FAIR Legislative Update January 30, 2012
On Thursday, a committee in the New Mexico House of Representatives rejected legislation that would help prevent illegal aliens from receiving state driver’s licenses. (Associated Press, Jan. 26, 2012) The bill, H.B. 103, failed on a party-line vote in the House Labor and Human Relations Committee, with 5 Democrats voting against and 4 Republicans voting for the measure. (Alamogordo Daily News, Jan. 26, 2012)
H.B. 103 proposes changing New Mexico’s law in several important ways. First, it would strike existing language that allows a driver’s license applicant to submit an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) instead of a Social Security Number on the application. (See H.B. 103 § 1) Because the IRS issues ITINs to illegal aliens for the purposes of filing tax returns, this loophole has allowed illegal aliens to easily get driver’s licenses in New Mexico. (See IRS Publication 1915 (Rev. 1-2012) p. 10)
Second, H.B. 103 requires foreign nationals who apply for a driver’s license to submit the unique identifying number of the alien’s passport or visa plus the expiration date of the alien’s authorized period of admission. Under the bill, a driver’s license issued to a foreign national shall expire on the date the alien’s authorized stay expires. (H.B. 103 § 3)
Finally, H.B. 103 makes similar changes to New Mexico’s laws regulating applications for state identification cards. (See H.B. 103 §§4-7)
Remarkably, the New Mexico legislators rejected H.B. 103 despite new and compelling evidence that the State’s process for issuing driver’s licenses is riddled with fraud. Just days before the vote, the Associated Press revealed that its investigation into the New Mexico driver’s license applications showed that dozens of people used the same business and residential addresses to obtain driver’s licenses. (Associated Press, Jan. 25, 2012) This is particularly significant as applicants without Social Security Numbers must provide the state documents that establish residency. In one instance, the Associated Press wrote, “48 foreign nationals claimed to live at a smoke shop in Albuquerque to get a license. In another case, more than a dozen claimed to live at an automotive repair shop over a one-year period.” (Id.)
Members of the House Labor and Human Relations Committee, however, ignored this evidence during the committee hearing Thursday. Instead, the Democratic members stripped H.B. 103 of its original language and replaced it with language that would still allow illegal aliens to obtain driver’s licenses, but only for a two-year duration. (Alamogordo Daily News, Jan. 26, 2012) They also added language that would increase the penalties for fraudulently trying to obtain a driver’s license. (Id.) House Majority Leader Ken Martinez said these provisions will “really hit the bad guys hard.” (Associated Press, Jan. 26, 2012)
Representative Andy Nunez, author of H.B. 103, said he wasn’t surprised that the House Committee rejected his bill. (Id.) However, he also said that if the bill could reach the House floor, he felt confident that he had the votes needed for it to pass. (Associated Press, Jan. 26, 2012) Whether it will pass the Democratically-controlled Senate is uncertain. (Id.)
New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez has been a strong advocate for ending the state’s practice of issuing driver’s licenses to illegal aliens. (See FAIR Legislative Update, Sept. 6, 2011) During her State of the State speech last week, she urged legislators to support repealing current law, citing polls in her favor. (Associated Press, Jan. 24 2012) “This issue has been debated thoroughly,” said Martinez. “The desire of New Mexicans is clear. And it’s time to vote to repeal this law.” (Id.)
Since New Mexico changed its law in 2003 to grant driver’s licenses to illegal aliens, more than 90,000 licenses have been issued to foreign nationals. (Associated Press, Jan. 26, 2012)
Longtime amnesty advocates Senate Majority Whip, Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Senate Immigration Subcommittee Chair, Charles Schumer (D-NY), hosted a private meeting last week with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton to discuss expanding the Administration’s backdoor amnesty program aimed at administratively closing removal cases of illegal aliens. (CQ Today, Jan. 24, 2012; see also Morton Memos) The meeting took place in Sen. Durbin’s DC office, where Sens. Durbin and Schumer reportedly urged Morton to quickly implement the amnesty initiative nationwide and fix any problems encountered during the program’s pilot phase. (Id.)
In addition to calling for the program’s nationwide expansion, the Senators argued the Administration is not going far enough in executing its backdoor amnesty initiative. At the meeting, Sen. Schumer presented Director Morton with a letter requesting that the Administration grant deferred action and work authorization to illegal aliens whose cases are closed. . “The inability to work and support oneself and one’s family would make a favorable exercise of discretion a potentially hollow victory to the vast majority of those who may otherwise benefit from this discretionary exercise of law enforcement priorities,” wrote Schumer. (Read the letter here) Sen. Durbin echoed Sen. Schumer’s sentiments in a statement following the meeting: “I commend the Department of Homeland Security for the steps it is taking to implement it, but more needs to be done and it needs to be done quickly.” (CQ Today, Jan. 24, 2012)
Deferred action status is what DHS grants when it decides, by its own discretion, not to remove an illegal alien. Those who receive deferred action usually also receive work authorization. There is no statutory basis for deferred action status, as it is merely referred to in the federal regulations (See, e.g. USCIS Ombudsman memo, Apr. 6, 2007 (citing 8 C.F.R. 274a.12(c)(14)). Even more troubling, deferred action is not subject to judicial review. (Reno v. American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Comm., 525 U.S. 471, 484, 492 (1999)) (See FAIR Legislative Update, Mar. 14, 2011) In 2010, the Obama Administration granted deferred action to over 12,000 illegal aliens (FAIR Legislative Update, Apr. 25, 2011)
Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), opposed his colleagues’ proposal to grant illegal aliens deferred action and work authorization. “That would be amnesty,” Grassley said. “The power that the president has for parole is meant to be done on an individual-by-individual basis.” (Id.)
If the Administration grants the wishes of Sens. Durbin and Schumer, it would allow tens of thousands of illegal and otherwise deportable aliens to compete with the over 13 million unemployed Americans for scarce jobs. (Bureau of Labor Statistics, Jan. 6, 2012)
Last week, both chambers of Congress unanimously passed H.R. 3801, a border security bill co-sponsored by Reps. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ). (Bloomberg News, Jan. 25, 2012) The bill aims to help secure the border by including “ultralight” aircrafts (small, one-manned, low-flying planes) in the definition of aviation smuggling, and increasing the maximum penalty for smugglers using this type of aircraft to 20 years in prison and/or a $250,000 fine. The legislation also allows for the prosecution of those attempting or conspiring to commit this crime, and provides that the Department of Homeland Security should collaborate with the Department of Defense in utilizing equipment and technology to help secure the border.
President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law.
Looking to join the ranks of cities like Chicago, IL and San Francisco, CA, the college town of Ann Arbor, MI passed a resolution last week praising President Obama’s backdoor amnesty initiative. (AnnArbor.com, Jan. 24, 2012; see FAIR Legislative Update, Oct. 24, 2011)
Specifically, the resolution passed by the Ann Arbor City Council asserts it:
- Opposes policies to detain and/or deport aliens who do not fall within the Administration’s stated priorities;
- Supports President Obama’s policy of circumventing Congress to remove only “serious criminal” aliens; and
- Supports amnesty for illegal aliens.
(See Resolution #12-0130) The City Council passed the resolution by a 9-2 vote with two Council Members, Jane Lumm and Marcia Higgins, opposing the measure because it’s outside the scope of issues the council should be addressing. (AnnArbor.com, Jan. 24, 2012)
In 2010, the City Council passed a resolution opposing Arizona’s immigration enforcement law, SB 1070.