FAIR Legislative Update January 28, 2013
Senate Gang of Eight Releases Amnesty Plan
In anticipation of the President’s speech on immigration tomorrow in Las Vegas, a group of eight Senators released their proposal for amnesty legislation today. This so-called Gang of Eight includes Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), John McCain (R-AZ), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Lindsay Graham (R-SC), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Mike Bennet (D-CO), and Jeff Flake (R-AZ). The proposal, remarkably similar to the failed amnesty bill of 2007 (S.1639), is only in outline form at this time; no legislative language was released with it.
The first component of the bill is a large-scale amnesty for the entire illegal alien population in the United States, roughly 11-12 million. The Senators’ outline states, “our legislation will provide a tough, fair, and practical roadmap to address the status of unauthorized immigrants in the United States….” The outline calls for illegal aliens to “register with the government,” undergo a background check, pay a fine and back taxes in order to “earn probationary legal status.” This status will allow these newly amnestied aliens to live and work in the United States. According to the plan, those with a “serious criminal background” or others who threaten national security will be ineligible and subject to deportation.
Under the Senators’ plan, the government will grant this probationary status to illegal aliens immediately, and then require that certain border security measures be implemented (see below) before the probationary aliens can get a green card. The plan reads: “Once the enforcement measures have been completed,” individuals with probationary legal status will be required to:
- “go to the back of the line” (although they have been living, working, and going to school in the United States for years),
- pass an additional background check,
- pay taxes (as every legal immigrant is already required to do),
- learn English and civics, and
- demonstrate a history of work in the United States
in order to “earn” the opportunity to apply for a green card.
The Gang of Eight suggests that their plan will not grant public benefits to illegal aliens who receive amnesty. The outline reads: “Current restrictions preventing nonimmigrants from accessing federal public benefits will also apply to probationary immigrants.” However, under existing law, nonimmigrants (as probationary aliens would be) are in fact eligible for certain benefits, such as Social Security and coverage under Obamacare. The cost to American taxpayers will only increase as these probationary aliens receive green cards and are eligible for any remaining benefits.
In addition to this “amnesty for all” provision, the Gang of Eight plan calls for special paths to citizenship for minors and those working in agriculture. This signals the Senators’ intent to include in their legislation some form of the DREAM Act and AgJOBS—bills Congress has repeatedly rejected.
Regarding enforcement, the Gang of Eight outline calls for an “effective” employment eligibility verification system, but makes no mention of mandating the use of E-Verify, a critical component of the 2007 amnesty bill. The outline also makes a cursory statement about the need to improve border security by providing the Border Patrol with the latest technology (including drones), infrastructure, and personnel needed to prevent, detect, and apprehend every illegal alien who crosses. And, like other bills enacted over the years, the outline requires the implementation of the entry-exit system provide for in law, but only requires the system at air and sea ports, not land ports and there is no requirement that the system must be biometric.
In addition to granting amnesty and implementing certain border security measures, the Gang of Eight also proposes to increase legal immigration. First, despite the fact that 22 million Americans are either unemployed or underemployed, the Gang of Eight remarkably proposes creating another guest worker program (on top of numerous existing ones) to bring in additional cheap foreign labor. Second, the Gang of Eight also proposes giving green cards to foreign graduates of U.S. universities, even though they will compete directly with U.S. graduates. Finally, the Senators’ plan proposes to reduce family and employment-based backlogs (presumably by increasing the rate of immigration and/or increasing the caps) in order to allow amnestied aliens to apply for green cards more quickly.
In sum, the Gang of Eight amnesty proposal stands out for two reasons. First, it is virtually identical to the failed amnesty bill of 2007. Americans so forcefully opposed that bill that their calls to the Senate in June of 2007 shut down the Capitol switchboard. Secondly, the Senators’ proposal entirely ignores the painful lessons of the 1986 amnesty. In the 1986 amnesty bill, Congress granted amnesty to the entire illegal population and promised enforcement of the laws, yet the enforcement never came and the illegal population quadrupled in 20 years. The Gang of Eight, however, appears to be optimistic that their proposal will somehow work when others have failed. They promise to ensure that their plan is a “successful, permanent reform to our immigration system that will not need to be revisited.”
