FAIR Legislative Update January 10, 2011
House Judiciary Committee Previews Immigration Agenda for 112th Congress
Last week, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) announced that his committee would begin its work on immigration by tackling the issue of worksite enforcement. “The House Judiciary Committee will promote work site enforcement efforts that make sure scarce jobs go to legal workers,” said Smith. “And we will continue to support the use and expansion of E-Verify.” (CQ Today, Jan. 4, 2011). To help lead the charge on these issues, Rep. Smith also announced that Representatives Elton Gallegly (R-CA) and Steve King (R-IA), would serve as the chair and vice-chair, respectively, of the House Judiciary’sSubcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement. (See FAIR Press Release, Jan. 7, 2011; CQ Today, Jan. 7, 2011)
Under the leadership of Rep. Smith, Gallegly, and King, immigration enforcement will likely receive increasing attention in the House, as already evidenced by bills introduced the first day of the 112thCongress. Rep. Steve King (R-IA) introduced legislation (H.R.140) aimed at ending automatic citizenship for children born to illegal aliens (birthright citizenship). (Politico, Jan. 5, 2011; CQ Today, Jan. 7, 2011) Specifically, the bill amends Section 301 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to grant birthright citizenship only to children born to at least one parent who is a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident.
Additional immigration enforcement bills already introduced include:
- H.R.45 by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) – Bill would amend the INA to impose mandatory sentencing ranges with respect to aliens who reenter the U.S. after having been removed.
- H.R.98 by Rep. David Dreier (R-CA) – Bill would amend the INA to enforce restrictions on employment in the U.S. of illegal aliens through the use of improved Social Security cards and an Employment Eligibility Database.
- H.R.100 by Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) – Bill would provide for enhanced Federal, State, and local assistance in the enforcement of the immigration laws and amend the INA to authorize appropriations to carry out the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP).
- H.R.152 by Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) – Bill would authorize the National Guard to provide support to U.S. Customs and Border Patrol.
Amnesty advocates wasted no time in voicing their displeasure with the Judiciary Committee’s new focus on immigration enforcement. Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, remarked, “[T]hose seeking a lasting solution to the broken immigration system … should be very worried about the dawn of the Lamar Smith era.” (America’s Voice Press Release, Jan. 4, 2011) Mr. Sharry also didn’t mince words when it came to his thoughts on Rep. Smith’s choice of Gallegly and King to lead the House Immigration Subcommittee. “[Reps. Smith, Gallegly, and King] will lead the deportation caucus in the House. Until the Republican Party actually changes position on immigration, their ugly faces will still define them.” (America’s Voice Blog Entry, Jan. 7, 2011) “Gallegly’s voting record on immigration issues shows that he fits neatly alongside Lamar Smith and Steve King as a mass deportation cheerleader,” said Sharry. (Id.)
House sources tell FAIR that the Judiciary Committee’s first immigration-related hearing is expected to be held in early February and focus on worksite enforcement and E-Verify.
States Take First Step in Eliminating Birthright Citizenship
Last week, state legislators from across the nation gathered for a press conference in Washington, DC to unveil legislation that they hope will restore proper application of the 14th Amendment by eliminating the automatic granting of citizenship to children born to illegal aliens. The legislators are members of a 40-state coalition known as State Legislators for Legal Immigration (SLLI). With the aid of constitutional scholar Kris Kobach (also Kansas’s Secretary of State), former Dean of Chapman Law School John Eastman and the Immigration Reform Law Institute, SLLI has written two bills for introduction in multiple legislatures that SLLI hopes will spur the federal government into ending the practice of granting birthright citizenship to children born to illegal aliens.
Mr. Kobach explained that the proposed legislation includes both a bill and a state compact. Mr. Kobach explained that the bill does not amend the United States Constitution, usurp Congress, or change the legal rights of any individual. Rather, the bill serves to restore the concept of state citizenship and asserts states’ authority to establish requirements for state citizenship. Mr. Kobach admitted he does anticipate litigation to follow from the enactment of the bill. Litigation, he said, will finally require the courts to more thoroughly define the clause “subject to the jurisdiction thereof” as found in the 14thAmendment. Meanwhile, the compact would serve as an agreement among signatory states to distinguish the birth certificates of those born to illegal aliens in comparison to those born to legal permanent residents or citizens. Even after adopted by the states, however, the compact will not take effect until Congress gives its consent to the agreement.
At the press conference, state representatives from Oklahoma, South Carolina, Georgia and Arizona spoke in support of the legislation. Each member will be introducing the legislation before his own representative assembly in the coming weeks. SLLI expects that legislators in at least 14 states will work to advance these measures on birthright citizenship.
Obama Seeks to Lift Ban on Controversial Cross-Border Trucking Program
The Obama administration announced a proposal last week to resurrect a controversial program that gives Mexican cargo trucks access to American highways. (New York Times, Jan. 6, 2011) This announcement comes after a two-year ban of the cross-border trucking program with Mexico and was made the same day President Obama appointed William Daley to be his White House Chief of Staff. (NBC Chicago, Jan. 6, 2011) Daley, who served as Secretary of Commerce under President Clinton, is considered one of the “architects” of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which took effect in 1994. (The Washington Post, Jan. 6, 2011)
According to a NAFTA arbitration panel, a cross-border trucking program included in the agreement requires the United States to allow trucks from Mexico and Canada access to American highways. (Secretariat File No. USA-MEX-98-2008-01) If a country refuses compliance with this agreement, either country has the authority to initiate sanctions against the United States. (Id.) Although President Clinton signed the agreement into law, he originally refused to implement the cross-border trucking provision. (Id.) After Mexico successfully filed a complaint with the NAFTA tribunal, President Bush implemented a pilot program to begin allowing cross-border trucking. (Id.)
