FAIR Legislative Update February 25, 2013
A new national poll finds that a majority of Americans believe that most or all of the 11-12 million illegal aliens in the country should be deported. (Reuters, Feb. 20, 2013) By an overwhelming 53 to 36 percent margin, the Reuters/Ipsos poll of 1,443 Americans (over the age of 18) released last Wednesday reiterates the FAIR/Pulse Opinion poll that found likely voters supported enforcement over amnesty (52 to 36 percent). (Id.; see FAIR Press Release, Feb. 14, 2013)
Breaking down the data further, the Reuters/Ipsos poll finds that 30 percent of Americans support deporting most illegal aliens and another 23 percent support deporting all illegal aliens currently in the country. (Reuters, Feb. 20, 2013) By contrast, only 31 percent want most illegal aliens to be amnestied and a meager 5 percent want all illegal aliens amnestied. (Id.)
Remarkably, Members of Congress and President Obama continue to disregard the views of the American people during this recent comprehensive immigration reform push on Capitol Hill. “It’s not Americans’ views that are shifting. It is that the political climate is ripe for this discussion,” according to Ipsos pollster Julia Clark. (Id.) “Democrats feel that the time is right to capitalize on their wins and Republicans feel that they had a bad blow and are eager to reach out to Hispanics.” (Id.)
In fact, Americans have consistently opposed amnesty legislation since it last failed in 2007. “What voters clearly do want is immigration reform that protects the interests of American workers and taxpayers and which requires illegal immigrants to comply with our laws, rather than reform that rewards the people who break our laws. As members of Congress attempt to tackle this issue, they need to be mindful of the fact that the American people will be paying attention,” concluded Dan Stein, president of FAIR. (FAIR Press Release, Feb. 14, 2013)
Last week AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka and Chamber of Commerce president Tom Donohue announced they had agreed on several principles they say will guide their on-going negotiations over a guest worker program. (See Joint Statement, Feb. 21, 2013) This guest worker program is to be included in the Senate guest worker amnesty bill, the text of which is expected in the next several weeks.
The principles to which the AFL-CIO and Chamber agreed are general in nature. The first is that American workers should have “a first crack at available jobs.” (Id.) Second, the parties agree that there are instances, even when the economy is bad, when employers are not able to fill jobs with American workers. This means Congress must adopt a new guest worker program that has a path to citizenship, provides labor mobility in a way that still gives American workers a first shot at available jobs, and that automatically adjusts as the American economy expands and contracts. (Id.) Third, the parties agree that the U.S. must fix its immigration system so that it is transparent, which requires creating a base of knowledge using real-world data about labor markets and demographics. They state that a professional bureau in a federal executive agency, with political independence analogous to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, should be established to inform Congress and the public about these issues. (Id.)
Amnesty advocates praised the announcement. Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, said the most important part of a “comprehensive” immigration reform bill is how the U.S. immigration system will look in the future. (Christian Science Monitor, Feb. 22, 2013) “Every day,” Noorani said “[the Chamber and the AFL-CIO] are going to continue to put more meat on these bones…. For them to agree, even on the bones, means that they’ve been engaged in a really serious negotiation.” Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), a member of the Senate “Gang of Eight” also praised the groups’ joint principles. “We are very hopeful that an agreement can be reached on a specific proposal in the next few weeks,” he said.
Even House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) applauded the announcement, calling it a positive step on immigration reform. In a statement, he said: “I applaud the Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO for coming together to find common ground in an effort to reform our broken immigration system….Their goal of protecting American workers and ensuring we have the workforce we need to grow the economy and remain globally competitive is one I share. While we may not agree on every aspect, it is encouraging that two groups often on opposite sides of the aisle are serious about putting politics aside and finding solutions. Let’s hope we can follow that lead in the months ahead.” (Politico, Feb. 21, 2013)
In contrast, true immigration reformer Senator Jeff Sessions took the Chamber to task for its pursuit of cheap labor. “As in the last debate on comprehensive reform, the Chamber’s primary goal has never been to establish a lawful immigration system and secure our borders, but to get as much cheap labor as possible, regardless of how it impacts American workers, legal immigrants, and taxpayers in general. The ‘shared principles’ announced today are internally inconsistent and even contradictory. In addition to the Gang of Eight’s plan to make millions of workers immediately available to compete for any job — which the Chamber supports — the ‘shared principles’ of the Chamber and AFL-CIO would add a permanent ‘worker visa’ program. Surely the Chamber hasn’t abandoned belief in the power of the market; such a visa program is certain to take jobs from American workers and depress wages.” (See Sen. Sessions press release, Feb. 21, 2013)
Others noted that the AFL-CIO and Chamber of Commerce still have a long way to agreeing on a guest worker program for inclusion in an amnesty bill. Even Trumka and Donohue stressed that their two groups are still in the middle of the negotiating process. However, they pledged “to work together and with our allies and our representatives on Capitol Hill to finalize a solution that is in the interest of this country we all love.”