President Obama to Reveal Amnesty Plan Tuesday
On Friday, the White House announced President Obama will be unveiling his comprehensive immigration reform proposal, which includes a “path to earned citizenship” for illegal aliens, during a speech scheduled to take place in Las Vegas, Nevada Tuesday. (White House Press Release, Jan. 25, 2013)
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney indicated the proposal being unveiled Tuesday is based on previous amnesty plans released by the President. (The Hill, Jan. 25, 2013) In May 2011, the President gave a speech pushing comprehensive immigration reform in El Paso, Texas, calling for amnesty (including the DREAM Act), and stapling green cards to diplomas. (White House Press Release, May 10, 2011) There the President also insisted U.S. borders were secure and joked that the only thing that would appease true immigration reformers would be to create an alligator-laden moat. (Id.)
News of the pending speech came on the heels of the President meeting with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to discuss his amnesty strategy at the White House. (Id.) Those in attendance—all pro-amnesty Democrats—included Sen. Bob Menendez (NJ), House Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra (CA), Rep. Rubén Hinojosa (TX), Rep. Ben Luján (NM) and Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (IL). (The Hill, Jan. 25, 2013) According to Rep. Becerra, “The President expressed a great sense of urgency and that comprehensive immigration reform, including an earned path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, is his top legislative priority.” (Rep. Becerra Press Release, Jan. 25, 2013)
FAIR remains opposed to all efforts to grant amnesty or any other form of legal status to illegal aliens. To find out how you can make your voice heard, view our latest action alert here.
Montana House Passes Anti-Sanctuary Bill
Last week, the Montana House of Representatives passed House Bill 50 (HB 50) which prohibits local governments from enacting or enforcing sanctuary policies. A sanctuary policy bars local police from asking suspects about their immigration status or reporting them to immigration authorities. HB 50 now moves on to the Senate for consideration.
At the Judiciary Committee hearing on HB 50, the bill’s author, Representative David Howard, stated that he drafted the bill to protect Montanans and discourage illegal aliens from making Montana their home. (Great Falls Tribune, Jan. 15, 2013). Howard also authored Legislative Referendum (LR) 121 which prohibits illegal aliens from receiving taxpayer funded state benefits. Montanans approved LR 121 by almost 80 percent of the vote in November 2012.
Shahid Haque-Hausrath, executive director of the Montana Immigrant Justice Alliance, an opponent of HB 50, claims HB 50 is not necessary because “Montana does not have an immigration problem.” (Fox News, Jan. 16, 2013). To the contrary, in 2010, FAIR released a study entitled “The Fiscal Burden of Illegal Immigration on United States Taxpayers” that reported the annual state and local fiscal costs borne by Montana taxpayers resulting from illegal aliens and their U.S.-born children is $32 million. (2010 FAIR Study).
Dan Stein, FAIR’s President, applauded Howard’s efforts. “Rep. Howard’s bill ensures common sense state-federal enforcement practices for those of us who believe in the rule of law and the restoration of an immigration law that works. Americans are tired of paying for the same old political games designed to reward, promote and encourage illegal immigration.” (Fox News, Jan. 16, 2013).
Recognizing that sanctuary policies are a growing impediment to combating the wave of illegal aliens residing in the country, in 1996 Congress barred local ordinances that prohibit employees from providing information on illegal aliens to federal officials. Nonetheless, cities have found a loophole by instituting sanctuary policies that prohibit the collection of immigration data in the first place. To name a few, these cities include Houston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Diego. HB 50 would prevent the same from occurring in Montana.