However, the Bush Administration’s pilot program caused significant apprehension over American job losses, highway safety issues and border/national security concerns. (The Washington Post, Feb. 23, 2007) Labor unions opposed the program, arguing that allowing American trucking companies access to Mexican workers –who often make half as much as their American counterparts—would cost American truck drivers their jobs. (The Huffington Post, Mar. 11, 2009) In addition, many U.S. motorists and highway patrolmen were concerned about highway safety, given that Mexican trucking companies do not have the same strict regulations for their truck drivers as American trucking companies. (Id.) National security issues were also of great concern, due to lack of inspections for the Mexican trucks as well as on-going drug wars waged along the border. (Id.) Members of Congress responded by adding amendments to legislation that would prevent the program from moving forward.
In 2009, President Obama conceded to security concerns and labor union protests and signed a spending bill which prevented the Department of Transportation (DOT) from funding the cross-border trucking program. In retaliation, Mexico slapped $2.4 billion in tariffs on over 90 United States products. (CNN, Mar. 9, 2010) Since that time, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has been working on concepts to restart cross-border trucking programs. (The Journal of Commerce, May 26, 2009)
Obama’s new proposal would allow Mexican long-haul truck drivers to get permits to operate in the United States provided they agree to safety, insurance and other monitoring requirements. (New York Times, Jan. 6, 2011) The program was quickly denounced by the Teamsters union. James Hoffa, the Union’s President, said he was “deeply disappointed” with the proposal. “Why would the DOT propose to threaten U.S. truck drivers’ and warehouse workers’ jobs when unemployment is so high? And why would we do it when drug cartel violence along the border is just getting worse?” (Id.) Although the DOT noted that the proposal is a starting point for negotiations, the prospect is already generating serious concerns.
Florida Governor Issues Executive Order Requiring E-Verify
Moments after taking office last Tuesday, Florida Republican Governor Rick Scott signed Executive Order 11-02, requiring all state agencies to use E-Verify to determine the employment eligibility of state employees, contractors and subcontractors. (Gov. Rick Scott Press Release, Jan. 5, 2011) Governor Scott’s Executive Order is an important step towards fulfilling a campaign promise he made to “require all Florida employers to use the free E-Verify system to ensure that their workers are legal.” (Rick Scott for Governor Campaign Website, Sept. 8, 2010)
E-Verify is an online-based system that allows employers to compare the information employees provide when hired with Homeland Security and Social Security Administration records. (USCIS Website, Jan. 5, 2011) Authorized by the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA), E-Verify has been key in helping businesses comply with a federal law prohibiting employers from hiring illegal aliens. (USCIS Website, Jan. 5, 2011) Federal contractors and subcontractors have been required to use E-Verify since Sept. 8, 2009, and more than 225,000 employers across the United States use E-Verify, with about 1,000 new businesses signing up each week. (USCIS Press Release, Jan. 5, 2011; USCIS Website, Jan. 5, 2011)
Governor Scott’s Executive Order comes at a time when pro-amnesty politicians and the open-borders lobby continue their attempts to prevent states aiding in worksite enforcement. Just last Wednesday, Rhode Island Democratic Governor Lincoln Chafee repealed his Republican predecessor’s Executive Order requiring that Rhode Island state departments (and its vendors) use E-Verify to check the legal status of new employees. (The Boston Globe, Jan. 5, 2011) And in 2007, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce sued city attorneys in Arizona over its mandatory E-Verify law—known as H.B. 2779—which requires that all state employers (public and private) confirm that employees are eligible to work through the E-Verify system. (See FAIR’s Legislative Update, Dec. 13, 2010) Oral arguments in the case (Chamber of Commerce of the U.S. v. Whiting) were heard in the U.S. Supreme Court just last month. The Court is expected to issue its ruling on the constitutionality of Arizona’s mandatory state E-Verify law this spring. (Id.)
Rhode Island Governor Halts Immigration Enforcement
Last Tuesday, newly-elected Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee rescinded an executive order which had been used to crack down on illegal immigration. (Executive Order, January 5, 2011; Boston Globe, January 6, 2011) Rhode Island’s previous governor, Donald Carcieri, issued the executive decree in 2008. (Executive Order, Mar. 27, 2008) The order required state government offices and vendors to use E-verify in order to ensure the legal status of newly-hired employees. (Id.) It also directed state police to enter into a 287(g) agreement with federal immigration authorities. (Id.) Such agreements provide local law enforcement with immigration training, which allows state police to assist Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in their enforcement of immigration laws.
Governor Carcieri originally instated the order due to “burden on the resources of state and local human services, law enforcement agencies, educational institutions and other governmental institutions” caused by illegal immigration. (Executive Order, Mar. 27, 2008) Rhode Island law enforcement officials have hailed the policy as effective. The Commander of the Rhode Island State Police, Supt. Col. Brendan P. Doherty, argues that statistics prove that the order is working. Since the order took effect, 92 individuals were checked through ICE databases, and over half were found to be illegal aliens, some with criminal histories. (The Providence Journal, Nov. 20, 2010) “I would feel that I’m derelict in my duties to look the other way, ’’ said Commander Doherty. (Id.) The order, however, has brought much contention from open borders advocacy groups.
Governor Chafee campaigned this past fall on the stance that he would rescind the order upon taking office. Chafee said he believes immigration matters should be dealt with by federal authorities. (Boston Globe, January 6, 2011) He has also said he supports pathways to citizenship for illegal immigrants. (Id.)