According to the latest round of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) statistics released by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) last week, the Administration has granted deferred action to 199,460 illegal aliens as of February 14, 2013. (See USCIS DACA stats, Feb. 2013)
In releasing its monthly statistics, the Administration has once again refused to report on the number of DACA applicants denied reprieve under the program. During a conference call with stakeholders last November, USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas explained that, “Because of the nascent stage” of the DACA program, USCIS is not yet in a position to provide data on the number of applicants who have been denied. During that call, Mayorkas clarified that before the Agency denies any applications, USCIS either files a “request for evidence” that asks applicants to submit additional information to prove they meet the program’s criteria, or issues applicants a “notice of intent to deny” the application. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Nov. 26, 2012) In both instances illegal aliens are given additional time to amend their application.
However, the Administration does continue to report on the top ten countries of origin of DACA applicants. Remarkably, nearly three-fourths of DACA applicants list Mexico as their country of origin. Of 423,634 DACA applications accepted by USCIS to-date, an astounding 313,722 of the applicants hail from Mexico. (See USCIS DACA stats, Feb. 2013) Interestingly, this percentage is much greater than Mexico’s estimated share of the U.S. illegal alien population at roughly 58 percent. (See Pew Hispanic Center Study at p.11, 2011)
The Administration also continues to report on which states have the highest numbers of DACA applicants. California continues to lead the pack with nearly 120,000 applicants residing in that state alone. Texas comes in second with just over 68,000 resident applicants, and New York comes in third with nearly 25,000 resident applicants. (See USCIS DACA stats, Feb. 2013)
Last Tuesday, Arizona’s Republican delegation to the House of Representatives sent a letter to House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) expressing their opposition to amnesty, according to inside-the-beltway publication Politico. (Politico, Feb. 19, 2013) Notably, the Congressmen rejected the “comprehensive” reform proposal advocated by Arizona Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, members of the Senate “Gang of Eight.” (Id.)
In the letter, Reps. Matt Salmon, Trent Franks, Paul Gosar, and David Schweikert insisted that the border must be secured before Congress considers additional immigration reform. “As the House begins to debate possible immigration reform proposals, it is vitally important to those of us who represent Border States that the first priority of any reform is securing our Southwest border,” the Congressmen argue. (Id.) “Only after first securing our borders can we begin to contemplate discussions of additional immigration reform.” (Id.)
The Congressmen especially object to the provision in the Gang of Eight’s plan that authorizes Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano – a former Arizona Governor- to determine when the border is secure. Specifically, they reject recent claims by Napolitano that the U.S.-Mexico border has “never been stronger,” citing escalating drug cartel violence and the ability of people from “countries unfriendly to the U.S.” to cross into the country through the Southern border. (Id.)
Instead, the Arizona Republicans argue that the border security determination must be based on actual data and “independent third-party evaluations rather than bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. with political motives.” (Id.) “If we do not follow this protocol, we will replay the failed immigration reforms of 1986 when we lost the trust of those in our
Last week, the Virginia Legislature passed two bills to strengthen integrity of elections in the state. Both bills were sponsored by Senator Obenshain (R-Harrison).
The first bill, Senate Bill 1077, requires the Virginia State Board of Elections to use the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements Program (SAVE) to verify that voters registered in the state are United States citizens. The SAVE program enables access to immigration status information possessed by the United States Department of Homeland Security databases. According to the Department of Homeland Security there are more than 100 million records of immigration status information contained within its databases accessible by SAVE. (DHS, What is SAVE?, Nov. 27, 2012). The bill also requires the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles to record the alien registration number of any applicant for a driver’s license or identification card and include those numbers in a monthly list of noncitizens to the Virginia State Board of Elections. Senator Obenshain stated he sponsored the bill to protect “the integrity of the foundation of our republic, our system of elections.” (The Virginian Pilot, Feb. 19, 2013).
Critics argue SB 1077 could deny citizens the right to vote due to outdated information within the SAVE program. (WTVR, Feb. 20, 2013). However, according to the USCIS, in 2010 the SAVE program resolved more than 94 percent of cases with immigration status information without requiring any additional information for verification. And in 2011, 97 percent of cases that required additional information for verification were resolved within three business days. (USCIS, Verification Division Overview, Mar. 4, 2011).
