s licenses. (Las Cruces News, Feb. 8, 2012) The vote in favor of passage came after nearly four hours of debate, and after two committees scrutinized the legislation. (Associated Press, Feb. 8, 2012) The House Labor and Human Relations Committee first gutted the bill, but then the House Judiciary Committee essentially restored it to its original state. (See H.B. 103 legislative history; see also FAIR Legislative Update, Jan. 30, 2012) The final vote in favor of passage included three Democrats who had last year voted against the bill. (Las Cruces News, Feb. 8, 2012)
The bill, H.B. 103, stops illegal aliens from obtaining New Mexico driver’s licenses by making important changes to state law. First, the bill requires that driver’s license applicants submit valid social security numbers instead of simply an individual taxpayer identification number. The bill also requires foreign applicants to submit passport or visa information, plus the date on which the alien’s period of lawful admission expires. The alien’s driver’s license shall then expire the date the alien’s lawful admission expires. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Jan. 30, 2012)
The spokesman for Governor Martinez, who strongly supports H.B. 103, praised the House vote. He said, “It’s time for the Senate to also stand with the people of New Mexico and repeal this dangerous law.” Opposition to H.B. 103 is expected to be stronger in the state Senate, which killed a similar bill last year. (Santa Fe New Mexican, Feb. 8, 2012)
Utah State Rep. Stephen Sandstrom’s E-Verify bill was brought back to life in the Utah House of Representatives after some procedural maneuvering circumvented the bill’s opponents. Last Wednesday, the House had essentially killed the bill by refusing to let him open a bill file, the standard procedure for introducing any bill in the Utah House. (Salt Lake Tribune, Feb. 8, 2012) Fortunately, a few hours later fellow Republican Rep. Don Ipson allowed Sandstrom to insert his E-Verify language into an empty bill Rep. Ipson had previously filed. (Id.)
Although the E-Verify bill is not yet public, Rep. Sandstrom describes it as loosely based on Arizona’s Legal Worker’s Act and improving state’s existing E-Verify laws. (Id.; see FAIR State Use of E-Verify Guide, Jan. 26, 2012) However, unlike Arizona’s E-Verify law, Sandstrom said his measure would allow a business on probation for hiring illegal aliens to eventually have a clean slate while Arizona’s maintains a record of the violation. He also said his plan would exempt agricultural employers from being required to use E-Verify. (Salt Lake Tribune, Feb. 8, 2012)
Rep. Sandstrom became a target of the Obama Administration when the Department of Justice sued the State last fall over his law requiring law enforcement to verify the immigration status of those they arrest for a felony or Class A misdemeanor if that person is unable to provide valid identification. (Utah H.B. 497; See FAIR Legislative Update, Nov. 28, 2011) Among other things, the law also allows police to ask those stopped for less serious misdemeanors about their immigration status but requires them to do so only if the person is arrested and booked. (Id.) A hearing on the Justice Department’s motion for a preliminary injunction against H.B. 497 takes place this Friday, Feb. 17.
Last week, the North Dakota University System released an internal audit showing that Dickinson State University for years has awarded hundreds of diplomas to foreign students who did not earn them. (Associated Press, Feb. 10, 2012) It also revealed that the University enrolled students who did not speak English and enrolled others who did not have qualifying grades. (Id.)
The audit examined foreign students who participated in a program that allowed them to earn degrees both from Dickinson State and a university in their home country. (Id.) Of the 410 students who received degrees, 400 did not have records of completing the required coursework. (Id.) In addition, of the University’s 127 agreements with international schools to grant degrees to their students, only four had the required details to be recognized as valid. (Id.) Other findings included evidence that the University admitted students who were not proficient in English or who had falsified transcripts. (Id.)
About 95 percent of the students in the Dickinson State University program were Chinese, reflecting the growing enrollment of Chinese students nationwide. In fact, China sends more students to the United States than any other country, lured by universities that charge them full tuition. (See Associated Press, Feb. 11, 2012) During the 2010-11 academic year, 157,558 Chinese students were studying in the U.S., an increase of almost 24 percent from the previous year. The number of Chinese students in the United States has risen by at least 19.8 percent for each of the past four years. (Associated Press, Feb. 10, 2012)
At a press conference Friday, Dickinson State University President D.C. Coston said the University will take corrective action, including possible termination of the international student programs. (The Dickinson Press, Feb. 11, 2012) The University has already given notice to two student recruiting organizations that the school will no longer work with them and is still evaluating which University employees were involved in violating official policies. (Id.) As for the foreign students, Coston said the University would be contacting them. “We will be telling (the affected students) that their records do not indicate they sufficiently completed the requirements,” Coston said. “Dickinson State stands ready to work with them individually to figure out what might be necessary for them to reach a point of completion.” (Associated Press, Feb. 11, 2012)
On Thursday, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement held its third hearing on the agriculture industry’s complaints about existing immigration laws and its calls for more agricultural guest workers.
Committee leaders from both parties agreed with industry witnesses that the U.S. should import more agricultural guest workers. In his opening statement, Subcommittee Chair Elton Gallegly (R-CA) stated there were not enough U.S. workers willing to do the job. “This is a critical issue to the U.S. agriculture [industry] because…[there are] simply not enough Americans willing to work as migrant farmworkers.” (Bloomberg Government Hearing Transcript, Feb. 10, 2012) Agreeing with Chairman Gallegly, Ranking Member of the Subcommittee Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) called for an amnesty for illegal alien farmworkers already in the country. “[H]ow can anyone think that the answer to our labor needs is to deport over one million agricultural workers who are already here?” she exclaimed. (Id.)
Chair of the full Judiciary Committee, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), called for reforms to existing guest worker programs to allow farmers greater ease in hiring foreign seasonal laborers, and enumerated several points in legislation he proposed this fall. Rep. Smith’s bill, the “American Specialty Agriculture Act” (H.R. 2847), would establish a new H-2C guest worker program that would expand the scope of the program to include all agricultural work. (See FAIR Legislative Update for a summary, Sept. 12, 2011) Currently the H-2A agricultural guest worker program is limited to admitting seasonal farm workers.
Bruce Goldstein, president of Farmworker Justice, argued against the expansion of guest worker programs, stating that illegal alien farmworkers reduce wages and thus discourage Americans from performing agricultural labor. “The presence of undocumented workers depresses wages for all workers, including the roughly 700,000 U.S. citizens….Guest workers will toil to the limits of human endurance at low wages, when U.S. workers seek more sustainable productivity requirements,” he testified. (Id.)
Proponents of guest worker programs continue to argue that there are no U.S. workers, or not enough of them, to meet the needs of the agriculture industry. But this argument, standing alone, overlooks the fact illegal labor inherently depresses wages, thus discouraging American workers from taking agriculture jobs. When it comes to raising wages, employers mistakenly argue that increasing wages to attract Americans would result in significantly higher food prices or a decline in U.S. food production. To the contrary, a report released by FAIR last year studying the impact of immigration on the agricultural industry found that employers would be only minimally impacted if they increased wages to attract a legal workforce. (See FAIR Report: The Effect on the Agriculture Industry of Converting to a Legal Workforce, April 2011) The report found that increasing wages results in a legal and increasingly native-born workforce. Specifically, the study concluded that large corporations (those making over $250,000 annually) can increase employee wages by 30 percent without passing the cost onto consumers. This would allow companies to maintain a profit and attract more American workers.