Congressional Leaders Voice their Support for Amnesty
Pro-amnesty congressional leaders continue to echo President Obama’s calls for comprehensive immigration reform legislation that includes amnesty for illegal aliens. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), who has previously said he will refuse to consider an immigration bill that lacks a pathway to citizenship, last week issued an official list of his top ten policy objectives for the new session of Congress. (Las Vegas Sun, Jan. 18, 2013; see also Roll Call, Jan. 22, 2013) “Comprehensive Immigration Reform” ranked number one. (Roll Call, Jan. 22, 2013)
Sen. Rubio (R-FL) also continued his campaign for amnesty last week during an appearance on the Mark Levin radio show. (See Mark Levin Recording, Jan. 23, 2013) As described, his proposal—like Harry Reid’s and previous amnesty bills in the past—includes a pathway to citizenship for the roughly 11 million illegal aliens in the United States. (Id.; see also FAIR Legislative Update, Jan. 22, 2013)
Not surprisingly, pro-amnesty Congressional leaders in the Republican-controlled House have also aligned themselves with Sens. Harry Reid and Marco Rubio. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told a group last week that “we’re going to have to deal with [immigration]” and expressed support for the “Gang of Eight,” a bipartisan group of Senators in charge of drafting immigration reform legislation including a pathway to citizenship. (The Hill, Jan. 26, 2013) “I think they basically have an agreement,” Boehner said. (Id.) “I don’t know all the pitfalls in it, but it’s in my view, the right group of members….My theory was, if these folks could work this out, it’d be a big step in the right direction.” (Id.)
During an interview last week, former Vice Presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) mentioned immigration as an issue where Republicans and Democrats can work together. (Wall Street Journal, Jan. 23, 2013) “I’ve long believed in immigration reform,” Rep. Ryan said, “and I think there are other Republicans who do so as well.” (Id.) The week prior, Rep. Ryan voiced his support for the “principles [Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) has] outlined.” (Huffington Post, Jan. 14, 2013)
Off Capitol Hill, more Republican leaders are jumping on the amnesty bandwagon, voicing support for proposals like that of Sen. Rubio. Last weekend, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged Congress to “get comprehensive immigration reform back on the agenda” on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” (National Review, Jan. 20, 2013) Rice, who specifically named Rubio as a Republican leader on the issue, insisted that comprehensive immigration reform would give the Republican Party the “broad appeal” that it needed. (Id.; see also FOX News, Jan. 21, 2013)
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush also weighed in with an Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal, supporting amnesty and advocating for the DREAM Act. “The U.S. must find a fair way to deal with its 11 million illegal immigrants,” he wrote. “Crossing the border illegally must have consequences. At the same time, we must recognize that children who were brought here illegally have committed no crime and in most instances know no other country.” (Wall Street Journal, Jan. 24, 2013)
Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has indicated his committee will begin hearings on immigration legislation in February. (Sen. Leahy Press Release, Jan. 16, 2013)
VAWA Reintroduced Without U-Visa Expansion
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) was reintroduced last week in both chambers of Congress. Notably, with regard to immigration, the new bills do not include language increasing the number of U-visas. (CQ Today, Jan. 22, 2013)
The 112th Congress did not renew VAWA, despite bipartisan support for reauthorization in 2000 and 2005, in part because of a standoff over the U-visa program. (Id.) In the last Congress, the Senate-passed version, S. 1925, included a provision that would increase the number of U-visas by tens of thousands. (FAIR Legislative Update, Mar. 19, 2012) House Republicans objected to S. 1925 on technical grounds—known as a “blue slip problem”—because the Senate bill contained a revenue raising provision to pay for the visa expansion. (CQ Today, Jan. 22, 2013)
Specifically, they argued this made the bill unconstitutional because the U.S. Constitution instructs that all revenue raising legislation must originate in the House. (Art. I, sec. 7) These differences were not resolved by the end of the 112th Congress, causing the legislation to expire.
The new bills, however, removed the U-visa expansion and the associated revenue provision. Senator Pat Leahy (D-VT), the author of S. 1925, announced “we introduce the bill today without [the U-visa increase] provision” and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) confirmed the House bill’s language matched, stating “[t]here is no increase in the number of available U visas.” (CQ Today, Jan. 22, 2013)
Congress created the U-visa in 2000 to allow immigrant victims of domestic abuse to obtain temporary legal status if they help prosecute their abusers. (INA § 101(a)(15)(U)) Instead, the open-borders lobby has manipulated this law to create a de facto amnesty to illegal aliens. (See FAIR Policy Statement; FAIR Legislative Update, Mar. 19, 2012)