SB 1077 passed the Senate on February 4, 2013 by a vote of 23 to 17 and subsequently passed the House by a vote of 70 to 30 on February 20, 2013.
The second bill, Senate Bill 1256, requires all Virginians to produce valid photo ID to vote. Current Virginia law permits voters to prove identity with documents such as utility bills, bank statements, handgun permits or paychecks. Senator Obenshain says the bill is intended to cut down on voter fraud and is a reasonable request to cast a ballot. Critics argue the proposed bill would hurt older and poorer Virginia voters who may not be able to get photo identification. (WTVR, Feb. 20, 2013). SB 1256, however, requires the State Board of Elections to provide free voter registration cards that contain a voter’s photo and signature if the voter does not possess other satisfactory photo identification. (SB 1256, Section 1(A)(3)).
SB 1256 passed the Senate by a vote of 20 to 20 on February 5, 2013, with the President of the Senate voting to break the tie; it subsequently passed the House by a vote of 65 to 34 on February 20, 2013.
Both bills will now move on to Governor Bob McDonnell’s desk for his signature.
Earlier this month, true immigration reformer Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA) sent a letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Kathleen Sebelius seeking answers on the healthcare costs of granting amnesty to the country’s 11-12 million illegal aliens under President Obama’s latest comprehensive immigration reform proposal. (Read the letter here; see also Rep. Murphy press release)
In his letter, Rep. Murphy points out that legalizing the illegal alien population will lead to increased enrollment in Medicaid, Medicare, and in particular, Obamacare. To better understand the costs American taxpayers will face if Congress passes amnesty legislation, Rep. Murphy asks Secretary Sebelius:
- “How many new persons would be enrolled in state or federal exchanges created by [Obamacare] for each year between 2014 and 2024, and what are the expected annual costs in taxpayer-funded insurance subsidies for these individuals?”
- “How many new persons would be enrolled in Medicaid between 2014 and 2024, and what are the expected additional costs to state and federal taxpayers?”
- “How many new persons would become eligible to enroll in Medicare between 2014 and 2024, and what is the expected annual cost to federal taxpayers?”
In addition, Rep. Murphy also inquires as to the fiscal impact of the current illegal alien population on the nation’s healthcare system. “What are the HHS annual estimated costs of emergency-department and health-clinic care for illegal immigrant populations, and what percentage of this cost is borne by the taxpayer?” his letter asks. He also inquires as to “the estimated cost-per-visit” for these trips to emergency departments and health clinics.
Rep. Murphy requested Secretary Sebelius replies within 15 business days of the February 14 letter. Stay tuned to FAIR for updates…
Employers using the E-Verify program gave it high marks according the results of a recent government survey. (See USCIS Survey Results, Jan. 2013) E-Verify is a voluntary online system that allows employers to quickly check the work authorization status of their hires by checking Homeland Security and Social Security Administration databases. (See USCIS website, Getting Started, 2012)
According to the survey of E-Verify users, employers gave E-Verify a score of 86 out of a possible 100 points, based on registration, tutorials, ease of use, technical assistance, and customer assistance. (See USCIS Survey Results, Jan. 2013) Employers using E-Verify also said they are confident of the program’s accuracy, are likely to continue using the program, and were likely to recommend the program to others. (Id.; see also USCIS Press Release, Feb. 21, 2013)
The Administration touted the survey’s results in a recent press release. “[I am] proud of the advancement we have made in the E-Verify program. This customer survey validates the success of our efforts….” said USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas. (See USCIS Press Release, Feb. 21, 2013)
Nonetheless, President Obama continues to hold mandatory E-Verify hostage to amnesty legislation. In fact, Obama’s refusal to require employers to use the program has forced states to enact their own E-Verify legislation. Thus far, 20 states have laws on the books requiring certain employers to use the system. (See LawLogix Website; see also NCSL Website, Feb. 25, 2013)
Since taking office in 2009, President Obama has systematically gutted effective immigration enforcement policies. His Administration has moved aggressively against state and local governments that attempt to enforce immigration laws, and has stretched the concept of “prosecutorial discretion” to a point where it has rendered many immigration laws meaningless.
Last summer, FAIR released a report chronicling these steps by the Administration. Now, in the wake of President Obama’s reelection — and the pro-amnesty lobby’s increased push on Capitol Hill to move comprehensive immigration reform legislation — FAIR has updated its report to reveal the Administration’s latest tactics in circumventing the law.
Read the updated report here.